Long way to go this season of course…plenty of time to turn it around. However, two straight home court losses in the league and three overall don’t bode well.
I don’t think you can overestimate the lack of goodwill despite some relatively decent success in recent years. A large part of that, maybe larger than people from outside the region appreciate, is the profile of his roster. Lots of talent but relatively few Indiana kids (Blackmon and Hartman, who’s hurt, are the only guys in their rotation IIRC from the Hoosier state) and that matters at that school, maybe as much or more than any other major program. If you’re going out and winning conference titles, contending for Final Fours, etc. OK, it’ll be forgiven. If you’re not, it’s a problem.
At IU, though, that’s not exactly going to be enough to erase the lack of March success, the perceived inconsistency in the program, and the lack of local presence on that roster. You may think I’m exaggerating the last point in terms of significance but you’d be wrong. For whatever reason, Crean has been completely unable to lock down Indiana recruiting. This year is one example among many…the state had three elite kids, four if you count Scruggs, and IU went 0-fer. People there get insane over that stuff. They’re STILL up in arms about Gary Harris, the kids who went to Michigan, etc. I know he’s offered most of the high level guys, so it’s not as if IU’s just chosen to go elsewhere. I know they wanted Wilkes and Jaren Jackson badly in this current class, and they were definitely in on Scruggs as well (not sure how hard they went at Williams).
The flipside is that he’s done really well nationally. Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams were big gets. Oladipo was a huge under the radar signing. On the current team, all their top players save for Blackmon are from outside of the Midwest. As I say, if he had that team as a legitimate national presence with that roster composition, I think all would be forgiven. However, if you’re not going to have an Indiana or at least Midwest heavy roster, you’d damn well better win.
I also think that some IU folks discount last year’s Big Ten title because they realize the Hoosiers won it mostly due to their schedule…and they’d be right. Michigan State was the best team in the conference last season and the smarter folks there realize that. At most places, that wouldn’t matter…you’d get credit for the scoreboard, but at a place where a lot of people are already unhappy, probably not.
Expectations in Bloomington this year were clearly for at least a top 3 finish in the league and another decent March run. They still have plenty of time to get to that kind of finish but if they don’t, there will be more serious calls for Crean’s head than at any previous time IMO, in part because he’s had so much time in the job and this is where they are.
To be clear, I’m not saying I think Crean is getting fired, but I think if they don’t turn it around pretty massively from here (and they absolutely could do that), his seat will be the hottest it’s been yet.
Who would they hire? No idea. Their fans would talk about the Brad Stevens pipe dream but I don’t think that’s at all realistic. Maybe Midwest guys like Archie Miller or Chris Mack? Maybe they take a high dollar run at someone like Sean Miller? Try to bring Tony Bennett back to the Midwest? I don’t think the latter two would be very realistic but it is an elite job in pretty much every respect. Great tradition, great fanbase and tremendous recruiting turf.