BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Amid all the smoke and music, Indiana put aside the excitement of a new basketball season to look back one more time at a year of achievement.
Indiana marked the unofficial beginning of the season Friday night by cheering a highlight video of its outright Big Ten title last season. Coach Tom Crean then unveiled a new Big Ten championship banner, commemorating the Hoosiers' 21st title overall.
Crean's first words to the crowd said it all.
"How's that banner look?" said Crean, who then pivoted toward the south end of Assembly Hall where five national championship banners hang. "We're working every day to make room for another over there. These banners, you don't buy them at Wal-Mart. You have to earn them. Everything that's ever happened at Indiana has been earned. We worked for five straight years to hang a banner. This is a hard-nosed, blue-collar program."
At the latest installment of Hoosier Hysteria, Indiana's version of midnight madness, fans packed Assembly Hall's lower levels soon after the school opened the doors at 5 p.m.
The team also held a light scrimmage.
After losing four starters, this season has a totally new feel for the Hoosiers, who bring in eight freshmen and one transfer. Point guard Yogi Ferrell returns, but the team lost two NBA players in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller and key senior contributors in Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford.
With Crean at the helm for his sixth season, the Hoosiers still must live up to the expectations of one of the country's most passionate fan bases.
"They've got people who will step up," said Mike Moore, a lifelong fan from Indianapolis. "They lost a lot of really good talent. I think they've got a good staff and system in place. Will Sheehey can do more. Yogi can be great. I think they'll be really good."
During player introductions, the crowd reserved its loudest cheers for Sheehey, a senior forward expected to shift from a sixth man role into a go-to scorer. Sheehey came out to Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane" and tossed two white T-shirts into the stands.
Fans got their first glimpse on the Assembly Hall court of a star-studded recruiting class, headlined by Noah Vonleh, Luke Fischer and Troy Williams. While Vonleh and Fischer prepared to show off their skills, Williams was only available to judge the dunk contest. The 6-foot-7 forward is still dealing with an injury to his right hand.
The festivities began with a rousing "Hoosier Nation" chant, a dance routine by the team and a showing of the "This is Indiana" music video by former students Brice Fox and Daniel Weber.
The Hoosiers will player their first exhibition game Oct. 26 against Southern Indiana and open the season against Chicago State on Nov. 8.