Who can challenge Indiana in Big Ten?

Updated: October 25, 2012, 4:15 PM ET
By Seth Greenberg

With the start of the 2012-13 college basketball season fast approaching, ESPN Insider is looking at the five burning questions facing each of the major conferences. In this edition, Seth Greenberg looks at the Big Ten.

1. Which teams can challenge Indiana for the Big Ten title?

The Indiana Hoosiers return all five starters from last season's Sweet 16 team and are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, led by McDonald's All-American point guard Yogi Ferrell.

Tom Crean's players champion their roles and play to their strengths. Victor Oladipo is an explosive athlete who defends, Jordan Hulls stretches the defense and feeds the post, Christian Watford can post or step out and play as a stretch 4, and Will Sheehey is versatile and active on both sides of the ball. Ferrell's ability to defend the ball will only make Indiana that much more complete.

But the most important piece of Crean's team this season is national POY candidate Cody Zeller. The 7-footer's arrival last season helped fuel a team that had won 28 games over a two-year period to a 27-win season, and his presence now puts the Hoosiers in position to compete for a national championship in his sophomore campaign.

But remember, we're talking about a team that lost seven games in league play last season and finished in fifth place in the conference, and we're also talking about one of the deepest and most talented leagues in the country. IU might be the preseason No. 1, but it will be challenged each and every night in league play. In particular, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State all return players who on any given night can take over a game and elevate their teams to an elite level.