There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Indiana has had an awful season. While they lost the stars of last year's team to graduation and the pros, they retained stud point guard Yogi Ferrell and had a heralded recruiting class enter Bloomington. Thus, expectations were high for the Hoosiers, just like always. But Indiana went 17-15, with an abysmal 7-11 in-conference record.
No matter how much history you have, going 2 games above .500 won't get you into many postseason tournaments. Upon not receiving an invitation to the NIT, Indiana's athletic director Fred Glass said this:
"Finances wouldn't be an issue if we thought it made sense," Glass told The Star. "But we're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI."
There you have it. As comical as that statement is, he's probably right. A team like Indiana shouldn't be playing in the CBI. So let's escape from the coaching purgatory that is Tom Crean and take a tour through the hallowed halls of Indiana basketball history.
First, some numbers. Indiana has been to 37 NCAA Tournaments, 8 Final Four appearances, and 5 National Championships. Those are staggering numbers, and sure seem to back up the sentiments of Indiana's AD. Here's the CBI Bracket. No disrespect to Wyoming Basketball and their 1943 National Title, but Indiana should be better than all those teams, and they have the numbers to prove it.
Indiana's first great coach was named Branch McCracken, who led the Hoosiers to the 1940 title over Kansas. The Hoosiers held the high-scoring Jayhawks to a mere 42 points in the final game, even through Kansas had one of the best scorers in the country, Howard Engleman on their side. You know what they say about Howard Engleman: you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him. Although he had a staggering 39 points over that 3-game tournament, the Hoosiers shut him down. Basketball in the 1940s was weird. McCracken went on to lead another Hoosier team to a national title in 1953. Because of his consistent winning ways, Indiana has honored him by naming the Assembly Hall court after ol' Branch.
Not long after McCracken came along Bobby Knight. Now there's just hours of fun to be had by searching "Ron Swanson Bobby Knight" on Google images, but here's a nice .gif for the time being.
As you may have heard, Bobby Knight was one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history. I won't bore you with the details, but Knight won 3 championships in his time, and coached some amazing players. Kent Benson, Mike Woodson, Isiah Thomas (lol go Knicks), Steve Alford, and Calbert Cheaney. Thousands of words could be written about all of Bobby Knight's teams, but the video of the winning shot in the 1987 does a pretty good job of demonstrating Indiana's magical success.
Indiana was already seen as the birthplace/hometown/Mecca of basketball, and without Bobby Knight, college basketball would not be the same.
But after coach Knight left in 2000, things never fully rebounded for the Hoosiers. One could argue that therein lies the problem. Indiana fans have such remarkably high expectations because of their past success that anything less than being a perennial title contender is a failure. I have no problem with fanbases having high expectations, and am by no means defending Tom Crean. But coaching the Hoosiers is a tough job to have, considering what those before you have done.
Let's talk about Tom Crean. He took the reins in Bloomington after Kelvin Sampson and his recruiting violations left the basketball program in ashes. In Crean's first year, he was 6-25, good for the worst record in school history. But somehow, Crean recruited his butt off, and turned the Hoosiers into one of the best teams in the country. Is it because he knows how to talk just right to recruits on social media? That would certainly flatter me. Nonetheless, he built a powerhouse in 2012-13, and earned a #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, what Crean has in recruiting, he lacks in tournament coaching. Even though they were stacked with lottery talent and experience in 2012-13, the Hoosiers couldn't make it out of the Sweet Sixteen.
Which brings us to today. Indiana is at a crossroads. We know Tom Crean can recruit, but can he coach? Can he turn all the untapped potential of top recruits into victories? This year, not so much. So Hoosiers fans, watch some old tapes and cry into your Steve Alford jerseys. This nightmare will be over soon.