4 storylines to Indiana’s game against Michigan State #iubb

1. Collin Hartman’s status. The sophomore forward won’t magically fix all that has bothered Indiana in recent weeks, but Hartman’s return can’t come soon enough. IU coach Tom Crean said on Friday afternoon that he was unable to give a concrete answer on Hartman’s status against Michigan State, but acknowleded that he’s nearing a return. “It’s amazing how down our percentages are just because of one guy, in the sense of the way he moves the basketball,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “He has such a great basketball IQ and he’s 6-foot-6, playing out of position, but you have to guard him. He moves the basketball. We haven’t had very many games where we’ve had our guys playing the No. 5-spot together, so hopefully as we keep moving here, we’ll have that.”

2. Branden Dawson overpowered IU in January. Little went the Hoosiers’ way in a 70-50 loss to the Spartans at Breslin Center on Jan. 5. Dawson played a major part in that result. The 6-foot-6 senior produced a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, while completely shutting down Indiana forward Troy Williams on the other end. He’ll be a load to handle if he plays, but his playing status entering today is up in the air. Dawson left Wednesday’s game against Purdue midway through the first half after taking a blow to the head. He didn’t return against the Boilers and is questionable for the IU game. “We’re counting on him playing,” Crean said. “… If not, they’ll adjust, we’ll adjust.”

3. Win and you’re in. The late-season slide puts the Hoosiers on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but a win today likely solidifies their hopes of returning to the postseason. If not, Indiana will have some serious work to do to make up ground in next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. By beating the Spartans, IU can lock up a No. 7 seed in the conference tournament. Otherwise, the Hoosiers will have to hope for an Illinois loss in order to avoid the No. 8 seed. By entering as a No. 7 seed, IU could see a rematch with Minnesota in the first game, with the winner facing No. 2 seed Maryland on Friday. Arguably, the Gophers and Terrapins present two of the best possible matchups for the Hoosiers, so a win today could go a long way toward fixing the trajectory of March.

4. A big man on campus. Blue chip center Thomas Bryant will attend today’s game at Assembly Hall, according to multiple reports on Friday. Bryant, a 6-foot-10 four-star prospect out of Huntington Prep in West Virginia, is rated as the No. 27 overall prospect in the 2015 class, via the 247 Sports composite. Bryant has Indiana among his finalists, along with Kentucky, Missouri and Syracuse. He was thought to be leaning toward the Orange, though it’s unclear what kind of advantage the other schools may now have given the NCAA sanctions — including a redcution of scholarships — levied against Syracuse on Friday morning. Indiana remains oversigned by two for its 2015 class.

15 comments

  1. IU will lose on Saturday to Sparty. They will then lose in the first round of the B1G tournament and then will lose in the first round of NIT. This is a group of players that don’t play like a team. I think we know Crean and Glass are tied at the hip but the real interest will see who will stay and who will go. This is starting to remind me of the Michigan football situation in which the AD and coach were gone., I just can’t see this ending positively at this point. Only 3 more games until the misery is over.

  2. Slight correction, Jeff: This team doesn’t consistently play like a team.

    Been busy lately, so I haven’t read most of the reaction/commentary on these latest train wrecks, but I’ve sampled and saw exactly what I expected from the Scoopsters. Fan reaction has been completely predictable and mostly justifiable.

    As I was watching the Purdue game with my neighbor (an Illini fan), he commented on how good we looked early on. Indeed, we were running a smooth, active, efficient offense. Great movement with and without the ball. We got open looks and drives. We were in the middle of a stretch where our offense plays together, plays to its capabilities, and could compete with anybody in the country.

    But I had to throw some water on all the praise. “Just wait,” I told my neighbor. “Any minute this well-oiled offensive machine will screech to a hault.” Not two minutes later, we couldn’t do anything offensively, and Purdue methodically turned an 8 point deficit into a 4-6 point lead.

    It’s still inexplicable to me, yet it happens almost every game. It’s not one player, or lineup. It’s never one reason. Sometimes teams make defensive adjustments that we don’t/can’t effectively counteract. Sometimes our offense continue to run pretty well, but the shots just don’t go in. Sometimes we have good movement but play too fast/sloppy and make bad decisions. Sometimes we have no movement at all. The only thing that seems constant is that bad shooting is contagious. When we’re in the middle of a funk (more often than not these last few weeks) it’s not just our outside shooting that suffers. All of a sudden we can’t finish layups and dunks. We can’t make free throws. We can’t do anything.

    I guess we’ve all become a victim of heightened expectations. Defense has been mostly bad all year, but our offense had been good enough to carry us to early wins. We forgot that we were supposed to be just an average to above-average team, with enough talent to occasionally steal a few games. Well, that’s where we are. Since we’ve lost so many games we were “supposd to have won” lately– at least relative to earlier success– we may have forgotten that this is about where we were supposed to be in the first place.

    Not to say we shouldn’t be frustrated, or that the calls for heads to roll are completely unjustified. Even though Crean’s players often times aren’t executing the way they’re coached, they’re still his players and he deserves most of the blame. I get that. I’m as pissed off as anybody these days. But I get the feeling that IU fans are generating the kind of negative vibes lately that Cubs have suffered each time they make the playoffs– anxiety almost wills their team to defeat. It’s palpable even from the tv screen, and I’m as guilty as anybody.

    How about, instead, we show up today and root like hell for a season-saving win. Maybe our guys can deliver. Go Hoosiers.

  3. despite my feelings towards Crean’s future, I will be rooting hard for the Hoosiers today. It’s cold up here and my pride is suffering… I’m feeling old and broken down after a long winter that hasn’t ended yet.

    I need something to feel good about. A win vs Sparty could definitely do the trick. Finishing above .500 in the B1G would do the trick. Assurance of seeing the IU name on a Bracket next Sunday would do the trick.

    It’s not like I’m surrounded by IU brethren who I can share any joy or sorrow with up here. And Maine is essentially an extension of Boston when it comes to sports interests… It’s all pro team fans – Sox, Pats, Celts, Bruins – who could almost care less about college sports. So there really isn’t an atmosphere of competitive Shtuff talking either… However, everyone that knows me knows I’m a Hoosier fan, so they always ask how IU is doing… I’m getting tired of giving depressing answers. I want to have a sense of pride again when my friends ask.

    SO GO HOOSIERS!!!! BEAT SPARTY!!!!!

  4. Geoff, you may have already opined and I just haven’t had time to trudge through the commentary to read it, but what’s your take on why the offense has gotten so stagnant so often and for such long periods?

    I don’t have a keen tactical eye, but I’m not sure Xs and Os are the driving issue here. It seems mostly to me a mental/confidence/toughness problem. As the season’ worn on, our guys have shown less resiliency when things aren’t going our way. Size disadvantage and no-name players all of a sudden hitting dagger after dagger (who the hell is Vic Law or Peter Jok?) doesn’t help. But our willingness to overcome and compete seems to have taken a drastic turn for the worse. Your thoughts?

  5. trying to keep it positive today Punjab, so I’ll make this short. I think it’s a combination of X’s and O’s, mental toughness, and players tuning Crean out.

    I just think that Crean has an offensive philosophy. There are some rules to obey, but there are very few sets or things to unstagnate once the stagnation sets in. As the season moves along we don’t mix things in, but the other teams improve, game plan, and adjust. So we are left unprepared to deal with teams that are prepared to deal with what they’ve seen all year.

    I’d say mental toughness plays a role because we allow what happens on the previous play (or plays) effect what happens next… we miss a couple shots and we lose confidence as a team because that supposed to be what we do. We see shots go down for the other team and instead of bursting out and trying to put them on their heels, which is what this team is built to do, we hang our heads and allow ourselves get mired in the half court.

    I also just think that Crean-fatigue has set in… I mean how long can you be around that weird energy and stay positively motivated? Especially if you look around and see other teams figuring you out, and yet your coach isn’t preparing you adequately to compete on both ends… It’s gotta be exhausting mentally.

  6. Good response. Can’t disagree with any if it, and thanks for trying to stay positive.

    All I’ll say is I’d like to see more on-ball (including full court) defensive pressure before we’re down 10 with 3 minutes to go. That seems to be the only thing that has broken an offensive slump lately, albeit too little too late. MSU is probably too talented and experienced at guard for it to be really effective, but it can’t hurt to mix it in at some point other than desperation time.

    Okay. Game time. Let’s turn this season back around. Go Big Red!

  7. Geoff–analysis of Crean. I would offer a reason fans are upset is that we saw this “fatigue” starting at the end of the year with the Zoeller-Oladipo class. Next year ,we couldn’t shoot well but effort was there;then fatigue again and same this year. 3 years of “end of year” stagnation/fatigue. Is it possible that CTC has fallen into repetition that has his players tuning him out. They played that way last year and they are playing that way again. Is it too many platitudes and not enough teaching because execution is STILL lacking this late in the year.

  8. I would have appreciated that call… Can’t believe that Yogi was composed enough not to get a T there. I would have been right in the nearest refs face literally screaming and spitting in his mug.

  9. I woke up all 3 pets in my house… I think that’s the first time I spontaneously yelled at a dunk in a couple years.

  10. Just wondering if the decline in student attendance is part of the reason Assembly Hall appears, in relative terms, to be “asleep” these days. Students bring enormous energy to Assembly Hall, and you have to think they bring energy to the team. It’s a phenomenon affecting college athletics across the country, but maybe it’s having a more profound impact on the atmosphere inside Assembly Hall?

  11. Punjab – “I guess we’ve all become a victim of heightened expectations”. I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing this argument. It’s ridiculous. Why should the expectations be so low in a coach’s 7th year? Why should he get a pass on the roster? Who does the recruiting? It’s laughable that a guy making over 3 million a year gets treated with kid gloves all the time. Look there have been off-court issues and 2 really poor seasons in a row (missing the NCAA is a really poor season, period). Do you really see a dramatic improvement coming next year? Keeping a coach too long is a really bad idea, and it’s defeatist to always assume we’ll be worse off with someone else.

    Look at all the advantages for this program: IU usually finishes in the top 10 in the nation in attendance, great instate and regional recruiting grounds, new practice facility, tradition, pays top dollar for a coach…..

    Why have Butler, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, Kentucky, Louisville created more successful programs over the last 10-20 years? Coaching, period.

    Why is Florida football down? Why was Alabama football down before Saban? Coaching.

    Coaching matters….a ton. And IU’s administration has done a horrific job of running this program the last two decades. Simple as that.

  12. Tim, I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing about Crean’s salary. It was a business decision to lock him in long term, made several years ago when Crean had this program on the rise. Most of you lauded the extension at the time, although you probably won’t admit it now. Several years later– now that we’re stuck paying a coach who may or may not be a lame duck next year– we’re crying about it as if it’s going to change anything.

    And you want to talk about heightened expectations? You think half the Big Ten would be perfectly happy with our record over the last four years? But we’re Indiana! News flash: we haven’t been any more nationally relevant than Memphis over the last twenty years. You think Navy football should be disgusted with an 8-4 record because they were perennial title contenders at one point. Because we’re the Midshipmen! Or the San Fransisco Dons! We’re the Cubs circa 1908! Live in the past much? Don’t tell me about heightened expectations then turn right around and say 19 wins is unacceptable because, hey, we should be better than that. (Missing the NCAA is a really poor season? That about 300 really poor teams a year.)

    I’m as pissed off as everyone else. That was a cruel loss, and probably a cruel end to a cruel season. But that’s where we are. And like it or not, The odds are overwhelmingly stacked against you if you think griping about how much Crean makes is going to do a damn bit of good before next year.

    Incidentally, fans booing in front of arguably our biggest, most important recruits doesn’t help matters, either.

    To vent is one thing. But to rebut a statement you view as stale with an argument that is equally as stale is, well, stale.

  13. Punjab – Why do you think IU hasn’t been elite? Hmmmm could it be coaching? Why is Kansas consistently good? Do they have all these inherent advantages over IU? Does Wisconsin? Does Butler? Maybe, coaching matters. Maybe IU has been down for years because of well….coaching. Yes, missing the tournament at IU should always be unacceptable. Tradition, facilities, attendance, instate/regional recruiting grounds…these things matter. It’s pathetic that you can’t see that.

    Yes, salary does matter. If you’re being paid elite money, then expectations will be higher. Grow up. He makes double what some coaches in the conference make.

    You’re comparison to Navy football is laughable. Navy has all kinds of recruiting limitations among other things that IU does not have to deal with.

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