It’s a good thing that new Indiana coach Tom Crean was given a contract extension before coaching his first game because this season is not going to be a year that resembles anything close to this one.
The Hoosiers’ best player, Jeremiah Rivers, is going to redshirt this season and won’t do much to help out IU (25-8, 14-4 Big 10 2007). That makes Kyle Taber, a senior who averaged 1.3 points per game and 2.5 rebounds the leader of the team.
I’m sure Taber is a very talented basketball player, and is on a team in the Big 10 for a reason, but he’s not going to replace the dominance of Eric Gordon or the experience of DJ White. This should be an interesting year for Taber because he’s going to start for the first time in his career.
The only problem is that he’s going to lead a team with almost no veterans and eight freshmen. Some of them, such as guard Nick Williams, will most likely start and have a great impact. The newcomers filling out a roster are the ones who are likely going to keep the Hoosiers in the Big 10 cellar.
They should actually have a decent non-conference record, although their strength of schedule isn’t that great besides teams competing in the Maui Invitational, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, and Kentucky.
It’s going to be the conference schedule that is going to test the patience of the Hoosier fans. IU is slated for late games against two of the Big 10’s best teams in Michigan State and Wisconsin.
If you flip around last year’s conference record, that’s most likely what you are going to see from Indiana. It’s fair to say this season, or even the next was not the reason why Crean has such a big contract.
It’s because it’s Indiana and once Crean gets his own recruits, the school will go back to being a powerhouse. The head coach has an established reputation as a top-notch recruiter who people trust.
That is something Indiana hasn’t had in a long time.
The Athletic Director can expect that Crean isn’t going to dirty IU’s name even more with the sub-par coaching that the Hoosiers have had to deal with since Bobby Knight’s departure. He made a final four appearance with perhaps one of the best Midwest recruits of all time.
And he did it all at a school that isn’t used to having the prestige of being Indiana basketball. Marquette was a team that just couldn’t make the NCAA tournament in the 80’s and was more of a fringe team in the 90’s.
The Golden Eagles did make some noise in 1994 when they made the Sweet 16, but it was Crean who put them over the top. With a brand name in college basketball such as Indiana, Crean should have no problem making this team an NCAA Championship contender in a matter of years.
But it won’t happen overnight.
Indiana will have to swallow these next few years with players who would normally sit on the end of the bench suddenly becoming a main scoring option for the team. There will certainly be a slew of unproven freshmen and it will be painful to watch.
None of these problems are going to be Crean’s fault and he should not take the heat for having to battle just to make the NIT. This is the result of sleazy and ineffective recruiting that was eventually going to hurt the Hoosiers.
It doesn’t mean they’re going to fade into oblivion. It just means they’re going be dealing with a few hiccups.