Think back to October. Three IU men’s basketball players were suspended, one was in the hospital and the expectations for the ?season were low.
IU was projected to finish as low as 10th in the Big Ten with a potential record looming somewhere between 17 and 20 wins.
Since then, the Hoosiers are 4-3 against AP Top 25 teams and are one home victory away from a 20-win season and 10-win ?conference season.
And yet, against Iowa this week, “Fire Tom Crean” chants and boos echoed throughout Assembly Hall.
Tomcreanbuyout.com, a new website, has sprung up in response to the loss.
It counts down the days until the coach’s contract can be bought out for $7.5 million instead of the $12 million it would cost right now.
This is the same coach who was receiving Coach of the Year buzz just two months ago — not only in the Big Ten but in the entire country.
Are IU fans that fickle?
I admit that I, too, have been hard on the Hoosiers in recent weeks. They’re losing games and deserve criticism. But do they deserve to be booed?
It’s a miracle they’ve performed this well so far, when almost every team they’ve come up against has had a size advantage on them.
It seems Crean and the rest of the team outperformed their potential early on, thereby raising expectations to a level this group simply isn’t capable of reaching.
Perhaps this team just isn’t that good. It won a bunch of games early on that it shouldn’t have, and now it’s being punished for not maintaining that unrealistic level of play the entire season.
I’m not saying Crean deserves to be applauded for losses just because of previous wins. But to be so vitriolic and call for the man’s job is disrespectful and doesn’t take into account the things this team has accomplished.
Consider the entire season in the big picture, not just the last two weeks.
I don’t often comment — and frankly don’t like to — on non-basketball related news, but this is something I felt needed to be written.
All that being said, this team should not be worrying about being booed. It should be worrying about Michigan State.
IU might get a bit lucky Saturday in that it is unknown whether Spartan senior forward Branden Dawson will play. After taking a blow to the head against Purdue on Wednesday, Dawson left the game and didn’t return.
Dawson is the Big Ten’s leading rebounder at 9.3 per game and pulls in a full rebound more than anyone else in the conference.
In Michigan State’s rout of IU in January, Dawson scored 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting and snagged 13 rebounds. He’s one of the best players in the conference and would be a huge loss for Sparty if he’s unable to play.
Without Dawson, Michigan State’s weapons are limited. Of its 72 points against Purdue, 57 of them came from senior guard Travis Trice, junior guard Denzel Valentine and senior forward Matt Costello.
The other interesting thing about the Spartans is they aren’t all that tall.
Nobody on the roster is listed as taller than 6-foot-9, and Dawson is just 6-foot-6.
So, despite its current struggles and the whipping it got last time against this team, I give IU a fighting chance against Michigan State.
This game is as important as any the Hoosiers will play all season, and everyone knows it. IU is possibly fighting for its tournament life.
As far as who will win, I am going to pick Michigan State whether Dawson plays or not. However, I also won’t be surprised if the Hoosiers pull this one out as the ?underdog.
I think we’ll see a good game with a lot less slop than there was against Iowa.
My Prediction: MSU 71, IU 68.
Casey Krajewski is 16-3 in his predictions this? season.