Hoosiers adjusting to favorite’s role

This Indiana team isn’t used to this.

In the past two seasons — which encompass the IU careers of everyone but walk-on Brett Finkelmeier — there has never been a Big Ten game the Hoosiers were supposed to win. Even going into the home game against Iowa last season, the lone conference contest the Hoosiers won all year, they were heavy underdogs.

But when the Hoosiers play Iowa on Sunday at 6 p.m., they’ll probably be giving points in the Las Vegas sports books, and the Assembly Hall faithful will consider it an upset if they don’t see a victory. That’s the situation thanks to back-to-back conference victories for the Hoosiers, including Thursday’s win at Penn State.

“It’s put a lot of pressure on us now,” sophomore guard Verdell Jones said. “The fans are expecting us to win. Deep inside we’re expecting to win, so we just gotta come out here and play 40 minutes … It’s a good feeling. Last year, reading our own paper, seeing that Iowa came in and we were a 10-point underdog against Iowa last year here, now looking in the paper and seeing us as a winner, it’s a good feeling. I like it.”

The IU coaches, though, have done everything they could do to guard against any sort of overconfidence. Indiana coach Tom Crean pointed out Iowa’s close loss to conference favorite Michigan State and made sure the Hoosiers understood how dangerous the Hawkeyes are. He said his players have handled their successes well.

“They’re hungry to play,” Crean said. “There’s no overconfidence. There’s nothing like that. there’s a confidence, but there’s no overconfidence. We’re well aware of where we were picked at the beginning of this year. We’re well aware of where Iowa’s been picked. We’re well aware of what this league has to offer. I think we got their attention in a hurry yesterday with how Iowa looks when they’re playing the way they want to play.”

AUDIO: Crean talks about the team’s improvement

AUDIO: Christian Watford talks about his increased confidence inside

AUDIO: Verdell Jones talks about the favorite’s role

Interesting sidenote. After practice, the Hoosiers held an autograph session on the Assembly Hall floor for Camouflage Kids, a charitable organization that works with the children and spouses of military members. It was informal, and the kids were also allowed to shoot around on the floor with the players.

Two of the practice hoops on one side of the floor were lowered to 8 feet, and that was just as much fun for the Hoosiers as it was for the kids. Especially the IU players who can’t quite dunk on a hoop at regulation height. The 5-foot-10 Daniel Moore made the most of it, eliciting cheers from his teammates by putting the ball between his legs on a dunk. Freshman guard Jordan Hulls waited until most of the crowd on one hoop had dissipated before throwing down a few dunks, as if it represented some form of guilty pleasure.

Injured freshman guard Maurice Creek clearly longed to be involved. He stood up from the trainer’s table near the baseline bleachers and took shots from behind the backboard on one of the main hoops , knocking down an impressive one from below the corner. He started drifting toward one of the lowered hoops without his crutches before Crean saw him and demanded that he go get them.

“You ever seen a guy get suspended while he’s injured?” Crean joked. “That’s what’s going to happen if he doesn’t get back on his crutches.”

26 comments

  1. Steve Alford now sits at 18-3 while the Iowa program has fell completely out of relevance since his departure.
    What a difference a coach makes.

  2. UAB is currently 17-2. By that logic, Mike Davis is clearly a better coach than either Crean or Alford.

    What a difference a coach makes.

  3. Steve,

    That could have been the dumbest thing you have ever said. He left Iowa because he ran it into the ground. Got out before he had a chance to experience his mess.

  4. I would agree that Davis is a better coach than Crean. That doesn’t make him good though.
    Steve Alford finished 4th in the Big Ten his last year at Iowa, I would hardly call that running it into the ground. Look at what the coach after him has done. Yet to finish with a winning record, and things aren’t improving.

  5. Basketball in its essence is a simple game. Break it down to solid defense; proper position and movement of feet to maintain that position, which allows you to defend your man and offer switches or help when needed; and an offense that utilizes spacing, solid screens, crisp passes and hard cuts to the correct spot on the floor resulting in high percentage shots. Throw in getting a body on the opponent while rebounding and hitting your free throws and you will find a high percentage of wins will be your at the end of the day.
    Pointn is that when this group of Hoosiers do those things we see good things happen. When they don’t, well we have all seen the result.
    To the ignoramuses who keep bringing up Alford and Davis, go back down to your parents’ basement and join in on the next round of Warlord or WoW or whatever the latest game craze is. You are getting on my nerves and making an annoyance out of yourselves. Your self-imposed brilliance is anything but. Have a nice day.

  6. Their superior coaching ability is the reason they keep moving up to bigger and more prestigious programs. Yesterday IU, today UAB, tomorrow Hutchinson Junior College.

  7. I am not an advocate of Mike Davis. I hope people are not mistaking that. His offense used to make me sick, but the offense we have now is the same thing but not ran as well.
    He is a terrible coach, just a small step ahead of Crean.

  8. Every time you post something like that you show exactly how foolish you really are. Seriously. Stop while you’re behind.

  9. steve, I have never said much about your posts but Crean has much more movement in his offense. Davis was strictly spacing and one on one talent match ups. Hardly a screen anywhere when Davis coached.

  10. There is not much movement in our offense either. Very hard to find a good screen being set.
    There are differences in the 2, but bottom line is they both suck.

  11. Stevey boy, how come you are not talking about your other favorite coach Pat Knight? Could it be that his team is 5-5 in his last 10 games and tied for 8th place in the big 12? If IU wins this game today they will have pulled themselves into a tie for 3rd place in the Big Ten. OH, and right now WU is behind Penn St. in the second
    half by 9 points. If WU doesn’t win then IU would be tied for 2nd!
    The more you post the less respect you get from everyone. I like the real Steve Alford and you are disgracing his name. Please change your blog name to something more suitable like Dummy.

  12. Pat Knight is 14-5. One of the losses was to Steve Alford and another one of them was to Kansas.
    He could do great things with all the advantages coaching at IU has.

  13. I don’t hate P Knight or Alford like you hate Crean. They were IU players and Alford is a decent coach. Knight has not been a head coach long enough to determine his worth. Alford is one of my favorite IU players but, Steve, these guys are not coming to IU to coach no matter how much you wish it. So quit dragging his name
    through the mud and find a new name or better yet go to a Purdue site and stay there. I am sure they would love you and you could post as Gene Keady and tell them they should hire Alford or Knight.
    I am sure it will be a big hit just like your posts here.

  14. RonB,

    Alford ran Iowa into the ground and now Iowa came to lead us at halftime 28-19 in Assembly Hall. I guess this just goes to show that Crean is by far the superior coach, doesn’t it?

    I know, this was a rhetorical, provoking and very stupid question — but do you see how things can be twisted forever and ever without any hope of a meaningful resolution?

    It pains me to see people insulting each other over the very same team that they root for. I think everybody should be supportive of the players but very demanding of the coach (because he’s paid very well and should be the one with experience). There will always be what you call “Crean haters” but once the team will start winning their protests will subside. I guess the state of Hoosier basketball is such that most fans are currently very sensitive and protective of their coach, not just the team — which might actually make them appear as insecure, sometimes, perhaps.

    I can’t give you or anybody any advice, but please don’t get too aggravated over stevealford’s posts. I am not as convinced as he is that the real Alford would do a better job than Tom Crean but I like that he keeps following both Alford and Pat Knight and hopes that they will become good enough coaches to perhaps one day coach IU.

    I think we’ll beat Iowa tonight, but it’s going to be hard. Harder than an upset at Illinois, which may still come next Saturday.

    stevealford should also consider how it would feel if the real Alford were to be here and everybody would constantly question his competence and post negative comments. A bit of empathy would go a long way on this blog.

    Now let’s beat the Hawkeyes!

  15. Dragonfly, I get your point and I don’t mean to lower myself to argue with someone like this guy. If you go look at pages and pages of comments made by this guy and others (other than me) who for months have tried to reason with this guy then maybe u would see my frustration. I coached basketball for many years and I know what it is like to have a very young team. They will make you proud one game and then cause you to pull your hair out the next. Just like this horrible game they played today. Crean is IU’S coach and yes I am sensitive to coach bashing like many others who post here. I have not seen your name before so maybe you are someone else. Who knows anymore. I am sorry if you thought I was trying to run down Alford or Knight I was just trying to show this poster that you have to give the guy a chance to build the program again and I don’t feel like SA has done that. I would ask you to look at the many times this kid bashes our coach and others on this blob before you throw stones at me. I enjoy the blog and the many different points that folks make but
    SA repeatedly states the same thing over and over except when IU wins so I am sure we will see a bunch of his hate after this game. I am convinced no one or thing could ever change his
    mind about Crean. I believe Crean maybe did something to this guy, his family, friends or players he likes. If in a couple of years when coach has this program on top I believe old SA would still bash on him. Also, if the guy would not use a former players name it would be better. I have said nothing that hasn’t been said to this poster already. Since I am retired,disabled,a former player and Coach all I do is follow the greatest game every invented..Basketball… so I follow many teams,coaches and players both current and past even real oldies. Maybe some you have not heard of. I will give you and everyone else including you SA a promise that I will not comment on stevealford’s posts again and I would challenge everyone of you to do the same. This needs to stop! Some of the best coaching you can do is when you are not winning if you have kids who will listen. I think IU has quality kids who will listen and hopefully it will reward all of us some much needed winning seasons. I would agree that the coach has to be held accountable and it makes no difference if he wins or not to me. I think we can all think of elite teams who win but have coaches who don’t follow the rules. I am a purist when it comes to the game I love.

  16. Thanks a lot for your answer. I appreciate it.

    I guess it makes sense to support the coach even if we think there may be somewhere else a better coach that could do better. (Man, I was so sure they will tie it in regulation and win in OT!) Iowa is also young and undermanned and I wish Crean would just come and say: “I’m the one to blame, because I couldn’t motivate my team. I could not prepare them psychologically for this game.” But maybe I am naive, maybe he did everything right. Yet players get benched when they don’t play well, and fans are sometimes harsh in their criticism with players when those players make mistakes. But Crean has either been flawless so far, or is unable to admit his mistakes, if he made any — and that’s what I can’t quite wrap my mind around… In the end it really doesn’t matter!

    I thank you very much for your answer. Alford’s record looked really good when the season started but losing the first two games in the league makes him look like an average coach, unfortunately.

    Our best bet is still with the coach we have. May he learn from his mistakes, if and when he makes any. (And I was so sure we’d win this one! Maybe next time. Let’s upset Illinois. We play better as underdogs.) Thanks again, apologies if I created additional unnecessary frustration.

  17. Thanks Dragonfly. Just check out the top 25 teams in conference play each week and there are plenty of upsets to a lot better teams than IU has right now. You really can’t judge a coach or players by game by game. You need to see their whole body of work across many games to see if they are improving. This was a game we all thought they would win. Even the best of coaches have games when their team just do not show up to play. Coach needs to send them a message. You get to play if you give it your best otherwise have a seat. I don’t mind a loss if we play are best. I don’t even like a win if you don’t go all out. It will be interesting to see how they rebound from this one.

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