Glynn Watson Jr. scored 26 points and added four assists and five steals as Nebraska went into Assembly Hall and stunned No. 16 Indiana, 87-83.
This is just a massive win for Nebraska and Tim Miles, as the Huskers had entered this game losing six of their last eight games – including falling at home to Gardner-Webb – which had created a negative enough atmosphere around the program that the always-affable Miles had to take a twitter-hiatus.
While this isn’t enough to get Nebraska anywhere near the NCAA tournament conversation, it should relieve some of the pressure on Miles and his program while giving them a nice boost of confidence heading into Big Ten play. Remember, the year that Miles took Nebraska to the NCAA tournament the Huskers were just 19-13 on the season and needed a flurry of impressive league wins to get the bid.
So good for Nebraska.
But the bigger story here is Indiana, who saw their 26-game home-court winning streak get snapped. No team in college basketball has as big of a gap between their ceiling and their floor as the Hoosiers do, and there are a number of reasons for that.
For starters, they are a team that relies heavily on the three-ball to win games. When they’re hot, they can beat anyone in the country; ask Kansas and North Carolina. The problem comes when the Hoosiers aren’t making those threes. There are just so many question marks on the offensive side of the ball. They don’t have a point guard and they don’t have a go-to guy, meaning that when they can’t score in transition and when they can’t get an open look from three, their offense can struggle to get good looks. As good as Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby are, they are role players through and through.
And then there is Indiana’s defense, which hasn’t been a hallmark of the program since Crean arrived. The only year that he finished better than 38th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric is the year he had Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, and even then they were 21st.
That all somewhat belies the point here, because the issue is Tom Crean.
It’s not his coaching, mind you. I’d argue that the reason Indiana holds the wins that they currently hold have as much to do with Crean’s coaching as anything Indiana has done this season. Lest we forget that just eight months ago, Indiana was in the Sweet 16 after winning the Big Ten title outright by two games despite a horrid start to the 2015-16 season.
To me, the issue Indiana is dealing with is expectations. Last season’s performance combined with the hype the Hoosiers received when they won those early season games had Indiana getting ranked among the teams that are truly national title contenders. ESPN had the Hoosiers No. 1 in their Power Rankings during the second week of the season.
Indiana fans saw that.
They expected this team to pick up where last season’s team left off, even though the flaws in this roster were as clear as day; there is a Yogi Ferrell-sized hole in Indiana’s back court this season.
And that normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact Crean’s Big Ten title team played him off of the hot seat. He was a conference champion eight months ago, but 20 months ago Indiana fans were chanting “Tom Crean sucks” at his son’s basketball games.
Getting off the hot seat is nearly impossible to do in college basketball. Once the fan base turns, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re one bad season – or bad month, or bad game – away from being the worst thing to happen in the history of the program. And that seems to be the way this season is trending for Crean.
Because people see the two potential first round picks on the roster and the wins over Kansas and North Carolina and assume that a flawed roster should spend an entire season playing above their heads.