With Big Ten play looming, IU still searching for consistent identity

  • 12/14/2013 7:54 pm in

INDIANAPOLIS — After Indiana’s 79-72 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, Indiana coach Tom Crean sat alone and addressed the media on what went wrong for his team.

“Our identity has got to be in the fact that going into the game, we were fifth in the country in field goal percentage defense, we were No. 1 in the country in rebound margin, we were way up in the country in getting to the free throw line,” he said. “None of those things worked out to our advantage today.”

In what was his team’s final — and perhaps, best — chance to get a marquee non-conference win, they crumbled when they needed to strengthen. It allowed an effective field goal percentage of 51.9 percent (its season average: 40.8 percent). It let Notre Dame shoot 14 more free throws than it did. On six different possessions in the second half, the Hoosiers had the chance to take their first lead on Notre Dame for the day. That never happened.

The result leaves the Hoosiers in a difficult position heading into Big Ten season: They have no marquee win on their résumé, and those will be hard to come by in conference play. They had their chances, especially on Saturday, against Connecticut and even against Syracuse until they collapsed in the second half, but when Crean has needed his team’s best effort most, it hasn’t happened.

Take Yogi Ferrell’s ill-advised jumper against UConn in the waning seconds of that game. Or even on Saturday, when the Hoosiers could never get over the hump and allowed big Notre Dame shots when the Irish needed it most.

Right now, Indiana’s strongest win, according to Kenpom.com, is against Stony Brook — a team that is 6-4 with losses to Toledo and St. Francis (N.Y.). And though the Hoosiers still have two nonconference games remaining, they are against teams who Pomeroy rates in the bottom 20 in the nation. If Crean wants to learn more about his team before Big Ten season starts, he won’t learn much against Nicholls State and Kennesaw State.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, his team will travel on the road (where it is 1-3 this season away from Assembly Hall) and open up Big Ten play against an Illinois team that beat the Hoosiers the last time they were in that building.

In all honesty, though, finding a marquee win to flaunt to the NCAA tournament selection committee isn’t even the biggest concern for Indiana, right now. For all the progress Crean thought his team has made in forming an identity, suddenly, it took a step back against Notre Dame.

He thought for his younger players — despite having already played games in Madison Square Garden and the Carrier Dome — the stage “was a little bit too bright.” His team settled for too many jump shots and didn’t get to the line enough. And despite a small rebounding edge, the Hoosiers were dominated in the paint.

In two long stretches in the second half —from 18:19 to 12:07 and from 7:25 to :05.3, the Hoosiers scored a combined six points. For as many “charges” Indiana made at Notre Dame, its consistency (or lack, thereof) doomed its chance at winning.

“The mental part of it, we’re just going to have to grow through that,” Crean said. “There’s not a lot of drills that you can have to give a guy the experience and understanding that they have to have of how important every possession is in these type of games.

“What I’m learning with a very young team is that every time you think you’re taking a step toward that identity, it’s very easy to take a step or two back.”

This could have been a game for Indiana to launch itself into Big Ten season on a high note and a likely 11-2 record. Instead, though, the Hoosiers left Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday night floundering, their entire identity in question.

And if the lights haven’t been bright already, they’re about to get brighter.

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  • BMoney

    This isn’t talked about enough; we all take it for granted now because we’re used to our character guys. But as much as CTC might be a weird, work-in-progress in-game coach, the guy will never wreck our program. He manages to pull in talented guys who are smart, driven, clean, and respectful. That’s rarer than we like to think in today’s world of NCAA sports. For that, CTC has my vote of confidence.

  • Frosch

    Ok don’t anyone jump my case on this, but when we play other teams it just seems like we are missing ‘it.’ This covers so many different things, but most of all to me it is cohesion. Does IU really look like they are having a good time playing together? Other than when we are playing out very weak opponents, rarely do I see these guys enjoying themselves and the camaraderie out there. Shooting, substitutions, Xs and Os, it’s all important. WE WANT TO SEE HEART. IU should not accept anything less given our proud tradition. That’s all. Sorry for the rant but it had to come out.

  • Wet Vette

    I agree with a lot of comments on CTC subbing its just not letting the players get into a good flow and subbing way to much plus certain players don’t need to be on the floor they should understand its an honor not a requirement im a CTC fan but I gotta say this team does lack leadership and where does that start? I get that there young but..IU has a lot of talent that’s not being used like it should and to me it all starts with the head coach. It is what it is….Tick Tock Tom goes the clock.I really feel they should be further along as a team and showing more upside..GO IU

  • Bball Papaw

    I absolutley love me some Hoosier basketball and have for over 40 years now but I am beginning to get very troubled by our coaches actions and comments. As I said I have followed the Hoosiers for over 40 years and I have watched us win with coaching and I have watched us lose with coaching. In the past we have had coaches that would admit when the loss was on them. I have heard coach Knight say he didnt have the team as prepared as they should have been and Mike Davis owned up to his mistakes but I have yet to hear this coach say a word about his miscues. I am beginning to wonder if he thinks he has any. As rough of a year as the football team had coach Wilson never threw his team under the bus. I am sick of hearing the team didnt execute the game plan. You know you have a very deep bench over there and if you are going to get beat you would look much wiser if you get beat with guys on the floor trying to execute your plan than you would with guys on the floor not doing what you are telling them to do. You are the head coach so you are the one in control and if a kid or two will not execute then park them on the bench. Pine is a great motivator. If there was ever a game where a team wasnt prepared to play it was last spring against Syracuse. Then this year we play a decent 1st half and with a little help from Syracuse we are in it at the half. In the second half we go 12 minutes without a field goal and we hear that guys werent executing the game plan. You had at least 3 TV timeouts to make the personnel changes needed to get your plan executed. If you have no one that will execute your plan then YOU have leadership issues starting at the top that need addressed. It is time for this guy to own up to his own mistakes and get them corrected. If he isnt capable of admitting he has any then we have much more to worry about than just this season.

  • CreamandCrimson

    We won the Big Ten title and were the #1 team in the country for the majority of last season…it’s not even Christmas of the following season and it seems like about half of the posters on here would like to see Tom Crean fired.

    I’m not posting this to say that Tom Crean is without faults. He absolutely is. He is not the best coach in the country or the best one in the conference. That being said, he is our coach and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future (despite the apparent wishes of some). I’m going to keep on supporting Tom Crean and the rest of the team, hope we can grow throughout the season and make the tournament and then have a great year next season. Others can choose to make the same comments on here every time we lose a game (the substitutions suck, our offense sucks, Hollowell is awful, Tom Crean can’t coach and we’ll never win a banner with him)…that’s the way it’s going to be and I get it. But can we be civil about it? We all want IU to get back to the top. Some think Tom Crean can get that done. Others don’t. But I think we have a program of guys we can be proud of and I think most of the time, they are a pleasure to watch and root for. We’re not all going to agree on this site but there’s no reason the comments section needs to turn into a name calling, “you drink Kool Aid”, ESPN style message board. ITH has been a fun community to be a part of, I’d hate to see that change and The Minute After of the past couple of losses has been a far cry from the ITH I know.

    Sorry for the long post but I care about this site and I’d hate to see the comments section turn into something vicious like it has the past couple of losses.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    8 and 3.

  • Southport65

    Where did you get that info? I try and read every article about IU and I never heard this so I would like to read it.

  • Southport65

    I never said that. The use of unconditional love means you love them no matter what happens and it leaves no room for negative comments. I believe that both positive and negative comments are good and needed, therefore I would never use that term. The only person I know about who actually has unconditional love died on a Cross. It is not that MillaRed wants to question Coach that I disagree with it is his use of Unconditional Love that I have issue with.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    Let’s keep religion out of this.

    “The use of unconditional love means you love them no matter what happens and it leaves no room for negative comments.”

    I don’t agree. I have 4 children whom I love unconditionally and I offer corrective advice (in your words “negative comments”) daily with all of them.

    This is a ridiculous debate. It seems totally clear to me that saying you “love” IU basketball is verry different than the kind of thing you’re talking about.

  • IUBizmark

    Well put. If you are playing 11-13 guys, I’d like reporters to ask CTC which ones were executing the plan. THOSE are the guys that should be playing. The rest should be sitting and learning while they watch. Then we can all get some clarity on what exactly the game plan is and how well it is to be played.

  • victorbear

    I really thought the “identity” that Crean keeps talking about with this team was going to be defense, shot blocking and rebounding. I thought we would play games in the 50’s and 60’s like the UCONN game and end up ok, now I’m not so sure. I really think a 5 or 6 win Big Ten Season is unfortunately very possible for this team, if Vonleh then leaves for the NBA where does that leave us for next year. Crean does not have a system where he can win year after year IMO, also why doesn’t he redshirt and build talent for years to come. Maybe the Grantland article of Crean being on the hot seat has some validity.

  • Aiken_Hoosier

    Which article are you referencing? I can’t seem to find it…..when was it written?

  • Nevada fan

    Amen, brother!!!

  • Raynger

    I think Crean believes any 5 players will work if they simple follow the game plan – get inside and ‘demand the ball’. I waited several days last spring for Coach to take responsibility for the Syracuse loss last March. It never happened.

  • Raynger

    What I feel sorry for are the players. The players most likely will improve over the season but will the coaching?

  • MillaRed

    I said he needs to get better. That’s a negative comment? We live in different worlds I guess.

  • Southport65

    I have 5 kids and 9 grandkids and I am sure I love them just as much as you do yours. I Coached kids for almost 50 years and I loved them all. I guess I took MillaRed’s comments incorrectly and for that I am sorry. I know better than to take issue with what someone writes on an IU blog and it won’t happen again.
    I am sorry that none of you got my point. So please all of you forgive me for what I wrote. I do love IU basketball and have since I was a little boy but to compare that to the love I have for my family is not even close and I would never compare that love to IU basketball and I am sure you would not either.
    I don’t have a religion. I have a life long relationship, and that is where I learned the true meaning of unconditional love. If that offends you I am sorry and I promise to never bring it up again. I sure hope this ends our conversation about this matter and we can all move on to just being IU fans. Again, I am sorry for ever opening this can of worms.

  • Victorbear

    Mark Titus article nov 7 it’s a big ten preview article

  • Just a fan

    Much as I want these kids to succeed, I don’t see it happening this year–a 15 & 16 record, considering who we’ll play, and where the game is held. Possibly one win in the Big 10 tournament, but balanced with a loss, for a losing season record. Coaching by statistical analysis translates to players who are never confident in their roles/ actions. Every team we play, from here on, will force us into a half-court game knowing we’re timid once we cross the half stripe. They say insanity is the act of doing the same thing over-and-over, expecting a different result,i.e. dribble drive every play.
    Coach, your plans are not working with this group of kids, how are YOU going to adjust in the remaining two weeks before conference starts?

  • PBzeer

    While I see faults in CTC, what I want to see is growth, evolution, just as we expect from the players. Coach Crean did a great job of getting the program back on it’s feet. Probably as well as anyone could. I simply hope he can take the next step forward. It’s okay to lose, just not when you don’t leave everything on the floor when you do.

  • Aiken_Hoosier

    OK….thanks. I remember Mark Titus when he was at Brownsburg and like his stuff. He’s turned into a pretty good writer….