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Indiana Basketball's statistical profile shows a team poised to rejoin the nation's best

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The Hoosiers are primed to contend for a Big Ten title this season, according to Ken Pomeroy.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Pomeroy's initial ratings are out, but before we get too deep into them, I have to implore you to purchase full access to his site. It's $20 for the season or the equivalent of two trips to Chipotle. You can access the archives all the way back to 2002 and the numbers are easy enough to understand and give you a far more comprehensive view of college basketball.

I'm sure you're curious how a statistical model can spit out a rating of all 351 Division-1 teams with the seeming absence of, uh, any actual data. Thankfully, Ken has you covered.

Now onto the good stuff:

INDIANA HOOSIERS: 21-8 (12-6), 2nd in B1G

Projected Wins (Win Expectancy over 65%): Creighton (H), Wake Forest (N), the seven non-conference games against teams ranked 208th or lower (H), Rutgers (H), Nebraska (H), Ohio State (H), Illinois (H), Northwestern (H), Minnesota (H), Penn State (A), Iowa (H), Nebraska (H), Purdue (H), Maryland (H)

Toss-Ups (Win Expectancy between 35 - 65%): Notre Dame (N), Wisconsin (H), Minnesota (A), Michigan (A), Michigan State (A), Illinois (A), Iowa (A)

Projected Losses (Win Expectancy less than 35%): Duke (A), Wisconsin (A)

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How I've divided these games isn't as scientific as it is aesthetic, and I think the tiers show the important takeaway: KenPom likes Indiana at home against anyone, and it takes a team as good as he projects Wisconsin to be (#9 in his ratings) to get him to waiver. He still likes Indiana to win that game (2 point victory, 61% win expectancy) but the next closest game he expects the Hoosiers to find themselves in at home is against Purdue (6 point victory, 70% win expectancy).

There's also no denying that Indiana has one of the easier conference slates in the Big Ten. Of the five top six projected teams in the B1G that aren't the Hoosiers, Indiana plays only one of them twice, and that is projected B1G Champion Wisconsin. Michigan and Michigan State don't come to Assembly Hall this year, and the Hoosiers avoid trips to Purdue and Maryland this season. This cuts both ways, as Indiana will have every opportunity to rack up an impressive number of wins thanks to home-and-aways with three of the five teams projected to finish in the conference basement. But they are at risk of having limited chances to knock off ranked opponents to beef up the résumé ahead of the NCAA Tournament. Of course, an extended run in Maui and / or some lower conference teams turning out better than projected can always create more opportunities.

Oh yeah, about that order of finish (I've marked the double-plays with an asterisk):

2016 B1G Projected Standings

  1. Wisconsin (12-6)*
  2. Indiana (12-6)
  3. Michigan (11-7)
  4. Michigan State (11-7)
  5. Purdue (11-7)
  6. Maryland (10-8)
  7. Iowa (10-8)*
  8. Ohio State (10-8)
  9. Northwestern (9-9)
  10. Illinois (8-10)*
  11. Minnesota (8-10)*
  12. Penn State (5-13)
  13. Nebraska (5-13)*
  14. Rutgers (3-15)

Of the Hoosiers' five double-plays, four of them come against teams projected to finish 7th or lower. That said, Indiana will only get one shot to knock off Michigan or Michigan State and it'll be on the road, putting a premium on winning home games against fellow conference title contenders Purdue and Maryland. Ultimately, a 12-6 record in the Big Ten will send anyone into the Big Dance with room to spare, but it's worth noting that, at the outset of the season, Indiana doesn't project to have a ton of opportunities to pick off top teams in the confines of Assembly Hall, where they tend to do so with some regularity.

But enough about the schedule, what about the team?

NUMBERS!

Last Season (Projected): #26 Overall, #21 Offense, #40 Defense, #63 Tempo

Last Season (Actual): #53 Overall, #9 Offense, #214 Defense, #72 Tempo

This Season (Projected): #13 Overall, #2 Offense, #83 Defense, #72 Tempo

I figured there would be a decent crowd of people saying "NUMBERS AIN'T RESULTS" so this is me acknowledging that. Also, no one in the history of the projection business has ever argued that numbers are results.

Indiana's defensive nosedive last season was well-documented by just about anyone with a set of eyes and a keyboard. Pomeroy had actually projected Indiana's defense to improve from its #47 ranking at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, based on returning personnel. Unfortunately, Indiana never found a consistent answer to protect the rim, and the newcomers in the backcourt were, uh, "offensively-oriented" is how I'll put it politely. And with no one to erase the lapses and mistakes made 20-25 feet from the basket, Indiana was doomed.

Going into last season, we talked how the Hoosiers' hopes were pinned on getting consistent plus-minutes from Hanner Mosquera-Perea. This year, we similarly pin such hopes on McDonald's All-American Thomas Bryant, and to a lesser extent, fellow freshman Juwan Morgan. Is their presence enough to drag Indiana's defense back to the threshold of respectability, as Pomeroy projects it to be? Granted, while the 83rd rated defense would mark a massive one-year improvement, it would be, by over 60 spots, the worst defense to win it all since KenPom started tracking teams in 2002.

Maybe Indiana can turn it around big time on defense. The 2011-2012 unit ranked 84th on defense and shot all the way up to 28th the next season with an almost identical roster, but to ask for a one-year turnaround of almost 200 spots is probably a bit ambitious, bordering on impossible. We know how the Hoosiers are going to win games this year, and it's going to be by putting up NBA-esque point totals in a game that has seen scoring steadily drop in recent years. Granted, there is no telling what impact the shortened shot clock will have. We know having five less seconds of offense is unlikely to hinder a team that works very quickly on that end, and perhaps five less seconds of defense will cure what ails the Hoosiers defensively.

Offensively, after finishing 9th last season and returning the vast majority of their most important scorers, Ken Pomeroy sees Indiana's high-efficiency outfit to improve even more next season. Their dead-eye shooters: Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, and Nick Zeisloft, who collectively shot 40.8% from deep last season are all back. Troy Williams brings top-notch athleticism (and, if offseason reports are true, an improved jumper) while Collin Hartman looks to step in as the team's glue guy (who also happened to hit 45% of his 61 three-point attempts last season). Newcomers in the frontcourt should have more than enough space to operate as teams will be unable to afford to leave guys at the arc. Bottom line, no one is concerned about how the Hoosiers will get points on the board, for the second year in a row, it's going to come down being able to get enough stops to be competitive.