Indy Morning Sports List – Top Five reasons for pessimism about Indiana Basketball

Yogi Ferrell returns for his fourth season at Indiana - whether they can meet expectations this year depends in part on Yogi's defense.

Yogi Ferrell returns for his fourth season at Indiana – whether they can meet expectations this year depends in part on Yogi’s defense.

Tonight, the journey begins for the Indiana Hoosiers.  A deep and talented backcourt coupled with a refurbished group of bigs have fans in Bloomington excited about basketball again this year – just like last year and the year before that.

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The names have changed, but the salesmanship is the same.  Hope is the currency of the mediocre, and the Indiana Hoosiers have been thoroughly mediocre for the past two seasons.  A lack of leadership among the players and coaching staff has left stalwart Indiana fans disappointed, but willing to embrace another set of opportunities this season for a group of young men they admire because the wear the candy stripes.

Tom Crean is said to be more calm and centered – confident that changes to the standards of behavior he enforces will bring much-needed improvement on and off the court.

Eastern Illinois visits Assembly Hall tonight in the regular season opener – a game available only behind a pay wall on the Big Ten Conference’s website, which is a shame.  Cable and satellite subscribers already pay a monthly fee for the Big Ten Network, and most only watch for live broadcasts of their local university’s football and men’s basketball games.  Now, the conference is gouging consumers for $9.95 to watch this game.  Thanks, Jim Delany!

That’s anger to be purged in a different list.

This list brings you the top five reasons for ratcheting back optimism about Indiana University Basketball:

1 – IU is again using the media to perpetuate blather about how the program and Tom Crean have changed.  A story in the Indianapolis Star last Sunday painted Crean as a coach who works tirelessly to overcome hurdles stacked between him and success by demanding fans and the irresponsibility of his players.  Oh sure, every night Crean’s head hits the pillow, he can look back on a day where adversity was overcome, secure that he has done everything possible to give the players and staff a valuable piece of his soul.  What a wonderful man – so ready to sacrifice self for the benefit of others.  When IU turns to the media to shape the Crean narrative, nerves over the season show.

2 – A bad defensive backcourt returns intact.  Yogi Ferrell is a wonderful offensive basketball player, but a worse defensive point guard is hard to find.  James Blackmon is a special scorer, but stopping dribble penetration is an art he has not mastered – or acknowledged.  Nick Zeisloft is a great shooter, but quite fond of closing on shooters with both hands down.  Maybe Ferrell, Blackmon, and Zeisloft become great defenders in 2015-2016, but I’ll wait until I see it to believe it.

3 – Thomas Bryant = Noah Vonleh.  Of course, Vonleh and Bryant are different players – both in build and attitude – but the comments from people inside and outside the program about the impact Bryant will have on the Hoosiers are very reminiscent of those gleefully yelped two years ago about Vonleh.  The Vonleh team went 17-15 overall and 7-11 in the Big Ten despite Vonleh averaging 11 and nine.

4 – Tom Crean is Tom Crean.  This is Crean’s eighth Indiana team, and the program is what the program is – winners of 17-to-22 games, firmly ensconced in the middle of the Big Ten.  This is IU under Crean.  We can quibble over style, tics, recruiting geography, and dozens of other subjective metrics, but we can’t argue wins and losses.  Forgiving the first two seasons (we could also argue whether that is righteous – I think it is), Indiana is 105-65 overall and 44-46 in the Big Ten.  That includes a conference record of 16-20 in the last two years.

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5 – Fans refuse to demand more success.  An acceptance of mediocrity and blind hope for better days ahead have allowed Indiana to continue to monetize the program at a high level.  With the behavioral issues at IU, many called for consequences that would get the attention of Crean’s players.  The same dynamic might be employed by fans who would like Indiana to be the elite college basketball program many insist it is despite results that argue the contrary.

Indiana University was my home for nearly six years, and I will always hope that IU finds a way to be successful.  I know how hard the players work to improve, and would love to see them play well enough and compete hard enough to win a championship this season.  I will always root for IU, but with season after season of failing to meet expectations, maybe it’s time to adjust those expectations and admit exactly what Hoosier Basketball has become – a run of the mill Big Ten program with only one elite attribute; the fan base.

17 thoughts on “Indy Morning Sports List – Top Five reasons for pessimism about Indiana Basketball

  1. DubCeeSwag

    The first three CTC years, along with the last 20 years are a very real historical record and accurately reflect on the incompetency of IU athletic administration above CTC.

    Since 2010-2011, 11th, 5th, 1st, 8th and 7th is definitely not first rate with those results and that is also a very real historical record and reflects the competency of both the IU administration AND CTC, over that recent shorter period of time. Fandom may tolerate that record, but is not elite or excellent by any reality based measurement.

    Reality based prior records of CTC’s performance give little suggestion as to elite future results. The notion that his abilities would somehow be augmented by the current competencies at IU has little supportive evidence (see the administrative impact during Mike Davis and Sampson tenures). IU now has a long enough history of mediocrity that it extends beyond the life spans of current recruits. Hopeful words from Fred Glass will not change reality. Improved competencies at all levels will . The apathy level at IU, at all levels, suggests that only luck will lead to meaningful change.

  2. John Walters

    Love the article. Here is the problem I see every year. IU has terrible ball movement on offense. No motion offense or swift passing inside and outside. They dribble way to much and take last second shots to much! I have yet to see the media ask this of crean. Why not? The offense is so vanilla. Very easy to prepare against. If we don’t make three’s we usually loose the game. Move with out the dang ball and they will have much better percentage of shots.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Hard to argue with the success of the offense. I’m not a big fan from an aesthetic perspective, but the ball goes in the hoop quite a bit.

      One interesting thing is that in virtually every season preview, the Hoosiers are described as “among the most exciting in college basketball.” I find that odd as losing is rarely exciting. A 37-29 record over the last two seasons has not been exciting, or shouldn’t be seen as such.

  3. Hoosier

    John Walters: Great point. Maybe that’s why Crean’s offense has been ranked in the top 10 pretty consistently and is projected at #1 this year. Idiot.

    Ken: I realize you’re trying to attract an audience, but descending to this level of stupidity and trollishness isn’t going to pan out for you in the long run.

    We’re going to have a good year. Most reasonable IU fans see that and will enjoy it.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Not saying IU won’t have a good year – just giving reasons for pessimism. Earlier in the week, I posted a list about why being optimistic about Crean was a good idea. I’ll watch the games and hope the Hoosiers win 30, but before I see it as likely, I’m going to have to see how they defend.

      Yes, the offense has been ranked among the best in the country, but the last two years those offenses won a total of 37 games.

      Who is stupid here?

  4. Hgdownunder

    I wonder what you’ve seen after seven seasons that makes you call yourself Creanfan. Personally, I am an IU fan.

  5. Chris Hora

    Crean will never win consistently. He’s incapable of it. Too much yearly attrition and he’s just too off the wall a guy. Also, his teams NEVER, EVER get better as the season goes along and they burn out on a yearly basis.

    He needs to go, plain and simple.

  6. Mark Thrice

    It is with heavy heart that I agree with you on your points. But there really is no viable alternative for fans now is there? I believe your main point is that we, the IU fans, continue to support our team. We have voiced our displeasure in placards, emails, websites. Attendance is somewhat soft in spots. Reduce funds given from fans to IU? Is that what you are advocating?

    When hired from Marquette, we knew what we were getting. Crean’s success up there is generally the same as it is at IU. We knew he appeared clean and had improved Marquette basketball. IU obviously had baggage and settled for Tom Crean. Knowing that it likely was a temporary (5 -7 year) job for him…until our basketball revolving door stabilized and we got off of probation. Unless, of course, Crean could prove that he could coach with the best in the B1G.

    While Crean is quite the salesman he is not up to this job. Crean is not able to put IU consistently competing favorably with the top of the B1G. For that, he should be gone as soon as Glass finds a viable alternative.

    I will cheer on the team…every game. But, being average in the B1G is not satisfactory.

    But the problem is not just with the fans…the problem is that Crean keeps winning just enough to keep Glass and the administration out of hot water. And Glass is good with the smoke and mirrors, too.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Reducing the number of zeroes on checks to the university will get the attention of the administration – from Fred on up. They respond to indifference, and if Indiana fans want change, indifference will communicate the message – not passionate signs of discontent.

      I can’t bring myself to not care either. I’ll be watching an utterly meaningless game tonight.

  7. Dave

    Ken, I love your articles. They deal in reality and not blind faith of our basketball program. When I read some forum boards, they act like Indiana is one of the elite programs in the country. I think a percentage of the fan base live in a bubble. The sad truth is we are mediocre program at best. It doesn’t mean I love my team any less, but I would no more be saying that about our football program. Recruiting alone reflects that sentiment. If we were that great, we’d be pulling in outstanding players like Calipari. Where do you stand in Crean’s ability to recruit? I currently live in Tucson and have watched Sean Miller consistently pull in recruits that are often ranked as 5 stars by Rivals.Com. My only optimism (which you did not mention) is next year could be a positive change in the potential talent coming to our school. Some websites have us ranked in the single digits if we land a recruit whom I can’t recall off the top of my head. Your thoughts??? Keep speaking the truth!!! Good or Bad!!!

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Thanks for your compliments. Indiana’s recruiting is what it should be outside the state. Every year, one kid that many other programs wanted comes. The rest are guys that have the potential to contribute. Inside the state is where Indiana crashes and burns. HS coaches to whom I have spoken are done with Crean. Granted, the coaches who seek me out are more likely to be unhappy with him, but not getting kids like Ryan Cline, Trey Lyles, Gary Harris, Kyle Guy, Trevon Bluiett, Caleb Swanigan, Joey Brunk, etc… is a sign that Indiana cannot recruit successfully against their in-state rivals, and that is death for Indiana. Building a national champion out of spare parts from Missouri and Virginia is the long shot’s long shot.

    2. Dave

      The recruit I was thinking of was Bruce Brown and he took Miami over IU. It’s hard to call yourself an elite program when I see other schools getting better recruits than us…

      1. Kent Sterling Post author

        IU is going to win some and lose some. Not worried about Brown deciding to attend Miami as much as I am the absolute abandonment of IU as a dream offer for Indiana high school players. Miami might be hard to turn down depending on the weekends of the visits. He’s from the northeast and might be completely over winter.


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