By Josh Kramer
6. 10. 12. Want to know what those numbers signify? The win totals for one of college basketball’s elite programs in 2009, 2010, 2011. Well have no fear Bloomington, the Hoosiers are here. After winning 27 games last season in which they defeated three top five teams at the friendly, or not so friendly (for opponents) confines of Assembly Hall, Tom Crean seems to have brought Indiana basketball all the way back from the dead.
Now I realize most feel like December 10, 2011 was the official reawakening of Indiana Hoosiers basketball. And maybe it was when thousands of students, alumni, and fans rushed the court in a wild scene following a Christian Watford three-pointer at the buzzer to upset the eventual National Champion Kentucky. There really were countless highs for the Hoosiers during a season in which Indiana made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. With a stellar top-ten recruiting class set to arrive in Bloomington this Fall, expectations are high with the five-time National Champion Hoosiers. In my eyes though, yesterday was possibly the second biggest day in the reawakening of Indiana basketball.
Cody Zeller and Christian Watford will both return for the 2012/2013 season. Zeller had a sensational freshman campaign in which he led the Hoosiers in scoring rebounding, blocks, and of course field-goal percentage (4th in the country in field-goal percentage). Watford, widely regarded for his buzzer beating three to slay mighty Kentucky, was second on the team in both scoring and rebounding. Jared Sullinger passed on being a lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a Final Four appearance earlier this month. Could Cody Zeller be on a similar track? I will gander a guess that Tom Crean was smiling when he heard that both of his star players were returning.
Many are proclaiming the Hoosiers as the team to beat in 2012/2013. Now depending on what happens with a final couple of recruits in regards to Kentucky, they very well may be. I can tell you this much. Indiana will be ranked in the top two when the official preseason rankings are released. Tom Crean deserves all of the credit in the world. Sure Crean is overshadowed at times by his high-profile brother-in-laws, who happen to be two of the best football coaches in the NFL, but the job he has done in Bloomington rivals or surpasses anything done by the Harbaugh brothers.
Indiana basketball was at rock bottom when Crean arrived in 2008. Just for a quick tutorial. The legendary Bob Knight was forced out in September of 2000. And though his successor Mike Davis started out unexpectedly well with a very surprising appearance in the 2002 NCAA Tournament Finals, things went down hill in a hurry. Davis ended up resigning in February of 2006 after failing to make the tournament in consecutive years. Then came good old Kelvin Sampson, a coach with a history of foul play. Once a cheater, always a cheater is the expression I believe. Sampson carried his immoral tactics to Bloomington costing himself the job and tainting a once clean basketball program. Current ESPN Analyst Dan Dakich took over on an interim basis. Then on April 1, 2008, the savior arrived.
Taking a college basketball program from the bottom to the top at a program like Indiana is no easy task. Pressure mounts with each loss. Coaches get fired left and right in this day and age, especially at high-profile programs. Indiana fans expect to contend for the National Championship every year.
Crean maintained a positive attitude despite heavy criticism. Today he is smiling. He stuck to his values and ideals that he used during his very successful nine-year tenure at Marquette in which he turned the Golden Eagles into a perennial contender. Crean knows that he has completed one of the greatest turnarounds in college basketball history and now has one of the most historic basketball programs back to doing what they do best. Winning.
If anyone can challenge John Calipari’s Traveling All Stars in 2012/2013, it will be Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers. It very well could be “Hoosier Time” come April 8, 2013 at the Georgia Dome.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.