Assembly Hall: The Hoosiers’ home arena was certainly more kind to Indiana than every other arena. That’s no surprise though. It was here that IU got three of its four Big Ten wins, and had several other close calls. They played two other conference champions in Kentucky and Maryland pretty close. The crowds continued to turn out, despite the bleak outlook on the season.
Bawa Muniru: Bawa Muniru was part of the highly touted 2009 recruiting class. As it turned out, Muniru didn’t make near the impact everyone thought he would. Muniru is certainly what you would call a project, and it remains to be seen whether he will ever make an impact in Bloomington.
Capobianco, Bobby: Another part of the ’09 class, Capobianco finished the season as Indiana’s Most Improved Player in my opinion. While he never scored in double digits, you could just see that as the season went on, his confidence grew. I’m looking forward to him making an impact next season.
Devan Dumes: The Hoosiers’ leading scorer a year ago would have to his new role coming off the bench. Probably not the way he wanted to spend his senior year, but it is what it is. If you look up “streaky player” in your handy dictionary, there should be a picture of Dumes. There’s some games where he can’t miss from behind the arc, and others where he thinks he can hit a jumper from half court.
Dumes ended up averaging just 6.6 points per game, and shot 30% from distance. I know he’s a much better shooter than that, he just didn’t get enough open looks to fall this year. Good luck to him in whatever he does in the future.
Elston, Derek: One of the two Indiana kids in the ’09 recruiting class, Derek Elston is another kid who improved over the course of the year. He looked lost at times, but as the season wore on he started playing better and getting more minutes. As he said in the press conference after the season-ending loss to Northwestern, he was trying to be too much like his father. He sat down with the coaching staff and they told him to make his own identity, and that’s when he started playing better. He’ll be a big part of the future at Indiana.
Freshman: Not many teams in America were younger than the Hoosiers this year. Indiana was the 337th most experienced team in the country. As far as the Big Ten is concerned, IU had the most points scored by true freshman by a wide, wide margin. They got 939 from rookies going into the regular season finale, so without doing the math, they had to have gotten at least close to 1,000 if not over it. And they did all that playing half a season without Maurice Creek, who was injured before the conference season, and leading the team in scoring.
Great Moments: Despite the poor record, there were plenty of great moments this season. Hanging tough with Kentucky with Creek scoring 31, beating Pitt at Madison Square Garden, getting the first true road win of the Crean era at Penn State, the overtime win against Minnesota, and Jordan Hulls knocking down eight three pointers in an overtime win over Northwestern. Hopefully there’s a lot more great moments to come.
Hulls, Jordan: The local kid of the freshman class came in as Mr. Basketball in Indiana, and he had just led the Bloomington South Panthers to an undefeated season and a state title. Despite his lack of height, the kid can really shoot it from beyond the arc. He certainly made his share of freshman mistakes, but generally the positives outweighed the negatives. Unless we see significant improvement from Jeremiah Rivers, Hulls will be penciled in as the starting point guard next season.
Indiana: Isn’t this whole thing about Indiana? Well, it is, but when I say “Indiana” for this one, I mean the whole deal…the team, the campus, the students, the alumni, and the rest of the fan base. Some fans expected way too much from this team. Last year was a struggle, no doubt, but some expected the team to be back in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, Indiana would be better this season. Yes, they had some impact freshman coming in.
What some people failed to see was that the kids coming in were just that…freshman. Some people were getting on Coach Crean for bad coaching decisions. I think, and I didn’t really realize this until late in the season, that Crean is having to worry about getting his players to do what he wants before he can trust them to make the right decisions while he focuses on adjustments. That time will come.
I beg the fan base to be patient. This isn’t going to turn around overnight.
Jeremiah Rivers: I, for one, was really excited to see this kid finally in the cream and crimson. He had to sit out last year after transferring from Georgetown. His reputation was as a lock-down defender, and that part turned out to be pretty much true. What frustrated a lot of people, though, was his offensive game.
Or lack thereof.
Rivers proved useless on the offensive end of the floor as the only shot he could make was a layup. He was quick enough to get to the rim, but he usually was dribbling so out of control that it didn’t matter who he got by. His free throws were even more disturbing than his lack of a jump shot. He shot 57% from the line, and if it wasn’t for a second half surge, that number would have been much lower. A Division 1 guard needs to be able to make free throws.
Kentucky Game: In what should have been a rout of epic proportions, the Hoosiers hung with the hated Wildcats for about 24 minutes. In fact, they led with 17:47 to play. That might not seem like a big deal, but to Indiana and their fans it was.
It was also the setting for Maurice Creek’s coming out party. He scored 31 points on 9-14 shooting to lead all scorers. Unfortunately, Creek was the only Hoosier in double figures.
Losing Streak: The stamp on Crean’s first two years at IU is undoubtedly the number of losses he’s racked up. Not saying he has an excuse for the losses, but that’s just where IU is right now. This season featured an 11-game losing streak smack dab in the middle of the conference season. Before the streak, the Hoosiers were 3-3 in the Big Ten and had won two in a row. They would only win one more Big Ten game on the season.
Maurice Creek: Not to say woulda coulda shoulda, but man what could have been if Creek had stayed healthy. He was well on his way to being the Big Ten’s freshman of the year. I’ve already mentioned his game against Kentucky, and common sense says the Hoosiers could have had a few more conference wins under their belt.
Creek broke his kneecap in Indiana’s win over Bryant, the last game before the conference season. Before that, he was averaging more than 16 per game, and was Indiana’s only true playmaker. He was also shooting 44% from three point range, making him that much more valuable. It goes without saying that ALL of Hoosier Nation is looking forward to his return.
Near Misses: Three games come to mind, at least in the Big Ten. Both games against Illinois, and the home game against Purdue. Against Illinois the first time, Indiana had a lead late and couldn’t hold on. At Illinois, Demetri McCamey hit a running floater as time expired to win it for the Illini. Against Purdue, it was missed free throws down the stretch that cost the Hoosiers a colossal upset.
All of these games showed that while Indiana is capable of playing with anyone, there’s still a really long way to go.
Offense: I came up with an interesting system to assess the Hoosiers’ offense. They’re still short on talent, and not everyone they put on the floor can be counted on to score. I give each player either a full or half point as far as their offensive capabilities are concerned. For example, Maurice Creek could shoot outside AND get to the rim, so he’s one full offensive threat. Jordan Hulls, on the other hand, is really only a threat from the outside, so he’s a half a threat.
Most good teams have at least 3.5 to 4 scoring threats on the court. Indiana had as little as 1 to 1.5 scoring threats on the floor. You just can’t win when you don’t have more than one legitimate scoring threat on the floor.
Positives: There were some positive things that happened this season. I’ve already mentioned the win over Pitt, the Kentucky game, and a couple of near misses. Some more specific positives were the performance of Maurice Creek (before the injury of course), the development of Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco, the shooting of Jordan Hulls, putting a few complete games together, the overtime wins agains Minnesota and Northwestern, among others.
See, it’s not all gloom and doom in Bloomington
Questions: While there are positives to take away from the season, there certainly are some questions too.
Who will stay, and who will transfer? What can be done about the offense? When will Indiana be “back”? There’s way too many to list them all.
Roth, Matt: Roth was coming off an impressive freshman season in which he shot 37% from distance, including hitting nine treys against Ohio State. He got hurt, though, during a practice while the team was in Puerto Rico, and wasn’t able to come back from the injury. While Roth isn’t the most talented player on the team, the threat of the longball is a valuable piece to have on the floor.
Seniors: Four seniors will be leaving the IU program…Brett Finkelmeier, Steven Gambles, Tijan Jobe, and Devan Dumes.
Finkelmeier was a holdover from the Sampson era, but he was a walk-on that didn’t play much. Gambles also saw little time. Tijan Jobe came over from Africa as part of the AHOPE project, and that’s what he was, a project. The guy gave everything he had, but he was just not very talented.
Tom Crean: The head coach of the Indiana program certainly still has one hell of a challenge on his hands. I think the biggest issue he has is getting the players to do what he wants. I said this earlier, but once he can trust them to make the right decisions, he can really start making adjustments on the fly.
I think a lot of people’s favorite part of the season was when he got ejected, and taught the locker room door a lesson.
Underperforming?: Did the Hoosiers underperform this year?
They were certainly more talented than last year’s team, but they are still so young. I mentioned how much scoring they got from freshman, and exactly how experienced the whole team was.
That being said, as this team continues to grow, they will get better. Their basketball IQ will improve, and results will start to come. They say the most dangerous team in college basketball is one with a lot seniors.
Victor Oladipo: While he’s not exactly a part of the Hoosiers’ team yet, he’s the biggest recruit ready to come in next season.
Wins: 10 is the number here. While it’s four more than last season, it’s still not enough for a lot of Hoosier fans. It’s impossible to tell just how many more wins a healthy Maurice Creek would have been worth, but I think it’s safe to say at least a few. Even without Creek, they had several games they easily could have won.
X-factor: The Hoosiers don’t have one. The closest thing they have is Verdell Jones. He’s their go-to guy, a good shooter, and he can also create. He’s not necessarily as quick, though, as a guy like Evan Turner of Ohio State. He also needs to put on some strength.
They should look to Maurice Creek to be that X-factor next season.
Years until Tournament: I think two. As this team continues to grow, they’ll get better. Crean needs some recruiting victories too. It’s good that Indiana is being considered up until the end for some of these elite kids, but Crean needs to close the deal.
Zzzzz: Sometimes the Hoosiers were so painful to watch, I’d rather go to sleep. I turned several games off early because of that fact. I never do something like that.
Crean said last year that it’ll be awhile before they get to be that high-flying kind of team. I don’t think it’s a necessary style to win, but it would be nice to see some highlight reel plays.