I don't know about you, but I am STOKED (do the kids still say stoked?) for the start of college hoops season.
Mainly because I despise the NBA, but that fact just makes me love the college game even more. I think it's a better brand of basketball, and a purer brand of basketball.
If you know anything about me, you know I went to Indiana. What is Indiana University known for? Yup, that would be basketball. The whole entire state is basketball crazy. High school basketball is a way of life in that state, and then when you get to the next level, you've got several schools who have had a pretty good run over the last few years.
Now the Hoosiers' season started out much like it did last year, with Tom Crean and company winning their first two games.
Then they went down to Puerto Rico for a little tournament, and they got a pretty good reality check. They struggled mightily against Ole Miss, had a late-game letdown against Boston University, then dropped a heartbreaker to George Mason that was reminiscent of both Brian Butch's shot to beat IU, and Eric Gordon's to beat Illinois.
I've been reading the message boards lately, and I gotta tell ya, people need to calm down.
There's no doubt I want IU to win every game they're in, but let's be realistic. This is still one of the youngest teams probably in the country, maybe in the history of the game!
Last year's 6-25 mark was certainly forgettable. But the Hoosiers never gave up in any game, and nearly won several more games against quality Big Ten opponents.
This year, Hoosier Nation was ecstatic about the incoming freshman, a recruiting class that was ranked in the Top 10 nationally by several different sites. The recruiting job that Tom Crean has done in his short time in Bloomington is certainly commendable.
There's no doubt Indiana will be better than 6-25. Hopefully that's as low as the program ever goes. But some people have some really unrealistic expectations for the team.
I don't know if people are thinking this team is good enough to make the Sweet 16, but there's just no way. I don't think there's any way they make the NCAA Tournament. Why not? Well, they've got a lot of young players who don't really know how to win.
The freshman that came in have probably never had to deal with struggling before. They've always been the best of the best. I've seen this especially with Christian Watford. He really struggled in Puerto Rico, and he let his frustrations show during timeouts.
Jeremiah Rivers isn't a freshman, but he did have to sit out for a year after transferring from Georgetown. He struggled for the first couple of games, but he's steadily improving his play. A lot of people thought, myself included, that he would be a very key part to this year's Hoosiers. Not only because he's an excellent defender, but he brings Final Four experience.
Verdell Jones was undoubtedly the team's best player down the stretch last season. Now he's struggling a bit with his turnovers. Some say he's being too much of a scorer, and I think they're right. I think he's still playing with the mentality that he's one of the only ones who can get his own shot, as he and Devan Dumes were the main offensive threats last year.
Speaking of Dumes, he hasn't done much this year. I don't think he's 100% yet from a pre-season injury. He can be quite good when healthy, so here's hoping he can get better and stronger.
I've never been a fan of Tom Pritchard. I think he's slow in the post, and he gets in foul trouble way too much.
I'm liking what I'm seeing out of Maurice Creek, one of the freshman. He can drive, and he's also a pretty darn good shooter.
Now we get to the most egregious thing I saw over the weekend. I saw several people calling for the firing of Tom Crean.
You've got to be kidding me, right?
He's trying to build a program back up from scratch, and in my opinion is doing a damn fine job. In his first full recruiting season, he assembled a top recruiting class. He's got Indiana in the conversation with many top-tier recruits. I have to believe that as Indiana continues to improve, the classes will keep getting better and better.
I saw one guy post that IU should have looked at John Pastner when they had the chance. For those who don't know, or have watched a Memphis game and couldn't find the head coach, he's the guy patrolling the sidelines for the Memphis Tigers. Sure, this kid has been destined to be a head coach since he was born, but you can't tell me that IU would have hired this guy, or that the fans would have liked it.
Sure, he's gone out and recruited a fantastic class, but the guy is not an Indiana guy, and doesn't have any head coaching experience. Hoosier Nation wanted an Indiana guy with Final Four experience. Tom Crean wasn't an Indiana guy, but he had the experience.
Pastner wasn't even going to think about head coaching until Memphis offered him their job out of the blue. He was an assistant under John Calipari, and was going to follow him to Kentucky.
The point is, RELAX HOOSIER NATION!!! These guys will be fine. Even though the class of 2012 is highly touted, they're still freshman, they're going to make freshman mistakes. Think about in a couple of years, how experienced they'll be. We'll be watching one of the most veteran teams in the nation!
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