Sunday Scoop: IU lacking an identity

An excerpt from my Sunday print column:

The question you were asking yourself before Indiana began the 2013-14 season is the same one you were asking as the final seconds of Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament loss to Illinois ticked off the clock.

Who are the Hoosiers?

Individually speaking, they are who we thought they were, to borrow a line. The outline has been fleshed out a bit for each player, but the singular strengths and weaknesses remain well-defined.

The same goes for the team as a whole, where the outside shooting struggles and turnover issues were countered by strengths on the glass and in the paint.

But that still doesn’t answer the question. As a matter of fact, there is no answer to the question, and that’s the most significant aspect of this season.

Indiana had — make that has, since the season may not be over yet — no identity.

An identity is what makes a team recognizable or definable. It’s a consistent characteristic that shows up in prosperity and adversity.

It’s what leads to phrases like “The Butler Way” or “The Carolina Way.”

It’s what keeps TV announcers from discussing Michigan State without using the word “toughness,” or Wisconsin without discussing the swing offense.

Think identifiable college basketball terminology and you come up with things like the “UCLA cut” or “Syracuse zone.”

Time was that Indiana was easily associated with the motion offense and man-to-man denial defense. Did those things lead to winning in and of themselves? Absolutely not. But there was a blueprint, a philosophy that shaped the program year in and year out.

Whether it’s broad terms or a specific aspect of the game, most successful programs can point to something as the fulcrum of success, even as the scales shift from one end to another from time to time.

What’s that going to be with these Hoosiers?

It might be a trick question, because if there’s not an answer, then IU won’t be identified as a successful program.


  1. Of course there is an identity: it’s all about me. My NBA draft status.
    This year it’s Noah, next year could be Williams and who knows who else.
    The program is a rest stop on the way to the NBA instead of being a destination.

  2. Its time for Crean to step up and put his STAMP on this program!! It shouldnt BE a player giving the program its identification because those “ID’s” will change not only year to year ,depending on the player but possibly even game to game.This is no longer a “rescue me” program,THAT has been accomplished.Coach Crean time to put a”personality” stamp on this program,tenacious,intellige nt, hard-working,etc. time to BE the coach Hoosiernation THOUGHT we were getting.put your personality trait to the progrfam and dont surrender it to a player…doing that stops making you “the coach”

  3. The “identity” also often came from top recruits from the home state. There is no “Indiana” team in the NCAA tournament this year…But look around, there are some very high quality Indiana talents at programs everywhere..And, more specifically, look at the top Hoosier ballers at MSU and Michigan just across our borders.

    We are no longer getting the ‘cream of the crop’…And when we do pluck a top Indiana talent, it’s rounded out by more mid-level talent from the state that is going to be mixed with Crean’s projects and hopefuls(hopefuls in terms of taking athleticism and molding it into a top talent within 2-3 years).

    Mitch McGary, Zack Irvin, Zack Novak, Gary Harris, Glen Robinson, Branden Dawson, Spike Albrecht…All Indiana names that will fuel(or have fueled) both MSU and Michigan into top conference teams and top NCAA tournament performers.

    MSU and Michigan can currently call their rosters and top contributors as more Hoosier identifiable(especially in terms of Indiana guys that stay for more than 2 years and continue to produce)than what Crean is doing at Indiana. Zeller was Crean’s way to appease the fan base and try to get the one early deep tournament run under his belt via a premier center and subsequent “movement” of Cody’s friends(not necessarily the best talent from the state).

    Now Crean goes back to his choice way to build his own name? Why? Because he doesn’t have the insight into the game to truly coach beyond the individual level…His main thrust is to highlight his own resume in that regard…It’s his “identity” to locate a rising star and pad the stats of his own personal mission by landing a top diamond in the rough that loves Jesus almost as much as the NBA. I truly don’t believe most of Crean’s recruits “identify” with the lore of Indiana, or care one iota about banners coming to McCracken, or playing team basketball.

    If you want to see Indiana kids with the team work ethic and heart that used to be a primary characteristic of those that sought to don the cream and crimson, I suggest you watch the top Indiana ballers that have become irreplaceable components on MSU and Michigan rosters. Watch the recovering Mitch McGary cheer from the bench with the same level of enthusiasm he brought when he took the NCAA tournament by storm last season.

    And don’t give me the crap about ’87…The team captain was the heart and sharpshooter of that squad and Knight’s teams previous and future were always loaded with strong Hoosier talent.

  4. H4H 1 reason Michigan State “steals” Indiana talent…17 years in the post season….makes a strong selling/recruiting point! Whats Crean got to sell? “Ill have to look at the films first”

  5. I think Crean wants the team’s identity to be the “Hurryin’ Hoosiers”–lots of deflections, transition offense, attack attack attack. That’s why he recruits bigs who can run the floor, and likes to play small. It’s a popular style with highly-ranked recruits, and it’s why last year’s team was successful.

    (1) The #1 problem out here in Teh Intarwebs is that the fans hate it. It’s hard to build an identity when your fans reject and ridicule the identity you’re trying to build. Yes, this year the team is bad, but you can’t say the style itself doesn’t work. Plenty of teams have won it all using a style the involves pace-pushing.
    (2) This year’s team was careless with the ball all year, and there’s not much as deadly to a team that wants to push as a team that turns it over on a quarter of their possessions, often on stupid, hair-pulling-out, WTF turnovers.
    (3) If your emphasis is on fast break and transition offense (and practice for that), then you’re going to look lost when a team slows you down. And we do look lost. It’s going to look doubly-bad against zones that can slow the pace down. And we look doubly-bad against zones that slowed the pace down. Of course, the opposite will also be true, and quite frankly was true even for a number of Knight teams that preferred slower pace. Teams that sped them up made them look bad.

    I’m pretty unhappy with this year, all things considered. There certainly is the possibility that this team will improve next year . . . a more mature team theoretically will have better chemistry, fewer turnovers, and will be better equipped to maintain 2nd quarter leads. Even without Noah, this team should be better next year than it was this year. I say that half-heartedly because I want to believe that, but I’m not sure that I do. And this is a team with *way* too much talent to be playing like they are at this time of the year.

    But, happily for the true Crean-haters (of which I am not), if next year is as bad as this year then it’ll be his last here. Glass’ commitment to honoring contracts notwithstanding, I see no way Crean survives another season like this one. Who knows, maybe the Celtics will be firing Stevens after next season . . .

  6. Jim: the problem with establishing identity,Crean’s coaching developed no committment to executing on offense NOR did he get them to intense,hard-nosed defense.IF,by what you say ,develope a “hurryin hoosier” team ….what he gave the fans then was developing a track team..NOT a basketball far as improving next year..where? he has no seniors for leadership and I dont thenk Yogi can do it alone. Crean demonstrates NO LEADERSHIP in the 2 areas I mentioned earlier;If he had the turnover rate would have dropped over the length of the season.Maybe IU has a need for an assistant track coach

  7. Look, man, it’s easy to take a dump on Coach Crean for this year’s team, fine. This year has been heartburn-city for me, too. But I’m not going to go overboard. There is potential for next year’s team if they put the work in in the off season. Also JBJ brings a truly talented freshman scorer that adds the same kind of element Harris brought to MSU a year ago. If the team fails to get better, then Crean’s gone. But except for this year, IU improved each year under Crean, and for me at least he’s earned another year before I join the calls of letting him go. In the meantime you and HfH can just sit around and stroke each other’s egos about how smart you are.

  8. If this team had an identity it should be put into the witness protection program so we never see it again. It’s a shared problem equal parts players and equal parts coach but who recruited these players? Maybe more 3-star players and less emphasis on the top 100 recruits would be helpful. Works pretty well for a great many teams who consistently make the Big Dance.

  9. Absolutely brilliant and succinct analysis of the 2013-2014 Indiana Men’s Basketball Team Jeremy! Coach Crean needs to take responsibility for this failure and fix it for next year!

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