IU fans: Stop blaming Crean
Even with all of his warts, as a Purdue fan, I've grown to love Tom Crean. He's nervous, fashion disabled, an awful armchair psychologist, in denial about his hairline and fooling no one with his bronze color in the dead of winter in Southern Indiana. But the dude brings in talent that Matty wishes he had. Five star after five star...McDs AAs after McDs AAs...skill for days. As Purdue fans, we finally understand what a high skill level can do for a program. Not simply because Biggie is Purdue's highest-caliber recruit in nearly 20 years, but because the parts around him have developed (for the most part) and are really good basketball players.
Painter's guys have stuck around...and a break or two has gone his way. Getting a developmental center from the deep South who turned out to be one of the best true centers in the nation was an absolute coup. Having Mathias be a complete basketball player, not just a shooter has proven important. Watching RayDay turn from a gunner to a defensive badass set a new tone. Having players humble enough to not whine if they don't play more than 15 minutes has been imperative. Oh yeah, and Hammons enjoying college enough to keep coming back hasn't turned out too badly either.
Things have fallen into place for Purdue...because guys are now buying in to what Matty is selling. But it really sucked getting here. Guys seem to be working hard, and it's paying off. Painter's second swipe at the idea of recruiting size has gone much better than the reaction to losing to a bruising UConn team in the tourney a few years ago...things are going well in God's Country.
It's not the same right now for IU.
In spite of crappy defense in Bloomington in 2014, the media and coaches who vote on things that don't matter in the summertime, ranked IU too highly because they landed a good PF in the off-season. The framework of crappy basketball is still there though. Players still shoot too quickly and too often, there's clearly poor chemistry and nobody knows how to play defense in that wretched place to our South. So why is it different at Purdue right now?
Good depth has made a world of difference, but RayDay and Hammons' importance as leaders can't be discounted. Those two are the best two defenders in the league. Not two of the best, the two very best. That idea, that attention that comes with their philosophy is slowly, but surely rubbing off on the rest of the team. Early morning involuntary workouts, shoot arounds late at night and competition in the pre-season has made Purdue stronger. None of that is happening at IU.
A merry-go-round of really talented big men stay for a year and then move on to greener pastures at IU...Bryant is merely the most-recent edition of this phenomenon. He's a good player...but he's no 23 year old AJ Hammons...I'll go a step further- he's no 19 year old Isaac Haas. But as Haas quickly points out- he owes what he is as a college player to Hammons. Their competition has made both of them better...and a bit of that has been dumb luck. Wake Forest's loss was Purdue's gain...and a guy that had a questionable fire has had an inferno lit under his backside in the form of Ivan Drago's bigger, stronger, evil-er nephew. I haven't even mentioned Edwards' work ethic and improvement, Biggie's lunch pail mentality or unsung PJ Thompson's emergence from a perceived throw-in to a true leader as a Sophomore...but I don't need to. The right parts are in place.
Back to IU- A sure-fire early NBAer in the form of Yogi Ferrell is in his fourth year on campus. When he came out of HS, it looked like Purdue got a poor man's version of him in Ronnie Johnson...but things didn't work out so well. Johnson had some bad counsel that reminded him that he was Purdue's best player. Sadly, his counsel was right about that. Sadder still, Johnson didn't really understand what would take him from a pretty talented, undersized guard to an all-BT player: Work ethic, a better attitude and a touch of unselfishness might have made the guy a lethal compliment to Hammons. It didn't work out like that at all. He smartly transferred...and hindsight tells us that it truly was addition by subtraction.
Losing Barlow, Anthony Johnson and then Ronnie Johnson, in hindsight was absolutely imperative to rebuilding Purdue's basketball culture. Understand this- I really have nothing against these guys. I always love hearing about kids that choose to play for Purdue. But when they're not a fit, they're not. Barlow was his own guy...mixed it up with EVERYBODY. IU fans disdain him...but so do many Purdue fans. AJ got into arguments with Purdue's captain at the time- a guy named Robbie-something-or-other. What did Mr. Hummel know anyway??? And finally Johnson really believed his handlers' words- that he truly was the man, and Purdue wasn't worthy of his services.
Turns out, RonJohn was a poor man's Ferrell...but Crean allowed Ferrell's talent to overshadow all of the issues he brings to the court. Off-court issues haven't yielded punishment. Shooting too much hasn't earned him bench time and Ferrell's poor handling of young players on the court hasn't helped those players develop or allowed him to reach his potential. I still think Ferrell is the most-skilled PG the B1G has had since Trey Burke...and he should have filled Burke's role for the conference in 14 and now 15...but he's not going to. He is what he is. Blackmon knows it, Zeisloft, Hartman and Williams' Mom all know it too. Make no mistake, this is Yogi's team...and it shows.
If you're from Indianapolis, you know about Park Tudor. It's a rich kids' school. Sure, a few nice people come out of there too, but if you're offended by what I'm saying, you're probably one of the entitled folks that has graced the gilded halls of Park Tudor. That's where Ferrell went- I bet he was a good fit. Tons of talent and everyone told him about it daily...and he drank his own Kool-Aid.
Off the court, he might feed soup to the poor and help old ladies across the street...but I've never heard of any stories like that. On the court, I see what I see- the most talented player out of the ten playing the game...but an absolute cancer to the team clad in red/white jammy pants.
So before you beat up on Tom Crean and demand that IU hire Greg Marshall, Dane Fife or Steve Alford, IU fan...shift your gaze away from the bench to the little guy with the lousy attitude on the court. Ever since the Supermen on campus left, and it's been his team, things haven't been so great.
Take it from a fan of a team who knows the cost of crappy attitudes, Crean isn't the problem.
Don't get me wrong, I revel in seeing IU lose...love it even more when the expectations are high and the Movement v. 2.0 gets flushed by teams like Wake Forest in exotic locales on the national stage. All of that said, you might wanna ask yourself, "Shouldn't I consider the source of this wise counsel?"
But if you think IU's problems are all linked to the Forehead, his high pants, weird mannerisms and nervous shot-gunning of Diet Cokes, you're mistaken. But for the record, I hope IU hires Dane Fife. He's a colossal d-bag and would be an excellent fit with my perception of what IU has always been...go get him!! Make it happen! Until it does, I guess dreams of a 2016 NIT will dance in your heads.
Merry Early Christmas, Hoosier fans! You're welcome.