Guess Who’s To Blame For How Bad This Team Is

So, this season is a colossal disaster that will end, at best, in a first round NIT loss at home. #ProveMeWrongKidsProveMeWrong

This is a fact.

This team has been injured quite a bit. Though not necessarily more than any other IU team of the last decade.

This is also a fact.

These facts are coincidental. There is no causal link between the two.

Good. We’ve dispensed with that. Now, let us once again talk about why Tom Crean isn’t going to get fired or bought out unless he wants to go.

The answer is short and simple. Two Outright Big Ten Titles in four years with two drastically different teams. As we’ve discussed previously, this is not something that is easily accomplished. The guy who pulled that off isn’t getting fired after a team failed to win at the rate people thought they would win following – what now is a completely perplexing – season opening win against Kansas.

So just stop it.

I know you won’t. It’s not who you are. But I wish you’d stop it.

Here’s why you should stop it.

Crean hasn’t changed. He’s not a markedly different coach than he was when he fixed the program post-Sampson. He’s the same coach who won those titles. He’s the same coach that has gone to the Sweet 16 three times in five years – not the standard we like to hold, but that doesn’t make it not true.

So, if he’s the constant, what are the variables?

Well, the first is the fan perception of him. And for the Freaners it is tied entirely to win-loss record at the moment they are having their feelings. I’m not saying you should be having a ton of fun as an IU fan this season, but I’m saying your world view shifts too dramatically about Crean based on the team’s performance. He’s not the worst coach you’ve ever seen. Nor is he the best. He’s a good coach who has done a good job, I would argue a better than good job when you factor in what he’s accomplished and what he started with.

But your opinion of him – or mine for that matter – isn’t the variable that matters.

Last year’s team didn’t win the Big Ten because you were happy and this year’s team isn’t losing because you hate Crean.

The only variable that matters is the guys on the court. And this group of guys is bad at basketball.

But what’s worse is that they are dumb about basketball too. Or they are very smart about basketball, but basketball is a different game on their planet and the coaches, fans, refs, and rules here do not align with the knowledge they possess.

Because these guys destroy their own spacing, dribble for days accomplishing nothing, screw up pick and roll defense in every conceivable way, actually bump into each other on offense and defense with disturbing frequency, take contested shots, and  throw passes to each other from four feet away at roughly 85 miles per hour and aim those passes at each other’s knees (or defenders).

They play stupid. A lot.

And I am 100% certain their dumb play is not because Crean is not teaching them these things. Hell, it’s not even because he’s teaching them in the only way he knows how and is refusing to adjust his methods based on their lack of understanding. He’s got coaches hold up signs with incredibly basic messaging on them because NOTHING ELSE HAS WORKED.

I know it’s dumb. You know it’s dumb. He knows it’s dumb. But so are they – it seems -, so he’s resorted to what is either incredible public trolling/shaming of these knuckleheads or breaking the lesson down to deliver it in the simplest way he can.

Now, if you want to say that he recruited them and he has to own the types of players he’s brought in. Sure. That is true. But he also brought in Cody and Victor and Jordan and everyone else you’ve loved. Again, the players are the variable.

And these players are a problem.

But guess what. So were the players two years ago when Crean held a press conference and called out Yogi as lacking leadership skills and placing the the weight of that team’s failures on him. The next year – after some further trimming of the roster – Yogi led a team to his second Big Ten title, and now Yogi’s earned his way into the NBA through hard work and talent – something that has no bearing here, but which I wanted to bring up because… good for Yogi.

And this lack of leadership is a message he delivered after the Wisconsin game, again without naming names but very clearly talking to his junior-led backcourt.

This team is not young. There are no seniors, but these juniors have played a lot of minutes and have seen struggle and success. Crean says they are immature. That seems right to me.

There are some fundamentals issues that many of them still have. Thomas has bad footwork and weak hands. He also thinks he was fouled every possession – and maybe he’s right, I can’t figure out what a foul is anymore – but I wish he’d learn to keep his hands up when he has the ball and completely down when he’s running back down the court after he thinks he’s been fouled.

All of the guards get beaten on the dribble constantly and frequently turn their heads to watch the ball, losing their men in the process.

Everyone is bad at help defense it seems.

But all of those things can be tough and learned.

It only requires that the players involved learn and do.

Right now they aren’t. They haven’t been for months. And it’s cost them the season.

Next year can be better, but it’s up to them.

 

Jeff Taylor