To understand the mood of Hoosier Nation in the wake of IU’s basketball demolition against Iowa, and losses in eight of the last nine games, let’s turn, for just a second, to the movie, “The Fugitive.”
Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones starred. Jones, in fact, won an Academy Award for his role as a federal marshal trying to track down Ford, who played a doctor (Richard Kimble) wrongly accused of murdering his wife.
Ford escapes from jail and tries to find the real killer of his wife, a one-armed man. At one point Ford and Jones briefly meet. Ford tries to explain to him that he is innocent and didn’t kill his wife.
“I don’t care,” Jones said.
And so we have the mood that more and more dominates Hoosier fans. They know about all the problems and sanctions from the Kelvin Sampson era. They understand the program had to be gutted and rebuilt from scratch. They recognize the bad luck and injuries that have staggered the team over the last 13 months.
More and more, they don’t care.
They want to see victories, improvement, hope.
Three straight years of unprecedented losing can do that to people.
Guard Maurice Creek has had two knee surgeries in the span and is likely out for the season. That’s turned a guy who once had All-Big Ten potential into a spectator. Seven-foot center Guy-Marc Michel, a junior college shot-blocking transfer, was ruled permanently ineligible for professional issues stemming from his time in France. He was brought in to be the strong inside presence the Hoosiers lacked. Without him, the inside game is, well, weak.
Now, guard Verdell Jones, an all-conference-caliber scorer, is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
This would be enough to rock an established program, let alone one that is still trying to get there. Plus, the Hoosiers are trying to win in what looms as the nation’s strongest conference, although the Big East makes a strong argument for that honor.
Here’s the truth -- IU was struggling even with Creek and Jones. Why? Because of bad defense, particularly inside. Coach Tom Crean made defense a major point of emphasis in practice before the season. The Hoosiers have continued to emphasize it. Occasionally, such as against Michigan and Wisconsin, it pays off. Mostly, though, it remains a disaster.
Why? That’s hard to say given practices are closed. Maybe the Hoosiers just don’t get it. Maybe the defenses (IU mixes man and zone) are too complicated for them. Maybe Crean isn’t pushing the right buttons or teaching it well enough. Or, maybe, the players are just lousy on defense and the second coming of Bob Knight and John Wooden couldn’t get through to them
The bottom -- or so we can hope -- arrived in last Sunday’s loss at Iowa. The Hawkeyes, a lousy offensive team, basically scored 30 more points than their average against IU. They dominated physically. They were tougher, stronger and meaner.
The Hoosiers submitted and whether it was because of injury, ineligibility, inexperience, road woes (see Purdue at Ohio State for how bad that can get) or confusion over what is their real astrological sign, nobody cares. Fans just want to win. Forget about getting back to the championship glory days for right now. There’s a yearning for a few more victories to feel good about the program and to get a sense that, yes, it is moving in the right direction.
As we said before, Thursday against Illinois would be the perfect time to start.
Don’t be surprised if former IU offensive lineman James Brewer ends up going in the first couple of rounds in April’s NFL Draft.
Brewer is in Mobile, Ala., practicing for the upcoming Senior Bowl. A ton of NFL scouts are there and, according to SI.com, Brewer is looking very strong. That’s not surprising. They guy is like 6-7 and well over 300 pounds. He was, by far, the Hoosiers’ best offensive lineman last season.
Anyway, here is what SI (that’s Sports Illustrated in case you didn’t know) had to say about Brewer:
“Brewer pulled off a dominant performance on the first day of Senior Bowl practice and quickly established himself as the best blocker at the event. He looked big and powerful during morning weigh-ins then played that way in the afternoon. Brewer moves well on his feet and also annihilates opponents once he got his hands on them. He was never beat today and drew praise from coaches on a number of occasions."
If this is true, and if the NFL avoids a lockout (a big if), Brewer could be a wealthy young man in a couple of months.