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Interrogating the Opposition: Midwest Sports Fans


Interrogating the Opposition this weekend lands us in the mid-west, as Jerod Morris of Midwest Sports Fans drops by to answer our questions about his beloved Indiana Hoosiers. For some of the best commentary on the best region in sports in our country, make sure you check out Jerod’s work.

For more Hoosier coverage this afternoon, head on over to our sister blog, The Hoosier State of Mind.

S &G: It’s been a tough season at Indiana from a Big Ten Standpoint and an opposing fan looking in. Despite wins over teams in non-conference games that Indiana should beat, there has not been a signature win or even a scratch resume for this team. With wins though in conference against Minnesota and Illinois, there is some improvement on the court. What is the state of Hoosier Basketball through the fans eyes heading into Sunday’s match up with Ohio State?

JM: First off, I would say that the Illinois and Minnesota wins were signature wins for this program. Tom Crean took the floor his first year with two players, both walkons, from the year before. To win two straight home games against ranked teams in his 3rd year was a signature accomplishment.

That said, we have regressed since the high point of those two wins, and I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t both frustrating and infuriating.

I think the state of Hoosiers basketball heading into Sunday’s game is this: 2012 is a huge season. When Crean took over, I targeted his fourth season as the one where I would finally place real expectations on him. Those expectations were, and remain: NIT berth as worst case scenario and bubble NCAA team as a minimum. I talked myself into thinking that could be achieved this year, but it hasn’t been. I like Crean. He’s a good man, he does things with integrity, and he has done a great job of showing longtime IU fans like myself that the traditions we hold dear are important. But the #1 tradition is winning, and that’s the only thing he hasn’t gotten yet. Everything else he’s done compels me to give him the benefit of the doubt moving forward, and I will. But as of RIGHT NOW, we remain one of the worst basketball teams in the BIg 10. That’s a hard sentence to type, but it’s true.

S & G: When Tom Crean left Marquette and the program was back on the right foot, many thought it would take some time for this program to rebound to respectability. Where does that rebuilding stand and is Crean still the coach to get the Hoosiers over the hump?

JM: I somewhat answered this above. The only honest answer I can give is that I don’t know. Tom Crean was the perfect person for the first three years of the job. His energy and optimism were necessary. However, wins and player improvement has to come at some point, and so far many IU fans are frustrated that neither has occurred. I’m giving Coach one more year before I judge with any finality. What he inherited was indescribably bad, but after next year that will be four years removed and the excuses will be gone and honeymoon officially over. My final answer: yes, Coach Crean can get us back into the Big Ten’s elite. Next year is the first year I start expecting it.

S&G: The last time these two met was the Big Ten opener for Ohio State. The Buckeyes got out to a hot start, shooting 15-21 in the first half. Mistakes have been a major issue for the Hoosiers, including foul trouble, untimely misses, and costly turnovers. Is it the youth that plays the biggest part in that?

JM: Yes, youth plays a part, but I also think that we are just not a smart basketball team in general. Verdell Jones is a very good scorer, but he is not an efficient offensive player. The same is true of Christian Watford. Jordan Hulls is a very efficient and effective offensive player, but unfortunately he does not have the “I’m a badass” gene that a guy like Scott Skiles or even former IU point guards Michael Lewis and Tom Coverdale had. Jordan Hulls should shoot anytime he’s open, and no IU fan would disagree. Verdell and CWat DO shoot anytime they’re open, and most Hoosier fans would rather see them make more effective use of the pass. Part of that is inexperience and part of it is coaching. If Bob Knight’s teams were lauded for their understanding of the motion offense and good shot selection, then it’s only fair to criticize Coach Crean’s teams for mismanaging offensive sets and exhibiting poor shot selection.

S&G: Who is the biggest weapon the Buckeyes have to worry about on Sunday?

JM: Jordan Hulls is the key to IU’s offense. He needs to be hot and assertive for IU to have a chance. And yes, former Buckeye-killer Matt Roth (9 3s v Ohio State his freshman year) is key, but he doesn’t play as much. Otherwise, watch Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. Both are freshman, both are streaky, and both make idiotic decisions sometimes, but they are the two Hoosiers who can match up with guys like David Lighty and William Buford athletically. Both are capable of scoring and producing big games when they get confidence early. Ohio State would be wise to harass both early and eliminate any confidence. Otherwise, they’re just talented enough to keep IU in te game.

S&G: Defensively, in their first match-up, the Hoosiers started of the game in zone defense and the Buckeyes burned them for 15-21 shooting and 7-10 from the perimeter. How does Indiana adjust defensively in the second game this season against the Buckeyes?

JM: Do I really have to talk about IU’s defense? Especially when it involves guarding Jared Sullinger? If you want t know my honest thoughts on what IU has to do to defend Jared Sullinger, it’s this: either find another game of eligibility for Kent Benson or Matt Nover, or change the rules so 7 players can play defense. Otherwise, this IU squad has given me no reason to trust its defense.

S&G: Finally, before we let you go Jerod, what are your expectations and predictions for Sunday?

JM: Let me preface this by saying that I am one of the most optimistic Indiana fans you’ll ever meet. 99% of the time I have predicted Indiana to win…against anyone. I grew up in Assembly Hall and I grew up believing that the Cream and Crimson was as good as it got in the Big Ten and in college basketball. In some ways, I was right.

That said, I am terrified of Sunday. Mainly I’m terrified of a letdown. The fans put so much into Wednesday night’s game against Purdue, and I know Crean and the players did too, and we still played poorly and lost by double digits. With that being the case, how am I supposed to be optimistic that we can go on the road and compete with a team in Ohio State that, if I had to fill out my bracket today, I’d pick to go all the way?

I hold out hope that Ohio State will be bored and Indiana will be tremendously motivated, but this IU team has not earned my trust yet. I’ve cheered for a lot of great Indiana teams and I’m not going to just give my trust to a team that hasn’t proven it deserves it. I’ll sit there an watch all 40 minutes, because that’s what true fans do, but I enter this game with few expectations. I hope Indiana competes, and I hold out a slim hope that we can win, but my expectation is that Ohio State delivers a pretty convincing W. I sure as hell hope I’m wrong. It’d be the best moment of the season if I am.

(Jerod Morris is the managing editor of Midwest Sports Fans and a dedicated Hoosier fan. For more of his great content all sports in the mid-west, bookmark his website. And for additional thoughts in the 140 character format, follow Jerod on Twitter.)