The No. 1 team in the nation heading into the 2012-13 season is the Indiana Hoosiers. Head coach Tom Crean has national player of the year favorite, Cody Zeller, returning with nearly every starter from his Sweet 16 team from last year.
Throw in a strong recruiting class, and it goes without saying that Indiana is well-deserving of the hype it is currently receiving. The team with the best odds to win the 2013 national championship resides in Bloomington.
But is that hype warranted?
Remember, this is the same team that lost to Nebraska on the road last year. Road struggles were dominant in Zeller's first year as a Hoosier.
And we can't forget about Indiana's debacle at home against Minnesota.
Chalk those losses up to inexperience.
This year, fans and media alike are expecting the Hoosiers to have matured into a team that can win on the road. Crean's team will be favored in nearly every venue they play this season.
Still, the Big Ten will once again give no easy games to the nation's No. 1 preseason team.
Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are all capable of winning the conference. Iowa is on the rise, Minnesota has Trevor Mbakwe back, Purdue is always scrappy and you can never count out Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers.
With nine road games in conference play, Indiana will hope to do better than its abysmal 3-6 record on the road in Big Ten play last year.
You read that correctly: The Hoosiers had six losses on the road last season in Big Ten play, en route to an 11-7 record in the conference.
The same team that has the best odds to win the national championship was just two losses away from a .500 conference record.
Indiana is still unproven—on the road, at least.
There's little doubt that Crean can keep his team undefeated through non-conference play. Indiana will play one ranked team before conference play begins, and it's a home game against North Carolina.
The first true road test of the season comes on New Year's Eve against Iowa. Barring a catastrophic upset, the Hoosiers will be the No. 1 team in the country when they travel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Indiana will be (presumably) undefeated. The Hoosiers will be No. 1. They are no longer the hunter, but the hunted. Each team will give them their best.
The rigors of conference play will determine whether or not the Hoosiers have matured into road warriors.
If they haven't, Indiana may fail in the face of these monstrous expectations.
If they have, good luck stopping them.
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