Indiana Basketball: 5 Biggest Questions Tom Crean Must Answer in 2014
Tom Crean has taken Indiana's basketball program out of the cellar and put it back on the national scene.
Top recruits are coming to Bloomington, and the team is winning again.
Last season, under his leadership, the Hoosiers won an outright regular-season Big Ten title, were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and made the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive time.
Despite how far Crean and his Hoosiers have come, the fiery head coach still has a lot to prove.
This slideshow will discuss the five biggest questions facing Crean heading into next season. The questions were ranked based on importance to team performance and fan happiness.
5. Can the Hoosiers Figure out a Zone Defense?
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When Indiana faced Syracuse in last year's NCAA tournament, the Hoosiers got exposed.
IU was dominated by Syracuse's ferocious 2-3 zone defense. Tom Crean's squad looked confused and rattled from beginning to end.
Zone defenses aren't Tom Crean's biggest concern because of the Big Ten conference. Man-to-man is the defense of choice and is what the Hoosiers are going to face the majority of the time.
Despite this, in the NCAA tournament, Indiana could run into another team that utilizes a zone defense.
Crean must have Indiana ready so to avoid another collapse like last season.
4. Can IU Remain Competitive in the Big Ten?
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Indiana was the class of the Big Ten last season. It won its first outright regular-season conference title since 1993.
The 2012-13 team was successful because it was stacked with talent. Indiana was led by recent NBA Draft selections Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. The team had senior leaders like Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, who could knock down shots.
This year's team is young and inexperienced. Tom Crean will have to rely on Will Sheehey, Yogi Ferrell and a group of untested freshmen.
The Big Ten is going to be just as competitive as it was a year ago.
Michigan State is loaded. Michigan and Ohio State haven't lost a step. Teams like Purdue will be vastly improved. Indiana must figure out how to win with a less talented team in the toughest conference in the country.
3. Can Crean Get His Team to Avoid Mental Breakdowns?
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Last year, Indiana was consistently a top ten team in the various college basketball polls.
Despite this, there were times when it played down to its competition. The two examples that come to mind are Butler beating the No. 1-ranked Hoosiers and Illinois knocking off IU when Indiana was No. 2.
Tom Crean's team cannot afford any letdowns this season.
The Hoosiers have to take care of business in their non-conference schedule and against weak Big Ten opponents. The conference is far too tough for Indiana to not take care of business when it should.
Every win matters, so IU can't give any away. The difference between being an NCAA tournament team or in the NIT can be razor-thin.
If Indiana drops a game against an inferior opponent, it might not hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
2. Will Recruiting Stay Red Hot?
5-star recruit Noah Vonleh, Credit: insidethehall.com
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful college basketball program.
Tom Crean has improved the program because he has brought in top recruits. Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Noah Vonleh and Luke Fischer are a few that come to mind.
In order for IU to keep up its winning ways, Crean has to continue to convince the nation's best players that Indiana is the place for them.
Some of Indiana's current targets include Trevon Blueitt, James Blackmon Jr., and Devin Robinson. Crean must once again prove he can bring in talent and get commitments from one or more of these players.
1. Can Crean Advance Indiana Past the Sweet 16?
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The past two seasons, IU made it to the Sweet 16, a noble accomplishment two years ago while the program was still considered to be rebuilding, but a letdown last season seeing as it was a No. 1 seed.
Now that Indiana is in contention for Big Ten titles and making NCAA appearances, the Sweet 16 won't cut it.
Indiana's fans expect more.
Tom Crean must once again prove he can win games in March. He made a Final Four while in charge of Marquette and has to produce similar results at Indiana.
Big Ten championships and No. 1 seeds are great, but Hoosier faithful want Final Fours and national championships.
The question is: Can Crean deliver?