February 16, 2009
As we all know, the Indiana Hoosiers are suffering their worst season of all-time. Yesterday's home loss to Illinois put Indiana at 1-11 in Big Ten play, and handed them their 18th loss of the season. That latter tally is a school record. It's true: Never before in the history of IU basketball has a single team lost 18 games. That's a down season.
We also all know the reasons why. Kelvin Sampson was fired after the school self-reported him for violating the terms of his NCAA probation. In the offseason, Indiana lost several key players to the NBA draft (Eric Gordon, D.J. White), transfers (Jordan Crawford, Eli Holman, DeAndre Thomas) and dismissals (starters Jamarcus Ellis, Armon Bassett). Those players comprised the core of the 2007-08 Hoosiers. Without them, new coach Tom Crean was left with one returning scholarship player. His name is Kyle Taber. He is not very good at basketball.
Hence, a down year. Crean's first season at IU has seen him take the helm of a group of ragtag recruits, JUCO transfers, and walk-ons, and the result has been predictable. It's not rocket science. If your talent is subpar, you're going to lose a lot of college basketball games. Fine.
Then again, if you read Rick Chandler at Deadspin, you would assume Crean took over a team of talented malcontents; that Crean is in over his head at a dying program; and that Bloomington is "backwater." You would assume this horrible year -- and it has been a horrible year -- is the new state of Indiana basketball. How, I'm not sure. But that's what Rick would have you believe.
(For the record, Rick, who seems like a perfectly nice dude and has been a key contributor to one of my favorite sites of all time, isn't the only one working the Indiana Know-Nothing beat today. Josh Q. Public, on whose post Chandler apparently based his riff, might have written the weirdest blog post of all-time, which is fine. It happens. I write horrible blog posts all the time. Nature of the game. But we should expect slightly better from the 'Spin, which is why the following is so distressing.)
It starts with a bit about Devan Dumes that makes no sense -- apparently, Tom Crean was supposed to suspend his player before he threw an elbow; this sort of pre-emptive punishment would be truly groundbreaking -- and then comes the money shot:
For those waiting for a resurgence in Indiana basketball: It ain't going to happen anytime soon. The system's not designed for sleepy backwaters like Bloomington, Indiana, to have powerhouse teams in the revenue sports unless there's a great coach to draw them in, or a coach who's willing to play fast and loose with recruiting rules. Indiana had the latter with Kelvin Sampson, and they're still looking for the former. Tom Crean — even though he hasn't really had a chance to prove what he can do with his own players — isn't the answer. Have you been to Bloomington? What multi-talented player is going to go there to play for Tom Crean?
Actually, yes, some of us have been to Bloomington. It's small! But also really pretty and pastoral and basically the same thing as every other Big Ten college town (but warmer!), with the exception of, like, Evanston. Is Cham-bana not "sleepy?" Ann Arbor? Where is the Mendoza Line for "backwater?" That's confusion No. 1.
No. 2: Tom Crean isn't the answer? Really? After a half-season of at the helm of (no disrespect here, IU fans) a motlier version of "The Replacements?" "The Replacements" at least had Keanu Reeves. Indiana has Tom Pritchard! Tom Pritchard, man! And this part is true: Crean "hasn't really had a chance to prove what he can do with his own players." So how can he not be the answer? I'M SO CONFUSED, RICK.
Finally, the last question: "What multi-talented player is going to go there to play for Tom Crean?" That's a tough one. Fortunately, there's this thing called Rivals. They track recruiting. Because of this service, I can give you the names, positions, and 2009 recruiting ranks of such multi-talented players as: SF Christian Watford (34), SG Maurice Creek (59), SF Derek Elston (98), PG Jordan Hulls (106), C Bawa Muniru (111). That's good for the eighth-ranked class in 2009; all five players will be on campus this fall. Why, it's almost as if multi-talented high schoolers want to play for Tom Crean. (To say nothing of Dwyane Wade, Jerel McNeal, and the host of stars Crean convinced to go live in Milwaukee and play for him at Marquette.)
Of course, navigating to Rivals.com can be a complicated venture. It requires one to minimize his inbox, first of all; it also requires one to put a little more thought into a college basketball post than "Wow. They sure are losing a bunch of games. How should we spin this?" Bad blog posts are common. Like I said, I author them constantly. Being bad is not a crime. Being utterly thoughtless is. That post landed smack in the latter category. Maybe that Pac-10 beat is a better fit.