Saw this morning that IU received a commitment from a 2017 guard out of Georgia, which has proved (in a general) sense to be the rule and not the exception for Crean’s IU program, in that the player in question is not a Hoosier state native. The impression has been that Crean has gone about as far away from the Bob Knight blueprint as one can get in terms of roster construction…Knight built his program almost entirely on kids from Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. He occasionally recruited Michigan (I know they were hot after Peplowski for one) but I don’t recall his actually signing anyone from this state. Regardless, he had an approach that resonated with that fanbase in a major way and when he won with it, the impression was solidified that this was the “right” way to build a program at that school.
Looking at this year, Crean has only 3 scholarship players from the state of Indiana on his team (Yogi, Blackmon and Hartman). He has two more from Illinois (one being grad transfer Max Bielfeldt). It’s a far, far cry from Knight’s approach. Now, one could wonder if the failing has been in those states rather than with Crean…maybe they’re not producing as much in the way of talent as they used to. I don’t think that’s the case. Take a look at the last few years, using RSCI as a basis for evaluting Top 100 players.
2015 – Yes, kind of a down year in Indiana with only 2 Top 100 players but add in 9 more from Illinois and Ohio.
2014 – 4 in Indiana and 8 more from Illinois and Ohio
2013 – 4 in Indiana and 5 more from Illinois and Ohio
Now, to be fair, Crean hasn’t ignored the state. His 2012 class was heavy on instate kids…they just didn’t stick around very long outside of Yogi (it’s also noteworthy that the two highest rated instate players that year opted to go to MSU and Michigan, respectively). I just saw that note today on his 2017 commitment and it got me to think about the subject. I don’t think it’s an issue at most schools. Most of the elite programs historically actually aren’t dependent upon local kids to a great extent…Duke, UNC, Kentucky and Kansas all have normally had far more kids on their rosters from outside their home states than within it. UCLA has had a bit more of a home state orientation, so they’re an exception. Indiana is different, though. It’s different because of the space the sport occupies in the state’s DNA and specifically the place that IU basketball occupies.
Crean’s got to do whatever he needs to keep the program competitive but it does make me wonder…can you really satisfy that fanbase without a roster heavily tilted toward regional states? I think it’s a question MSU fans can think about as well. For Izzo’s program, it’s been almost entirely about the Upper Midwest but especially Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Look at the rosters for the 7 Final Four teams:
Last year – 6 guys from those three states (MSU had multiple players from Illinois as well, but I’m not counting them for the sake of this discussion…if you expand it, it’s even larger still).
2010 – 9
2009 – 10
2005 – 8
2001 – 10
2000 – 9
1999 – 10
Now, again, those teams also had guys from Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota on the rosters…count them and the numbers are larger still. I think it has been a part of the program’s identity. Would it feel the same for fans if MSU were more like a UConn or Arizona or the others I mentioned above? I don’t know that it would.