Settling in for the Long Haul
by Matt Dollinger
| November 23rd, 2009
MY COUCH Ė The Puerto Rico Tip-Off delivered just as promised.
But instead of a jump ball, the preseason tournamentís tip-off was more of the insider information variety.
The message was clear, whether you watched the games or the live blog. Despite the influx of talent, IU Basketball might not live up to the hopes some optimists placed on them before the season.
A double-digit win season now seems lofty. A .500 record would likely include a pair of glass slippers and a horse-drawn carriage made out of pumpkin.
Most Hoosier fans are currently mourning this weekendís activities Ė and/or coming off a binge necessitated by the Old Oaken Bucket game Ė but Iím here to tell you that not all was lost in the gyms of San Juan.
My glass usually sits half-empty, but I can say without hesitation that the Hoosiers are a better team right now than they were at this point last season. As someone who had a courtside seat to Tom Crean and the greenest team in Cream and Crimson history all of last year, I can tell the Hoosiers have taken a step in the right direction.
Last seasonís December losses to Northeastern and Lipscomb were gut wrenching; this yearís November defeats to Boston and George Mason are closer to stomach-able.
Although, certainly not enjoyable. After handing it to Howard and edging out USC Upstate to open the season, three consecutive losses reminds us just how far the menís basketball program still has to go on its path to reclamation.
Around this time last year, I was in Hawaii covering the Hoosiers in the Maui Invitational (read: golfing). Before the tournament, IU registered wins over Northwestern State and IUPUI to open the season. No one was calling them world-beaters, but no one was quite anticipating the 38-point shellacking Notre Dame handed them to open the tournament either.
Expectations adjusted and reality hit harder than a Tijan Jobe screen. IU followed the loss with a 26-point defeat to Saint Josephs the next day before outlasting the Chaminade Silverswords in the seventh-place game.
This year, a tropical tournament seems to have weathered IU fansí hopes once again. A banked 3-pointer and three straight losses will do that to you.
The difference this year is the Hoosiers have showed flashes of promise and talent that just werenít there last season. Despite their struggles, IU has been competitive in every game this season. Even better, the IU menís basketball team lost games it should have won this past weekend Ė when was the last time you could say that?
Crean might not be playing walk-ons and outfielders anymore, but he is still reliant on true freshmen adapting to the college level. In spurts, this yearís team has already displayed the type of offensive ability and defensive prowess that was missing from last yearís 6-25 team.
A difficult upcoming schedule could leave their record indicating otherwise, but the Hoosiers are getting better. They might not pull off the number of upsets some were hoping, but this yearís team will have its moments.
Hoosier fans should settle in for the long haul and be patient with this yearís bunch. There is a reason IU signed Crean to a 10-year contract.
This yearís team would handily beat last yearís Ė itís just hard to tell just quite yet whom else they could beat.