NCAA BK

Impatient Crean still trying to turn Indiana around

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

It doesn't take long to come to the conclusion that Indiana coach Tom Crean isn't a patient man. Just check the soles of his shoes. If you do, you'll witness all the wear and tear they endure from his seemingly endless marching up and down the sidelines throughout each and every game.
But Crean is quickly realizing that the task ahead of him will force him to be more tolerant than ever before. And that he might want to invest in a few more pairs of Cole Haans. Because Indiana is still a ways away. "It's going to take more time than I thought," admitted Crean, who came from Marquette a little more than 18 months ago. Crean has been given a free pass for the first couple years and rightfully so after the mess he inherited in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson disaster. The Hoosiers will certainly be more competitive this season than they were a year ago — when they won just six games with a completely revamped roster in which not a single scholarship player remained from the Sampson Era. But there's no way this team should have been the only program to head back to the mainland winless from the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. No disrespect to Boston University, but the Hoosiers shouldn't be dropping games to America East teams. They also shouldn't be coming up short against a George Mason club that is just as inexperienced — if not more so. "I'm shocked and disappointed," Jeremiah Rivers said following Sunday's loss to George Mason. "We're a young team, but we can't use that as an excuse." "Teams like George Mason have other guys handing it down," Crean said. "They didn't have to send off everybody for drugs and academics. All of the programs have someone to hand it down. We don't have that." Crean is right. Indiana has some decent pieces — talented freshmen Christian Watford and Maurice Creek as well as Georgetown transfer Rivers (the son of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers). I'm not going to name specific names, but Crean and his staff were also were forced to take some guys that weren't Indiana-caliber immediately after getting the job just in order to field a team last season. There were also some, myself included, who were doing some head-scratching with a couple of the current freshmen he signed. "The guys we signed a year ago are all better," Crean said. "I wouldn't give any of them back." Crean mentioned the lack of toughness and that he's going to immediately head out recruiting this week to somewhere such as Baltimore or Boston — where he can go after someone with inner-city grit. He spoke about hitting his players harder with the blocking pads in practice, so they won't miss 13 layups — as they did against George Mason. "It's excruciating to go through this," Crean said of the losing. "But we're going to get through it." Only if Crean and & Co. can land a bonafide pro or two. While Watford possesses an abundance of talent, he's still a major work in progress and is worlds away from being a consistent Big Ten player. Everyone in the top half of the Big Ten has at least one sure-fire pro — Michigan State features Kalin Lucas, Michigan has Manny Harris and Ohio State boasts Evan Turner. Both Illinois and Purdue may not have one definite star in particular — but both teams have several guys who will be playing for pay once their college careers are over. No one understands that it's extremely difficult to go anywhere without a big-time player more than Crean, who rode Dwayne Wade to the Final Four early in his tenure at Marquette back in 2003. Crean and his staff were in position to land elite guard Kyrie Irving, but the talented floor leader pulled a shocker when he knocked the Hoosiers out of the equation after, at one time, deeming them the co-leader. Irving ultimately signed with Duke. If the Hoosiers can find a way to land a kid such as Josh Selby, another elite point guard who is considering Indiana, then you can talk about the Hoosiers getting themselves back in the mix among the top half of the Big Ten. "I hope fans stay with me through this," Crean said. "Don't be discouraged. We're going to get better." But until that point, fans in Bloomington may have to settle for wins against the league's bottom-feeders. That may be enough for now, but not for much longer.
Tagged: Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Georgetown, George Mason, Marquette, Ohio State, Boston University, Indiana, Illinois

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