Monday, February 13, 2017

Free fallin'

So remember a month or so ago, when the Indiana Hoosiers were off the rails and Crimson Nation was Chicken Little-ing about, crying that the sky was falling?

The Blob, back then, said there was a lot of season left, and thus it was not yet time to panic.


Well. Today, the Blob acknowledges it's the perfect time to panic.

This after the Hoosiers lost their second straight game in their previously impregnable fortress, Assembly Hall, to a team (Michigan) not much better than they are. And by 12 points, no less.

It was their third straight loss, their fifth in the last six games, their ninth in the last 14. The only win in the last six games was over middling Penn State in the Hall -- and even then, they needed three overtimes.

To beat Penn State. At home.

At 15-11, 5-8 in the Big Ten, the NCAA Tournament is no longer a goal but a unicorn. Against Michigan, the Hoosiers certainly didn't look anything like a Tournament team. It looked instead like what it's been for the last six weeks: a collection of individuals with no identity playing without direction.

Shoot. Even head coach Tom Crean got flattened when a Michigan player, turning away from (of course) a made 3-pointer, accidentally bowled him over.

At least Crean got up. His team, on the other hand, looks as down for the count as Sonny Liston, lying flat on his back as Ali stood roaring over him.

That the Hoosiers miss the athleticism and length of OG Anunoby, out for the duration, is obvious. That they miss the court presence and glue provided by Colin Hartman, out since Day One, is also obvious. That leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. is still slowed by that unspecified leg injury -- in the two games he's played since returning, he's 5-of-21from the floor -- is obvious as well.

So, they're beat up. And they clearly miss the floor leadership of Yogi Ferrell, who's now doing his thing in the NBA despite all the people who said he'd never do his thing in the NBA.

What's left is a team, at least off the evidence from Sunday, that is not efficient or coherent enough on the offensive end to compensate for glaring deficiencies on the defensive end. Opponents continually break down Indiana defenders and then find smooth sailing to the rim because there is no, zero, nada, helpside defense. No one slides over to pick up anyone else's man, either because they haven't been coached up enough to do it without thinking about it, or simply don't possess the proper recognition.

Which of course would also be a coaching issue.

This does not necessarily mean Crean's head is on the block. He may be following the best coaching job of his life -- last year -- with the worst, but the injuries will likely give him an out with his athletic director, Fred Glass. And a lot would depend on who's out there who would be both available and a significant upgrade from Crean. It's probably fewer people than you think.

On the other hand, it might not be that much fewer. Especially if everything that's going south now continues to go south.

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