BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHR) - As the die was being cast, as IU was turning the basketball over in all sorts of interesting new ways and Michigan was slicing and dicing the Hoosiers’ rumor of a defense, the tweetstorm was starting:
You think this might be one of Tom (Crean’s) last games?
Hopefully, the ship takes the captain with it. New coach needed.
Tom Crean has lost this team & the team is losing the fan base. They play with no heart.
And, well, you get the idea.
A year ago, Crean was the toast of Bloomington, having won the outright Big Ten regular-season title for the second time in four years.
Now, he’s garbage. The worst coach ever. It’s a miracle IU knows how to line up properly for the national anthem.
“It falls on me,’’ Crean said after the Hoosiers’ 75-63 loss to Michigan, their third straight loss, their fifth in six games, and one that will send them skidding out of NCAA Tournament contention – at least for now and perhaps for good this season. “One thing I’ve learned in nine years, it all falls on me.’’
That’s the beauty of coaching IU basketball. That’s also the curse of coaching IU basketball. When you’re winning, and there’s been plenty of it since those early, awful years after the dumpster fire left in Kelvin Sampson’s wake, you own the city, and even find grudging favor with the hard-core Bob Knight disciples. And when you’re struggling – even if a lot of the struggles are related to season-ending injuries to Collin Hartman and OG Anunoby – there’s no room for sanity or nuance. You are, point-blank, the worst coach in the history of coaches and absolutely, positively must be replaced at season’s end.
It’s absurd. Of course, it’s absurd.
Like this tweet that just popped into my notifications:
When does IU call (Virginia’s Tony) Bennett?
Listen up, humans: Crean isn’t going anywhere. Crean shouldn’t be going anywhere. Have we all lost our collective minds, or are our memories going…or both? The Hoosiers have won the Big Ten regular-season outright in two of the last four seasons. Two. Of. Four. Last time I checked, that was an incredibly difficult thing to do, even if you’re Tom Izzo.
Is the ship sinking on this particular group? Yeah, it is. You can further make the case the ship already has sunk, especially after Saturday’s abysmal performance, one that featured 15 turnovers (10 in the first half), 20 Michigan points off those turnovers and 4-of-19 shooting from three. IU is now 15-11 and 5-8 in the Big Ten with four of five remaining conference games on the road. The only Hoosier to cover himself in any kind of glory was freshman big man De’Ron Davis, who continued to give this program ample hope for the future after scoring 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
But the rest of the Hoosiers…
James Blackmon, Jr. has been a cipher since his recent return from an injury, scoring just six points on 2-of-7 shooting. An NBA hopeful? Really?
Robert Johnson scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting and had three turnovers. Although, in his defense, he’s been one of the Hoosiers’ brighter spots in recent weeks.
When I asked Crean why his team hasn’t been able to pull itself back together since the Anunoby injury, during which the Hoosiers have gone 2-5 and have fallen out of favor with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, he answered quickly:
“Immaturity in the back court,’’ he said. “We don’t play both ends of the floor with the same purpose that we have to play when our shots aren’t going. And we’ve had injuries in there, too, but that’s got to change.’’
It feels like those Hoosiers’ victories over Kansas and North Carolina happened way back in the mid-1960’s. Remember way back when? Remember when there was so much promise and the chatter began about IU’s potential to become a Final Four team? A lot of the sharp decline falls on injuries, to be sure, but not all of it. The Hoosiers were 13-6 when Anunoby was injured. And there already were signs of inconsistency and fragility with this group. The loss at Fort Wayne. The home loss to Nebraska.
Sunday, though, was the nadir, a loss to a Michigan team that had lost 17 of its last 18 games at Assembly Hall and had not won a true road game all season. Not one. Until now.
The boos were clearly audible, although you didn’t hear anything coming from fans in the rafters because, um, there weren’t many fans in the rafters. Here was IU, playing a massively important Big Ten game at home, and scores of folks stayed home. The fan base has begun to quit on this edition of IU’s basketball team, and you’re starting to wonder if they haven’t quit on themselves.
“It’s just remedial nonsense,’’ Crean said. “And I’m just trying to bite my tongue here…’’
Crean even mentioned the sideline signs that provided his critics with ample ammunition. At one point, assistant Rob Judson held a sign declaring “High Hands.’’ Seconds later, Derrick Walton, Jr. broke down the defense, got into the lane and completed a three-point play.
“I know a lot of you have fun with those signs, and that’s fine,’’ he said. “I can wear a lot.’’
What kind of season has this become for Crean and for his team? Late in the first half, Michigan’s Moritz Wagner knocked down a 3-pointer, fell backward a step or two, turned to run back upcourt and plowed into Crean, sending him to the floor.
“I took the Wagner hit,’’ Crean said. “I hope I get some credit for that. Didn’t even bat an eye.’’
You’ll forgive the IU fan base an excuse for failing to see the humor in much of anything these days.
BRING STEVE ALFORD HOME!
Crean is not the answer…
Well, at least the latter may be true. Or so you would think, wouldn’t you?