Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hoosier moment

I don't know what lies ahead for Indiana in March. Let's start with that, as the celebration still echoes out in Iowa City.

I don't know what lies ahead for Indiana in March not because it's Tom Crean's Indiana, but because it's everybody's everybody. If there has been a more wide-open college basketball season in recent memory, my admittedly malfunctioning brain cannot recall it. No one's a lock. No one's unscathed. Everyone has flaws, nicks and cuts and contusions incurred in various and often out-of-nowhere stumbles.

Who do you like, as March comes in? Kansas? Villanova? North Carolina? Virginia? Oklahoma or Michigan State or Xavier or Duke or, yes, Indiana?

They've all been found. And they've all been found wanting.

Here's what I know about Crean's Indiana Hoosiers: They are as positioned for March as anyone right now, mainly because they have guards and, more to the point, a guard. Yogi Ferrell emerged in his senior season as a legit player-of-the-year candidate, exactly the sort of player that forms the template for success in the Madness. Teams with guards, and especially a guard, tend to go deep in March. I can't think of a recent NCAA champion that didn't have that particular component.

This might sound absurd given where Indiana was three months ago, after the lost trip to Maui and the disintegration against Duke. Indiana's occasionally delusional fan base looked at the Hoosiers then, and saw what it regarded as a typically underachieving Tom Crean product. Couldn't defend, inconsistent, slow to adjust to changing game situations. Same-old, same-old.

And three months later?

They're still not perfect. But no one is this year.

What they are is a basketball team that somehow found itself, and whether the fan base wants to admit it, that is largely due the man on the bench. That this has been Crean's best coaching job in Bloomington is beyond dispute; by all accounts, he has managed to rein in his worst manic instincts, to loosen up, to not be such a grind. And his team has responded at both ends.

So does that mean Crean -- who's now won two Big Ten regular season titles in four years, in case you were wondering -- will take his team to the Final Four? Or perhaps beyond?

Only the demented would say that. And, again, that's not because it's Crean and it's not because it's Crean's Indiana.

It's because it's everybody, this year. It's everybody's One Shining Moment this March, and it's nobody's.

And so for now, for this one day, attention should be paid. And credit should be given.

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