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Past three seasons not a factor for IU basketball


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By Connor O'Gara



It has been the worst three-year span in the history of IU basketball.

The IU men’s basketball team is 28-66 in the Tom Crean era. It is 8-46 in Big Ten play during that three-year period. On top of that, the Hoosiers are 1-26 in Big Ten road games under Crean.

But you wouldn’t know it based on the perception gathered by the rest of the conference coaches at Big Ten Basketball Media Day on Thursday.

“I think Tom Crean has it going in the right direction,” Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith said. “This year, they’re probably in better position than in the last couple years because the league is very talented, but I think there’s more balance from top to
bottom.”

Some of the parity Smith referenced could stem from teams like Illinois, which made the NCAA Tournament last year but lost four starters this year.

The man at the helm of that Illinois program wasn’t afraid to share his distaste of IU prior to the 2008-09 season. Illinois Coach Bruce Weber infamously predicted that IU would “suck” that season.

So, did Weber have similar thoughts on IU heading into this year? Not exactly.

“I’ve said since last spring, the two teams with the most guys back and the most experience are Indiana and Iowa,” Weber said. “Now, they were your 10th and 11th place teams, so some people look at the good and bad of it. But I think both those teams could be major factors in our league.”

Several Big Ten coaches talked about the instant impact of IU freshman Cody Zeller, who was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in his senior season at Washington High School. 
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said  Zeller solidifies an IU team ready to take the next step.

“You take Cody Zeller out of the mix, and I think everybody felt IU was going to be a good team this year,” McCaffery said. “You add him to the mix, and obviously that changes even more.”

It’s no secret Zeller is the Hoosiers’ first McDonald’s All-American since Eric Gordon in 2007. It’s also no secret IU hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since Gordon’s single season in Bloomington.

However Penn State Coach Patrick Chambers said the three-year, postseason drought does not define the IU program.

“The perception of Indiana in my mind is the same,” Chambers said. “I don’t look at Indiana any differently if Tom Crean or Bob Knight was there.”

Similar to the newly hired Chambers, another fresh face to the Big Ten also said the IU tide is turning quickly.

“I can assure you that Indiana Basketball — and I think you’ll see it this year — is going back to the top to where the people of Indiana want it and expect it to be,” Nebraska Coach Doc Sadler said.

Expectations are higher. IU students have already amassed last year’s season ticket sales in anticipation of improvement. Whether the Hoosiers will live up to that hype remains to be seen.

One thing was made certain at Big Ten Media Day. No coach in the conference is looking at IU’s last three seasons as a barometer for this one.

“I think you’re going to see Indiana take as big a jump as anybody,” Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. “Indiana will be back. I know it’s not as fast as their fans want it nor is it as fast as Tom Crean wants it, but I think you’re going to see them take a big jump this year (and) then get consistent like we’re used to seeing Indiana.”

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