Indiana’s off to a 6-0 start for the second-straight season. But this 6-0 start feels a little different for Tom Crean’s team.
It feels more substantial. More developed. More promising. It’s just … better.
Maybe it’s that the Hoosiers pulled away for a 75-59 win against in-state rival Butler, a team that assumed the title of the state’s top team thanks to back-to-back Final Four runs. And let’s face it, when it’s Butler going to Final Fours and not the iconic program from a hoops-mad state, that’s a victory one should relish.
Indiana hasn’t had much go its way since Crean arrived three seasons ago. They’ve had injuries, average talent and poor efforts. But this game gave Crean a look at a squad that could’ve caved down the stretch and didn’t.
“There’ll be some good moments for us to look back on and the maturity moment is the fact that we never lost the lead when we weren’t making baskets,” Crean said afterward. “Because that wouldn’t have happened for us in the past.”
So what’s next?
Indiana’s crushed pretty much every team thus far: Stony Brook, Chattanooga, Evansville, Savannah State, Gardner Webb and Butler. None are elite teams. Even the Bulldogs have their issues right now. But, just like last season, the schedule gets a little tougher and we’ll see if the offense can maintain its current efficiency level (probably not given it’s mostly come from hot shooting) and if the defense can continue to get to passing lanes, force bad shots and make teams work on each possession. (Hitting the defensive glass would be a start.)
It’s not all freshman Cody Zeller, though he’s been a huge boost. It’s that the Hoosiers finally have some confidence and some athletic ability. But with a trip to N.C. State on Wednesday and Kentucky next week, nothing will be easy any more.
Crean knows this. But for perhaps the first time during his tenure, he doesn’t have to lose too much sleep over it.
“We have a long way to go. We really do. We’ve played six games. We’ve won six games. There are a ton of things to get better at,” Crean said. “But I like they’re maturity and I like where they’re headed with it.”
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