Indiana Basketball – Loss at Purdue forces Hoosier fans to recalibrate expectations

by Kent Sterling

Tom Crean is just as smart a coach today as he was when the Hoosiers were 5-1 in the Big Ten.

Tom Crean is just as smart a coach today as he was when the Hoosiers were 5-1 in the Big Ten.

Indiana fans have gone from deliriously happy about a 5-1 start in the Big Ten to downright hostile after two straight road losses to Ohio State and Purdue.  Talk of Tom Crean being the national coach of the year have been replaced by renewed calls for his ouster.

That’s the life of a fan, and that’s the life of a coach.

Purdue outfought the Hoosiers last night at Mackey Arena in the most hotly anticipated renewal of one of America’s best college hoops rivalries in seven years, and with three of their next four games against Wisconsin in Madison, Michigan in Bloomington, and Maryland in Landover, this Big Ten season that started with such promise could spin south.

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Defying expectations from game to game has become the hallmark of the Hoosiers over the last two seasons.  Give them a game they are supposed to lose, and somehow a way to win is found.  Conversely, games that fans believe should be easy wins turn into losses.

5-1 has become 5-3, and those who find Crean to be a strange presence on the Indiana sideline have renewed their calls for him to be replaced.  Thankfully, prudence is one of athletic director Fred Glass’s great qualities, and he will wait to indulge in such endeavors.

The time to evaluate Crean will come after the season comes to an end, and his complete body of work can be assessed.  With six weeks remaining in the 2015 Big Ten season, there is a lot of work to be done, and last night’s loss further exposed one serious chink in the Hoosiers armor.

The Boilermakers shot 58.7% from the field, and Indiana has now allowed their last five opponents to make 52.7% of their field goal attempts.  That statistic belies a lack of defensive awareness and intensity that has resulted in the last two mediocre efforts – both losses.

Coaches say,”defense travels.”  Sadly for Indiana, that means both good and bad defense travels, and while many will point to the collective inefficiency of Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., and Troy Williams, who combined last night for seven more shots than points, this game was won by Purdue because they were tougher, smarter, and more aware than the Hoosiers.

Don’t mistake the symptom for the disease.  Purdue’s defensive intensity caused Indiana’s inefficiency.

Prior to the season, this Big Ten season appeared to be unpredictable – especially after acknowledging Wisconsin as the favorite to rise to the top and Rutgers to occupy the bottom.  Nothing has changed with six teams (Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa) tied with three losses each.  Indiana has one game with each of the other five, and it will be those games that determine the Hoosiers slot at the end of the season, and ultimately the amount of heat emanating from Crean’s seat.

The only safe bet is that when Indiana looks like a likely victim, they will find a way to win – and vice versa.

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Some of the evidence regarding Crean is in – arrests, suspensions, and injuries, along with a recent stretch of consequence-free behavior.  Perfect APRs, stellar graduation rate, transfers, recruiting struggles, wins, losses, and more.  At the end of the season, a good boss evaluates all of it and decides whether a more suitable leader can be enticed to come work for him.

Evaluation happens everywhere, and it will happen at the end of this season for Indiana Basketball.  Coaches are hired knowing that at some point they will be fired.  It happens to almost everyone who sticks around long enough.

It’s not cruel, spiteful, or mean-spirited to discuss it, but calling for Crean’s head the day after a road loss to an amped up team with at least 11 conference games left (including the Big Ten Tournament) is ridiculous.

8 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Loss at Purdue forces Hoosier fans to recalibrate expectations

  1. Matterhorn

    Please look at the last 7-10 years of the top 10 highest paid coaches in college basketball. Look at their NCAA appearances. Blah,blah I realize Crean was handicapped his first year, but come on it’s not even close. Buzz Williams at Marquette before moving to Virginia Tech look at his NCAA appearances, look at Mike Brey (not even top 10 paid) 7-9 years in NCAA. WHAT ARE YOU DOING FRED!!!! Fred Glass doubling down this week saying Crean is not nor ever was on the hot seat. Know why Fred? Cause you are on the hot seat with him. What a joke.

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  2. Rick

    Matterhorn, my thoughts exactly. Crean makes what 7-8, times what Mike Davis made, probably 10 times what Bob Knight made and he keeps getting passes. The problem is the whole Admin. at IU, the AD is an attorney with no AD experience, just well connected! It is a joke!!!

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  3. Matterhorn

    Just compare Crean to Coach K (stop laughing). In year 4 Coach K took a terrible mess and made the tourney, in year 5 made tourney again, in year 6 they were NCAA runner up, in year 7 sweet sixteen, in year 8 final four, year 9 final four, year 10 runner up, year 11 Champs, year 12 champs.
    Crean is in year 7 and we are just hoping to make the field after missing last year. Also since 1999 Crean has made the NCAA only 7 times. Bill Self- Never missed, Coach K- Never missed, Tom Izzo- 16 times……..WAKE UP FREDDDDDDDDDDDDD

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  4. j

    why are injuries in with appears to be the negative evidence?

    who the hell was talking about tom crean as national coach of the year??????????????????

    anybody noticed how pis% poor indianas shooting mechanics are? they are in such a clapping hurry to move the ball and take a shot that they are not only forcing them but not squaring up, not jumping straight up, not keeping feet together. these guys are drifting sideways with flailing legs shooting threes. as a result they are putting up some of the nastiest shots ive seen hoosiers take. at lest ones that are as capable as these guys. I think the best way to describe it is: “BONK.” and yogi ferrel is right. the team is soft. it took true leadership believe it or not to call everybody out in public. in needed to be said and yogi had the walnuts to say it. tom crean coach of the year? who exactly was saying that kent? were you the only one that heard those voices?

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  5. Warren in TN.

    Although it’s been kind of a roller-coaster ride for Hoosier fans this year, I think it’s safe to say that at this point, Crean has done better (speaking about this season) than was expected. The jury is still out on the ultimate fate of the year – as well as himself.

    Here’s how I see it : Splitting 2 of the next four is doable. Then IU has 4 of the last 6 games at home, with road games @Rutgers and @NW. All of those games are winnable games. Will IU do it? No. But a respectable 4-2 mark over the last 6 games is doable, making a potential 21-10 mark an achievable goal. A win in the B1GT and a loss = 22-11. That should make the NCAAT this year.

    The upside of this should not be lost on IU fans. It also (and I mean NO DISRESPECT HERE by saying this, speaking as a UK fan) could mean a 9 seed opposite Kentucky in the midwest region. It’s kind of a good case / bad case scenario. Even if that doesn’t come to pass, I still think IU makes the NCAAT and will have a shot to at least pickup an NCAAT win. That’s progress for this year.

    The issue then becomes (if you can agree on me trying to be reasonable about the outcome this year for Indiana – and if what I am saying DOES happen) : Will that be enough to warrant another year of Coach Crean? It’s been, what, 7 years now? Some are going to want to stick it out with him for another year. I think the majority of fans are going to want to go a different direction.

    For those that do, the question then becomes, who do you get to replace him? Greg Marshall? Possibly. Can you lure Brad Stevens away from the Celtics at this point? No, I don’t think so. Steve Alford? I think he gets the boot at UCLA this year … is that a possibility? Maybe, but would it actually be an upgrade to Crean, a downgrade, or seen as a “lateral” move by the Hoosiers? If none of those, who else?
    It’s a question I’ve asked several times to my Hoosier friends and family, and even on the message boards (amongst other places) and never really got much in terms of a response. It’s a difficult question to ultimately come down to, if you ask me, when you start to consider the reality of actually where to go AFTER Crean.

    Then you have the other possibility – stick with him for another year. I actually think that might be the best alternative here, and I am dead serious about that. Without a clear cut favorite or clearly better alternative, see where CTC can take this team for one more year of recruiting and in getting your boys back for another (hopefully) better year. If he can put together a better season, another NCAAT run with a higher seed, and a deeper run, you would be vindicated. If not – then you’ve come to the point, after 8 seasons …. to finally cut ties and look elsewhere.

    I really don’t know the answers, but I think being reasonable and trying to have (more) patience with the situation, would be prudent.
    It’s all up to Hoosier nation. I’ll sit back and watch with interest, and hope you all get things right. I’m just glad UK doesn’t have such hard questions at the moment. I’m just enjoying the ride this year. Good luck with everything the rest of the way on out, sincerely and genuinely meant.

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    1. Matterhorn

      Agreeded on most points. Here’s the problem with waiting another year. What players will the new coach have. If it gets out that unless Crean makes a deep run in tourney (stop laughing) he will be gone it’s going to hurt recruiting. If you bring in a new coach this year the new coach has some great talent to work with, including Yogi in his senior year. I just will not believe that Brad Stevens would not return to Indiana to coach IU, I mean I just don’t buy that. Michigan got Harbaugh. The University got $40 million to redo the toilets at assembly hall don’t tell me they cannot find someone to buyout Crean and get Brad. Bull****

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  6. Jeff Gregory

    I agree that it is stupid to call for Crean’s head during the course of the season. However, as far as I am concerned, it is going to take a “Hail Mary” to want him back next year. Sure, they have over-achieved so far compared to expectations. However, that is a two-edged sword. Show the world what you are capable of and they will hold you to that capability.

    Kent wrote: “this game was won by Purdue because they were tougher, smarter, and more aware than the Hoosiers.”

    That is about preparation and that is on the coach. I heard Coach Knight say that if IU can’t be up for the Purdue game, then he is at a loss for what they can be up for.

    One of the most important things about coaching is getting consistency out of your team. Sure, every team has off nights, but off nights shouldn’t be a part of a pattern. It is tough to get a team to improve over the course of a season if you are constantly trying to get back what you have lost from the preceding game.

    Like I said, IU would really have to make a run and finish strong in order for me to want him back.

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