Welcome to offseason storylines, a look into some of the biggest storylines surrounding the 2013-2014 Indiana Hoosiers. Next up, we tackle this question: What will expectations for next season’s team look like?
When Tom Crean took the Indiana job in April of 2008, there was an understanding from the school’s administration and from the fan base that he would need time to build the program back where it previously been.
In the last two seasons, those that patiently waited with Crean and his team through the dark days were rewarded with back-to-back trips to the Sweet Sixteen, a Big Ten title, and more than a few big wins.
The expectations grew to such an extreme level last year, however, that any time Indiana lost a single game, it was viewed as a letdown and a disappointment by some. Beat Michigan at home, and well, that’s what you were expected to do. But lose to Wisconsin and Ohio State, and suddenly, the sky was falling.
Now, with a roster full of freshmen and lacking most of the guys responsible for bringing the program back, where will those expectations go? Will they remain high because the program has been restored and the standards have been reestablished? Or will they lower a bit to match the team’s relative inexperience?
I asked Indiana Athletics Director Fred Glass that exact question a few weeks ago.
“Regardless of the program, you gotta take it year by year and calibrate your expectations,” Glass told Inside the Hall. “I tried real hard not to set any arbitrary expectations that ‘this season is gonna be a bust if we don’t win X number of games, don’t qualify for postseason play.’
“I’m looking for improvement with what we’ve got, not necessarily improvement from year to year but improvement from the team that comes in throughout the season.”
Indiana had an average attendance 17,412 in 19 home games last season, setting a school record that had stood since 2001-02. Assembly Hall’s seating capacity is 17,472.
The Hoosiers’ average attendance was the best in the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally. It’s only the second time since 1985 that Indiana has ranked in the top five programs nationally in attendance.
“I continue to be overwhelmed by the spirit and generosity of so many who support our program every day,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said in a statement. “Our season ticket holders are as loyal a group as you will find.
“You really had a sense early in the season that our players had forged a strong bond with our fans, young and old alike. That was very evident starting with Hoosier Hysteria, the North Carolina game and all of the great battles we had during the Big Ten season.”
The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@Justin_Albers or @insidethehall) and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.
@jaktucke writes: Do you think CTC needs to adjust his strategy toward recruiting, esp regarding early offers? #iubb #ITHMailbag
There’s been a lot of discussion about this since Blackmon Jr.’s decommitment, but quite frankly, I don’t think he needs to adjust anything. The simple fact is if you want to be a player on some of the nation’s top recruits, you need to start early on some of them. Coaching staffs go into it with the mindset that some early offers will pan out and some won’t. That’s just how it is. Some kids will undoubtedly become stagnant in their development due to the early attention, and others will continue to work. Just because Trey Lyles and James Blackmon Jr. decommitted after making early commitments early doesn’t mean Crean and his staff did anything wrong or should change their approach going forward. It happens. If Eron Gordon commits tomorrow, I don’t think anyone’s going to complain.
The “how early is too early” discussion is one we’ll continue to have down the road because the recruiting process is going to continue to start earlier and earlier. By definition, the NCAA considers seventh and eighth graders recruitable prospects. — Justin Albers
@NoahWhyde writes: No chance at Blackmon?
I won’t say no chance, but it’s definitely a long shot. Less than 24 hours after James Blackmon Jr. announced his decision to reopen his recruitment, he had an offer from John Calipari and Kentucky. His father played there, and I think there’s a good chance he’ll end up in Lexington. Plus, it seems Indiana is moving on from Blackmon Jr., given their pitch to Brooklyn guard Isaiah Whitehead. — Justin Albers
@All_Hoosiers writes: What are #iubb’s realistic chances to land Whitehead? Any prediction on what the 2014 recruiting class will look like?
Even though they’re getting in late, the Hoosiers are a factor in Whitehead’s recruitment. He hadn’t ever heard from Indiana coach Tom Crean before getting a phone call on Friday, but the two talked for almost an hour and Whitehead has significant interest in the program. He plans to take an official visit to Bloomington next month. Whitehead is the type of kid that definitely noticed the Hoosiers put two players in the top four of June’s NBA Draft. Getting to the NBA is his No. 1 priority for selecting a college, so I think Indiana will be a major player with him.
Tom Crean sat down with Andy Katz of ESPN.com earlier this week at the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando, Florida and discussed a variety of topics including how Indiana will try to replace Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, how he dealt with losing in his first three seasons and more.
Here are some notable quotes from that conversation:
· On how hard it was to deal with losing: “Extremely. (I) changed a lot from that, I don’t think there’s any question. You realize that you better put what really matters first and that’s your faith in God, your family, the well being of your family and your coaches’ families and your players. That’s the stuff. You’ve got to keep searching for ways to find a way to win. And I think that’s the driving force. How do we find a way to win this next game? Even when you didn’t, to come back again the next day. That’s where the frustration was met with great opportunity. And we tried to make it as great an opportunity as we could.”
· On the legacies of Zeller and Oladipo at Indiana: “I think it’s just beginning. I think it’s got to be leadership now. I think when Cody and Victor come back to the gym in the summertime, they’ve got to help lead the young players. They’ve got to continue to … when they see something in the program, they’ve got to say, ‘no, this is how we do it here’ or ‘this is the way it needs to be done here.’ Those are the guys who helped bring that to that level. But I think their legacy will be that they came into Indiana, one very unheralded in Victor and one very heralded in Cody, bonded together with another group of guys and helped make the Indiana program the blueblood that it had been used to being. And I think that’s the most important thing, that they can feel tremendous strength and pride in what they did and help bring it back.”
Tom Crean addressed the media earlier this morning via teleconference to discuss Thursday’s NBA Draft. On the call, he discussed several topics, including Victor Oladipo’s work ethic, Cody Zeller’s game translating to the NBA, Christian Watford’s future and more.
COACH CREAN: Thank you everybody for joining like this right in the middle of our basketball camp. We had a great night last night, relatively short night by the time everything got finalized with Christian Watford. But, nonetheless, a great, great night for everybody in Indiana, but most importantly for Victor Oladipo and his family and Cody Zeller and his family.
I think the fact that both of them went the way they did speaks volumes about their work ethic, about their character, about the intensity and competitiveness that they have. And in my mind as a coach, the greatest thing about the two of them moving forward is the upside, the tremendous upside that both of them still have. Because Victor just turned 21 in early May, and Cody’s not 21 until October.
So there is a tremendous amount of growth in those guys that we’ve had the privilege of being a part of the last couple of years; and I think that their coaching staffs, management staffs and the fan bases in both Orlando and Charlotte are going to be really, really excited, not only about what they do on the court, but I think they’re going to be blown away by what those guys are capable of in making people feel invested and a part of the program the way they’re going to be in their communities in the states as well. So I’m excited to watch all of that play out too.
Q. Victor’s reputation as an extremely hard worker is well known including here in Florida. But can you cite some examples of just how much of a hard worker he is?
COACH CREAN: Yeah, I can. In the three years that he was here, especially during the season, there might have been two days that he took off. One of them I told him not to come in. I’m talking about not just after a game or before a game or on a day off or at the end of practice, I mean, every day he came to work.
It started when he first got to Indiana. When he and Will Sheehey who is from Florida, became two freshmen that walked in and utilized our new building and started working on their games until the last day Victor was here until he headed back to D.C. two days after graduation and all that time in between.
He is an extremely gifted athlete, tremendous charisma, and just strength of will and personality. But when he gets in the gym, it is all business, and that is exactly what propelled him to so many different things. I mean, it was just common for us to practice and if we ended practice and weren’t going into films or the weight room, he stayed in the gym. Put his cones up and started to work on different things, with a coach, without a coach, with a graduate manager, and work on his shooting. Even if we went to weights and to film, he always came back out.