Friday, December 17, 2010

Crushing Hoosiers – What’s Next For Indiana Basketball

No, Indiana didn’t go all Wisconsin football on SIU-Edwardsville. Tom Crean is as competitive a coach as you’re likely to see, but he doesn’t have the beat-you-into-the-dirt mentality that makes Badgers’ Bret Bielema the coach you least want to fall behind.

Friday night was a fool’s gold victory, by an 88-54 score, not because the Hoosiers didn’t play well (they did), but because of the weakness of the opponent.

SIU-E’s deer-in-the-headlight showing was amplified by IU’s go-for-the-jugular approach. The Hoosiers had spent the week fueling up from their 32-minutes-of-glory, eight-minutes-of-fade performance at Kentucky. They needed interior toughness and rebounding and relentlessness because that’s what it will take to beat the Michigan States and Purdues looming in their future.

Crean’s emphasis on rebounding was so emphatic he even had the team work on it Friday morning. Why? Because it absolutely has to become part of their basketball mindset.

What did Friday night’s victory mean other than IU can crush a 2-10 patsy? Not much. This game had nothing in common with what the Hoosiers will face next week in Las Vegas and once Big Ten play begins a few days after that.

IU couldn’t have dominated more than if it had faced the Ghost of Christmas Past. SIU-E missed its first 15 shots and most of them weren’t close. It had no answer for anything the Hoosiers did no matter whom they did it with. The Cream ‘n Crimson shot 68 percent in the first half and 61.5 percent for the game, including 56.3 percent from three-point range. They might never see such numbers the rest of Crean’s career.

Hold on. South Carolina State is next, another patsy in the waiting, coming Sunday to Assembly Hall. It is 4-5 and coming off a loss at Northern Iowa.

That’s the last patsy this season, if you’re interested. From then on it gets as tough as IU can handle, tougher in some cases.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

So what did the Hoosiers take from crushing SIU-E? Here’s guard Matt Roth with that perspective.

“It shows how focused we were all week. We’re playing with an edge. We’ve come together. We didn’t always have that in the past.”

That’s true. The last two years were about as far removed from what Indiana basketball should be about as you can get in this universe. It takes time to build from the rubble left by the Kelvin Sampson disaster.

The Hoosiers are building, just don’t let Friday night make you think they’re complete.

Hey, let’s nickpick. IU had zero offensive rebounds in the first half. Why? Mainly because it only missed eight shots. It finished with four offensive rebounds, just one by forward Christian Watford.

Yes, Crean has mentioned that to him.

Oh. After bolting to a 24-0 lead, Indiana played SIU-Edwardsville to a near draw the rest of the first half, winning the final 11 minutes just 23-20. The letdown had Crean getting all feisty to ensure players kept their edge, but it wasn’t unexpected. Only the most mature of teams can sustain its intensity in such a situation and the Hoosiers still have work to do in that area.

Oh, yes. Did you notice that Tom Pritchard hit his first free throw of the season and if he’s now 1-for-8, why be negative?

Oh, no. Watford fouled out with 8:28 left after totaling 18 points in 19 minutes. What’s up with that? Well, Crean did briefly have him play point guard. That’s right. The 6-9 sophomore has gone, in one year, from a power forward to a perimeter forward to a point guard. What’s next? New football coach Kevin Wilson was in the stands, so maybe there’s a future gridiron role.

So now the Hoosiers are 8-2, 8-0 against Assembly Hall fodder, 0-2 against road quality.

This was the year for home-court dog opponents because IU needed to learn how to win and build confidence. From now on it needs to do that by beating solid teams.

Next week against Northern Iowa, and either New Mexico or Colorado, would be a great time to start.


  1. I don't know about the rest of you but these patsy games are boring me to tears. I like a win (and I get the NIT guarantee strategy) but I'll be glad to get through SC st. Sheesh.

    Also, I am not a fan of Rivers BUT it is good to see that the guy is hitting his FTs. He is pretty good a penetrating with the ball and drawing contact so this could be how he can make an offensive contribution. I think that George Leach could beat this guy in a shooting contest.

  2. No one messes with us in our house--No One!!