Indiana 2011 is pre-Shurna Northwestern. Yikes!
Someone asked over at Crimson Quarry during the late minutes of the Wisconsin loss "where has this effort been?" I think I can answer that - it's been there. Having watched multiple defeats in a row over the last couple of weeks, I can safely say that this Indiana ballclub is a scrappy, slightly undersized team that simply cannot execute in the first half and falls victim to opponents' heroic performances in the second. Thus, the title of this post.
To compare to an actual Big Ten team (I keed, I keed), I went back and looked at the end of the Keady years and beginning of the Painter years, as a lot of woofing by Purdue sportsblogs about Crean started me thinking about the comparable situations. And I think this year is very comparable to Painter's first year ('05-'06) for IU, which was also a 3-win, last-place conference season. This was also coming off a previous 3-win season, in which injuries to the best players short-circuited both season's chances at success, and gutty efforts didn't overcome the talent disparity in a very tough conference. I don't think it is fair in any way to consider the two rebuilding efforts equal, or to compare to 2008 Purdue "Baby Boiler" team to any IU team until the 2012 class steps on campus.*
*IF* Crean is anywhere near the equal of Painter, we should see IU get to the NCAA tourney next season (or at least come close -PU was a bubble team in '07) and the following season bring in a stellar class that finally puts the Hoosiers back in contention for a Big Ten championship. Crean has a done a great job recruiting, and rebuilding program morale for the Hoosiers while trying to rebuild from a total demolition that has rarely, if ever, been seen in college hoops. Even Baylor didn't start from absolute zero like Crean did. Painter, while starting out with somewhat less hype and fanfare in those areas than Crean, has simply just won games, and is now a legit contender for National Coach of the Year. And kudos to him, he's doing a great job. I do kinda hope that he has to play St. John's in the first or second round in the NCAA tourney, tho. It'd be great TV to see him go up against Keady.
For next season, maybe Tyler Zeller is the missing piece on both ends, maybe Mo Creek finally returns to his frosh form, and maybe Verdell Jones and Christian Watford both actually stay healthy for a consecutive 12+ month period. It's a lot of maybes, but I do expect to see improvement across the board. However, I also think the Hoosiers will probably see at least one off-season transfer, maybe two.
Additional say huh? note: The BYU program- I know sportswriters tend to be a conservative bunch, so I'll say it. Brandon Davies getting kicked out of the program for having sexual relations with his girlfriend is the end of that program's ability to recruit young men. BYU will now literally be known as the program where you can't get laid, and that explicitness is not good for recruiting. Yes, there'll always be a stream of particularly straight-laced-and-proud-of-it Mormon recruits, but this additional attention to not being able to be scruffy, drink caffeine (let alone alcohol), or consort with females is still going to hurt the program, long-term. In the short-term, it's probably the end of their final four hopes, too.
*Side note: I know it is nit-picking, but it seems irritatingly forgotten by everybody that the "Baby Boilers" had the nation's top Juco center in Nemanja Calasan, who saw starting minutes, and Scott Martin -who now stars for Notre Dame- was a really significant contributor as well. Moore & Hummel were the stars, and JaJuan Johnson has grown into a great player in the intervening years, but without the late pick-up of Calasan (who had been committed to Utah?), I don't see those Boilers having the interior experience and toughness to win 15 conference games. But they had him, and they did, so I do wish that the fact that the stellar Baby Boiler class is down to two of the original five was somewhat more acknowledged. Like I said, nit-picking.