Indiana’s dream season ended far too early

  • 03/29/2013 1:05 pm in

IUSyrITH0022

WASHINGTON — Jordan Hulls sat at his locker room in the Verizon Center, tears welling to his eyes when asked questions about the season and about his special senior class.

For four years, Hulls had dreamed of the opportunity he and his teammates had in front of them. They were a No. 1 seed, a favorite to reach the Final Four in Atlanta. All this after beginning from the very bottom with the NCAA Tournament a mere pipe dream.

This wasn’t supposed to end so soon. This was Indiana’s Dream Team, one constructed with so much talent and chemistry, it may never be replicated by Tom Crean and his staff. You can recruit all the top 50 players you want, but you can’t make them like each other and play together the way these guys did. There will never be an Indiana team quite like this again.

Crean and his staff know that, which is what made this one hurt more than most. The Indiana coaching staff remained in the Verizon Center locker room until after 2 a.m., and the team bus didn’t pull out of the arena until 2:21 a.m.

“There are no words to describe how I feel,” junior guard Victor Oladipo said after Indiana’s 61-50 loss to Syracuse in the Sweet 16. “I love playing with these guys. I’ll never forget this team for as long as I live.”

He should remember the good moments from this season. This team has earned that. Wins at Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. A Big Ten outright championship. Two All-Americans. A No. 1 seed. A second straight trip to the Sweet 16.

But, fair or not, the loss to Syracuse will probably always stick to the memories of the Indiana players the most. It was an opportunity missed, it turned an otherwise terrific season into a giant disappointment. The Hoosiers went to the Sweet 16 last year. This year, they needed to go further. They should have gone further.

“It’s over,” Hulls said, his voice cracking. “It’s just tough. We prepared so hard, we just didn’t go out there and execute like we needed to. It’s a terrible way to go out.”

All week long, we talked and heard about the challenge of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. The Hoosiers seemed confident on Wednesday, acting like they were prepared for the unique defense they would see.

But they were not. Twelve turnovers in the first half told you that. As hard as they may have prepared for Jim Boeheim’s team, they didn’t know and never did figure out how to attack and score against the zone.

“They’re length is not really something you can practice against,” Hulls said. “We turned the ball over, didn’t hit shots. We were overthinking, didn’t quite know what we wanted to do at certain times.”

The Hoosiers made a run in the second half — they got it to within six points at one point — but they couldn’t sustain it for a fairly simple reason: They didn’t make shots. To beat the Syracuse zone, you have to make some perimeter shots to loosen it up. Indiana was 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.

“We were a little anxious, a little overwhelmed,” Oladipo said. “We all just needed to take deep breathes and slow down, and after we did that, we started coming back. But we dug ourselves too deep a hole.”

There’s plenty of blame to spread around. Crean deserves some because he never found a way to beat the Orange’s defense. Still hasn’t in three career games against Boeheim. Hulls and Ferrell deserve some for their offensive ineptitude. Neither scored a single point.

“I’m sure the strength and the size of the Syracuse guards had something to do with it,” Crean said. “It’s a matter of where you enter the ball from, and we got tentative shooting the ball, which we didn’t need to do. Our whole thing was to get our guards off the point so we could play more off the wing and enter the ball more from the wing and that was easier said than done.”

Zeller deserves some blame, too, for not protecting the rim as well as he should have and for continuing to go up too soft to the rim at times. He’ll be an NBA player someday, but he needs some serious work in the offseason.

But Syracuse deserves a helping of credit, too. The Orange entered the game as one of the hottest team in the country, a team too hot for Indiana to contend with.

“They’re not where they’re at for no reason,” Crean said.

This group deserved to have a fairytale ending. It felt like they were destined to get one for much of the season. But that’s it, it’s over, and the team will never look the same. Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston are gone. Maybe Oladipo and Zeller and Maurice Creek, too.

When the Hoosiers return for next season, they’ll be equipped with a brand new chip, this one larger than before. They’ll once again be the underdog, no one will believe they can win it all.

But, hey, maybe that’s not so bad. After all, that’s when Crean and the Hoosiers are at their best.

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  • IU80

    They were too tall. Except for 6’6 and 6’4 guards (taller than ours!) and a 6’10” center, they are all 6’8 or 6’9″. There isn’t much diversity of body structure. All recruited for the best zone in the country. We are shorter, and our bigs play “short.” I am sure Crean gets it. This new class will help.

  • And_One

    “All I will have is the internet, where reflection and restraint come to die. So sad.”
    Well put, Jan, and such a very German sentiment… I, too, am impatient with bandwagon fans, and cherish forums such as this where devoted fans and students of the game can express themselves.
    I must disagree with you about Hoosier nation being no different from any other fan base. Sure, the knuckleheaded are represented, as they are in other fan bases, but there is a passion and a dignity among the true fans that sets us apart. As a Hoosier ex-pat, I often have to justify my (passion, preoccupation, obsession, mania, whatever one calls it) to the non-Hoosier natives by stressing that it’s not sports, it’s basketball. To a Hoosier, basketball is like a word that has no exact translation in another language.
    Anyway. Travel safely, and keep the faith, brother.

  • Eastwood88_2

    Wow, ole man you clearly went off the deep end. I u argue about CTC coaching ability, you will lose. Top Naismith andidate that wasn’t even recruited. So who gets credit for him? Sheehey went above and beyoind. I believed hulls and watford ended up much better at defense and playing as a team because of him. SYRACUSE was a terrible matchup for up. Being an iu fan u yoy had to have known this. Selection show Sunday i asked for one thing…no Syracuse at the 4. Really wanted kansas st. The ncaa tourney is a crap shoot. Draw means everything. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. The players coming in are better than hulls and wat. Crean had to take what he could. Being u are wise. What did you say about coach Knight when he stopped getting recruits and lost every year in the first round? Greatest coach ever but even had bad days. As for zeller, your point is 100% correct that his draft status will likely go down by staying. But the fact he is not ready and needs two more on campus semesters, i believe his family will make him stay. He is not needed to save his family. Find some positive thoughts inside u ole man. Crean is here to stay and it is going to drive u nuts.

  • Who who whoosiers?

    You have just proven that you know nothing about sports. I’ll break this down slow so you can understand.
    1) Vegas is a city full of casinos. They set the odds on betting and they almost never lose. Favorites are favored for a reason, they make money.
    2) I do understand that a favorite may only have a 10% chance, but that’s really high in a field of 68. Yet, looking at a teams road to the championship, a number 1 seed has AT LEAST a 50% chance to win. There is a reason for that. They are favored to win. That is the expectation from everyone (NCAA committee, fans, odds makers).
    3) Here’s the difficult part. Philosophically you are sad. Losing is “the biggest part of life”? That’s not being a realist, that’s just being pathetic. Statistically that may be true for most people, so if that is the case, why watch or root for your team? They’re just going to lose anyway. You are who people are talking about when they call someone “Debbie downer”.
    4) Coach Crean. I don’t hate him. He is just plain. He might be “good”, but even IU fans have said that IU will more than likely not win a championship with him coaching the team. I’m not the only one. With the talent on this team, compared to the majority of the nation, IU should have AT LEAST made the Final Four. For a “Blue Blood” like IU the Sweet Sixteen should not be enough.

  • Who who whoosiers?

    You have just proven that you know nothing about sports. I’ll break this down slow so you can understand.
    1) Vegas is a city full of casinos. They set the odds on betting and they almost never lose. Favorites are favored for a reason, they make money.
    2) I do understand that a favorite may only have a 10% chance, but that’s really high in a field of 68. Yet, looking at a teams road to the championship, a number 1 seed has AT LEAST a 50% chance to win. There is a reason for that. They are favored to win. That is the expectation from everyone (NCAA committee, fans, odds makers).
    3) Here’s the difficult part. Philosophically you are sad. Losing is “the biggest part of life”? That’s not being a realist, that’s just being pathetic. Statistically that may be true for most people, so if that is the case, why watch or root for your team? They’re just going to lose anyway. You are who people are talking about when they call someone “Debbie downer”.
    4) Coach Crean. I don’t hate him. He is just plain. He might be “good”, but even IU fans have said that IU will more than likely not win a championship with him coaching the team. I’m not the only one. With the talent on this team, compared to the majority of the nation, IU should have AT LEAST made the Final Four. For a “Blue Blood” like IU the Sweet Sixteen should not be enough.

  • hoosier1158

    I know Derick Elston was injured to start off the season, but coach should have played him when he became available. 6′ 9″ 240 lbs, he would have been very beneficial as an inside threat. He can also shoot from outside. Tournament time rolls around, go with your seniors…

  • Mooks

    Thank You for a wonderful season. I am proud to say that IU basketball is entering a second golden age regardless of the outcome of the NCAA tournament. Keep on fighting boys. Kentucky, Wat-Block, MSU twice, Michigan twice, win @OSU, The Sheehey Shot over VCU, those are the types of memories that will never be forgotten. Jordy’s behind the ear shot, Christians versatility, and Derek’s clutch rebouding will all be missed, I wish the best of luck of you.

    -Mooks

  • Georgetown Hoosier

    I’m so sorry this post got deleted. I came back on here after work just so I could say that of all the stupid posts I have read on here this year this was the stupidest. No others were even close. Congratulations! Sorry no one else on here gets to read it now.

  • Laker87

    I knew Indiana couldn’t win the NCAA Championship when Crean decided to use Hulls and Ferrell together. Hulls was to little to play defense along side Ferrell. He should have his head examined! Sheehey should have started with Olidipo at guard like the end of last year. That would have caused mismatches for the other team! We could have guarded better!!!!! The only reason we one the big ten was because MSU and Michigan missed their free throws.

  • Andy

    Crean is the problem. No one wants to admit it or say it. He’s done an incredible job recruiting, rebuilding but when it comes to coaching in the game he gets worked. I’m not saying he’s bad, I’m saying he’s average. How does he not think Boehiem is going to see our tiny guards and take it to them. That’s what they did the first five minutes and all game and he sits there with Abel, Hollowell and Sheehey on the bench. Hulls and Yogi should have been benched. His constant subbing breaks up flow and does not give these guys any time to learn how to break the zone down. At one point we had Oladipo on the floor with four other players who had zero points. Lastly he over coaches and we become mechanical and slow and it killed this team. We should have played zone againt them, they didn’t want to go to glass because they didn’t want us to run, so rebounding would have been fine. They stink from the outside and we sit there and try to play man to man against their size. He’s too busy over thinking, pacing up and down and over coaching then studying the game.

  • Ole Man

    I remember Bob Knight coaching that our team will worry about what our team does and our style. We’ll let the other team worry about how to play us.

    And that my friends is why Coach Crean failed this season. He got into what other people were saying (we must go through Cody) and into worrying about other teams styles.

  • Ole Man

    Yes, he will. Pro staffs generally have asst. coaches tasked to work with big men, guards, etc. It’s an entirely different approach.
    Plus, Cody does not have that far to go to be excellent at the pro game.

  • Ole Man

    I have no clue what you’re attempting to say.

  • Ole Man

    I have no clue what you’re attempting to say.

  • Ole Man

    GFYS?
    Really?
    One, satire is obviously above your head.
    Two, really?

  • Ole Man

    I guess satire and kidding is beyond you.
    And I’m glad you’re such a “prophet” and knew Syc would beat us.
    Because the rest of we “faithful” didn’t see it that way.
    Would you mind revealing to us where the stock market is going?

  • hoosier1158

    If everyone returns there is a big issue, like 3 too many.

  • IUJeff

    U are not a we.

  • IUJeff

    Don’t forget about sweeping PUke 2 years in a row now..

  • Trevor

    I don’t think any amount of coaching would have overcome the match up problems Syracuse presented. It was obvious in the first 3 minutes they are a match up nightmare for IU. As usual, when IU loses, it’s Crean’s fault, and I guess when they win it’s the players doing. Cody isn’t developing, so that is Crean’s fault. I guess Oladipo developed all on his own.

  • Trevor

    I don’t think any amount of coaching would have overcome the match up problems Syracuse presented. It was obvious in the first 3 minutes they are a match up nightmare for IU. As usual, when IU loses, it’s Crean’s fault, and I guess when they win it’s the players doing. Cody isn’t developing, so that is Crean’s fault. I guess Oladipo developed all on his own.

  • hoosier1158

    Wow, anyone out there wondering what it would have been like to have Mitch McGary on the IU team? From what i had read previously, i thought he really wanted to be a hoosier. To bad that didn’t work out.

  • CuseHater

    The Hoosiers were doomed as soon as they were picked as the winner in Pres Obama’s bracket

  • CreamandCrimson

    For what it’s worth…Syracuse just blasted Marquette (a team with a coach who many view as “Coach of the Year” candidate and a team who plays Syracuse every season) and held them to 39 points. They’re executing at a really high-level right now.

    In the midst of the coach-bashing, player-bashing and attempts to come to grips with why we played so terribly and ended the season on a frustrating note….I think giving Syracuse and their defense a little bit of credit would be appropriate.

  • Jersey Hoosier

    My nightmare – Tom Crean as head coach for the next seven years.

  • Who who whoosiers?

    I love how an unpopular truth gets deleted from these boards but delusional comments roam free. This website is ridiculous and so are the people that live on these boards.

  • Who who whoosiers?

    I love how an unpopular truth gets deleted from these boards but delusional comments roam free. This website is ridiculous and so are the people that live on these boards.

  • Who who whoosiers?

    It took you that long to come up with that reply. Wow! You must be a die hard Whoosier fan!

  • agree

    This is the comment that makes sense.

  • don’t agree

    Dissatisfied fans are never satisfied. That’s what makes them dissatisfied fans. They always know what should have been done but wasn’t or what should have happened only didn’t. Are they ever the “man in the arena”? Nope, because they actually like being dissatisfied fans.

  • BluegrassHoosier

    We are getting better recruits now. CTC used to have to try to thread the needle and find the next under recruited DWade or VO. Now he is in there fighting with the elite bball programs for recruits Vonleh, JB Jr, etc.

  • BluegrassHoosier

    Agreed. And now he is on the radar for top 50 recruits

  • BluegrassHoosier

    Agreed. And now he is on the radar for top 50 recruits

  • BluegrassHoosier

    I can tell you that wearing the same shirt all season doesn’t help.

  • Well said David! I’ve been a rabid Hoosier player, coach, referee and most importantly … loyal fan for 50 years and agree wholeheartedly with your comments! Go IU ! The future is bright!

  • David, you are way too mature and reasonable for this site. Please log off and let these folks lick their wounds for a couple of days. GO BIG RED!!

  • We did win a championship HoosierDaddy, or have you already forgotten?

  • HoosierDaddy

    Re-read my post…it’s been 26-27 years since. Need a banner. Pissed it away. And enough of this cutting nets crap when we lose on senior night. We’re Indiana. Let’s act as much.

  • HoosierDaddy

    Re-read my post…it’s been 26-27 years since. Need a banner. Pissed it away. And enough of this cutting nets crap when we lose on senior night. We’re Indiana. Let’s act as much.

  • Josh Witt

    HI literally had a dream about Michael Carter Williams.. this sucks! But I will say that Cuse out-matched us. It was a complete physical mismatch and that was it. we didn’t get a good look all night. Coach Creans adjustments weren’t what I personally would have done, but we did not lose because of his coaching. Syracuse is just another bad matchup for us, they have a few pro’s on that teamas well.

  • Eastwood88_2

    Funny Comment at the end. That is what i do. Sell in may. As for your joking, dont see it that way. You have been upset with all your comments. I get it. But refuse to write crean off after one tournament. What about izzo. No championship since 2000. All those final fours with no hardware. Lastly, it doesn’t take a genius to know Syracuse lenght would be an issue for us. When cody comes back. You better fess up at how wrong you were.

  • Kenneth234

    I’m not so sure that pUKe will certainly be back, sure they got a great recruiting class on paper coming in, but there is no way that this year’s supposed great recruiting class is going to want to split time with that many incoming players. We’ll have to wait and see who stays and who goes. On a side note, isn’t there some sort of NCAA penalty for running a program that fails to graduate players year in and year out?

  • Kenneth234

    This team was not a pressing team, its that simple. The best they ever did pressing was against weak non-conference teams. Since, all that happened was that we would put token man to man pressure on whoever brings the ball up the floor. Not effective because they simply do not have a team athletic enough to install a press that would be effective.

  • Kenneth234

    I absolutely agree, Syracuse should likely be one of the two favorites to win it all at this point. They are peaking with two games to play. Their only road block at this point is Louisville. But Louisville has to get through Duke today. Outside of Louisville, who can match or even surpass the problems that a team like Syracuse brings opponents due to their ability to press and play zone with a deep and talented team.

    At this point, all I have left to really care about in this season is my tournament bracket that is clinging to life in a money pool I am in. In that I need Duke to beat Louisville, then beat Wichita State, and Florida to beat Michigan, then lose to Syracuse, and Syracuse beat Duke to win the N.C.; anything else and I win nothing. If it happens, I win primarily out of default, because I actually had Indiana winning it all, and beating Florida in the FF, while Duke beating Ohio State in the final Four. Syracuse just happens to the team that no one picked to win the NC in the nearly 60 brackets. Crazy tournament in my opinion! My worst bracket that I can remember filling out, and this is about as close to winning as I can remember being.

  • Kenneth234

    I agree, the expectations were probably too high all season. They did incredible just to live up to them as long as they did. Despite the outside and internal expectations coming into the season, I think that all the expectations were too high. I understand that Watford is a very good college player, Hulls was also a good guard based on Hoosier basketball (likely not quite in the company of a player like Coverdale was), and Elston had a lots of injuries but was never a big time impact player his entire career, and the most talented player in that recruiting class was Mo Creek (who was dealt a hand in his college career that was grossly unfair). Behind that class were Victor and Will who both had surpassed expectations that they came in with early on as Soph’s last year. Cody was the prize of last year’s recruiting class, and had Hoosier nation, and outside expectations dumped on him from day one in the program, add in Abel’s struggles this season, and Etherington’s injury, and we start seeing how unfairly bloated the expectations were. But add in this year’s freshman class, and we add another level of unfair expectations. Yogi, as tremendously talented as he is, may not have truly been ready for the expectation or even the starting position and leadership role that comes with being a starting point guard. Consider the expectations of Perea that turned out to be far in excess of reality, Jurkin who never really had a chance to contribute, and Hollowell who showed that he truly was the second best player of the class (a player who has a big upside, but also struggled and also had outside distractions during the season much like Jurkin and Perea.

    Add it all together, and the expectations were far too high, a more realistic set of expectations were to contend for a Big Ten title, and win some games in the NCAA tourney. However, considering how much last season’s team over achieved their expectations, This team received a ton of pressure that was just more lofty than what the roster really warranted. Based on a more realistic set of expectations, this team winning the Big Ten conference outright, and winning two games in the NCAA tourney, I feel that this team was tremendously successful, and lived up to those expectations and any criticism that they failed is completely off base and unfair.

  • IUMIKE1

    We finally hear from you and then what do you do ? Right off the bat the rational thinking and observance of facts come rushing out of you. How dare you use such actions ! Next thing ya know you’ll be saying not even RMK could have won the game against Syracuse.

  • IUMIKE1

    And that may just be one of the best replies, if not THE best, that I have EVER seen on this site and I’ve been here pretty much since the early days. One of the main reasons I say that it is that is because it is a perfect description of the type of person that you replied to and all those of the same frame of mind. Well put !

  • IUMIKE1

    And you thought I was disrespecting you. Don’t even wanna know what you call these types of replies if you thought the little bit I said, in a non-confrontational way, was me disrespecting you, Knight and any body that still liked him in the least bit. Geeeez

  • IUMIKE1

    It’s my understanding that that played a big part of Crean going off on Meyer ( the UM assistant). Supposedly, in Crean’s view, his recruitment was a perfect example of the dirtier / negative side of recruiting and that Meyer crossed the line big time in more ways than one during the process. Meyer is the one that handles the recruiting in the state of IN for UM. Not saying that I know that is how it was for a fact but when Crean seemed to quit recruiting McGary it did have more than a slight resemblance to how it was when Crean suddenly stopped recruiting Trey Lyles and I think just about everybody believes that there was something major going on with that that wasn’t legit. Something definitely happened there or else Crean would not have just abruptly stopped recruiting McGary, not with the determination that he has showed with other recruits he wanted.

  • IUMIKE1

    It’s my understanding that that played a big part of Crean going off on Meyer ( the UM assistant). Supposedly, in Crean’s view, his recruitment was a perfect example of the dirtier / negative side of recruiting and that Meyer crossed the line big time in more ways than one during the process. Meyer is the one that handles the recruiting in the state of IN for UM. Not saying that I know that is how it was for a fact but when Crean seemed to quit recruiting McGary it did have more than a slight resemblance to how it was when Crean suddenly stopped recruiting Trey Lyles and I think just about everybody believes that there was something major going on with that that wasn’t legit. Something definitely happened there or else Crean would not have just abruptly stopped recruiting McGary, not with the determination that he has showed with other recruits he wanted.