Indiana Basketball – Fans’ disappointment is their own fault for buying unearned hype


Tom Crean's gig might be in jeopardy, but if you were disappointed last night, the fault is yours.

Tom Crean’s gig might be in jeopardy, but if you were disappointed last night, the fault is yours.

If you were disappointed in Indiana’s level of play during last night’s 94-74 loss at Duke, it’s your own fault.

The problem that has caused an ugly uprising of Indiana fans has nothing to do with the level of play for the Hoosiers – it’s the ridiculous expectations set prior to the season for this group by the national media and boosters.

Since 2013, Indiana’s defense has been confused, passive, and porous.  There was no tangible reason to expect improvement this year, but Tom Crean and others close to the program did a nice sales job on this group, and so they were ranked far out of kilter with reality.

The good news for IU, everyone said, was the return of Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, and James Blackmon Jr.  Few said, “Hey, aren’t these three the same key players from last year’s team that couldn’t defend a Macy’s mannequin?”

Click here to follow Kent on Twitter

I don’t blame the national media.  They can’t keep track of 351 teams, or even the 60-70 who are legit contenders for at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament.  But they would have known better if they had looked under the hood and kick the tires of these Hoosiers, rather than listen to the salesman busily trying to turn down the heat in his Cook Hall office seat.

Coaching 101 demands a leader undersell your team to the media.  Setting the bar low is always good business when trying to predict the behavior of 18-22 year-olds, but Crean is so covetous of positive media coverage that he and his emissaries present only the positive.

The fact is today as it has been for two years, Indiana either doesn’t care about defense, doesn’t have the athletic ability to defend, or doesn’t scheme properly to defend.  The sad reality is likely an unholy combination of the three.

Many of the players who defended with indifference last season and the season before that are back, and that pundits felt this group would somehow morph from being a poor defensive group to being good enough to contend for a national title reflect as poorly on them as the Hoosiers defense reflects on Crean, the guy who did the sales job on himself and then the media to allow some undeserved moments of bliss basking in some very premature positive light.

Pivoting the Indiana program toward consistent effort and execution on the defensive end would be as surprising as a front line staffer at Wendy’s suddenly developing the business acumen to become CEO of the company.  Sure, it could happen, but suddenly embracing the goal oriented behavior and people skills required to run a company is a longshot.  And so it is for the Hoosiers and its defense.

Click here for a $1 comprehensive dental exam done by the best dentist in Indiana – Dr. Mike O’Neil at Today’s Dentistry

Crean spoke in his postgame press conference about focusing on tomorrow’s opportunity to improve and the test that lies ahead Saturday at Assembly Hall when his Hoosiers play Morehead State.  Who can blame him?  Looking to the next game sure as hell beats looking back at this revelatory nightmare at Duke.

14 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Fans’ disappointment is their own fault for buying unearned hype

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Sure was a lot more fun throwing stones across the Ohio than coming to the realization that what is broken is up here.

  1. AssemblyCall

    I appreciate your perspective Kent, but I can’t buy into this one. Fans aren’t as disappointed at the lack of improvement as they are at what seems like a complete indifference to improving, and those are two different things.

    If Indiana was out there busting their asses on defense, playing tough, playing with some kind of cohesion or apparent plan, the ineptitude would be disappointing but not pride-shattering. Instead, what we’re seeing is no cohesion, no plan, and little effort on a play-by-play basis outside of a few moments in games when we’ve bullied lesser competition. The fault for that lies on the players for not playing hard and tough, and on the coaches for not maintaining a positive esprit-de-corps, which is often a function of the players not believing in the plan (such as there is one).

    And yes — that is very similar to what we saw at times last year. Which is your point.

    But you can’t fault well-meaning fans for believing in their program and buying into improvement narratives when that is the bill of goods being incessantly sold. The responsibility isn’t on the fans to live with perpetual skepticism. It’s our job to show up, show support, even offer the benefit of the doubt, and react authentically to what we see — positively or negatively. The responsibility for well-meaning fans’ disappointment lies with the principals of the program for failing to give fans something to believe in.

    And that’s where we are. Many of us who show up every game searching for reasons to cheer, support, and give the benefit of the doubt are running out of even illogical straws to grasp onto.

    Last night felt like a very bad tipping point in many ways. Something drastic is going to have to change, or this season of promise is going to quickly derail. I’ll be terribly disappointed, but I certainly won’t feel any level of fault for feeling that way.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      If for two years you drove a highway littered with disabled 2012 Ford Focuses, and then decided to buy a 2012 Ford Focus sold to you by a very compelling and optimistic used car salesman who said exactly what you wanted to hear, would it be your fault for buying the car, the salesman’s fault for selling you the car, or the car’s fault when it breaks down?

      I understand that buying into the ‘we are going to be better’ narrative is the only reasonable choice from April to November because the alternative is to no longer give a damn, but anyone who didn’t see this storm coming (I seem to be stuck in metaphor delivery mode), should have paid closer attention.

      By the way, I enjoyed our talk yesterday. We’ll do it again soon.

      1. matterhorn

        Yea and our great AD (who you think is brillant) not only bought that Ford Focus but decided pay $10million over invoice price for it.

  2. clyde

    He scurries up and down the sideline and looks like a nervous wreck.

    I’ve never figured out how people expect the players to be calm and confident when they look over on the sideline and see that.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      That’s the way smart people assess human behavior. Out of control twitchy coaches do not instill confidence.

      1. Paula Balst

        I’ve never met Fred Glass, but I am starting to envision him as an out of control, twitchy AD that does nothing to inspire confidence. At the end of the day, he was probably running around his office with a water bottle as he panicked and gave Crean a massive extension and non-market buyout.

  3. Jerry

    Kent, I listen to your radio show daily on my drive home from work. I clearly remember you saying regarding IU’s lofty pre-season rankings, “why would anyone expect this IU team to suddenly be so great, aren’t the same players returning?” I agreed with what you were saying, hoping your were wrong of course, but you were absolutely correct. I listen to you because you speak the language I like to hear about Indiana basketball and Tom Crean..It’s called the TRUTH!.
    Crean is a piss poor coach…it’s painfully obvious he nor anyone on his staff can teach defense. It is year after year of this crap defense and I for one am sick of it…I tuned IU out after the first game in Maui because I knew then it was going to be the same as previous years…I have no interest in watching this mess. I now only catch the score in the paper.. They have lost me, which is sad because we used to go to 4-5 IU home games yearly…I’m done until they make a solid coaching change down there.
    I can not believe the IU administrators are happy what has become of IU basketball…VERY AVERAGE.
    I truly believe the right coach can return IU to a high level again, but it must be the right coach…
    Hello Brad Stevens, this is Fred Glass calling…………….

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Love having you as a listener, and you are welcome to comment any time. You speak the language I like to hear too.

  4. matterhorn

    If they don’t care about defense put their ass on the bench and leave it there the rest of the year. Expectations aside this is awful basketball, I don’t think this has anything to do with expectations Kent, sometimes I think you get bored so you just make stuff up. I mean there are 3 McDonald’s all americans, 3 wooden watch players on the team so Indiana fans were not the only ones expecting a few more wins this year. QUIT BLAMING THE DAMN FANS KENT THIS IS CREANS FAULT!!!!!

    1. Rb

      Boy, this isn’t the IU I went to in the late 70’s. A coach who keeps talking about his brother in laws, an AD who is politically well connected, but knows nothing about sports and a football program who strategically scheduled a cupcake pre-conference schedule and then beast the 2 worst teams in the big ten and sells it to us as we have arrived. I wish I could get a huge raise at work for just meeting expectations!

      Based upon the logic of the IU Sports administration, I am going to tell my kids to take the easiest courses they can find in high school and then tell everyone how they have a 4.0 GPA. This isn’t the IU I went to.

    2. Kent Sterling Post author

      If the emperor has no clothes, is it the emperor’s fault he isn’t wearing clothes, or the subject’s fault for continuing to compliment him on his imaginary outfit?

      I am never bored. If people believed the hype, that’s on them for not crawling under the hood and discovering the engine was rusted.


Leave a Reply to Rb Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *