How the Hoosiers returned to the nation’s elite

By: Jacob Scholl

After a short hiatus, one of the nation’s top programs is back and better than ever.

Five years after the Indiana fired head coach Kelvin Sampson and was slapped with a three-year probation, the Hoosiers are now the preseason No. 1, considered by many as the team to beat come tournament time. Head coach Tom Crean has brought his team from the brink of destruction back to the top, where it belongs.

Tom Crean has done a remarkable job of turning the once-moribund Hoosiers around. (

But how? How did this team find its way back to national prominence? How did the program overcome the sanctions and a tarnished reputation to become the new “it” school? Good question.

Here are the three reasons why the Indiana Hoosiers will rise up and win the national championship this year:

 Tom Crean. He took the head coaching job in April of 2008 after Sampson resigned in February following allegations of illegal recruiting and  NCAA violations. The allegations proved to be all too real when IU was slapped with three years of probation in November of the same year. It wasn’t the first time Sampson put a team in hot water then left.  Sampson caused a three-year investigation against Oklahoma before he left for Indiana in 2006.

Mind you, both times Sampson was being probed both times for recruiting violations. Crean gave up his job at Marquette, walked into a train wreck, and still managed to overcome these obstacles. It took all three years of probation to bring the team back to prominence, but he still did it.  If there’s a coach that can handle himself in a bad situation, it’s Crean.

 Cody Zeller. The youngest of three brothers, Cody is considered to be the Zeller with the most potential.  His two older brothers, Luke and Tyler, are now playing in the NBA. The oldest, Luke, turned down the Hoosiers for another in-state team when he signed with the Irish.  The middle brother, Tyler, left the state altogether and signed with Roy William’s Tar Heels.

When Cody signed with the Hoosiers, he was being hailed as the savior of the program. You also have to remember that when Cody signed with IU, this was during the program’s dry spell.  Last year was Cody’s freshman year, and he was said to be the biggest reason for the team’s turnaround. Last year, Cody averaged around 15 points a game and over 6 rebounds a night. Cody looks like he’s just getting started for the Hoosiers, and could have even better numbers this season.

The state itself. The phrase “can’t keep a good man down” has never been truer in this case.  The state of Indiana has always been considered a good representation of what a stereotypical American state with what good-natured values should be. It’s those values that have helped the state and the program to recover.

Indiana loves basketball too much for the Hoosiers not to be good. (Hoosiers)

In today’s college basketball world, there are many formerly dominant programs that are now a shadow of what they once were.  UCLA is a team slowly recovering from many problems in the infrastructure of the entire team, ranging from a lack of discipline on the coaching staff, to player-to-player abuse. UConn is slowly on the decline after the legendary coach Jim Calhoun retired and the team was banned from postseason play for one season due to recruiting violations. Mind you, all of this happened a little more than a year after the Huskies won the national championship.

Indiana however, has always been one of the favorites in the college basketball world.  Yes, they did win three championships under a coach (Bobby Knight) that was known for his temper, but you also have to remember that the state of Indiana is one of the most basketball-crazed states in the US. Gene Hackman said it best in the movie Hoosiers, “They only know basketball, farming, and school.” While that is not entirely accurate, Indiana is still one of the most passionate places in the world when it comes to basketball. If there was any state program that wouldn’t be fatally affected by a few bad years, it would be Indiana.

It’s been a long time coming for this team, and their time is finally here.  With Zeller, Crean and the entire of state of Indiana backing the Hoosiers, it feels like the stars are starting to align for a team that couldn’t catch a break for the past few years. With last year’s success as a foundation, this will be the year Indiana finally returns to national prominence.


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