Then and Now Preview: Indiana

WNUR’s Michael Stern (@MichaelJStern23) previews each of Northwestern’s opponents by looking at how each team did for the first few years under their current head coach. Today: Indiana and Tom Crean.

Next up in the then and now preview series are the Indiana Hoosiers, who welcome the Wildcats to Assembly Hall in Bloomington Saturday. If Wildcat fans think this men’s basketball season is bleak, they shouldn’t mention it to Tom Crean.

Then: The Hoosiers hired Crean, the former Marquette head coach and husband of Joani Harbaugh (yes, that’s Jim and John’s sister) after the program committed several major rules violations under the watch of coach Kelvin Sampson. Some of these violations came during the recruitment of guard Eric Gordon, who curiously flipped his commitment from Illinois to Indiana at the last minute. Crean’s 2008-2009 Hoosiers featured three upperclassmen and went 6-25, losing TWICE to Northwestern. Freshman guard Vendrell Jones was a bright spot on this team, averaging 11 points a game. For the 2009-2010 season, Crean recruited Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford to Bloomington, and the pair combined with Jones to average over 30 points a game. The team still had little success, finishing the year 10-21 and losing once again to Northwestern. In 2010-2011, the Hoosiers went 12-20 and lost twice more to the Wildcats, but with freshmen Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey joining Hulls, Watford, and Jones, Indiana was on the verge of something big. Finally, in 2011-2012, Crean broke through in Bloomington, finishing 27-9 as blue-chip recruit Cody Zeller gave the team a post presence, Oladipo matured, and Hulls, Watford, and Jones provided leadership.

Now: What a difference two years makes. Gone are Zeller and Oladipo, who led the Hoosiers to two years of single-digit losses. Sheehey is now a senior who averages double-figures, but the rest of the team is young. The Hoosiers lost to Illinois (yes, the same Illinois team Northwestern beat) and fell to Michigan State by 17 (yes, the Wildcats lost by only 14 to the Spartans). Although young, this Indiana team is quite talented and is coming off an upset win over previously unbeaten Wisconsin. The Hoosiers have 6 players who play half the game or more: Sheehey, Evan Gordon (a graduate transfer from Arizona State and Eric’s younger brother), athletic freshman Troy Williams, double-double machine and fellow freshman Noah Vonleh (CBS Sports’ #13 prospect for the 2014 NBA Draft), sophomore Jeremy Hollowell (who’s been benched recently with what Crean calls “focus concerns”), and Kevin Ferrell. Ferrell, aka “Yogi,” averages 32 minutes and 18 points a game. The sophomore is developing into a team leader, and scored 25 against Wisconsin despite making only 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. Keep an eye out for freshman Stanford Robinson, an athletic big man who got key minutes in place of Hollowell against the Badgers.

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