by Kent Sterling
Indiana basketball is riding a five game losing streak, and fans are growing concerned if not angry. They see a third straight year of competitive disadvantage, and are soaking their torches in kerosene.
Fans are not used to losing like this. Even under the universally and correctly loathed Mike Davis, Indiana won more than they lost, and made it to the NCAA tournament in four of six season. He was 115-79 overall and 55-41 in the Big Ten. That wasn’t good enough to allow Davis to keep his job.
Over the three years of Tom Crean’s reign, the Hoosiers are 25-53 overall and 5-34 in the Big Ten. Fans see the sky as falling.
The truth is that the sky is lifting, but still so low that it looks like it’s about to hit fans in the heads. Indiana is getting better. There is reason for hope. There are positives to be celebrated. There is justification to the belief that the rebuild is on the right track.
Panic is a reflex that is activated by unrealistic expectations is a lack of knowledge. Where there is ignorance, there is fear, and for those only seeing the Penn State game, only a few wins will turn the hysteria off.
Here is a list of facts that might shave some of the uneven madness that is percolating in Bloomington and among alums:
This team is young – even in the heyday of Indiana Basketball, the best teams got good when the roster featured juniors and seniors. When did Landon Turner get really good? About midway through his junior year. How many juniors and seniors were on the team in championship seasons? Through the Minnesota game, the freshmen and sophomores on the Hoosiers’ roster have played 2,117 of 3,200 minutes. That’s a greater percentage frosh and soph minutes than any Big Ten team other than Michigan.
Here is the list of Big Ten teams, and the percerctage of minutes played by juniors and seniors played through yesterday:
- Michigan State 74.0%
- Minnesota 68.9%
- Penn State 68.6%
- Northwestern 64.1%
- Wisconsin 64.1%
- Purdue 55.1%
- Ohio State 54.9%
- Iowa 50.6%
- Illinois 41.3%
- Indiana 33.8%
- Michigan 30.1%
Help is on the way – People have gone from being excited about the future to panicked about the present. Go back to that excitement. Get out and watch Cody Zeller, Collin Hartman, Austin Etherington, James Blackmon, Trey Lyles, Hanner Perea, Yogi Ferrell, and the rest of the ten kids who’ve committed to play for IU over the next four high school classes. High school games are a good time, and these kids are all playing well.
Try to pay attention to the little things where improvement may (had better) take place. Stupid fouls from the big men, a lack of defensive discipline among the guards, etc… There are games where Indiana will be outmatched because of their youth, but taking joy in progress is something fans can do by paying attention to the games.
No strategy looks good when it leads to a loss, and all winning strategies look smart. Lay off Crean’s in-game decisions until the talent on the floor is equal. At this point, it is not. He was a damn good coach at Marquette when he had Dwayne Wade, and not nearly as good without him. I know they got drilled in the Final Four, but give Crean some slack until you see apples to apples talent.
If you enjoy getting pissed off at sports, and are never satisfied, go crazy. Heap your venom on Indiana while they are weakened. It’s not going to last much longer, and at some point you will sound kookier and kookier.
For those who support IU, brighter days are ahead but they are probably two years away. Be patient and revel in the small victories.