I think we all knew that the season could end last night against Syracuse, a talented and well-coached team. I don't think any of us imagined the total offensive ineptitude that would do the Hoosiers in. IU's .77 points per possession number is the worst of the past two seasons and among the dozen worst of the entire Crean era. Obviously, IU didn't get there with just one problem. IU shot only 33 percent from the field, turned the ball over on 27 percent of its possessions, and was only 15-24 from the line. I thought IU really missed an opportunity in the first five minutes, when IU actually did get some open looks but missed them and a few free throws. After that, the Syracuse defense tightened up and IU never really threatened again.
It's really hard to know how to assign blame. The team looked quite tentative and turned the ball over way too much, especially in the first half. When IU did get looks, they generally did not go down. Syracuse played extremely well, and could have won against a much stronger effort from IU, but I think this also was simply an off night. While this was a much better team that those, this game felt very much like the late Knight era collapses in the Tournament against the likes of Missouri, Boston College, Colorado, and Pepperdine. It just wasn't there tonight, and I have no idea why.
This is where I usually would list some bullet points about individual performances, but I'm not sure anyone really warrants it. It's very tough to see Jordan Hulls leave IU with a 0-6 performance. Cody Zeller did not look NBA ready. Victor Oladipo had a good game on paper but obviously didn't make enough happen. Yogi Ferrell looked very much like a freshman, 180 degrees from his performance two game ago and at many points during the Big Ten season. So many of these players provided so many great moments, and it's disappointing that the seniors, and Zeller and Oladipo if they leave, will not play beyond the Sweet 16.
There will be plenty of time for post mortems, but I think this game represents a turning point in the Tom Crean era. That's not to say that the fans will or should turn on Crean. But the honeymoon is over. I don't really mean that in the pejorative sense that usually is associated with the term. Crean has done a fantastic job building the program up from a foundation of zero returning scholarship players. Few if any other coaches could have done what he has done. Four years ago, IU had just finished a 6-25 season. Today, a Sweet 16 loss is among the more difficult to accept in IU's NCAA Tournament history. The progress has been incredible. Yet, as Crean himself said, "it's Indiana." Regular season conference titles are important, but they aren't the ultimate goal. In the next three or four years, we will find out if the progress will continue.