by Kent Sterling
Indiana beat Minnesota last night with a historic three-point shooting barrage that accounted for 60% of the Hoosiers 90 points.
Hitting 18-of-32 (56.3%) triple tries is tough to count on, but at 8-5 in the Big Ten, Indiana is very close to securing a spot in the league’s top five, which will undoubtedly lead to a nod from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
A significant sect of fans have been tittering about the need to replace Crean since in Bloomington virtually since he arrived for a variety of reasons, but the din grew after last season’s tournament shutout following a 17-15 season.
With five winnable games remaining in the regular season, this Hoosiers team without a center or power forward is on the precipice of exceeding all expectations by such a large margin that analysts are starting to yammer about the possibility of Crean being named the conference coach of the year, and John Calipari mentioned Crean as a potential national coach of the year.
Forget Calipari’s true motivation – selecting his competition for the award – it can be argued that no one has done a better job of matriculating his way through significant adversity this season. It can also be argued that the adversity Crean has skillfully slalomed past is of his own creation, and why should that be celebrated?
So I will argue both. You decide which side you stand on.
Crean is the Big Ten Coach of the Year
Tom Crean has dealt with a serious amount of hardship prior to and throughout the 2014-2015 season.
- Indiana’s usable roster would win a national championship if players taller than 6’7″ were banned from the game, but that’s not how basketball works.
- Just prior to the season, Indiana lost Devin Davis for the season because of some late night fun that turned dangerous.
- Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson were suspended for the first two games of the season because of multiple dirty tests for banned substances.
- Two players with extensive experience decided to transfer after the previous season, and were replaced by a 6.9 points per game wing from Illinois State and an unheralded freshman.
Despite those challenges, Indiana is 8-5 in the Big Ten and 18-8 overall with an RPI that is ranked 29th in college basketball. Crean has managed a serious amount of success with a backcourt of the most valuable player (not the player of the year though) in the Big Ten in Yogi Ferrell and two freshmen – James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson. There is also the very gifted and explosive Troy Williams.
Taking the ingredients available to Crean and whipping up what is to this point a winning Big Ten dish is worthy of Bobby Flay or Emeril, and certainly makes him the Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Crean is anything but the Big Ten Coach of the Year
The misfortune that Crean has had to deal with was created by Crean himself, so giving him props for negotiating it seems silly. Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell transferring was caused in part by Crean’s behavior. Crean neglected or was unable to recruit size. Robinson and Williams were suspended because they showed a lack of respect for Crean’s culture by using banned substances multiple times. Ditto the event that caused Davis’ injury.
This is also a down year for the Big Ten. If this Indiana team was forced to compete in any of the previous three years, the result would not be nearly as gaudy.
Crean caused the problems he has been forced to overcome. The fact that he has found a way to lead the Hoosiers to the upper echelons of mediocrity should under no circumstances be interpreted as an achievement worthy of awards.
Add to that a significant erosion of ability to recruit Indiana kids, and Indiana is on a track to be forced to overcome diminished expectations for the foreseeable future. Turning mediocre into good is not worth over three-million per year.
I wrote both arguments, and it’s difficult for me to decide which side of the fence on which I fall. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.