by Kent Sterling
Indiana had their chances – up 38-33 with a chance to extend the lead to seven, but the shots that missed for Illinois earlier started to fall and the turnovers that have plagued the Hoosiers all season extracted their toll. And the season ended for this young Hoosiers team.
Of course, Indiana will be invited to the NIT, as will all schools sporting both a winning record and 17K+ arena, but that invitation is like going to be like a timeshare presentation in order to eat a good steak. Sure, it’s basketball, but at what cost.
Worse than losing to Illinois 64-54 is Indiana looked listless in losing. There was very little passion exhibited by anyone other than Will Sheehey, who was understandably urgent as this was his last rodeo for the Hoosiers.
His next stop will be Greece, Israel, or some other outposts where a young man with his size and skill can earn a lot of money. Gone are the days of meaningful basketball for the love of the game in front of adoring fans.
The Hoosiers turned the ball over 16 times, which was the weakness though out the season that cost Indiana a chance to win games like this. The most troubling aspect of the turnovers was their seeming inability to not repeat the mistakes that caused them.
It hard to say who might join him leaving Bloomington, other than seniors Evan Gordon and Jeff Howard. Noah Vonleh may leave a dearth of size on the Hoosiers front court by bolting for the millions available to him in the NBA.
The offseason between the sophomore and junior seasons is the time feet get hot and cars get packed for a more suitable place to exhaust remaining eligibility.
Plenty of time to talk about how disenchanted several of the Hoosiers looked on the floor and off during this 10-point beating, that was 51-48 with under five minutes to play. Vonleh missed the front end of a one-and-one, and that was it for Indiana’s chances to advance to play Michigan tomorrow.
So Indiana sits with a substandard 17-15 record, and no hope of an NCAA Tournament bid. This is the first step back for the Hoosiers under Tom Crean after four seasons of step by step progress.
Fans have yet to see how Crean responds to a backslide, and it will be interesting to see what, if any, consequences are brought to bear for the players as they retool for next year.
And Crean has yet to see how the fans respond to taking a step backwards after years of disappointment authored by predecessor Bob Knight (his last five years were hard to swallow), Mike Davis (minus the 2002 trip to Atlanta), and Kelvin Sampson.
Twelve months from an outright Big Ten Championship, the Hoosiers finished eighth, and ran their all-time record in the Big Ten Tournament to 10-17.
The question is how much of the equity built through winning the Big Ten was eaten by the Sweet Sixteen loss that followed and this season where the team could never gel for more than 40 minutes at a time.
It’s likely the questions about the future of the Indiana program will outnumber the answers for another eight months when the team next takes the floor.
The Hoosiers were very young, and they won’t have a senior next year, unless a spot opens for a fifth year transfer like Evan Gordon was this year.
But there is some doubt whether this will be a team on the come in 2015, or a program that peaked and went under Crean.