Thank you Indiana and Marquette for brightening my day. Indiana is about to announce the hiring of current Marquette men's basketball coach Tom Crean for their opening. Yes, he of the spray tans, ugly glasses, ridiculous sideline pacing, pro-style (one-on-one) offense and foul-happy defense. My initial reaction was-- "wow, you'd think Indiana could have done better" and I'm sticking to it.
If I recall the cover of this morning's Trib correctly, Crean has amassed a .660 winning percentage at Marquette, won only one conference title (Wade's last season), won no conference tournament titles in either the Big East or Conference USA, and taken the team to one Final Four (again, in Wade's last season). Until this past March, Crean had yet to ever win an NCAA tournament game without Dwyane Wade on his team. This year, with a team led by three highly reputed three-year starters, the team won one game, squeaking by an injury-riddled Kentucky before losing to Stanford in the second round. (Stanford went on to get pounded by Texas, who was in turn pounded by Memphis.) Sweet redemption!
And it's not like Crean's record is built on playing cupcakes at home or anything. Far from it! This season the Gold beat Sacramento State, Florida Gulf Coast, Coppin State, Chaminade, Savannah State, IUPU-Fort Wayne, and, wait for it, Utah Valley State (that's a different school than basketball powerhouse Utah State). The Gold went on to lose this season to Syracuse by 15, Louisville twice by a combined 34 points, West Virginia by 15, and UConn by 16. And this is a team with four players who are all-conference caliber in McNeal, James, Mathews, and Hayward. Yep, Crean is an excellent coach. It's not like he's made a living off his one star-driven Final Four run or anything. No, not at all. Bwah-ha ha ha!
Sure, opposing Big Ten fans can expect him to do a better job at Indiana. Though IU isn't the national basketball powerhouse it likes to think it is, it is the nicest state school in a state that produces a fair amount of basketball talent (though again, not as much as IU fans would like to think that it does). And his handsy, pressing defense should speed the pace of the league up a bit, which is what I was hoping for with the Indiana hire. (I was actively against Tony Bennett at IU for the same reason.) Alas, Crean is going to have a tough row to hoe his first couple years at IU, with what looks like every returning starter leaving or getting kicked off the team (though I bet he'll invite Bassett and Ellis back), and several key recruits abandoning their commitments after Sampson left. I'm sure he'll get them back to decent after a year or two, and they should be regularly competitive at some point, but I'm not at all afraid of Crean at IU, and as a Badger fan, that's all you could ask for.
The question then becomes-- what happens to Marquette? Who will replace Crean? (No idea.) Will some of their recruits welsh? (Pretty likely, if the school releases them from their letters of intent.) Will they retreat back from relative success to general mediocrity? (Probably, at least in the short term.) Does this abdicate high profile Wisconsin state recruits to UW? (Jerry Smith and Reece Gaines going to Louisville and the Badgers' high academic standards and ego-less mentality indicate no.) Will UW even more firmly cement its status as the state's best basketball program? (It certainly looks that way.)