During today’s podcast, Neal and I briefly touched on the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program. We’ve both spent the last four years closely following the program, and as most of you probably know, it’s gone through some rough times lately.
I thought I’d give an update as to the current state of affairs in Bloomington.
The team sits at 9-11 overall, and 3-5 in the conference. They’ve won some games they shouldn’t have, and lost some they shouldn’t have. It’s obvious to me that this team still has a long ways to go in their quest to get back to the top.
I’m definitely encouraged by the progress though.
When Tom Crean came to Indiana in April of 2008, he inherited a roster that was eventually essentially erased. He was left with just one scholarship player, Kyle Taber. And it’s not like Taber was a star, either. He had just earned his scholarship from Kelvin Sampson.
The roster that Crean put together in such limited time was undoubtedly much less talented than the rest of the Big Ten. As a result, the Hoosiers won just six games all year, and only one of those was against a Big Ten opponent (Iowa). It was, without a doubt, the most painful season in Indiana Hoosier history.
That all being said, the team was still fun to watch. You knew they were trying as hard as they could every time they stepped on the court. They were competitive in games that they had no business being in. It was like they didn’t know they were the underdogs of all underdogs. I had the privilege of being closer to the team than most Hoosier fans, covering them for a website. You could tell that the losing was wearing on them. Even with all the losing, you could hear in Crean’s voice that he really believed that they were getting better.
Coming into 09-10, the Hoosiers had assembled a top ten recruiting class, and there was a lot more hype around the team than last year. I think some fans’ expectations were way too high though, as some were expecting a tournament bid. Yes, the Hoosiers would be better, but they’re still an extremely young team. The team has won a couple of games they probably shouldn’t have, and they’ve shown us that they are indeed still very young.
Even though Pitt was without some of their best talent, beating them in Madison Square Garden was a HUGE win for the program. Last year when they played Kentucky, the game was over before it was even started. This year, against a much more talented Kentucky team, Indiana held its own for 30 of the 40 minutes. They almost beat Illinois twice, a team they weren’t even close against a year ago.
As this team continues to grow and mature, these losses will turn into wins.
Oh yeah, did I mention they’re doing all of this after losing their leading scorer and best freshman Maurice Creek?
The question most Hoosier fans are asking, and I can’t blame them, is when will the big-time recruit land in Bloomington? At Indiana, they’re used to being in the running for most of the top high school players in the country. Recently though, that hasn’t been the case. They’ve been involved with a few of those players, most notably Kyrie Irving and Josh Selby.
What needs to happen in order for Tom Crean to land one of these kids? Well, in my opinion, it starts with winning with the players you have now. It’s clear, to me at least, that Indiana isn’t that far off. Some “experts” have said that IU might be a sleeper pick to make the tournament next season. I’m not so sure about that, but they’ll continue to improve for sure.
You see, to me, the fact that Indiana is even in the conversation for some of these elite recruits is incredible. I liken their situation to a team that just moved up to Division 1.
What do these kids want (especially the ones who will only be in college for a year or two)? A chance to win a national title.
Can Indiana offer that to kids right now? No. They have to get kids who are willing to be a part of the rebuilding process and help the team get better. Once the team gets better, then they will have a chance to compete for a title, and that’s when the elite recruits will start to come to Indiana.
Again, Hoosier fans, I preach patience.
Think of the movie “Field of Dreams”. “If you build it, he will come.”
It may take a little longer than you want, but it will happen. They gave Tom Crean a 10 year contract for a reason.