Indiana Basketball – Big night in Madison requires expectation management for Hoosier fans

by Kent Sterling

Enjoy Yogi Ferrell's effort tonight in Madison.  Evaluate the direction of the program at the end of March.

Enjoy Yogi Ferrell’s effort tonight in Madison. Evaluate the direction of the program at the end of March.

Wisconsin just doesn’t lose very often at the Kohl Center, so that should be taken into consideration by Hoosier fans as they look forward to tonight’s visit by the Indiana Hoosiers.

Only 22 times in 225 games has a visiting opponent left that den of iniquity with a win since it opened in 1998.

Playing against the #5 Badgers is hard enough with their experienced and talented roster without home court advantage.  National player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky is a senior, and so is point guard Josh Gasser.  Somehow Sam Dekker is only a junior despite playing for Wisconsin since what seems like 2004.  Nigel Hayes is a relative youngster as a sophomore, but he’s one of the best players in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin isn’t just experienced and skilled, they are also disciplined and tough.  That’s a combination that sends most opponents home with the closest thing to an acceptable loss there is this side of a game in Rupp Arena.

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Bo Ryan’s team has converted 52 more free throws than their opponents have attempted, their rebounding advantage is +6.5, and the average margin of victory is 18.1 points.

I’m not saying the deal is done, and that Tom Crean’s Hoosiers needn’t bother catching the bus from the hotel to the arena, just that fans need to check their expectations as they watch this game.  It would take an exceptional effort from the Hoosiers and an off night for the Badgers for Indiana to stay within 10 points of this very unique team.

Indiana starts two freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior.  There isn’t a single senior on the roster, and no one earning regular minutes is taller than 6’7″.  Tonight’s game is a tough putt, and while that might frustrate fans, it’s a fact.  Accepting it will make nights like this a little less frustrating.

In fact, the key to being a happy Indiana fan these days has more to do with recalibrating expectations than on court excellence, which has been infrequent over the past two seasons..

There have been moments of very good this season, like the three wins against ranked opponents, but the overall level of play by the Hoosiers will make a berth in the NCAA Tournament a great accomplishment.  Success in the tournament is unlikely, but that feeling of pride over earning a spot is where the Indiana program is.

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And this is no time to assess credit or blame for the state of the Indiana program.  On a night like tonight, fans should sit, hope, and revel in the effort of teenagers working hard to be the very best they can be.  The amount of sacrifice made by players is grossly underestimated by fans, and it should be appreciated.

After the season ends, an honest reckoning of where Indiana is, and whether it’s acceptable should be engaged.  Is Indiana a top five program as fans, alums, and staff assert?  If so, why have they not finished a season among the Elite Eight since the current freshmen were in kindergarten?

If Indiana fans insist on crowing about Indiana as a blue blood, why was its coach not ranked among the top 50 in the nation by a panel of so-called experts from ESPN?  The list was far from perfect – Bruce Weber (#40) cannot reasonably be assessed as a better coach than Crean, and Josh Pastner (#42) is inching closer to being carried by furious fans from Beale Street to the be dumped in the Mississippi.  Hell, Fran McCaffrey (#33) has never led Iowa to a winning Big Ten record, and his Hawkeyes are 4-4 this season.  The point is the list is imperfect, but not so flawed that Crean could be plunked into the top 20.

Enjoying this Hoosiers team on a night like tonight when winning is an unreasonable expectation for fans to indulge requires some psychological tweaking.  The players and coaches will fight for an unlikely win, and that’s enough for me.

When the season ends, it will be time for a different conversation.  Not about what Indiana Basketball is, but what it should be.  But tonight, it’s about kids working hard to defy steep odds as they enter a very inhospitable arena.

10 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Big night in Madison requires expectation management for Hoosier fans

  1. Matterhorn

    You are maddening Kent….IU starts 2 freshman, 2 sophmores and 1 junior. Who’s fault is that KENT. Who’s fault is it that most high school teams in Indiana have a center? Did you watch the game or just look at final score? IT’S AWFUL! Have you watched Virginia play how about Butler? IU basketball is a freaking joke. It’s gonna take an Assembly Hall loss to Purdue in a couple weeks to FINALLY make clown Fred Glass do something.

  2. Matterhorn

    Kent, Recalibrating expectations….Code for accepting mediocrity. Why? Why should IU fans accept that. It’s not going to get any better next year, there is no Cody Zeller or Noah vonleh walking through that door next year, just a couple average recruits from of all places Missouri, the hot bed of high school basketball. Be happy fans we might be a 9 seed this year!!!!!

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Love your passion, and we only disagree about process, not the level of play. Right now, the Hoosiers are taking each game as it come. Michigan is next Sunday. The time to evaluate the direction of the program is after the season when all the results have been earned and a clear picture develops.

      The conversation you are eager to have will come, but not for at least six weeks.

  3. Matterhorn

    One last thing to all you “Crean has overachieved” the man starts 5 (once Hanner is back) top 75 recruits……..more than any other school in the big ten starts. Give me a break.

    1. j

      indeed. five top 75 recruits. more than anybody else in the big ten. WOW. that is significant. that MEANS something. tom crean has arguably the most talent in the league and we get this. tom crean has had at least two mcdonalds all americans on his team each of the last three years. got ran out of the gym in a sweet sixteen game two years ago. last year missed tournament altogether. this year? we have one legitimate post player who isn’t a very good post player. so crean signed two recruits for next year. the tallest being 6’8″. wtf? im tired of dancing around it. tom crean is an idiot. he really cant coach at this level. I mean…..COME ON! TOM CREAN RESIGN. do the right thing and move on. don’t make them pay you what your contract says you get. you and everybody else knows that YOU DONT DESERVE IT. in fact you owe it to everybody to RESIGN and forfeit any proceedings for your contract. despite what you think you are capable of doing YOU ARE A TERRIBLE COACH. YOU DONT BELONG HERE. YOU ARE NOT WORTHY OF INDIANA UNIVERSITY. YOU ARE A HACK. YOURE NOT EVEN THAT GOOD OF A PERSON. I DONT CARE ABOUT YOUR GRADUATION RATES. ITS NULLIFIED BY ALL THE TROUBLE YOUR PLAYERS GET INTO. JUST RESIGN AND GO AWAY. HANG UP YOUR WHISTLE! CLEAN OUT YOUR OFFICE! GET IN THE FREAKING CREANMOBILE AND GET OUT OF BLOOMINGTON.

      1. kentsterling Post author

        I like caps! They show anger, and anger is always entertaining. You may be right. You may be wrong. Depends upon the rest of the season. Let’s wait to see what happens the rest of the way to judge the coach and direction of the program.

        1. Rick

          I agree, it’s obvious, Crean is milking this for as long as he can. On another talk show yesterday a caller described Crean as talking down to people, trying to act smarter than everybody else, and always explaining why we lost. Never TC’s fault. Crean and the AD are always spinning, maybe they should run for politics. Not their fault, always an excuse, ie we are young, etc. Well so is Kentucky and other successful programs.
          Sounds to me like the typical overpaid corporate executive trying to keep his job. Sooner or later it catches up with them.

          Is Glass qualified to evaluate the program??????

          I think IU fans will sooner or later get tired of the excuses and see the light.

          1. kentsterling Post author

            At the end of the season, it will be time to have a serious discussion about the future of the program.

  4. Pauly Balst

    I fully expected to get killed at Wisconsin. I don’t think I ever recall flat out KNOWING that IU was going to get beat in a Big Ten road game in the Knight years.

    We always stood a chance. And that is a huge cultural difference.


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