The Indiana Hoosiers (14-11, 4-8) are having a less-than-stellar season to say the least. Just a year after winning a Big Ten Championship and locking up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, IU has essentially played itself out of the Big Dance with three straight losses.
The season hit rock bottom last week after the Hoosiers, playing at home against Penn State, blew a nine-point lead with a little more than two minutes remaining. This was followed by an 18-point shellacking at the hands of their biggest rival, Purdue.
So, should head coach Tom Crean be worried about his job security in Bloomington? Let's take a deeper look.
When looking at Crean's career at Indiana, it's been a roller-coaster ride. He took over a program totally dismantled by the previous coach and was left with nothing. Through recruiting and player development, he took the Hoosiers from one of the worst teams in the country to Big Ten champs in just five seasons.
Not an easy task.
Crean's recruiting cannot be questioned. According to Rivals.com, his last three classes were ranked No. 27, No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. Recently, however, he hasn't been able to turn the talent into victories.
Yes, the Big Ten Championship was a major accomplishment, but last year's Hoosiers were capable of so much more. A Final Four appearance and national championship were realistic expectations for that squad.
Instead, Indiana looked totally unprepared against Syracuse and was easily defeated in the Sweet 16, the same round of the tournament it had reached the previous season.
Obviously, the loss of seven players—including All-Americans Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo—was going to take its toll, but the this year's roster was thought to have enough talent to be competitive in the conference. Unfortunately, things have spiraled out of control and the Hoosiers sit in 10th place in the Big Ten standings.
This rapid decline sits on Crean's shoulders.
The Hoosiers have been absolutely awful in the last four minutes of games. During the time when coaches and teams need to be at their best, Crean and his players have been at their worst.
In the first game of the Big Ten season, Indiana had the final possession in regulation at Illinois and came up empty, with Crean refusing to call a timeout to set up a final play. IU lost in overtime.
In the final four minutes against Northwestern, Nebraska, Minnesota and Penn State, Indiana was outscored 14-9, 9-5, 8-4 and 15-4, respectively, with every game resulting in a loss.
Against the Nittany Lions, Indiana couldn't even inbound the ball to cause Penn State to foul and put a Hoosier on the free-throw line for a chance to pad the lead. The Hoosiers turned it over three straight times on inbounds passes in the game's final 40 seconds.
Even more unacceptable.
The Hoosiers couldn't accomplish one of the most fundamental plays in basketball not once, but three times! It cost them the game and put their NCAA hopes on life support.
Then, against Purdue, the offense came to an utter standstill in the second half. After trailing by only five at halftime, the Hoosiers mustered a measly two points in the second half's first seven minutes. By then, the Boilermakers had run away with the game.
The Hoosiers consistently look lost when they have possession. There is little ball movement and responsibility falls to point guard Yogi Ferrell to create with time winding down on the shot clock. This is a recipe for disaster and the Hoosiers either commit a turnover (15.6 per game, worst in the conference) or force a contested jump shot.
Offensive struggles, nonstop turnovers and poor play in the game's final stages have led to IU's subpar performance, and Crean needs to be held responsible.
So, does Crean deserve to be on the hot seat? As of right now, yes. The team's deterioration from last year to now is shocking. There is no excuse for the way the Hoosiers have played at the end of games. Their inability to execute in the second half and "winning time" will keep them out of the Big Dance.
In Crean's defense, he deserves credit for resurrecting the program.
However, that was two seasons ago. Today's fans live by the mantra of "What have you done for me lately?"—especially the Hoosier fanbase, which is made up of some of the prouder and more dedicated fans in the country.
Indiana's faithful demand positive results, and based on the talent Crean has at his disposal, IU's performance is incredibly disappointing.
I am not calling for Crean's job—not yet, anyway. He deserves the chance to right the ship and has six regular-season games and the Big Ten tournament to do so.
With that said, the temperature outside isn't the only thing warming up in Bloomington. Crean's job security is a shadow of what it was a year ago, and if the losing continues, the conversation concerning Crean's status as head coach will only intensify.
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