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From the Hot Seat to B1G Coach of the Year?

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After an exciting win at Illinois, Indiana has moved to 4-1 in the B1G and Tom Crean has moved firmly off the hot seat and into the Coach of the Year discussion.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Who was the idiot that wrote about Tom Crean being on the hot seat before the season started? Oh yeah, that was me... Well, after another conference road victory with this young Hoosier basketball team and a 14-4 (4-1) start to the season - I can firmly say - Tom Crean is off the hot seat. In fact, I think he, along with Mark Turgeon, are the two leading candidates for B1G Coach of the Year at this point of the season. Yes, we are only 5 or 6 games in depending on your team - but I think it is time to start this discussion.

Before we even get to where Indiana currently stands on the court, think about what Indiana had to go through before the season even started. The Hoosiers had an incredibly disappointing season last year which got even more disappointing with the departure of Noah Vonleh to the NBA and transfers of several players like Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington, and others. Indiana did have a couple of highly touted guards coming in the form of James Blackmon Jr and Robert Johnson, but the season didn't even get started before controversy struck Hoosier Nation.

On Halloween night, Devin Davis was dropped off at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington by teammate Emmitt Holt. Holt then exited the parking lot and started driving away when Davis sprinted in front of the vehicle and was struck by Holt. Davis was knocked unconscious and transported to the hospital in serious condition with a fractured skull among other injuries. That type of incident would have derailed most teams in any sport. This wouldn't be the only controversy to strike Indiana before the season started either. Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson - two key returners - tested positive for drugs during the summer and the announcement of their suspensions was made just days after the Halloween incident. Each, along with Holt, was suspended for 4 games (two exhibitions and two regular season). These controversies dumped gas on an already building firestorm as Indianapolis Star columnist Greg Doyle called for Tom Crean's head.

If Indiana didn't have it bad enough off the court at a critical time in Tom Crean's tenure - it wasn't much better on the court. At least so we thought. The Hoosiers had one player taller than 6'7" that was viewed as a contributor on this team - 6'9" Hanner Mosquera-Perea - and he had been anything but consistent in his first two seasons in Bloomington. How was Indiana going to defend and rebound against the major non-conference opponents followed by the B1G Conference opponents with four guard lineups and a 6'7" or 6'9" player down low?

Well, as we move towards the end of January - the Hoosiers seem to be doing just fine. With a couple exceptions, Indiana has won the boards in almost every game this year. While viewed as a shooting only team - they have gotten to 4-1 in the B1G conference shooting the ball as badly as anyone. To make things more incredible - Hanner Mosquera-Perea injured his knee in practice last week and is out indefinitely. How has Indiana responded - well - with wins over Penn State (home) and Illinois (road). While these aren't current powerhouses of the conference, they are quality opponents with a number of talented players. In fact the start of the conference season for Indiana (at NEB, at MSU, OSU, PSU, at IL) is arguably the toughest stretch of games that any team has gone through at this point. And Coach Crean has the Hoosiers 4-1 through that stretch.

It is far too early to start talking National Coach of the Year and might be too early to start talking B1G Conference Coach of the Year - but at this point in the season, I don't think there is any question that Tom Crean is firmly in that discussion. Indiana still has a tremendous stretch ahead without Perea, but one thing is for sure no matter what happens at this point - Coach Crean isn't going anywhere at the end of this season. That statement certainly frustrates those in the Anti-Crean faction, but even members of that faction have to admit at this point that the hot seat has moved on to a different city for now. If Indiana continues to play successfully the rest of the way, it may have moved on for quite some time to come. There are no seniors on this current roster and while there will be departures (Indiana has 2 players committed with no open spots), the core of this team is likely to be back and more dangerous than ever with the experience they are gaining this season.