After two consecutive losing seasons in Bloomington, fans are starting to get frustrated with head coach Tom Crean and the direction he is leading the prestigious Indiana Hoosiers men’s basketball program.
Due to the struggles of the Indiana Hoosier team last year, there was some speculation that Crean would be out as coach if he didn’t start winning as soon as this year.
However, Hoosier fans don’t realize that Tom Crean is and has been doing the right thing.
First of all, he hasn’t been cheating. Crean has been recruiting the right way and has received commitments from highly touted prospects such as Peter Jurkin (2012), Ron Patterson (2012), and James Blackmon Jr. (2014).
Crean undertook a major Division I program that essentially had to start over from scratch. Former head coach Kelvin Sampson left the team in such shambles that Crean basically had a team of walk-ons in 2008.
It was painful to watch for Hoosier nation, but people saw the fight the players had in them.
The fact that Crean almost upset Michigan State at home that year should have been enough evidence that he needed time to recruit his style of players and implement his mentality of basketball.
This past year Crean was able to play his first recruiting class (ninth in the nation according to Rivals), and although his enthusiasm didn’t quite translate to success on the court, he set a solid foundation to build on.
Maurice Creek was one of the better freshmen last year as he averaged 16.4 points until he blew out his knee against Bryant College. With his return, the Hoosiers have a future star to build on.
Creek offers the Hoosiers another dimension of offense that they did not have heading into Big Ten play last year. People seem to forget that Creek scored 31 points against a Kentucky team that consisted of first round picks John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, and Daniel Orton.
Verdell Jones III stepped up in a big way last year with Creek’s absence by averaging 14.9 points, and 16.7 in Big Ten play. Jones, a 3-star recruit in 2008, showed he could play with the big boys and provide the leadership the Hoosiers needed last year.
The Hoosiers had solid contributions from the rest of their freshman class, as Christian Watford, Derek Elston, Bobby Capobianco, and Jordan Hulls all produced. These players were freshmen last year, but the coaches and fans have higher expectations, as their development is key in turning the program around.
There is no doubt that Crean will push these players to their full potential, as many saw the strong teams he developed at Marquette. Out of the nine years Crean coached at Marquette, he only failed to make the postseason once (five NCAA tournament berths, three NIT berths).
Look for Crean to surprise his critics and finish within the top six of the Big Ten, earning a potential NIT berth.
The returns of Creek and Matt Roth will significantly improve the team, and the additions of Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey will give the team more depth than they had last year. The Hoosiers play a very weak non-conference schedule this year and could easily capitalize with a healthy team.