UA-59049186-1 What's Going On Isn't So Sweet After All - Good if it Goes

What’s Going On Isn’t So Sweet After All

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After Jim Harbaugh took the Michigan job, I figured I should probably stop making fun of Tom Crean quite so much since he’s Harbaugh’s brother-in-law, a fact Crean will bring up no less than a dozen times within the first five minutes of meeting him. I’m speaking from experience on this one. If I was to rank people by the number of times they mention Jim Harbaugh it would go something like:

1. Tom Crean

2. Teddy Greenstein

3. Michigan fans

4. The rest of Harbaugh’s family

Unfortunately for Tom, despite his first-place finish here, he got knocked out of the tourney by the rest of Harbaugh’s family in the tourney. Just couldn’t handle the zone they put on him. He will have a ring made nonetheless.

Okay, yeah, cheap shot. But, come on, he’s just such an easy target. But since Harbaugh seems to like him, or is at least willing to pretend to, I’ve dialed it back a bit. Like, I didn’t even mock him after IU got shellacked on national televison by North Carolina. Alex Robbins of The Crimson Quarry is really testing me, though, writing this. Let’s break this down, shall we?

The day after a season-ending loss, when it is unknown which players will be back and when the season and the loss are still so fresh that a rollercoaster of emotions are still flowing, is probably not the appropriate time to evaluate the state of the program. But because there is a portion of the Indiana fanbase that is so absolutely loony about what this program is and who should lead it, it seems necessary just hours after the Hoosiers were eliminated to talk about where we really are. So, I’ll talk about where we are — the fans.

Okay, fair point here. There are a ton of delusional numbskull IU fans. In fact, they probably lead the nation in them. Hey, congrats, guys! You won something this century.

Sorry, force of habit.

Anyway,

They think that a two-time Big Ten champion and the all-time assist leader in program history was a loser. They think that Sweet 16s are failures, no matter the circumstances surrounding the program before and during the season. Fellow Crimson Quarry staffer Kyle Swick has the best answer for that one:

Wait just a minute here. So you’re acknowledging Purdue’s title? Just want to be clear on this one, because there are a lot of IU fans (read: delusional numbskulls) who will fight you on that one.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, this is a really good point. Nobody wins it all every year. To expect such is ludicrous. And IU did overachieve this year. After they got waxed by Duke, it was easy to write them off. But, aided by an easy conference schedule, they won the Big Ten regular season title. And Crean deserved Big Ten coach of the year.

Their conference schedule was really easy, though.

They think that a man who took the gamble of a lifetime and career leaving a cushy gig to take the reins of a program left in shambles, a man who since day one has talked about how he wants to win for the fans who hate him, a man who has pulled Indiana basketball from the pits of Hell and back into the light is unworthy. They think Tom Crean is unworthy of his job.

Now, here’s where you start to lose me. Define “the light,” please.

Tom Crean is not perfect. But neither was Bob Knight.

Half the fan base already disowned Knight after he went so a fish fry at Purdue in February. Seriously, that’s what did it. Not the furniture throwing – heck, they celebrated the anniversary of that. Not the player choking. Nope, going to a fish fry at Purdue. Way to have your priorities in line, guys.

And in each of those three trips to the Sweet 16, the Hoosiers have run into three teams who each played their single best game of the season. As an example, last night, the 305th best three point shooting team in the country made 11 of them, 7-for-7 in the first 19 minutes and 57 seconds. Crean is flawed, like all coaches, yes. But it also happens that he’s unbelievably unlucky.

IU definitely overachieved in 2011, so I’ll give you that one. And I just talked about how they overachieved this year. Let’s be honest, though, even if Carolina’s not unconscious from three in that game, they still win. They’re just a better team and a bad matchup for the Hoosiers. It was a 15-point game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. If Carolina doesn’t start messing around at the end, they could have won by 25. And that’s where the fans get upset. If they had at least hung with Carolina, you can say, “Well, it was a good run.” When that run ends with a resounding thud, it’s hard not to think about the program’s shortcomings.

Which brings us to the other Sweet 16 run. You know the one I’m talking about – 2013. Preseason #1. Two of the eventual top four draft picks and several other solid pieces besides. Expectations through the roof. And it ends with Crean getting his lunch eaten by Jim Boeheim on national television. Yes, Syracuse played a great game, but Indiana played a lousy one because they were completely unprepared for something Syracuse always does. That’s on the coach. And that’s somewhat of a recurring theme with Crean.

One hell of a season these boys just had. From being left for dead after a few rough outings in November and December and playing at times without James Blackmon, Jr., Robert Johnson, and Juwan Morgan, and the entire season without Emmitt Holt, to being under-seeded and being placed in the NCAA’s equivalent of the group of death, all this team faced was adversity and overwhelming odds.

Fair points, up until you said they were under-seeded. They were not under-seeded. Knock it off.

And all Crean did was win a Big Ten championship, eliminate Kentucky, and give us all one of the most entertaining season in program history.

And there it is! There’s the little brother syndrome that fan base has exuded the last few years! As bad as Michigan State’s inferiority complex is towards Michigan (well, towards pretty much everybody, but mostly Michigan), Indiana’s has become worse. Not only do they have one with Kentucky. They have one with Purdue. Yeah, Purdue. You are aware the score is 5-1, right? And it’s not like they’re dominating college basketball anymore. Hummel may have been around for twelve years, but he has finally graduated. This year, they were the same seed you guys were.

(By the way, I think I’ve just given Michigan State another inferiority complex about not having the biggest inferiority complex.)

Shame on him for not finishing the job? No. Shame on you for demanding anything more in a sport that decides a champion by crap shoot and rarely crowns the best.

Since Indiana’s last championship back in the bronze age 1987, there have been three teams lower than a 3-seed to win the title: 6-seed Kansas in 1988, 4-seed Arizona in 1997, and 7-seed Connecticut in 2014. Nineteen of the 28 champions were 1-seeds. But, yeah, total crap shoot.

The rest of Indiana fans? There is an understanding that if year in and year out you get a good seed in the tournament and have a team talented enough to beat anyone, eventually, they will beat everyone.

And if you put enough monkeys with typewriters in a room, eventually they’ll produce Shakespeare. And between that and what Robbins is proposing here, I’ve got a dollar on the monkeys. Seriously, what’s your point here? I just pointed out how, while, yeah, the occasional upset happens, it’s usually the top teams who end up winning it all. Fanbay’s got a great chart. Or are you saying that Crean’s going to put together a bunch teams worthy of a 1 or 2-seed and one of them is going to win it all? He’s had one of those already. Remember? 2013? Got his lunch eaten by Boeheim.

And there will not be a need or desire to open the liquor cabinet and reminisce about the 80s when Tom Crean gets an extension in the very near future.

Wait, you’re not actually going to give him an extension, are you? Like, everyone outside the IU fan base is just joking with the #CreanForever thing. But, hey, you know, totally your call.

 And most importantly, there is an appreciation for the man who risked it all to come to Bloomington and saved Indiana basketball. He did that for the same reason they think he’s not worthy: “It’s Indiana.”

Stop that. Stop that right now. It’s not “Indiana” anymore. It hasn’t been for quite some time. Look, I get it, okay? A coach comes in and makes a passionate speech about how special the place is and you buy into that. We went through it with Brady Hoke. When he was introduced at Michigan, he talked about how “it’s Michigan fergodsakes.” He loved Michigan. He seemed like a nice guy. But being a nice guy and loving the school isn’t enough. You’ve got to produce results. And here’s where I don’t blame fans for being fed up with Crean: his tenure at Indiana has been much ado about nothing. HOWEVA, the fans are to blame here, too, for allowing themselves to overhype relatively minor achievements. Like, you know, just spitballing here, Watford’s shot against Kentucky. Indiana’s got shirts saying “We’re Back” as well as one saying “Don’t Call It A Comeback“. I realize it’s two different companies selling those shirts, but seriously, guys, get on the same page here. And now, this exists. They really made a shirt to commemorate beating Kentucky in the second round of the tournament. That’s as bush league as it gets. “Indiana” wouldn’t have printed up those shirts. “Indiana” wouldn’t have commemorated one win in December with popcorn boxes and a display in Assembly Hall. “Indiana” wouldn’t have handed out those Sweet 16 rings. “Indiana” wouldn’t have cut down the nets after losing to Ohio State. “Indiana” wouldn’t have stormed the court against Minnesota no matter how eager they were to storm a court. In fact, “Indiana” shouldn’t be storming courts at all. You’re supposed to be “Indiana,” remember? Act like you’ve been there before.

There was one more word in that last excerpt I want to address: “saved.” Indiana was not going to suck forever unless they made an absolutely disastrous hire. It was going to be a hard rebuilding effort to be sure, but there are plenty of coaches who could have gotten Indiana to pretty much the same point. Here’s where Crean does deserve credit: he got there faster than a lot of other guys would have and has won a couple Big Ten regular season championships in the process. But do you really want to hang your hat on that? Clearly, a lot of fans don’t, and I can’t blame them for that. This is the point where you have to ask yourselves if Crean’s the guy who’s going to get you to take that next step, and yes, Alex, that’s a fair question to ask. We’re starting to ask ourselves that question about John Beilein. When that question is raised within the Michigan fan base, one response is always “Well, who are we going to get that could do better?” because, while Michigan has some history in basketball, historically, it’s been the third-best major sport there. But you guys are supposed to be “Indiana,” remember? Basketball is king there. I don’t blame Robbins for wanting to hang onto Crean after the job he did with the team this year, but it’s hard to look at that program and think that that isn’t the ceiling for Tom Crean. If it is, is that good enough for you?

Twitter: @KSchroeder_312

E-mail: schroeder.giig@gmail.com

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