by Kent Sterling
Things in Bloomington are quiet – too quiet.
The news in Bloomington generally pours out of Cook Hall to the tens of thousands of Indiana faithful who continue to wait patiently for the development of the current roster , as well as the arrival of the next wave of Indiana kids who can’t wait to wear candy stripes and challenge themselves to hang a banner or two.
But in the middle of May, there hasn’t been a stir in two weeks since the little known Remy Abell decided to spurn offers from Penn State, Butler, and Xavier to accept Indiana’s offer to join the program.
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Tom Crean is still pushing for a big man for the 2011 class which would put the Hoosiers one over the limit of 13 scholarships, and more players in the 2012 class where they are also full.
These are interesting times for a program that appears to be ready to take a meaningful leap forward. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had Indiana as a last four in at-large team in his 2012 NCAA bracket, and then inexplicably dropped them to where they are no longer listed at all – not even in the last four out.
It doesn’t make any difference what Lunardi thinks, even in March when people mistakenly invest emotionally is his evaluation. Ten months prior to Selection Sunday, you could line up the Hubble and the Spitzer Space telescopes end-to-end and still not see his relevance.
There are five reasons for Indiana fans optimism, even if the Hoosiers don’t impress Lunardi, as they look ahead to a bit of a make or break season, at least for the fans’ patience:
- Maurice Creek is recovering well, and the knee injury that ended his 2010-2011 season wasn’t nearly as serious as the catastrophic injury he suffered the year before. Whether he returns to the level of offensive proficiency he enjoyed early in his freshman season, only time will tell, but there is reason to believe he will be in much better physical condition than he was entering last season.
- Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey will be a year stronger and smarter – with the emphasis on smarter. Both players are freak athletes capable of being very good players on both ends, but either hustling themselves out of position or getting periodically lost made it hard for either player to be on the court for extended periods. As the errors decrease in frequency, Crean’s trust will increase, and both will play more minutes.
- Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington will show up ready to compete. It’s going to take time, but the two newcomers have played a lot of ball at a very high level in the summers, and both are students of the game. It’s going to take time for these two to develop as Big Ten players, but they have the tools and attitude to get it done. Everyone knows Zeller and expects big things from him, but Etherington is also really good. Ignore those three stars from ratings services – he’s a battler and will be a big piece to the puzzle as the Hoosiers rebuild.
- Sophomores are becoming juniors, and that’s a big thing. Christian Watford, Derek Elston, Bobby Capobianco, and Jordan Hulls will be a year older, stronger, and wiser. It’s time for Watford and Hulls to contribute consistently, and time for Elston and Capobianco to contribute period. The switch needs to be flipped for a couple of these guys, and if the urgency of scholarships being in jeopardy is a powerful motivator. One of the great things about college athletics is the challenge that adversity can bring. Things are about to get adverse for a few players.
- Minus Ohio State, who will return two players who could very easily have been taken in the top 20 of the NBA Draft (Sullinger in the top five; William Bufurd a little deeper), the Big Ten is much weaker than it was last year. Indiana lost only Jeremiah Rivers, and the rest of the conference lost key cogs to their teams. After getting close in several games last season, Indiana looks better, while most other teams look worse.
Indiana isn’t going to win a National Championship next year – or at least it would seem exceptionally unlikely – but they are going to get better because they have continued to believe. That is a credit to Crean and the attitudes of the players. It would have been easy for the Hoosiers to show up for the Big Ten Tournament two months ago looking ahead to spring break, but they came ready to compete and win, and never accepted their role as the 11 seed.
There was something very noble and admirable about their willingness to believe they had a chance not just to win the opening round game against Penn State, but the entire tournament.
The first step toward success is a common belief, and Indiana showed that last year.
People bang on my ass for being so relentlessly positive of Indiana basketball. The reason for that is easy, and it’s not because I am a fan. I cheer for people I like, not teams. The reason for the encouragement is that writing about how fans should be cynical after eight Big Ten wins in three seasons would be way too simple, and you wouldn’t want to read it.
There is also my belief that IU is getting better. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and for those who can’t see it, I want to help.
Indiana is on the road back, but it’s a long road. If you have ever driven across the country from New York City to Los Angeles, you know how progress appears slow. Kansas sucks, and IU was driving through Kansas last year. While they aren’t to California yet, the Hoosiers are moving toward the beach. The landscape may look as dreary as it did in Ohio, but the car is moving in the right direction.
It may be quiet now, and the countryside out the window dull, but noise will be here soon enough.
UK fan here wanting an answer from you, if possible. This being year 4 of the Tom Crean administration, what are your expectations for this season? He seems to have gotten a pass for the last 3 seasons, but, if IU does poorly again, will he get a pass on the 4th season as well before he starts to feel a bit of heat under his seat? I’m not suggesting Indiana should get rid of Crean, I’m just wondering at what point the thought of “maybe this isn’t the right guy to rebuild the program” comes into your mind. If he only wins a handful of games in the Big Ten again, will that do it? Or is the 2012 class (should they stay committed to Indiana) enough to give him another free pass during the 2011-2012 season should Indiana fall short of the fans and administration’s expectations again?
I won’t speak for Kent, but I will say what the common theme from the fanbase is:
Expectations this year are something approaching 20 wins, perhaps falling a little short. Finishing middle of the B10 pack (4th-7th), and being an NCAA bubble team. An NIT tourney would be dissapointing, but not shocking.
As far as Crean, he’ll not be going anywhere before 2013 at the absolute earliest. He most certainly will get a chance to coach the ’12 class, even if he loses every game next year. Besides that, he has a contract that runs through 2018, so IU doesn’t have much choice.
Also, I think the administration is probably more patient than anyone. He has a $3M buyout, and they aren’t even going to think of going that route for several more seasons.
Fans are still patient, but if there is another season like last, the temperature will be turned up on Crean for the ’12-13 season, big time.
The expectation should be 18-20 wins given reasonable health. If they fall short, it’s not going to impact Crean’s stock which is bolstered by the 2012 class. Those verbals aren’t loose at all. The kids are playing summer ball together, and feel they are going to come in and make a difference.
The AD at Indiana is committed to Crean. He believes Crean is the right guy to lead the team back. The 2014 class could also be special with the son of the Hoosier your Wildcats grabbed – James Blackmon, Jr.
The ‘maybe this guy isn’t the right coach for this program’ conversation won’t gain any real momentum until 2013 if that team doesn’t perform.
No wonder, baby, since Crean hired him.
As for “reasonable health” may I remind you the only three conference wins came when the roster was severely depleted by injuries? Further proof that Crean has no idea what in the world he’s doing…
As I recall Joker (hits or bites the nail whatever works for him) predicted a 3-5 end of season and Crean went 0-8. Who cares, right?, as long as Crean won’t ever be held responsible for anything. He’s here just for the moolah…
I’m not sure that either Fred knew Crean or Crean knew Fred before Fred was hired. To assert that Crean even cast a vote in the process of hiring Fred Glass is preposterous.
Fred could be wrong, but he genuinely believes in Crean.
People who dislike Crean can make points that make sense, but most bite off way more than what facts support – just as you did.
Crean Talks About Fred Glass Hiring
By John Decker (scout.com)
Date: Oct 28, 2008
Bloomington – IU basketball coach Tom Crean first met new IU Athletic Director Fred Glass back in August at a Colts practice, and was on the search committee that forwarded Glass’ name to IU President Michael McRobbie. Crean talks about IU’s decision to make Glass the next athletic director…
Bloomington, Indiana–Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie announced today (Aug. 1, 2008) that he has appointed a 13-member committee of faculty, administrators, alumni and Athletic Department representatives to begin a nationwide search for a new athletics director.
The search committee will be chaired by IU Vice President for Engagement Bill Stephan. Also named to the committee were:
* MaryEllen Bishop, partner at Bose McKinney and Evans LLP and immediate past-chairwoman of the IU Alumni Association
* Tom Crean, head IU men’s basketball coach
* Bruce Jaffee, professor of business economics and public policy and faculty representative on the Athletics Committee
* Julia Lamber, professor of law and associate dean for clinical education, IU School of Law-Bloomington
* Jim Morris, president of Pacers Sports and Entertainment, member of IU Foundation board of directors
* Ned Pfau, president and chief executive officer of George Pfau’s Sons Co., member of IU Foundation board of directors and former national president of the IU Varsity Club
* Mary Ann Rohleder, director of administrative services for athletics
* Mike Sample, vice president for public affairs and government relations
* Anthony Thompson, former All-American IU football player, member of the College Football Hall of Fame, assistant director for development for athletics.
* Roger Thompson, vice provost for enrollment management
* James Wimbush, dean of the University Graduate School, professor of business administration and chair of the University Athletics Committee
* Jerry Yeagley, former IU head men’s soccer coach and member of the U.S. Soccer Federation Hall of Fame
The only active coach on that committee: TLT.
Being on the search committee and having a voice in the hire are two different things. One helps put together a list of potential candidates. One puts together a list of candidates, and the other actually takes part in the decision.
As you assert, it’s probably not a great idea for a subordinate to have any role in any part of the process, and I would agree.
Totally forget how angry I was made by McRobbie doing that. All of my worries went away when they hired Fred, who was my choice as well.
There are two people with similar predicaments and mandates that you write about on this site: Bird and Crean. Bird is a man of straight words and honor. He knows basketball. He played basketball. He made a promise: three years to the playoffs. He kept it. The other: Tom Crean making molasses look good with the speed of his team’s progress (1-17, 4-14, 3-15). Tom Crean is what you call full of hot air. Empty promises if any. Never played basketball. Certainly doesn’t know how to coach it. Next year: another twenty loss season. If anyone can ruin a good group of recruits he certainly can.
And by the way, Kent: you can fly these days from NY to LA. Brad Stevens is the most obvious example.
Wow, you are brilliant.
BTW, what promises did Crean make that he hasn’t met?
Joker hit this nail pretty squarely on the head, but Brad Stevens didn’t fly anywhere. Matt Howard committed before Lickliter left, and the table was pretty well set. He’s done a great job, don’t get me wrong, but the job of rebuilding after punting everyone but Brett Finkelmeier and Kyle Taber, and continuing to evolve the Butler program were completely different.
There will be progress this year, and more next.
Whether Crean is the guy to get Indiana another national championship won’t be known until he either does it or leaves.
One thing I can say for sure is that the kids down there believe what Crean is selling and that’s half the battle.
Where have you seen that Crean is still looking to add a big man? There were 3 on the IU horizon, but it appears after signing Abell, Crean is done with the ’11 class. 2 of the 3 big men have signed elsewhere, and the third (Traylor) is going to Big12 school.
I’ve heard he’s still talking to a couple of guys for 2011.
Yemi Makanjuola is not committed to Tennessee officially. The school denies that he committed.
If Crean adds another low level recruit to the 2011 class, it will really push me off the ledge. Another wasted scholarship on Abell was bad enough. There is already no room for Harris and McGary.
Wasted scholarship, just like Sheehey and Oladipo right?
What kills me is fans like you….if Crean would suck it up again next season you’d be all over him. But if he adds someone that is an upgrade over current players (Roth, Moore, etc…) he’s wasting scholarships.
In this case no news is probably good news. The team, especially the ones coming back from last year need to physically and mentally mature. I am still curious about the people digging around Columbus Ohio and finding names like Buford and Diebler mentioned among the car buying scandle. Maybe Sullinger might wish he had gone pro if this whole blow episode engulfs the basketball program too. So that also could help IU too. All joking aside IU will get better. People like the Crean haters are the same ones that had little patience and what did it get us? It got us Kelvin Sampson. Brad Stevens is good but he built on a foundation laid down by his own current athletic director, and Thad Matta just to mention a few. The base was there. Due to a lack of patience, IU’s foundation was even blown up. Of course their real foundation is their fans. From those ashes, IU will rise again better than before.
Can you please send some of those U-Haul boxes over to Cook Hall so your idol is prepared when he has to move out in 2015-16?
What am I – made of money?
“…there hasn’t been a stir in two weeks since the little known Remy Abell decided to spurn offers from Penn State, Butler, and Xavier to accept Indiana’s offer to join the program.”
Butler called, but they never did extend Abell a scholarship offer.
Remy Abell was not offered by Butler
According to rivals and scout he chose Indiana over “Penn State, Butler, Western Kentucky, and Xavier.” Whether we can trust those sources, I don’t know. There was another recruit who verballed to IU while holding a number of sweatshirts – two of which never offered, so it wouldn’t surprise me if your are right. I went with what was published.
Rabjohns was the one who tweeted that Butler never offered. No idea who his source was, but I trust him more than I would trust Rivals.com.
That’s reasonable. I’ve never known Jeff to get that stuff wrong.
Please upgrade your homosexual metaphors. I had to stop reading at “people banging on my ass”.