Through the off-season discipline problems, the car accident that left a player hospitalized, the Eastern Washington loss and an injury to its center, IU won.
Three months ago, the program was in a tailspin. Now, it’s January and the Hoosiers are tied for first place in the Big Ten.
After Thursday’s win against No. 13 Maryland, IU is 15-4, 5-1 in the Big Ten.
The Hoosiers are ranked, coming in at No. 23 in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll this week. The boos that once greeted IU Coach Tom Crean at Assembly Hall have started to dissipate.
It turns out winning might fix everything, after all.
“We just stayed together through everything,” sophomore forward Troy Williams said. “Throughout all that happened, we just know that at the end of the day, it’s still us, the only ones that’s in the gym. ”
Before the season, it seemed as if IU fans’ biggest concern was firing Crean. No place was that more clear than on Twitter – seven separate Twitter accounts have been created for the sole purpose of getting Crean fired.
Winning wasn’t expected. IU was picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten preseason poll.
Now — three months, 15 wins and a national ranking later — things have changed. Through it all, IU leads the Big Ten. In January.
Crean said he couldn’t pin down how his team made it through.
“I don’t know. It’s all about responding from one day to the next,” he said. “What these guys have done over a period of time is they bond closer and they really worked hard to control what they can control. They’re going to get better.”
At his post-game press conference, Crean was all smiles. He laughed, joked with reporters and sarcastically answered a couple questions. He even took time to pick up a piece of trash on his way to the press table.
“I enjoy them, I enjoy ?watching them grow, I think everybody does,” Crean said. “I enjoy watching them interact with each other.”
But he wouldn’t say the journey was over.
“There’s still a lot of season left,” he said.
“High ceiling? I don’t know. We’re improving. And they’ve been improving all year.”
Three months ago, toughness for IU basketball meant surviving, making it through. It was staying together as a teammate recovered from a fractured skull. It was keeping out the negativity.
Now, it’s about winning basketball games. As it was supposed to be.