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Indiana coaching search: Are the Hoosiers ready to roll the dice on Will Wade?

Shaka Smart's replacement at VCU could be a star in the making, but is Indiana willing to take the risk?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Name: Will Wade

Age: 34

Alma Mater: Clemson

Current Job (Record): VCU (49-18)

Former Job(s) (Record): Chattanooga (40-25)

All-Time NCAA Tournament Record: 1-2


The 2014 Southern Conference Coach of the Year returned to Virginia Commonwealth University, where he had been an assistant under Shaka Smart, to replace the now-Texas head coach as the head man of the Rams. It was a smart hire for a program that had been brought to national prominence by Shaka's HAVOC defense and bringing Wade back into the fold was a recognition that the program's success was inextricably tied to that identity. VCU was HAVOC and HAVOC was VCU.

In nearly two seasons at VCU, Wade has guided the Rams to the NCAA Tournament once, "upsetting" Oregon State and taking Final Four-bound Oklahoma to the brink, and is on track to return to the Big Dance as the Rams currently sit at 24-7 (14-4 in the A10).


Defense. Defense. Defense. Whether its called HAVOC or something else or nothing at all, Wade has emphasized defense throughout his young career and it shows. In all of his seasons (including at Chattanooga) his teams have consistently locked down the perimeter at an elite rate (d3PA% ranks: 29, 24, 13, 11) and excel at disrupting offensive flow (dA% ranks: 34, 184, 10, 59). Since returning to VCU, they've owned top-25 dTO%  and top-35 overall defensive efficiency rankings. After several years of defensive, uh, inefficiency, it would become commonplace to see the Hoosiers at the top of the charts for defense in most categories.


Unfortunately, there are question marks everywhere else. Wade's teams have struggled to score, never breaking into the top-50 for offensive efficiency and excel at almost no individual categories. They rarely shoot from the perimeter (302nd 3PA this year, 226th last year) and for good reason, they're not great at it (33.1%, 35.2%). None of the Four Factors on offense rank any better than 118th this year for the Rams, but it's hard to say how much of that is on Wade and how much of it is on the players.

Which leads us to the biggest reason it won't work: all those question marks.

Can he score enough points in the Big Ten to compete? Can he recruit at a Big Ten level? How much of VCU's current defensive prowess is still owed to Shaka Smart? Is Will Wade a caretaker or a star in the making? VCU's peripherals have slightly declined in each year under Wade, but is it a trend or noise?

When a guy only has four years of head coaching experience, and just two outside a single-bid low-major conference, there are always going to be tons of questions. Eventually, some school is going to take a chance on Wade, but is Indiana prepared to take that risk now? If the answer to all those above questions is "no", the program will have wasted 4-5 more years and be even further removed from the storied basketball tradition it's still attempting to trade on in 2017.

But, on the other hand, they could end up having the hottest commodity in college basketball, who would still be under 40, ready to entrench himself in Bloomington for a long time.