Two things have become abundantly clear about the Indiana Hoosiers:
They are a flawed basketball team.
Firing Tom Crean is not, and never will be, a solution to their problems.
We’ll come back to the first point, but the second point is one that, unfortunately, needs addressing.
Teams lose. Even the ones named champions at the end of the year don’t win every game. They often have some really bad losses.
UConn’s 2014 team lost on the road against Houston, who finished 133rd in KenPom. They barely beat a bad Indiana team on a neutral court. The 2008 Kansas team lost on the road against Oklahoma State, who finished 17-16 on the year. Last year’s Villanova team lost twice in three games, including a 23-point drubbing to Oklahoma.
In the history of college basketball, eight teams have finished with a perfect season. Four of them were accomplished by John Wooden at UCLA and none have occurred in the last 40 years.
Since 2000, the average record for the national champions is roughly 34-5. Ten times in that span has a team lost at least five games in a season.
Losing games is not the end of the world, nor should it be a direct reflection of how good or bad a coach is.
Thus, we have Indiana. The present-day Hoosiers just broke out of a losing slump. An ugly one. Even despite Saturday’s win, the Hoosiers have lost four of their last seven.
The final buzzer has come to signal a race to see who can call for Crean’s head first, who can point out how bad the Hoosiers are and how much we should panic.
Firing Crean solves absolutely nothing. It’s beyond silly that this needs pointed out. The idea of firing a head coach less than a year removed from winning his second Big Ten title in four years is ignorant at best. Dismissing Crean is not some cure-all that would suddenly make the Hoosiers National Title favorites. In fact, it’d do the exact opposite and likely send the program into something of a tailspin.
I won’t sit here and tell you everything is fine, even if that’s entirely on-brand for This Blog.
However, everything is not bad. Sure, the regular season Big Ten title is probably out of grabs barring running the table. But this team has plenty of talent and there’s plenty of reason to believe this current stretch isn’t who this team is.
The team lacks leadership, which is understood considering a they just graduated one of the best players ever in the program’s history.
Thomas Bryant or OG Anunoby were expected to take that leap. However, it’s glaringly obvious that it is not in OG’s DNA to be a leader and Bryant is too much of an emotional roller coaster to be a leader. Priority number one should be figuring out who can fill that void.
The pieces are there, and we’ve seen how good they can play in the wins over North Carolina and Kansas. Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson can be lockdown defenders. Anunoby and Bryant are still really good. De’Ron Davis is developing into a difference-maker. James Blackmon Jr. is still a knockdown shooter, one of the few Indiana has.
The goal at this point should be fixing the team by March and in time for the tournament. In the meantime, if the Hoosiers make a run at the Big Ten title, so be it.
Again, though, this is not an indictment on Crean’s fate. He’s going nowhere, nor should he.
The crowd cheering and rooting at each misstep for the firing of Crean have a Purdue mentality. Boilermaker fans can’t trust the program itself because the program has hardly done anything of note in its history to warrant trust.
Under Crean, the Hoosier program is in great hands. They’ve produced results on the court in the form of Big Ten titles and Sweet 16 berths.
The criticisms of Crean are both long overdue and exhausting. Teams lose. Losses do not change how good or bad of a coach he is. And losses need to stop coming with a “jump-off-the-cliff” response or the return of terrible Crean takes. The Hoosier program has graduated to bigger things and so should it’s fans.
Quit calling for Crean’s head. Quit rushing to point out how bad he or this team is. Instead, throw some support behind a team and program and a coach that need and deserve it.