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Indiana Hoosiers v. Bryant Bulldogs (preview).

Indiana begins what is hope to be a championship season with a home game against a Northeast Conference foe.

Andy Lyons

Bryant Bulldogs
Current record: 0-0
2011-12 record: 2-28 (1-17 in Northeast Conference)
2011-12 RPI: 340 (IU was 17)
2011-12 Sagarin: 336 (IU was 9)
2011-12 Pomeroy:333 (IU was 11)
Pomeroy scouting report
Series: IU leads 1-0
Head Coach: Tim O'Shea (5th season, 20-99)
TV: 8 p.m. Friday, Big Ten Network
Blog: n/a

The top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers begin what they hope is a special season when they host the Bryant Bulldogs at Assembly Hall Friday night. This is the second meeting between IU and Bryant. The first, a 90-42 blowout in December 2009, is best remembered as the game in which Maurice Creek fractured his first kneecap. Bryant is in its fifth season in Division I, and its coach, Tim O'Shea, has followed an interesting path. O'Shea grew up in Massachusetts, played at Boston College, and spent several years on Al Skinner's coaching staff at Rhode Island. In 2001, O'Shea became the head coach at Ohio, where he won 56 percent of his games, finished with a winning record in the MAC, and advanced to the 2005 NCAA Tournament. In 2008, Bryant, which is in Rhode Island, offered O'Shea a big contract to return to the state, and he did. As his record above indicates, it hasn't gone so well. Bryant went 8-21 as an independent in its first D-I season but then dropped to 1-29 in 2009-10, the year in which they played IU. Bryant then improved to 9-21 but dropped to 2-28 last season. If there is any consolation its that the Bulldogs are due for a less-than-horrific season based upon their pattern.

Last season, Bryant was ranked #333 in the Pomeroy ratings out of 345 teams. This season, Pomeroy places Bryant at #290 in the preseason ranking and projects a 10-19/5-13 record for the Bulldogs. Without doing the math, this projected uptick almost certainly is based upon experience. The Bulldogs return eight of their top 9 scorers from 2011-12, including Alex Francis, a 6-6 junior who scored 17 points per game and shot 51 percent from the field while also leading the team in rebounding; Frankie Dobbs, whose shooting percentages were in the mid 30s, but who averaged 13.3 points per game along with 4.6 assists and 2.7 turnovers; Corey Maynard, who averaged 11.7 ppg and shot 34 percent on 6 attempts per game from three point range; and Raphael Jordan, who scored 7.1 points per game. Jordan, Erick Smith, and Vlad Kondratyev are the only remaining Bulldogs who played in the last IU-Bryant game. Kondratyev was the Bulldogs' second-leading scorer with 10 points in that game.

As a team, frankly, there is little that stands out in the Pomeroy profile. The Bulldogs pace is middle-of-the-pack (66.2 possessions per game), and nearly all of their numbers are bad. The defense was worse than the offense. They don't foul much, then don't get their shots blocked much, and they shoot respectably from two point range (47%) and the line (69%). Unfortunately for Bryant, in 2012 they were among the nation's worst in field goal defense, pretty bad on the boards, and rarely force turnovers. That is a recipe for the nation's #339 defense. But, again, simply by the natural progress related to experience the Bulldogs should be better this year. Good enough to give the Hoosiers a challenge? Probably not. Based upon preseason Pomeroy rating, only #317 Coppin State is ranked lower among IU opponents. Even the hapless 2009-10 Hoosiers were able to more than double up the Bulldogs.

This isn't a game that is likely to come down to the wire, but finally, after an offseason full of optimism and anticipation, it begins.