Redefining expectations

After their failed venture in Puerto Rico and subsequent loss to Maryland at home, expectations for this team shifted. Where once IU fans had hopes of flirting with .500, a sobering reality hit: maybe our expectations for this team were too high, maybe this team wasn’t going to eclipse 10 wins after all.

But things changed, as they often do.

In the Hoosiers last two contests —  a win over Pittsburgh, the biggest win of Tom Crean’s tenure, and a solid showing against Kentucky, one of the best teams in the country — they’ve shot the ball better, played some great zone defense and turned the ball over at a lesser rate. They’re starting to look like they belong. And so I think expectations are back where they were to start the season: this team, with an influx of talent and new faces, has enough going for it where, at their ceiling, they might be able to hit .500. As you can see with the use of the italics here, I stress might. Because heading into Big Ten play, IU will likely be 7-5. Which means the Hoosiers are going to have to go 8-10 during Big Ten play — I’m not counting the Big Ten tourney here — to finish the season at 15-15. Is this out of the realm of possibility? No. Is it likely? Probably not. It’s a safer bet to project IU in the 10-14 win range right now.

For as many strides as IU has made in their last two outings, the likes of Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin and yes, even Northwestern all look like good teams right now, better teams than IU right now. Penn State, Michigan and Iowa are the only Big Ten squads playing a brand of ball IU shouldn’t feel too threatened by at the moment. (Good, then, that the Hoosiers start conference play against the Wolverines at home at the end of the month.)

So yes: the doom and gloom that followed those four losses in five games, the questioning of Tom Crean’s coaching, the whining about this team not being able to figure it out has ceased a bit. We’re back on level. Let’s just not get too carried away just yet.

  • brian

    you can’t teach height. Crean twittered that Pritchard looked great at our last practice but he looked like a high school center last saturday. the rebounding will be our Achilles heel for the rest of this season. I expect us to lose several games due to this one thing.

    That said, I’m really enjoying watching these kids improve. The last two games were refreshing although there are some very basic things we can improve (see: FT%).

    br

  • IUfrank

    The shot fake…. Our bigs need to learn will get them to the foul line and the other bigs in foul trouble. Of course we need to be more proficient at the FT line, but this will build confidence when they get ther more often. Bobby C used one against KY and the dude jumped right on his back. They have to learn that just because the can jump out of the gym, doesn’t mean they are smart enough to stay put. These young men are coming along, I am just puzzeled at how these fundamental things have been lost. They have the skill level it seems, but it will be whats between their ears and heart that will take them over the top. GO HOOSIERS KY goes down in 2010

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/AQZPIQBIMZFMGB6TGVN6X2VB5Y Jeremy

    if you look at how teams are ranked – iu is looking at a 12-18 season. doubling last years win total is certainly acceptable and a step in the right direction. when kentucky made their run to win the game saturday, instead of that dreaded feeling from last season as a game against a good team slipped away, i felt proud of how the team played up to that point and really got excited about how good or even great this team can be in the next two seasons. last year i hoped we would be good in a couple of seasons, this year i expect to be good or great in a couple of seasons. huge difference. keep up the great work coach crean and all the players.

  • IUfrank

    Agreed on you can’t teach height Brian. Although It is possible to be affective, if not good in and around the hoop. We have 4 guys around 6’8″ to 6’9″ this has been the case before ( Matt Nover, Ted Kitchel, Brian Evans, Tom Abernathy, Steve Eyle just name a few. These guys used what was between their ears to even the playing field. They used and somewhat mastered the fundamentals to do this. It is about beating guys to spots on the floor and anticipation not reaction. Thats what very athletic players count on. It is the ones who are blessed or capable of both that are dangerous. Love how these young Men, coaches are trying to get the program back to where it was. Even if they haven’t seen a basketball game from assembly hall before, they are finding out what Indaiana basketball is all about. GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • harvo

    Bring in Ted Kitchell for a few practices no one was better with a ball fake under the basket than him

  • garydavid711

    they can get to .500 if they learn to rebound and if they learn to shoot free throws and finish shots around the basket they can go higher than that

  • BaseballBuc

    Remember, IU will never face a more talented or bigger team than kentucky. With that being said I think Indiana can beat ANYBODY in the Big 10 at the Hall. Only way to go is up.

  • semmoran

    Agreed. Key to that statement is “at the hall”. We are going to struggle on the road (as most teams do in the Big Ten, let alone a young team). It would be fun to see a couple of upsets at home…

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    I'm not sure if .500 is realistic at this point. The Big Ten is just so tough this year. I will say this, I feel much better about this IU team after the last 2-3 games. There is definite improvement following Puerto Rico.

    I think the biggest stretch of the season will be the first 5 games if the Big Ten. vs. Mich, @OSU, vs. Illinois, @Mich and vs. Minny. To me, competing and winning against those teams are the difference between suprising people and fighting not to finish last.

    The next 2 games are @PSU and vs. Iowa. IMO opinion IU also has to sweep PSU and Iowa to have a chance at .500 in the league. IU has to enter those two games 3-2 or at worst 2-3 in the Big Ten.

  • pubesblackly

    iu sucks sweaty cock

  • Ryan_Btown

    I agree. And let me second the “BIG” part regarding Kentucky. I was watching the game with some non-IU people and we all agreed, that Kentucky team wasn't only tall (I think 6-5 or 6-6 average), but they were just thick, strong kids. It really seemed like men vs. boys out there at times. I was proud that they hung in there as long as they did. Cousins picked up VJ3 like he was picking up a happy meal.

  • JerryCT

    Defense is our biggest issue as we seem to be figuring out the other stuff. If we donot get stops we not only have less offense we cannot come back after we fall behind.

    PU 's D against Bama saved their butts after Bama exposed them as not too athletic. We just donot have any type of D that we can rely on. TP is getting so many fouls by defending Creek's man and Jones man as they go around them and head for the basket.

    Crean ought to have a rule. When your man goes around you and the helper gets a foul you should have to raise your hand as well.

  • Gary C.

    12 or more wins would show real progress! I am not sure, at this stage, where the 5 or more B10 wins will come from.
    We will be favored 2 times, Iowa.
    At this stage, 4 games might be toss ups. Mich at home, OSU (without Turner) at home, at PSU (do not play at home), NW at home. If we win 1/2 of those that = 3 wins. It is reasonable with continued improvement, to think we can get 2 upsets from the rest of the schedule. Remember, KY was a TOTAL effort mentally and physically. That only happens a few times per year. That total effort will be more productive as the year progresses, but, it does not happen every night!

  • BFowler

    I definitely feel better about this team today than after Puerto Rico. Pitt win was huge, and even though Pitt is not what it was, it is still a middle-of-the-pack Big East team, so that is a huge step. Kentucky is what it is, a bunch of one-and-done mercenaries, and that is fine.

    I like what Coach Crean has done here and I think we are a player or two away from really big things with this team. They need to learn how to defend without fouling, box out, and the value of the basketball, but other than that, there are some really good pieces here. Creek is a budding star, Watford has a very strong skill set and is a big contributor to this team, Bobby C. has shown us a tough side of his game, Hulls had a very strong game against KY, and Elston makes all kinds of hustle plays and brings energy and enthusiasm in addition to being skiled offensively. (I am a VJ III fan as well, but I wanted to focus on the freshman class.)

    WIth that being said, I think it takes a day or two to get things into perspective and really focus on the positive steps this team has taken. We are a long way from last year. However, I thought we could not hang athletically with the elite and I have not been proven wrong, but you can win with fundamentals and skill in basketball (see: Wisconsin). Coach Crean's rebuilding project can not be underestimated; this is a very big reclamation project.

    One odd side note: Does anybody else see the Rasheed Wallace bald spot on the back of Mo Creek's head, or is it just me? I thought he might have gotten something stuck back there one time, but the more I see it, the more I think he has the 'Sheed thing going on….

  • GFDave

    Interesting that you should bring up this topic because I was just looking at the schedule and counting possible wins. First let me say that projecting wins with this group is a silly exercise since I am sure there are a few good and bad surprises on the horizon.

    That said, I agree that we will win the next 3 to go 7-5 into B10 play. In the B10 I think we get two wins from Iowa and 1 each from Michigan, NU, and PSU. That gets us to 12 wins. Its very hard to project more than that, but let's say we have a couple happy surprises and get to 14 wins. That's my limit for now and I think it is realistically optimistic.

    I agree with all the posters who have referenced defense. We really don't have anything to hang our hat on in that area, except effort, which Crean will demand.

    It will be interesting to watch the learning curve of this team. So far I have been very impressed with the game-to-game improvement of the team (not counting PR where there was no real practice time between games). Of course they will show some roller coaster behaviors and maybe hit the wall a little in mid February when the season becomes a grind.

    But, if they keep improving like they have, they will be playing some really good ball at the end of the year, regardless of what the record shows.

  • Super Suhr

    CBS said Kentucky had a 6'7″ average which gives them the tallest team average in the NCAA.

  • HoosierDavey

    I thought 12 wins would be a realistic shot before the season started. Anything in that vicinity will be progress IMO.

  • cooper

    12-15 is a reasonable scenario I feel. IU will probably win a couple it shouldn't and lose a couple it shouldn't. I've decided I hate Illinois bball more than Purdue or Kentucky until Bruce “Bitter Beer Face” Weber is fired. There is nothing redeeming about the Illini, at least UK is fun to watch (I'd still never root for them).

  • HoosierCrabbe

    Just a question, but at what point will Derek Elston replace Tom Pritchard as a starter? He's more athletic, a better shooter, only slightly less physical in the paint, way more in shape and less foul prone, as well as he rebounds the ball way better!!…doesn't it seem inevitable??

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  • JerryCT

    Answer: When TP gets hurt or Elston sets the same screen at the top of the key.

    Pritchard starts alot of the offense with his wide body screen for Rivers which Elston cannot do

  • tberry

    AGREED!!!

    I'm not one of those who wish for Knight return BUT there are things Bobby did that were worth emulating.

    His teams while not the most athletic or talented were successful because of Knight system and their brains. They boxed out for rebounds, they used screens to get shots, they shot faked to get open or fouled. they did all the fundamental things that leveled the court for them.

    Today everyone and probably Crean depend too much on athleticism and pure skill than fundamentals. If you see a really great team they will have both!!!

  • aceman07

    The way I look at the teams left on the season schedule, I think it's realistic to think that the Hoosiers will finish at 13-17. That's giving them a win at home against a couple of teams we can beat but probably won't be expected to like Illinois and Ohio State. I obviously wasn't dumb enough to think that we'll beat PU or MSU at home but you never know. I can easily see losing a game or two we shouldn't lose and winning a game or two we shouldn't win so anywhere between 11-19 and 15-15 is possible. Let's hope for the latter!!!!

  • aceman07

    I agree that fundamentals and effort can make up for some lack of size. If I'm correct, since I wasn't alive but my old man talks about it all the time, UCLA won a title with a line-up that included 5 players, none of whom were over 6'7″ tall during an era where size was becoming the norm. He always talks about how well they played the game and how solid they were fundamentally!

  • IUMIKE1

    I have been thinking and some of my prior comments reflect that exact same type of thought. I know Jerry CT says it will happen when he can set the screen at the top of the key but if that is the all there is to the trade off then it seems like it would be at least worth a try if for no other reason than to see what happens. It is easier to get / teach someone to set a screen than to do the other things that Elston seems to be able to do just as good if not better than TP plus lets not forget that he is also a threat from more than 10 feet from the basket. Basically the only drawback I can think of is you don't have that spark off of the bench when Elston starts over TP. We might also see that the bench might be able to motivate TP more than he seems to be now. Cooper makes a good point when he says ” its never a good thing when your point gaurd is outrebounding your center “

  • jerryfromfranklin

    I think 12-13 wins will ultimately be the number…not what we wanted when the season began but looking at their body of work thus far, I would say thats where they will end up….Now, if they find some inside presence maybe they find a way to win 14-15 games but thats being really optimistic for this team..

  • tkirby

    I'd take 12 wins this year after six last year. Then 18 in 2010-2011 year. Improve by six the first three years and all the sudden you're right back in the mix of things.

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