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IU basketball possibilities chill Oladipo

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For more on Indiana athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Hoosiers seek a championship finish

Friday, October 5, 2012 - 2:37 am

BLOOMINGTON – Welcome to a snapshot moment of an Indiana basketball possibilities.

There was Cody Zeller, smiling an answer from Assembly Hall's Branch McCracken Court that, yes, you just might see more of a perimeter game from him this year and that, no, the preseason All-America and national player of the year favorite wasn't thinking about speculation that he'll leave after his sophomore season to enter the NBA draft.

A few feet away Maurice Creek, looking fit after three major surgeries (two on his knee, one on his Achilles tendon), was saying that he was full-go and ready to battle for playing time and major impact this season.

Oh, yes. His shot was just fine, thank you very much.

A week before the official start of practice, two weeks before the newest edition of Hoosier Hysteria and buzz is everywhere you look at Assembly Hall and Cook Hall, and wherever the IU basketball team gathers.

Take junior guard Victor Oladipo. Yes, he insisted, he is a guard and not some kind of small forward hybrid. He basked in the spotlight from the Hoosiers' high preseason national rankings.

Some experts and publications have them at No. 1. All have them in the top-5. A program that is barely a year removed from the worst stretch in IU basketball history is back in a big way.

“Starting No. 1 is good,” Oladipo said, “but we'd rather finish No. 1. Don't get me wrong. We love the accolades. We love the recognition. At the same time we realize it's not where you start, but where you finish.”

IU returns most of its firepower from last year's 27-win, Sweet 16 team that stirred visions of the program's national title winning glory days. Add one of the nation's best freshman classes and you have off-the-chart expectations.

What you don't have, Oladipo said, is a group of guys so full of themselves that they forget the misery of recent seasons and the reason for the turnaround.

“We'll continue to keep working hard, listen to this coaching staff and playing for each other. We'll take it one game at a time. That's big. We're not looking ahead to what we can't affect. We can only affect the here and now.”

The players spent most of the summer in Bloomington working with coaches (thanks to a new rule change) and each other while recognizing the opportunity they face.

“Everybody's energized,” Oladipo said. “It could be a really special year and everybody is anxious for the year to start.

“Just coming out here (Assembly Hall), you get chills doing it. Seeing what this team is capable of and what it can accomplish is amazing. Accomplishing things with these guys who I've been through so much with, and now we're bringing in some great freshmen. It's just a real thrill. It's something you dream about.

“We're trying to chase this one goal everybody is trying to chase. It's what you dream about –- winning a national championship, a Big Ten championship. We're trying to make our dreams come true.”