By Andy Proffet
The 1979-80 season was the last one in which the Indiana University men’s basketball team entered the season ranked No. 1.
The Hoosiers, with all five starters back from a 27-9 Sweet Sixteen team a year ago, bolstered by the addition of four touted freshmen, were ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches poll released Wednesday.
It’s the third time IU has entered the season ranked No. 1. The 1975-76 team would win the national title with a 32-0 record after starting the season atop the polls.
The ’79-80 team didn’t fare as well, but the core of that team would go on to win a national title the following season.
Can the third time be the charm?
Expectations have been high for this Indiana team ever since the Hoosiers knocked off then-No. 1 Kentucky last December in a game at Assembly Hall. Christian Watford hit the game-winning 3-pointer in that game, and when he and Cody Zeller both decided to return to IU for another season, pundits predicted a No. 1 ranking for the Hoosiers.
They got it on Wednesday, beating out Louisville and Kentucky for the top spot. Those two programs received five first-place votes each from the coaches, with IU earning the other 21 votes.
Four other Big Ten teams earned spots in the rankings: Ohio State (No. 4), Michigan (No. 5), Michigan State (No. 14) and Wisconsin (No. 21). The five Big Ten teams are the most in the poll from any conference.
Creighton is the only Missouri Valley Conference team in the poll; the Bluejays were ranked No. 15. And Notre Dame is 23rd in the poll.
The Associated Press media poll will be released later this month.