Okay, so Ferris State does not thrill the heart like, say, Michigan State. It’s still November and sports thrills are supposed to center on football.
Then again, a 4-5 record, five losses in the last six games and a 0-5 Big Ten record has drained much of football’s thrill.
Before we get back to that, understand that Ferris State presents an interesting basketball challenge when it shows up at Assembly Hall Monday night. It has center Justin Keenan, the preseason NCAA Division II player of the year who has scored 1,569 points. Keenan and guard Darien Gray are returning all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference players. They helped Ferris State go 16-13 last year.
This is IU’s final exhibition before opening its season Friday night against Florida Gulf Coast and the focus, coach Tom Crean said, is mostly on the Hoosiers.
“Our goal is to be relentless moving forward on defense,” Crean said in a university release. “On offense, we need to continue to emphasize taking care of the basketball. I was very pleased with our decision making against Franklin. We shared the basketball and moved it around, and our defensive energy made our offensive effort better.”
Crean experimented with different player combinations in last week’s exhibition win over Franklin. He started freshman guard Victor Oladipo at small forward because of Oladipo’s energy. He put Oladipo and sophomore forward Christian Watford on the defensive perimeter and had point guard Jordan Hulls inside because he wanted to see how difficult that would make it for teams to get the ball inside.
Figure Crean will continue trying things against Ferris State while demanding all-out effort. No starting position is secure in theory, although it’s hard to imagine Watford not making it.
“I think our guys have a clear understanding that competition is going to make us a better program,” Crean said. “Whether it’s in a game, in practice or in the weight room, our expectation is that maximum effort and focus on the task at hand is not optional.”
One last thought about the IU coaching situation -– Bill Lynch is still the guy and very well could be the guy next season, the final year of his contract. Athletic director Fred Glass wants contracts to mean something again at Indiana and has no desire to fire Lynch. His preference is to sign Lynch to an extension, but that will only happen if the Hoosiers start winning.
If the time comes where Glass wants to make a change, he will conduct a national search. In the past that has produced candidates such as Mid-American conference head coaches (Terry Hoeppner was from Miami of Ohio, Lynch was at Ball State, among other places), Big Ten assistant coaches, NFL assistant coaches and former BCS conference coaches who had lost some luster.
For instance, Bill Mallory was fired at Colorado and moved on to Northern Illinois before coming to IU. Gerry DiNardo was fired at LSU before joining the Hoosiers.
Cam Cameron was the quarterback coach for the Washington Redskins before coming to Indiana. Sam Wyche was an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers before IU hired him.
Mallory, DiNardo and Cameron were fired. Wyche left after one year to take over the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.
How tough is it to win at Indiana? Mallory is the winningest coach in school history (69 wins) and still finished with a losing record. In the last 90 years only one coach has finished with a winning record –- Bo McMillin (63-48-11) –- and he retired in 1947.
It’s easier to win at Northwestern than it is at Indiana. Why? That’s a topic for another day.