Indiana Basketball – Loss in NCAA Tournament has Indiana fans in search of reason for hope

by Kent Sterling

If nothing changes at Indiana, is hope for improvement reasonable?

If nothing changes at Indiana, is hope for improvement reasonable?

Hope is the fuel that powers college sports fandom in all its forms – ticket sales, TV viewing, merchandise sales, and checks written by boosters.  Hope for the long term future of the Indiana Basketball program is currently lacking in Bloomington.

The lack of enthusiasm for Indiana’s 2015-2016 season has very little to do with today’s first round 81-76 loss to Wichita State in which Indiana showed plenty of what it does well and poorly throughout.

Three-pointers fell often for Indiana (11-of-22 from deep), and defensive miscues were just as frequent.  Hands down on close outs, bad reads on Wichita State out of bounds plays, and general confusion allowed Gregg Marshall’s squad to score their second highest point total of the season (Southern Illinois allowed 84 to the Shockers).

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Yogi Ferrell was splendid in many ways, and freshman Emmitt Holt picked up four fouls in six minutes.

Tom Crean spoke of his players with pride, “We’re not happy with the outcome today, certainly we could have played better, but I have zero disappointment in the way these guys battled, competed, got better and persevered throughout the season.”  Good stuff.  That’s what a coach should say once the season ends in disappointment.

Then Crean couldn’t help but talk about how the Hoosiers exceeded expectations, “They have persevered through adversity, persevered through different trials, and they did some things that not a whole lot of people expected them to do. Unofficially picked 11th in the league and they get into the NCAA Tournament with a 10th seed as the youngest team.”  Translated out of coach-speak into English, “I did a hell of a job this year coaxing a miraculous 9-9 Big Ten record out of this group of ragamuffins.”

He then claimed the players improved throughout the season, and acknowledged the illogic of the statement by saying that only he could see it, “I think they got a lot better during the year. Our record didn’t always reflect it in some of the games, but I’m with ‘em every day, so I’m going to stick with being the judge of it.”

Forget losing 10 of their final 15 games, Indiana continued to improve because Crean saw it during expanses of time when fans had no access to the team.  Maybe Indiana should sell tickets to the practices, so fans can see Indiana at its best.

The Hoosiers were excellent again in the classroom, players who stick around Bloomington for even three years are very likely to earn their degrees, and NCAA investigators aren’t combing through emails from academic advisors to professors to find papers written on the players’ behalf.  That stuff is good and necessary at Indiana.  Fans will tolerate less than perfect basketball, but not a lack of compliance with NCAA rules.

Arrests for alcohol related offenses, suspensions for multiple dirty drug tests, and a fractured skull in a Halloween accident left fans and media questioning the off-court leadership provided by Crean.

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The 2014-2015 season wasn’t all bad, and it wasn’t all good.  As evidenced by the 9-9 Big Ten record, there was a virtually equivalent amount of each.  But from what evidence does hope for a better season in 2016 come?

All 13 players on scholarship are eligible to return.  Two new guys from Missouri are headed to Bloomington, and we are safe in assuming two players currently on scholarship will be asked to scram or start writing checks.  If incremental improvement from the current roster plus two Missourians brings more wins, that would be great but very unusual.

Has Indiana Basketball fallen so far that exceeding low expectations defines success?  There are no banners for “eclipsing predicted finish in the Big Ten by three positions.”  By the way, my memory of expectations as voiced at Big Ten Media Day was that Wisconsin would be at the top, Rutgers and Penn State at the bottom, and anything could happen from second through twelfth.

The question isn’t whether sane Indiana fans hoping for brighter days is reasonable, but what needs to be done to prompt it.

(Kent Sterling hosts a radio show afternoons from 3p-6p on CBS Sports 1430 in Indianapolis.)

21 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Loss in NCAA Tournament has Indiana fans in search of reason for hope

  1. Dayton Dave

    Thanks for the article and the many you have written, Mr. Sterling, about IU basketball. Right now I feel numb. Not surprised that IU lost to a team than defends passibly well.

    Seems that the general trend of writers and posters is that Coach Crean will be back for another year. So be it.

    However, there are some things that are clear after 7 years of his leadership: 1. Hardworking Tom Crean does get his players to class and they graduate; 2. Defense and in-game coaching is not as good as that of other B1G coaches; and 3. There is a disconnect between him and a large contingent of IU fans.

    IU does not owe Tom Crean for righting the basketball ship. That is what we paid him to do. Any coach that came in would have been charged with that.

    Evidently, AD Glass and the administration do not want to change the basketball coach at this time and add that risk to the already controversial football coach performance issue. So having a team that is good in class but is average in the B1G is something they can live with. Guess that I need to cheer on Dayton, Butler, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Hope UK loses to UC. I just don’t plan on watching IU play defense again next year.

    1. Jarrod

      Those three proved that they could help this team very little. They had every opportunity to contribute when they were here but fell short.

      1. matterhorn

        Yea idiot and Remy Abell was a complete lockdown defender against Hunter yesterday…. he should have been a redshirt senior this year

    2. My 2 cents

      You are consistently the most negative IU poster I read on any of the many sites. If you don’t like this team or coach, then you should find another team to “root” for.

          1. My 2 cents

            Graduated 1983 undergrad and 1986 law school. I just wish you could be a little more positive.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            Me too. Being gloomy about the future is a pain in my ass, but the alternative is being a Crean sycophant who looks away from reality toward his dreamscape.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Gregg Marshall’s personality is not a good fit for Indiana. According to people at Wichita State, he is flat out bananas, and not in a good, fun way.

      1. j

        Gregg marshall allowed Indiana to control the game. his team defense was subpar against Indiana. I was not impressed.

        1. Carloti

          Number one, Tom Crean is as bananas as a man can be.

          Number two, Indiana’s defense is disgusting.

          Take five minutes and go over Gregg Marshall’s wiki page. He should be the number one choice of any school in America that wants to win.

        2. kentsterling Post author

          Talking to friends who know the Wichita program very well leads me to doubt Marshall is a high quality candidate for a job like Indiana. I like the way Wichita State played throughout the year, but coaching at IU is about more than X’s and O’s.

  2. Julia

    Mr Sterling:

    Several comments:

    1. My 86 yr old Mother gets it. IU is awful. She asked me last week about the buyout.
    2. Your show is great and I am telling my friends about it.
    3. Your article is spot on.
    4. I am waiting for the IU alums to do what the Michigan alums did for their football program. Get a good fight coach! Until there is a change I’m not watching because it is awful.

    1. j

      I concur. my iu spirit is in its own “death spiral.” im anxious to see what the next couple weeks hold for iu. with alabamas loss today it may allow that rumor to come to fruition. but I tell you now if tom crean is on the iu sideline in the fall…I quit. I will unceremoniously wad my candy striped sweat pants up in a ball and tuck them in the back corner of the bottom drawer of my dresser. tom crean is not going to get it done. until that is remedied I am done.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. Very generous of you to do so.


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