Measuring Indiana’s NCAA tournament, Big Ten success since the 2011-2012 season

  • 03/02/2017 12:32 pm in

There are numerous ways to measure success in college basketball. And there’s no perfect equation to produce a list of the nation’s best programs.

But few would argue that NCAA tournament and conference success, in that order, are the two most important numbers to consider when evaluating a program.

Recruiting rankings tell a story of how well a program is acquiring talent, but those numbers go out the window when a player comes into college. For the second straight season, the best freshman in college basketball won’t play in the NCAA tournament. Five-star talent guarantees nothing.

Sending players to the NBA (or any professional league) is also a notable metric, but no fan of a college program values getting a player drafted more than winning.

Academic success and staying clear of major NCAA infractions is another consideration, but as we’ve seen at North Carolina and Louisville, nefarious activity doesn’t stop some rabid fanbases from supporting a winner. And with the NCAA unlikely to levy anything close to a substantial punishment for either program, the fact that major college athletics is a wins and losses business becomes even more clear. Record athletic department budgets and money pouring in from TV and apparel contracts has produced an arms race that isn’t slowing down.

At Indiana, Tom Crean has built a winning program that had a depleted roster and NCAA sanctions when he arrived in April of 2008. He’s won two outright Big Ten regular season championships, reached the Sweet Sixteen three times since 2012 and has recruited many players who represent the university well. Indiana is in a far better place now than it was when Crean came to Bloomington.

So why, as year nine of his tenure nears a conclusion, is there impatience and growing apathy with the direction of the program?

Indiana is winning, but it isn’t winning big or consistently enough to satisfy a fanbase that craves and expects success.

Since the 2011-2012 season, which is generally the first year evaluated when examining Crean’s tenure in Bloomington, four Big Ten programs have gone to the Elite Eight – Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Those same four have also advanced to a Final Four. And two – Michigan in 2013 and Wisconsin in 2015 – have advanced to the national championship game.

From an NCAA tournament standpoint, Indiana is the Big Ten’s fifth most successful program over the last five seasons:

The story doesn’t change if you shift to an examination of the Big Ten tournament, which Indiana has struggled in since its inception in 1998.

The Hoosiers have only advanced to the tournament final once in 2001. They’re 11-19 all-time in the event.

When compared to the top four programs in the conference, Indiana also falls short in the Big Ten tournament. Over the last five conference tournaments, Indiana is 3-5. The Hoosiers have not beaten a higher-seeded team in any of their three wins. Three of the losses came to lower seeded teams.

Indiana’s two outright Big Ten championships over the last six seasons are a significant accomplishment. But even with the two titles, the Hoosiers fall short of the conference’s elite in terms of regular season conference wins.

Indiana won 14 Big Ten games in 2012-2013 and 15 games in 2015-2016, but has only one other double-digit win season in conference play in the last six seasons.

Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State have combined for just three single-digit Big Ten win seasons over the last six. (It might only be two if Michigan wins at Nebraska on Sunday.) Indiana has three on its own in the last six seasons. Even Purdue, which has fewer Big Ten wins than Indiana over the last six years, has only two seasons in the last six where it failed to win 10 conference games.

Athletic Director Fred Glass has spoken candidly in the past about his expectations for the basketball program. Glass, who was a student in Bloomington during Bob Knight’s tenure, has said he wants his signature athletic program to be elite and among the nation’s best.

But for Indiana to be among the nation’s elite, the Hoosiers must first return to the top tier of the Big Ten. And by the two most significant measuring sticks – postseason success and winning inside the league – Indiana simply isn’t there right now.

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  • IdahoHoosier

    I agree the inconsistency is troubling, because the lows are SO low. But I would say if you are hoping “down seasons” are 20+ wins and going to the tourney, that isn’t much of a down season at all. Even UK and UNC miss a tourney once in awhile. Here is a question: If the choice was the current state of inconsistency with high highs and low lows, or more consistent, middle of the pack B1G finishes (so no deep valleys and less high peaks), which would you prefer?

  • IU_theoracle

    You’re living in Neverland if you really believe injuries are the only reason things went badly this season. Maybe you forgot the losses to FT Wayne, Nebraska, Louisville, Wisconsin and Maryland which were all before the injuries.

    You keep backing Crean and we will see how that works out for you. I already know the answer which is major inconsistency with an upside of a Sweet 16 appearance every 3 seasons and in between 1-2 missed NCAA tournaments.

    Also, if we played Kansas again we would have lost. Not to take anything away from that win, but we played them the 1st game of the season which made a big difference. We played UNC at home and it was a revenge game from them beating us in the NCAA tournament last season. A game in which I traveled to Philadephia to watch in person.

    There isn’t a sane Indiana fan who is backing Crean as the Indiana head coach at this point.

  • buzz

    As the quality of the players who visit and commit to Indiana declines in comparison with prior years, it’s clear that fewer of the best are interested in a program led by Coach Crean. If you can posit another reason why recruiting is clearly in decline, please do so.

  • IU_theoracle

    It’s probably not fair to compare this but I’m basing off of Indiana under Bob Knight in the 90s. The teams were honestly not very good after 1994 to 1999 but Knight was able to take teams with limited talent to the NCAA tournament consistently. The bad seasons were normally 19-21 wins (keeping in mind less games played then) with a 1st or 2nd round loss in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky has only missed the NCAA tournament once under Cal and only twice since they were on NCAA sanctions from the 1989 Eddie Sutton Scandal. UNC has only missed the NCAA tournament 3 times since 1975. I know these two programs are elite but they are a great comparison as Indiana is or at least should be considered an elite program.

    To answer your question if Indiana were able to make final fours and throw in a National Championship in a five year span then I would totally be fine with having a missed tournament in that five year stretch because if that were the case the 2012-2016 seasons instead of going Sweet 16, Sweet 16, missed NCAA, 1st Round Loss, Sweet 16, then it would have been more like Final Four, National Champion, Missed NCAA Tournament, 1st round loss, Final Four. If that makes sense.

    I obviously want National Championships so if the High Highs are 1 Title every 10 years, 2-3 Final Fours in that 10 years, 3-5 Big Ten Championships, 3 early Round Losses and 2-3 Missed NCAA Tournaments then I would be willing to accept that and honestly be pretty happy. But the Highs are not High enough for the level on inconsistency right now. If the cap is the Big Ten Championship and a Sweet 16, then I’d really like the low to be NCAA Tournament appearances as we had in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    So asking the same question, which would you prefer?

  • John D Murphy

    D-Wade is still one helluva player

  • Koko

    It is clear that fewer of the best are not interested in our program. I can only assume, as you, that that is because of the coach. Another poster named Kyle Guy not coming to IU because of Crean…too bad I think his bun would have gone over big time. That same poster mentioned HS coaches and AAU coaches do not like Crean….another article mentioned Crean’s haughty attitude towards Indiana
    HS and Summer league coaches. It is no doubt that Crean is on shaky ground and I too feel he should step down. I simply asked if you could give me some names….nothing more. If I seemed combative to you I apologize as that was not intended….and no I cannot posit another reason recruiting is in decline except for the fact that the times they are a changin…kids have many more options than twenty years ago.

  • John D Murphy

    With the amount of resources IU puts toward its bball program I would rate 5th in the conference as bordering on poor. The last report I saw (several years ago) had IU spending THE most money in the NCAA on recruiting. Multiple B1G schools operate many more D1 programs (hockey, gymnastics, mens VB) than IU, draining funding from other sports. We choose not to so we can devote those resources to bball. 5th in the conference does not support the results.

  • John D Murphy

    But you throw out the bad years without throwing out the good years. Don’t you think it is possible that the good years were good because other teams had “extraneous circumstances”? That is why measuring longitudinally fixes that, otherwise you are cherry picking data.

  • John D Murphy

    Please source “IU athletics budget near the bottom”. Complete BS. In fact EVERY B1G athletic revenue is in the top 35 nationally thanks to BTN. IU is very near the top in the overall athletics budget and the bball recruiting budget (as of the last report I’ve seen) spent the most money in the NCAA.

  • John D Murphy

    We all are Tom. But we need you here.

  • John D Murphy

    Is UNC better with a healthy Theo Pinson?

  • John D Murphy

    There is a lot more to it. It’s called coaching.

  • John D Murphy

    You know WHO wins? Schools that don’t accept less.

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    IU has accepted it for 30yrs..

  • Alan Reimers

    I see multiple issues. First, NO ONE on this year’s team stepped up to be the leader on the floor in the absence of last year’s great leader, Yogi Farrell. Second, the injury to Colin Hartman hurt this team tremendously. He was a great role player who played with a lot of heart. Every team needs that type of player. I haven’t seen anyone fill his void this year. Third, it has to be awfully difficult to establish any consistency in a program at the level that Hoosier Nation demands where players are leaving for the NBA after one or two seasons. TC is a great recruiter, but having top recruits isn’t everything. I’d rather have players who play smart. Anyone tired of watching all of the turnovers by these “top recruits”? Bottom line in my opinion, TC has done an outstanding job rebuilding this program. Just one year ago, IU won the BigTen championship when it wasn’t projected to. Some seasons go better than others. Unfortunately, this season isn’t one of the good ones.

  • N71

    I’ve heard this through high school and AAU coaches, parents, players, refs, school administrators, teachers, etc. here in central Indiana. I’ve heard it over 30 times but only once did someone layer in more color so I could understand the why behind it. A sample size of 1 doesn’t count so I’d be curious to hear/learn the why our local guys don’t want to play for Crean.

  • vicbert caladipo

    We all have opinions on whether we think Crean has been successful enough to keep his job. The past is the past. The concern is the future and what I see doesn’t give me much hope. What I see is.
    1. The worst recruiting he’s ever had coming in except 2010. Even 2008 and 09 were better with 2 top 100(one top 50) both years.
    2. A possible mass exodus that could include half the current roster
    3. Freshmen that haven’t progressed nearly as well as other teams like MS, Minn, Mary, etc.
    4. A coach that is either the worst at working the refs or the worst at teaching his players what is a foul and what isn’t or maybe both.
    5. In other down years we had good recruiting classes, but next year we don’t even have that to fall back on and the leadership issues that have been well documented by fans, media, and the coach aren’t getting any better in the future. If they stay, we will have the same upperclassmen as this year and they have already proven to not be leaders.

    People love to talk about Creans first 3 years and how they don’t count, but if I were a betting man, I’d say next years team will come close to rivaling the roster changes he had when he took over for Sampson and you can’t blame Sampson for that

  • vicbert caladipo

    Tell that to Tom Izzo who has had more injuries. Difference is he recruited the top freshmen class in the conference and landed another top 20 recruit for next year, plus another small detail………Izzo can coach.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I liked what you described as NC appearance (hopefully win) once every 10 years, 2 FFs, 3-5 B1G champs, would be nice to throw in a few conference tourney titles just for fun, and a 2-3 missed tourneys. I’d be thrilled with that, having higher highs with some lows. As a fan I could definitely stomach some lows if I knew they were offset by extreme highs. The only thing I wouldn’t really like was if that meant IU turned into UK and totally relied on 1 and dones. Personally, that would be my nightmare scenario.

  • Koko

    me too

  • pcantidote

    How do you be B1G great? What are your suggestions? You just constantly come here and whine and offer nothing.

  • John D Murphy

    Actually they haven’t. BK’s boorish behavior was tolerated when he was winning national championships. And wasn’t when he became less of a success. Mike Davis was fired for performance as good as TC.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Good point, it is important to factor in resources. So in business you’d look at that and think, either we are overspending for value returned, or time to look at personnel (ie. mismanagement by coach, AD, etc.). I do think it is important to look at that number, “5th in the conference” and remember that is an average. So IU was #1 in the conference for at least a couple of those years, but also did very poorly other years. So the question becomes do we/IU believe Crean’s “actual” ability is better represented by the highs, or the lows? The answer to that question to me shapes the decision on where to go from here and what adjustments IU bball as a whole need to make.

  • AndyCapp

    I DEF agree with most of what you wrote excepting missing NCAA tourney every 2-3 years out of 10. Missing 1-2 years out of 10, with 2 being the absolute max in that span, would be tolerable IF we did as well as in the rest of your scenario. And to answer your previous question to Oracle, I would MUCH rather prefer the higher highs and less frequent lows over finishing middle of the pack year in, year out.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Yeah all hypothetical stuff here. I just wondered if CTC’s IU teams had higher peaks, if the low lows would be more acceptable. I think most fans would allow some lows if we knew the highs were Final Fours, but maybe not.

  • David Macer

    That’s only a part of it. That old saying, ” you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    I’m not throwing out the bad years. I’m contextualizing my response to individual seasons. This year, we had a lot of unforeseen injuries. It isn’t excusing a bad performance by suggesting that something factual took place and it had a negative effect on the season.

    So far as winning and extraneous circumstances….to quote Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game.” If you win, it doesn’t really matter how you accomplished it. I don’t begrudge a team for winning ugly, or beating a shorthanded team. They won. Good for them. All I am suggesting is that we likely would have a better record without the injuries this year. I don’t see how that is a contentious point.

  • IUMIKE1

    Really good article and equally good point, and not just because I agree wholeheartedly with it.

  • IUMIKE1

    Trust me,I know what you’re saying, lol, but these aren’t your normal 16 to 18 year olds either. I have talked with several of them on the AAU circuit, numerous times, and I feel very safe in saying that it is only one of many things that is factored in by virtually every big time recruit, especially if they are splitting hairs as to what their final destination is going to be. If factoring in that hasn’t dawned on them, I’m pretty sure someone in their inner circle will bring it to their attention.

  • IU_theoracle

    No, I would hate the one and done’s as well. Getting a player on occassion like an Eric Gordon or Noah Vonleh is fine, but I would prefer to have players who will at least play two season if not the three to four year players. I meant more of the team success of UK and I hate to use UK as a comparison due to my strong dislike for them. But the point was as you said being able to stomach the lows if the team has extreme highs and both you and I could do so if the highs are a National Championship and regular Final Four runs. I also would love to win the Big 10 tournament because I am sick of watching the weekend of the Big 10 tournament and Indiana not being involved.

  • IU_theoracle

    Great thought, my guess is had IU won the National Championship in 2013 the argument to keep Crean would be much stronger right now. Because the argument to keep Crean is he’s won two Big Ten Championship in six seasons. Where according to our hypothetical scenarios of what is acceptable, he would be expected to win 3-5 Big Ten Championships every 10 seasons along with 2-3 Final Four appearances and 1 National Championship. So to achieve this feat the next four seasons would be pretty special. lol

    If you compare Indiana to the other “Elite” programs, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, UNC and Duke are each doing these things in that time 10 year span only really not missing the NCAA tournament more than once every 10 years if at all. UCLA would be slightly behind those school as they made 2 Final Four’s in the last 10 seasons but were in 2007 and 2008 and since have been closer to where IU is at with the Sweet 16 being the cap.

  • IU_theoracle

    Absolutely and Izzo has MSU in the NCAA tournament again this season in what may be his worst team at least record wise in 20 seasons.

  • IUMIKE1

    That last sentence…that last sentence…

  • If I were CTC, I’d likely be looking to make my exit this year myself. As you point out, next season could be worse than this season, particularly if the players we expect to leave do so. His stock could potentially be worth considerably less this time next year.

    I wouldn’t have thought it coming into this season, but I think there’s a really good chance that CTC and the administration are in talks right now about how to exit gracefully.

  • IUMIKE1

    Count me as, staunchly, one of those.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Excellent information to have, thank you for sharing! Glad to hear those little things are being factored in.

  • Fifer39

    You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.

  • Fifer39

    Man, I wonder if a fit Collin would have seen him retain that approach? No doubt that ship truly sailed after OG went down.

  • buzz

    Koko – Chill. I am not sure what you are getting at or think you are proving by insisting that we pointing out that we can’t ‘prove’ that negative. The caliber of players choosing to play basketball at IU is steadily declining, year over year. Q.E.D., the better players are choosing NOT to play at IU at an increasing rate. It’s a fact.

  • AndyCapp

    Wilkes, being from Indiana, is the latest example I can name off the top of my head. Probably quite a few actually from our basketball-rich state, but would have to do some research. Again, this is just anecdotal since I am not included in the recruiting trips 😉

  • Koko

    Well I’m confused here…did you read my reply to you above? I just asked a question for heavens sake….how you construed from that that I was insisting I’ll never know.

  • Piker

    You know you repeating yourself. I love it when posters like you bring out the troll comment. That is all you have when I do not agree with your injuries statement. Let me repeat what I said and this is my opinion. Colin and OG start along with JBJ RJ and TB. First three off the bench DD, JN and JM. I think that team would be NCAA bound.

  • John D Murphy

    It isn’t a 1/1 ratio, correct. But teams that have more stars (5 star vs 2 star recruit) tend to do better than those that don’t. There are exceptions, someone on this thread pointed out Lorenzo Romar. If, over time, you recruit more McAA or stars and the results don’t match other teams with similar recruiting profiles, then it is more likely that the program/coach are underperforming than somehow all of those recruits were overranked.

  • viaswiss

    I posted a reply about the Guy part with a link, but the post was not approved for some reason. The other stats are real, you can look them up to confirm.

  • IUMIKE1

    As we have seen it takes circumstances beyond his control to force TC away from a 3 true guard set up. Sadly, I think it would have taken a losing streak, multiple injuries to guards, or both, for him to have switched. Last year he was pretty much forced to play with the 2 true guard line up. I can’t help but wonder if that kind of mind set isn’t being factored in heavily by CH as to if he wants to come back for one more year and by OG and TB as to if they want to enter the draft or stay another year. JBJ, IMHO, is gone and it wouldn’t matter what the mind set of his head coach is. I used to say that the only thing that would stop him from leaving is some kind of major injury, but I believe that even that may not bring him back another year at this point. I think there is a very good possibility that he would just not return and rehab it on his own.

  • Outoftheloop

    Excellent facts and analysis! Goodbye Tom!

  • Outoftheloop

    Indiana really makes the kids work on academics. So the 1 or 2 and “dones”, without a really strong Momma pushing for the degree(s), don’t want IU. The 4 year 3 stars, who have a high motor love IU. But, typically, they don’t reach the Elite 8!

  • Koko

    LOL…wouldn’t that be fun being a fly on the wall of the recruiting trips. Yes Wilkes certainly would be a great example.

  • Koko

    Thanks for the info viaswiss….keep up the good work.