On April 1, 2008, Indiana University made Tom Crean their 11th coach in school history.
He inherited the smoldering mess that was left for him by former coach Kelvin Sampson, who was dismissed by Indiana in mid-February due to major recruiting violations.
Quickly after signing his contract with Indiana, Crean hit the recruiting trail, and reeled in seven new recruits, five of them freshman and two of them junior college transfers.
By summer's end, only two players were left from the squad the season before, due to transfers (freshman Eli Holman, Jordan Crawford, and Brandon McGee), dismissals (sophomore Armon Bassett and juniors Jemarcus Ellis and DeAndre Thomas), graduation(Mike White, Adam Ahlfeld, Lance Stemler), and the NBA (senior D.J. White and freshman Eric Gordon).
The only remaining roster players were junior Kyle Taber, and sophomore Brett Finkelmeier.
Considering how quickly he had to work to get these players, and the restrictions placed on him by Indiana and the NCAA on his staff's ability to recruit, he did a good job.
However, come October of 2008 and Hoosier Hysteria, most fans would agree that this team wasn't going to win many games.
The 2008-2009 squad contained just nine scholarship players (yes NINE), and walk-ons Daniel Moore and Broderick Lewis played plenty of minutes on the court.
So it wasnt a huge surprise that the team went 6-25. With a starting lineup that included Kyle Taber, who in his previous 3 years played only garbage minutes in the game, and Nick Williams, a 6'4' guard who had to play power forward most of the season, a tough year is in store.
There were positives though.
The team fought and scrapped every game, from tip off to the final buzzer at the end of the second half.
The Hoosiers lost close games to Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State, and beat Iowa.
With the exception of Tom Pritchard (he peaked early, faltered down the stretch), the whole squad improved greatly from game one to game thirty-one.
During the season, Crean still traveled around and was able to pick up one of the top recruiting classes in the country for the class of 2009. It was a six man recruiting class that included three 3 star players and three 4 star players, according to Rivals, and was considered a top ten recruiting class in the nation.
Included in that group are Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, and Indiana Mr. Basketball, Jordan Hulls.
Going into the 2009-2010 season, most fans expected more results due to the greater talent on the court, which would hopefully lead to more wins.
And starting off the season it looked like it.
Maurice Creek became the team's go to scorer, with supreme performances against Kentucky (31 points) and North Carolina Central (29 points) in back to back games, and Jeremiah Rivers, finally eligible to play after transferring from Georgetown and sitting out the previous season, showed his athletic ability and excellent vision with some pretty strong dunks and nifty passes.
However the loss of Maurice Creek and Matt Roth really hurt the Hoosiers, and the team suffered one of the worst losing streaks that anyone has ever seen.
For the second year in a row the team lost eleven games in a row, and eight of them were by fifteen points or more, and the game was over early.
Down the stretch, the team seemed to lose their desire and heart that we saw from them the season before, and players looked like they were just going through the motions.
Even Crean's ejection in the 78-46 blowout loss to the Wisconsin Badgers could not charge his squad up, although it did get the crowd into it.
At the end of the season, the Hoosier Nation awoke to a reality that in two years, there was not as much improvement as most had hoped.
The Hoosiers went 16-47 in Crean's first two seasons and still made too many silly basketball mistakes like not boxing out, unforced turnovers, and getting into early foul trouble.
However, the future is bright for Crean, who this season might finally be able to show what kind of coach he is on the court, when he doesn't have to teach players as much on fundamentals, and can instead draw up plays, and think of new ways to attack defense.
With a lineup including a 100% Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, Verdell Jones, Derek Elston, and Jordan Hulls, the offensive and defensive potential is limitless.
For now, it is still a bit too early to really judge Crean on his job at Indiana, but for now I will give him a B.
He did a great job in the community and on campus, getting support for the team even in its tough times and he brought in a very talented class of freshman.
However last season's woes were a bit concerning, and certain players regressed during the season instead of progressing. His failure in landing some of the top prospects in the land is worrying too, although I am not too worried about that because most ranking systems aren't anywhere near perfect.
The next two seasons will be key for Tom Crean. If he can make the necessary improvements in this team, a return to the NCAA Tournament by then is a definite probability (especially if there are 96 teams).
If not, then it will be a long time before Indiana is back in the limelight, where it was for years.
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