Indiana fans have never been on board with Tom Crean as head coach. The die hards seemed wary of him from the start of his tenure back in 2008.
He was given the benefit of the doubt for the first three years, as IU tried to dig itself out of the gutter of the Big Ten. Crean and his staff proved to be impressive in the recruiting game during those early years, with the big coup being Cody Zeller staying in-state. The Hoosiers found two years of success with Zeller and company.
They spent the majority of last season ranked No. 1 in the country. Two starters ended up being drafted in the top 5 and two more graduated and went to Europe to play ball. All in all, IU lost 70% of its offense from last season. Despite bringing in a supposedly talented class in 2013, IU has underwhelmed this year.
The Hoosiers started the season just outside the Top 25, but couldn’t find quality wins before the conference schedule began. Since then it has been a roller coaster ride where IU has teased fans with wins over then ranked No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 10 Michigan, only to falter against Penn State, Nebraska, and rival Purdue. Now, the Hoosiers find themselves in the midst of a three game losing streak that could continue for some time.
After this season, the countdown clock on Crean’s career as IU’s head coach has begun.
This team hasn’t shown much sign of progress, and when they do, its brief and quickly fades away. Simple things, like inbounding the ball, seem to be beyond these players grasp. Too often they just stand around on offense and hope Yogi Ferrell does something cool.
The top player on the team, Noah Vonleh, doesn’t get nearly enough touches (much like Zeller last season). Vonleh should get the ball on the low block every offensive possession. You have 35 seconds to make something happen, and that is more than enough time to get him the ball and if it doesn’t work, reset and go with plan B (assuming there is a backup plan).
This isn’t just about the youth of the team, its about them not being prepared to compete every night. The debacle at Purdue was embarrassing and its not something that Hoosier fans will stand for.
One of the problems with IU fans is that they don’t like to give Crean credit when the team is successful. They would rather credit the talent of the players (see: all of last season) instead of the coaching. But when IU loses, chants of “Fire Tom Crean” flood twitter and the message boards. At this point though, its looking more and more like he is part of the problem.
I believe that Crean has lost this team. IU might not win another game this season. Hanner Perea’s recent arrest for drunk driving shows a lack of respect for the rest of the team. We didn’t see any incidents the past two seasons of something like this. Perea is just a product of the problem, that Crean’s players don’t care anymore. Sure some of them are still engaged. Ferrell and Vonleh certainly seem interested but Ferrell is unbelievably competitive by nature, and Vonleh is trying to improve his draft stock.
Crean broke out this gem on Twitter Monday:
A question on the teleconf. About freshman got me intrigued on #of freshman starting in the BT. Out of 60 reg.starters, 5 are fr. 3 at IU.
— Tom Crean (@TomCrean) February 17, 2014
He basically threw his freshmen under the bus. By citing this seasons failing on the fact that starters are mostly freshmen, he’s not taking responsibility for his failings as a coach. Zeller was a freshmen, and IU still made the NCAA Tournament. Ferrell led the team at point guard last season as a freshman, and IU got a one seed. While its not fair to compare those two teams to this one, the point is that IU still has some talented freshmen who don’t need their confidence shaken by their head coach on Twitter.
He’s making excuses instead of owning up to the problems that are plaguing the team. Things like turnovers, offensive game plans, and effort are all bigger issues than having too many freshmen. John Calipari and Kentucky don’t seem to have an issue with too many freshmen.
Crean is digging himself into a hole, and its going to be hard for fans to forgive him anytime soon. Another season like this, and they will be calling for his head if they aren’t already.