by Kent Sterling
It’s easy to respond to a six-game Big Ten losing streak with cynicism. Until the past two seasons, the Hoosiers haven’t suffered a six-game conference losing streak since World War II. That kind of systemic failure is usually met with skepticism at the minimum and usually an amount of horror. IU fans have shown a great deal of patience in a day and age when people are all about winning – NOW! Good for them, and good for the kids who continue to play hard and fight.
Will the optimism be rewarded by Tom Crean and the kids wearing candy-striped warm-up britches? It will, and I’ll give you five good reasons:
5 – Matt Roth will be back next year. Roth is a pure shooter, and not only do pure shooters make shots – they open up the floor for everyone else because defenders leave them to help at their own peril. For obvious reasons, the kind of dribble penetration offense Crean prefers can’t be very successful with help coming from the wings. Opponents choosing to help from Roth’s side of the floor will pay.
4 – The athletic department is finally being manned by professionals. Fred Glass is an IU guy, but more than that he’s a very, very smart IU guy who not only brings passion to the job, but a level of experience in sports administration. The cabal of boobs who hired Rick Greenspan instead of Jack Swarbrick got the job done right when they installed Glass. He’s a relatively young guy, and will do what needs to be done to bring IU back. He was instrumental in laying the groundwork to bring the Super Bowl to Indianapolis in 2012. You know how hard it is to get people used to South Beach, New Orleans, and Tempe to see Indy as a destination for the signature event of the most successful sports league in the history of the world? Glass led the team who got that done.
3 – The group who will be sophomores next year has a chance to be outstanding. Matt Roth, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Maurice Creek, Derek Elston, Bobby Capobianco, and Bawa Muniru will play three more years in Bloomington. Jeremiah Rivers and Verdell Jones III will be back – Rivers for one more year, and Jones for two. We don’t know how good these kids are going to get, but if the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores, Indiana fans should enjoy this group next year.
2 – Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey are reportedly two solid recruits. We’ve all seen video of these two kids, but I can tell you that it isn’t hard to put together highlight videos that make kids look unstoppable. Austin Etherington and Matt Carlino are a year behind those two. All four are ranked in the top 150, and while that doesn’t automatically convey greatness, there is virtually no difference between a kid ranked 112 by Rivals and the kid ranked 30. High school player rankings is not just an inexact science, it’s virtual guesswork. Getting more excited about number 30 than number 120 is silly. Maurice Creek was ranked 56th in the rivals database. Do you believe there were 55 better high school seniors last year than Creek? Maybe Josh Selby comes to Bloomington, maybe not.
1 – The IU Basketball Development Center. There is nothing more important to parents of recruits than the ability for their kids to reach their potential, and the current facilities just don’t even come close to competing with other schools. Kentucky and Florida State have incredible practice facilities, and IU’s new complex will be their equal. When parents visit Indiana, I guarantee they ask, “Okay, Assembly Hall is great, but where do you practice? Where can my Johnny work on his game?” “Where do the girls practice?” “Okay, if the girls are practicing, where can Johnny get up 500 shots?”
As soon as the coach answers “The HPER”, the game is over. With this new beautiful facility, IU can compete for the talents of the kids who want to work like hell. This is a game changer for families considering Indiana.
The only thing I’m sure of about Tom Crean is that he is a tireless worker. What he knows or doesn’t know about basketball and managing kids is a complete unknown. With Dwayne Wade, he was a hell of a coach. Without him, he lost a minimum of 10 games per year. In the Big East, life is tough. Recruiting kids to play in Milwaukee is tough – really tough. Crean and Indiana could use a breakthrough recruit, but what they need more is a pipeline from Bloomington South, North Central, and the other Indianapolis high schools that produce an average of one NBA player per year.
With Creek and Roth healthy, another year of building strength, and the opening of the Basketball Development Center, I think we’ve seen the last six-game Big Ten losing streak for a few years. It’s darkest before the dawn, and it’s sure as hell pretty dark. The dawn must be coming.
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