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Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 9:34 am  |  38 responses

Stopping The Exodus

Can the Hoosiers turn it around next season?

by Cub Buenning

What the hell happened at Indiana University?

For a program that is as entrenched in the lore of the college game as any in the nation, their current state of affairs is about as bad as it gets. Three coaches in as many years, only two players returning to this year’s team, all on top of impending sanctions from the NCAA make the project for newly-inked Head Coach Tom Crean an uphill battle from the jump.

Not only was last season’s promising season (one that actually had some projecting a deep March run) derailed by the late-season Kelvin Sampson/texting scandal but the program’s cupboard is suddenly about as bare as Mother Hubbard’s.

As the university and the hundreds of thousands of Hoosier faithful look ahead to the future, what is truly left at Indiana? Is there any promise for short-term success in the wake of the Sampson’s auspicious departure?

Here’s how things stack up as of today.

Eric Gordon and DJ White were both first round selections in this past spring’s NBA Draft and forward Lance Stemler was a part of a trio of players that graduated in May. Before the NCAA Tournament even started last March, then Interim Head Dan Dakich dismissed key contributors Armon Bassett and JaMarcus Ellis. After his hiring, Crean wasted little time in upholding Dakich’s decision and even added the metabolism-challenged DeAndre Thomas to the list of castaways.

For the record, Bassett is meeting back up with former IU head Mike Davis at University of Alabama-Birmingham, Ellis appears headed to Northern Kentucky, and Thomas is going the NAIA route, opting for Robert Morris.

The exodus did not stop there, however.

The young and promising guard Jordan Crawford decided to finish his college career at Xavier while fellow sophomore Eli Holman, who got so enraged when meeting with Crean that university police were called in to intercede, will be taking his long and lanky frame to Detroit Mercy. On top of that, incoming freshmen Devin Ebanks never made it for fall classes, opting out of his letter-of-intent with Indiana to hook up with Bob Huggins and West Virginia.
With all due respects (this coming from a Division-I garbage-time man, myself), this leaves just Brett Finkelmeier and Kyle Taber, who combined for a whopping 1.6 points per game last year.

There is hope, however. In addition to two solid, junior-college signings and an imported transfer, Crean scrambled to sign a couple guys late in the game, most notably, Malik Story, who played alongside James Harden at Artesia High in LA before finishing down the road at Ribet Academy.

While transfer rules won’t allow Jeremiah Rivers to be an immediate help, the son of Celtic coach, Doc Rivers is bringing his aggressively defensive skills from Georgetown.

Maybe most importantly, though, was the locking-up of the former Marquette boss with a long-term, ten year deal. With the move, the university is getting a proven face for the program. In contrast to the NBA, the right head coach is the most essential element to any college program.

(When you think of Carolina and Duke in a historical perspective, do the images of Dean Smith and Coach K come to mind, or Rasheed Wallace and Elton Brand? Flip that around for say, the Bulls or Celtics and you will see what I mean).

The names on the back of the college jerseys will change from year to year, but the person bringing in that talent needs to be smart, stable, and successful (and not necessarily in that order) for extended success. The Crean signing and subsequent extension was the correct start and probably the best decision the school has made since firing a certain, hot-headed, chair-tossing dictator/coach.

In reality, there is actually a precedent already set. Remember that Sampson was guilty of being a textual predator while at Oklahoma, as well.

That university was proactive in completing their own investigation and the NCAA handed Sampson a one-year ban on phone and text contacts. When the edict was lifted a year later, Sampson and his staff (now in Bloomington) wasted little time in racking up the now legendary violations which have made him the most untouchable name in the college game today.

However, the minute that Sampson hitched his wagons outta’ Norman, the incoming staff led by former Duke guard, Jeff Capel were able to land the state’s top prep player (and quite possibly the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft) in Blake Griffin.

With that, do you think Crean might choose to reopen the recruitment of Fort Wayne’s junior DeShaun Thomas who made a verbal commitment to Ohio State when he was just a freshman?

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  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Penn State beat these guys last year. That’s all you have to know about how far the Hoosiers have fallen.
    Nice work, Cub.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    Tom Crean is not the answer to anybody’s problems.
    Good stuff,Cub.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Don’t give him a cell phone.

  • http://slamonline.com a. sam

    I know too much about this situation to really comment on it, except to say things are not always what they seem.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    On which part, Aggrey?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Kick down, Aggrey!

  • http://slamonline.com a. sam

    I’ve said too much already.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Aggrey’s gonna be THAT guy.

  • http://slamonline.com a. sam

    Gotta protect my sources like I’m Judith Miller’s nephew. My bad for even bringing it up, but I will say this: Crean needs to stop being such a victim and Sampson wasn’t that bright about things, but he also wasn’t as filthy as he’s been portrayed.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    In the college coaching game, filthy business is the norm. Like I have always said, “it’s tough when your job security is based on the performance of teenagers.”

    Aggrey, is Crean really pushing that line in the wake of his contract? Yeah, it does suck that your roster is thin, but you just signed one of nation’s biggest contracts at one of the most storied schools. May we all be victimized like that….

    I like him as a coach and his work with Marquette more than proves his worth to a place like Indiana.

  • Tyler

    Tom was actually my assistant coach for high school ball. Look it up, Mt. Pleasant, MI late 80′s. I am proud to say that. He was and still is an honest hard working guy. Indiana would not have given him the cash they did without some research and reassurance. We have to trust the university for a few seasons, then decide. He left Marquette much better off than when he arrived.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    I think that Crean will be able to groom Story into a Wade type player(if he doesn’t tranfer). But this is going to be a major project for Tom. I’d say 2 to 3 years top. They have to start appealing to the high recruits and frankly who the hell wants to go to IND? yeah I thought so. Next year is just not going to be a good year unless they have a weak ass non-conference schedule.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I’d go back to UNI in the states and play for Indiana… I got a couple years left on a meteorological sciences degree to tidy up – could lead that team at the PG position back to the NCAA sweet 16 I believe.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I’d be a walk on.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    ‘Somethings getting in the way somethings just about to break, I will try to find my place’.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Fu*k the NCAA. Not sure how thats particularly relevant here but they sure screwed over Jerry Tarkanian. Money does make things better.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Granted the current ncaa model is loaded with flaws, but I am not sure they did the f*ckin when it comes to the Shark.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    really Cub? Can you explain that to me? It seems pretty clear cut in ‘Runnin Rebels’ which is his book that details a lot of it ( albeit from his view).

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  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    indiana sucked and sucks while KU won the chip bitches!!!!

  • Josh

    Kelvin Sampson TANKED the IU program by intentionally violating the rules and bringing in a few young men who did not want to attend class. They wanted to party, have bad attitudes, and play basketball. That attitude ruined the team. Sampson is not stupid and nor shortsighted and therefore he knew good and darn well what he was doing. He did not care about IU in any way. I hope the guy never coaches college basketball again. Gonna be a long night for Kelvin if he has the guts to come to Conseco when the Bucks play the Pacers. Then again, Sampson has zero class, zero ethics, and he’ll probably call in sick that night.

  • Ajax

    Regarding DeShaun Thomas, it is my understanding he changed his mind about his verbal ‘committment’ to OSU because it was too early to make a decision like that. Besides, a verbal is not really a committment anyway. not until it is in writing.

  • Chi-Town Hoosier

    There are no names on the back of IU’s jersey’s, Cub. This will be a rough year, but I bet we end up 6th in the Big Ten. Everyone should quit whining and speculating about the upcoming season. What has happened can be fixed and will over time. A little patience is all we need…

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    You are right Chi-Town! Even though that was a general statement, i was thinking about which teams didn’t put the names when I was writing that… Duh.
    In due time, the Hoosiers will be back.
    Ajax, that was exactly my point about thomas. Crean should go get him!
    Love your dutch football side, too.

  • Bill M

    I don’t know where these comments about Crean saying/implying he is a “victim”. I’ve NEVER seen a more POSITIVE, NO EXCUSES guy than Crean and I’ve followed IU and college bball for 50 years! As Crean said on why he came, “It’s Indiana!”

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    So Taber just suffered a knee injury! Make that no returning scholarship players and 0.3 ppg coming back.
    10 weeks out, so I guess he’ll be back at some point.

  • Harvey Dent

    The night is darkest just before the dawn…and the dawn is coming!

  • http://peegs.com rolly

    Tom Crean has done a great job trying to bring a fractured hoosier nation back together. He has already recruited some nice players and once the ncaa final decision has been passed down, I think he will be in the hunt for some of the top recruits. His work ethic is second to none. This year will be tough but there will be light at the end of the tunnel. They don’t call Indiana fans the hoosier faithful for nothing. Win or lose, we will support our coach and team. GO HOOSIERS!

  • PDawg

    Tom Crean is already putting together a solid class. Our team will be surely top of the bigten a few seasons from now. Everyone forgets we have been in the top of the big ten the last two years since the days of davis. Sure it will take time, but anyone putting down the Hoosiers now will have to deal with a “I told you so” when we bring our sixth banner home to assembly hall.

  • IU Fan

    Was this article written four months ago and just now dusted off?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Welcome Hoosier faithful! This was by no means, breaking news in the world of basketball.
    It was just one college hoops fan/columnist’s “after the dust settled” reaction. I have been given the duty of giving this site more college exposure and the program y’all love is one that is important in the national landscape, therefore I wrote the piece.

    I have love for Crean (as should have been apparent in the piece)and mentioned that the university took care of the most important piece to the puzzle, the coach. The players and wins will come, I have no doubt.

  • http://peegs.com rolly

    Cub, I think that if there is a lesson in all of this, it is that even a once proud and clean program can have it’s reputation clouded by one bad hire. I don’t think anyone thought Sampson would make the same mistake twice after being given a second chance to coach a first class institution. The other thing is, I.U. turned itself in once it found the infraction. The excessive calls broke the rules, and I.U. paid a hefty price. If you look at USC with Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo, what is their penalty? And, since I.U. did turn itself in, how many programs are likely to do the same after seeing how badly the program was penalized. Just my opinion. Thanks.

  • Snipper

    No doubt the coming season will be a long one for IU, but have no doubt Tom Crean will have the Hoosiers playing hard and may open a few eyes. Crean already has recruited well, under the circumstances, and a couple of really good recruiting classes will put IU back among the nation’s elite.

  • RT

    DP says who the hell wants to go to Indiana. Who the hell wants to go to Kansas or Memphis or East Lansing, etc? Indiana is one of the best campuses in the country and a great school academically. We’ll be back in the upper echelon in a few years

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Aggrey always knows more than he lets on. Someday I’ll get him to let loose.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Aggrey is just sneaky like that Ben.

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