As noted by Ben and TMadison in the previous comments section, reports indicate Tom Crean is the choice to become the new Indiana head coach. There are three obvious questions:
Is this a good move by Crean? Paging Jim S isn’t sure this is a vertical move, as Crean is leaving an established program in the deepest basketball conference in the country. On the other hand:
- Milwaukee is a solid, but not a fantastic, recruiting base, with Madison just down the road. Crean has gotten more recruits from Illinois than from Wisconsin in recent years.
- Crean appears to have plateaued at Marquette, with 10-12 losses per season in the five years since the 2003 Final Four appearance.
- IU is IU–one of the most storied programs in the land and the default landing spot for the best talent out of the state of Indiana (although Matt Painter will have something to say about that going forward).
Crean will have a rebuilding job to undertake for a few years–with the possibility of NCAA sanctions looming–but he’s probably better positioned to make a run at a national championship at some point in his career from Bloomington than he is from Milwaukee.
Is this a good move for Indiana? I’d say this is a great move for the Hoosiers. You’re getting a proven, relatively young (42) coach from a major conference who’s already been to a Final Four and knows the Midwest recruiting base. My guess is it’s going to cost them some serious dime, but at this point they don’t have any margin for error with the fan and alumni bases. There’s no Hoosier connection, but the list of candidates who meet that criterion is not an impressive one.
Does this hurt MSU? Crean was, of course, Izzo’s right-hand man for the first four years of Izzo’s head coaching tenure. He departed for Marquette after the first Final Four run in 1999. He’s instilled an Izzo-like philosophy to the Marquette program, with an emphasis on rebounding, man-to-man defense, and scoring on the fast break.
The big concern is whether Izzo and Crean end up battling for the same types of players once they’re in the same conference. I don’t follow recruiting that closely, but my impression is that Crean has picked up a few guys at Marquette who were just on the edge of getting offers from MSU. With Crean at a historically elite Big Ten program, head-to-head recruiting battles may now be unavoidable. Maybe the two of them can make a pact on recruiting territories: Izzo gets Michigan and Ohio; Crean gets Indiana and Illinois. (What, you don’t think Matta and Weber will go along with this plan?)
I do think this makes Izzo’s job a little harder, if only because Crean is a very good coach. The Big Ten will now have five head coaches who have been to a Final Four.* Plus Bo Ryan. Plus two guys who have been to two Sweet Sixteens (Beilein/Lickliter). Plus a guy who’s made two second round NCAA appearances after just four years as a head coach. (Plus two other guys.)
*This was technically true with Sampson at IU, too, but there weren’t a lot of likely options out there for IU to fill the position with now who had Final Four experience.
On a positive note, having a guy whose team plays a more up-tempo style could be good for MSU. If nothing else, the meetings between the two teams once Crean restocks should be fierce and entertaining battles.
Lastly, I think many MSU fans (including this one) hoped Crean would stay at Marquette indefinitely to be our in-case-of-emergency-break-glass back-up plan if Izzo decided to take an early retirement in the next few years for some reason. This move probably takes that option off the table.
Ohio State takes on Ole Miss at Madison Square Garden in the NIT semifinals tonight. 9:20 on ESPN2.
Drew Neitzel will be participating in the annual college three-point shooting championship for seniors in San Antonio. It’s on ESPN at 9:00 pm, Thursday night. Jamar Butler and Chris Lofton are also in the field of competitors. Nice chance for Neitzel to get one more shot at the national stage during his college career.