Sunday, January 2, 2011

IU Remains A Basketball Puzzle

Once upon a time Indiana basketball coaches walked on water. Okay, it was one particular coach, although you could argue for two (yes, we’re talking Bob Knight and Branch McCracken), but that misses the point that now more than ever Cream ‘n Crimson coaches are viewed as the problem and not the solution.

Mike Davis wasn’t quite up for the job, Kelvin Sampson was so bad a choice nobody took responsibility for his hiring, and the last couple of years have been painfully challenging, especially with Purdue rolling in the national rankings and Butler thriving in the postseason.

Now a fire-the-bum mentality has found Tom Crean. A four-game losing streak has ripped the luster from a 9-2 start and all but ruined thoughts of a postseason. Even a winless Big Ten looms as a dismal possibility, and fans are restless.

Does this mean Crean can’t coach?

No. He won big at Marquette, 190 wins in nine seasons, 160 in the last seven, 69 in his last three. His teams went 31-19 in the Big East. Marquette made the Final Four in 2005. He knows the game, has thrived everywhere he’s been, and it’s no accident. You don’t do that if you don’t know how to coach, recruit and game plan.

Still, this is a what-have-you-done lately world and lately the Hoosiers have not done well, not because Crean can’t coach, but because he’s still dealing with having had to start from scratch after Sampson nearly destroyed the program.

IU won a combined 16 games in Crean’s first two years, which was about as good as you could expect given the circumstances. That first season he had to bring in players he normally wouldn’t have signed just to fill out the roster. It will be another couple of years before the roster is filled with guys who fit his system.

That leads to this season. The Hoosiers have talent and experience, but they are not maximizing it. They don’t have much of an inside presence with 7-foot center Guy-Marc Michel’s ineligibility. Guard Maurice Creek is probably a year away from returning to full health and timing after his knee surgery. They turn the ball over too much. Their defense is, and we’re being diplomatic here, suspect. IU shot 50 percent against one of the top defenses in the country and still lost by 18 to Ohio State.

Nobody said resurrecting a program was easy, but it seems to have acquired quantum physics properties. Even Crean seems confused. He’s certainly frustrated.

“It’s a discombobulated puzzle right now,” he said, “but our job is to try and continue to put those pieces in the best position to play and compete and win each game. That’s what we get started on again as we get ready for the next one.”

Here’s what we know. IU is better than what it’s played the last few weeks. It is 9-6and should be 11-4. It should have gone 1-1 in Las Vegas and 1-1 in the first week of Big Ten play. Instead, it went 0-4. An 11-4 record would have made the 16 victories needed to clinch a NIT berth realistic.

Now the Hoosiers have to go 7-9 the rest of the regular season to make it. They will be favored in just one more game.


People want progress and suddenly it has stopped, if not regressed. They are not happy.

Perspective point: Off-the-court improvement has been monumental. Players are going to class, getting good grades and not getting suspended for a variety of screw ups. They represent the university with class.

Yes, we know. You still have to win. But you have to do it the right way. Crean does. He’s reconnected with former players and the program’s rich tradition. It will get better.

As far as the four-game losing streak, that can change, although trips to Minnesota and Northwestern this week are formidable, as is the rest of the Big Ten season. You can argue Xs and Os until you pass out, but the bottom line is the Hoosiers have to get mentally tougher, either because they mature into it or by adding mentally tougher players.

Adding players will take years. For now it’s getting the current players to buy into how hard they have to play every possession and how focused they have to be all the time. It remains a work in progress.

“We’re just not aggressive enough,” Crean said. “We’re not up into people well enough.”

That can change. It has to change. You don’t have to walk on water to see that.


According to the Bloomington Herald-Times, IU football recruit D’Angelo Roberts was one of 13 people arrested in conjunction with a fight and illegal alcohol consumption over the weekend. Roberts, a heralded running back out of Bloomington North High School, was arrested on illegal consumption charges. Police had arrived at a Bloomington apartment complex to break up a fight, then found most of the people were under legal drinking age. Roberts has verbally committed to IU.


  1. Hes just not a very good coach, its not going to change much. We're never going to get as much out of it as we want.

  2. The Big East figures I found from the internet was that Coach Crean was 46-36 in 5 years in conference and never finished above T-4th. He did win a lot of nonconference games (cupcakes?).

  3. Typically elite coaches win around 70% of their games. Crean was 66% at Marquette (good, not spectacular) and 64% without Wade. He was 61% in the Big East conference.

    The 5 years prior...Mike Deane had a 65% winning %.

    Other than his 2007 and 2008 teams, his teams have always been near the bottom in team defense including while he was in Conf USA.

    When he was in the Big East he went 13 - 2 against teams that had the worst defense in the conference (per Pomeroy)...6 - 10 against teams that had 'strong' defenses (range of 1 - 40).

    FYI...the Big Ten tends to average in that defense range as we are a black and blue league (currently OSU is #1, Purdue #4, Mich St #13, Ill #40)

    Indiana has been at the bottom in defense in the Big Ten while Crean has been coach, including this year.

    Just sayin.

  4. Pete I am still waiting for someone to explain to me where Crean needs the best players in the country before he can win some games in the big ten. Don't get me wrong I really like Crean and what he's done to clean up the program. But we are not paying Crean millions a year to just clean up the program. You could pay a CEO or a Lawyer the half that amount of money and get the same result. Crean was brought here to win so enough about the clean program stuff because that is a minimum expectation.

    So why is it that programs with half the talent that we have can whip our tails and out hustle us? Why is it that with better athletes this year, more experience and more muscle we are worse this year than last? We added superior players in place of the ones that graduated and other Big Ten teams lost some players to graduation but we are worse. How is this possible? I'm not the boss but if I were I would demanding some answers and I think the press should be asking these questions too. I am a Crean fan but this year is shaping up to be a disaster and I would like to press to hold him more accountable and start asking the tough questions.

  5. The basic evaluation of a coach is whether his players and the team play is better at the end of the season than when the season started....regardless of wins and losses. This was true for Knight, McCracken and even Davis in his first year....IU teams have not under Crean. He may be able to coach but not here. He may be able to recruit a zillon guards but so the he has not been able to bring in the quality 6'6" to 6'9" kid needed to compete in the big ten. Other Big Ten coaches are able to get their play in your face starts with what the coach demands and he has yet to prove it is what demands by benching players who don't play defense with a passion. He has and offense that does not value the ball or shot selection a deadly combination when you have less talent.

  6. Isn't it fair to say that Crean has had a run of real bad luck when he is starting out with a "thin" team to begin with?

    Take the Penn State game.

    First, "the background" -

    1. Guy is declared ineligible. That was probably not predictable even with due diligence - and it really sucks.
    2. Probably your best player from the top 10 class of 2009, Creek, has not been himself all year because of a freak knee injury that cost him all of last year and appears to be severely limiting him this year.
    3. Roth, probably your best outside shooter, is still recovering from his foot injuries that also cost him last year. We have yet to see the Roth who buried all those 3's against OSU two years ago.
    4. Jones and Elston have been hurt.

    5. Then, with your best chance to win a game at home in Penn State, what happens? Your mainstay, your other best player from that 2009 class (Watford) - and the only big you've got who is playing with any consistency is not himself on a temporary (hopefully) basis because of a back problem. Why, oh why did that have to hit for THIS game?

    I would add that I really don't understand this injury. Does Watford have this problem frequently? Is it one-time or chronic? What caused it? Has it hampered him in other games? What is the prognosis?

    But the point is, give all that, is it any surprise that you lose to Penn State?

    Crean is probably wondering if any other pieces of the heavens can collapse on him.

    Granted, almost all teams have to deal with adversity at some point, e.g. PUke, which I will call "Poordue" in this case, which has had perhaps worse luck with Robbie Hummel given that they had national title aspirations.

    But still, IU has to rank well up there in the bad luck department. I suspect if you take most teams in the country and handicap them as the Hoosiers have been handicapped, they too would have trouble.

  7. I notice that some of the people that wrote in were looking at Tom Crean's career and someone said in his first 5 years he went 46-36 and that is wrong one he was in[conferenceUSA]in his first 5 years.Marquette moved to the Big East after 2005 season and he was in Big East for 3 years.Two in he's first 5 years he went 102-53 and that was in conference usa.Three someone said he never made it higher then T-4th that was in the Big East that is correct.Tom Crean in Coference USA had a combine record of.
    And thats overall 121-65 and in conference play 59-37.And in The Big East he had a overall record of 69-31 and in conference play a record of 31-19 and this is all at marquette but in two different conferences.With a overall record 190-96 and conference play 90-56 with marquette So lets make sure we get are stats and I'm not trying to be a smart ass

  8. Fact: Crean cannot coach. I would venture to say that he has done about as bad as any coach possibly could with so many ranked players. Consider that Jones, Pritchard, Elston, Hulls, Watford, Creek, Miniru (yes, i know he's gone) and Oladipo had ALL spent time in the Rivals 150 and yet Crean can't get these guys to beat anyone.
    Moreover, look at all the teams that have almost NO Rivals 150 talent and are doing well.

    I think the biggest indictment is how bad the players are on the court and how so many of them don't get any better. Pritchard is 10x worse than he was as a freshman and Jones should never EVER have the basketball in his hands.
    I'd say Hulls has improved, but it's clear it's not because of coaching--the poor kid has to fight for his own shot because NO ONE is setting screens for a 50+% shooter.

  9. I'm ashamed to have these comments attributed to Hoosier fans. I've always thought of us as the most knowledgeable and supportive B ball followers in the world. These comments expose a whining ignorance of teams and competition or a Purdue or Kentucky fan.
    TC will win multiple national championships at IU. The General and Branch both had much more to start with and both built their teams like TC-(Do some homework).
    My opinion--The last piece for a championship is the middle. TC had this covered on a temporary basis and that blew up this year. Suck it up and see how TC makes this fix-- We have the opportunity to watch a champion built if we are patient enough! 2013 is our year!!

  10. Why is it that we can not allow him the time it would take for any coach to win...If you are looking for someone to blame for the state of Indiana Basketball, you need to look no farther than Coach Knight...He quit on us all long before he was fired. I love watching his teams just as much as then next guy, but I also saw how he did not care about what we wanted/needed more than his ego, or his own desires...Get over it We do not have the players to play on the Big Ten level, and unless you have been under a rock for the past 6 months you know that those players are coming...He can and will coach this team to many many wins and all we have to do is...wait and watch...

  11. IU Basketball will never be the same, and if you're waiting on better players you're going to be disappointed. Indiana Basketball used to stand for something, which I think is one reason we use to pack 'em in both at home and on the road. Now we can't even sell out a home game. Here's what we see at Assembly Hall:

    1. The students ruining a great pep song by yelling "You suck" at the opposition. Does anyone stand up and tell them "We don't do that at Indiana"?
    2. Instead of students behind the basket being told not to distract opposing free throw shooters, now they're given obnoxious big heads to distract shooters.
    3. Players playing with their shirttails out until a referee tells them to tuck it in.
    4.The pep band sits on their duffs while piped in music is blared over the PA system. Of course, that's only when a commercial isn't being played.
    5. Players acting like grade schoolers in their whining reaction to being called for a foul, with no repercussions from their coach.
    6. Players having to look over to the bench to see what play to run, instead of reacting to what the defense is doing and playing the way they've been taught.
    7. A coach running up and down the sideline like a chicken with his head cut off. We (don't) appreciate the (false) enthusiasm, but maybe if he sat and watched the game he might be able to see some of the fundamental mistakes being made, plus he'd have more time to correct those mistakes.

    Who did Coach Knight win with in his second year? Guys named Buckner, Downing, Crews, Ahfeld, Kamstra, Abernathy, Green? Not a lot of top 100 recruits in that bunch, but I don't think I ever heard him complaining about who he had to work with. He taught, they learned, and we won.
    Basketball is just a cash cow for the athletic program, and every dollar is being squeezed out of it. Basketball is secondary to money, and it doesn't take 5 minutes at Assembly Hall to realize it.