It has taken head coach Tom Crean three plus years to turnaround a program that was once so great. The Indiana Hoosier use to be a perennial Big Ten powerhouse. They use to be a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. They use to win 20+ games every single season. They use to be all that, until Kelvin Sampson depleted the program. Sampson was hired was hired in 2006, following the resignation of long-time coach Mike Davis. Sampson led the Hoosiers to a 21-11 record in his first season at the helm. They wound up losing to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
In 2008, Sampson was forced to resign after it was announced that he had committed recruiting violations. From there, the program floundered.
Assistant coach Dan Dakich, who now works for ESPN, finished up the season as interim head coach. The Hoosiers were 22-4 under Sampson at the time of his departure and finished up 3-4 under Dakich and lost in the first round of the tournament, again. That would be the last time the Hoosiers would make it to the Big Dance.
After the ’07-’08 season, the Hoosiers decided to go in a different direction. The university hired long-time Marquette coach, Tom Crean. In his first season, Crean inherited a roster that featured two returning players. He was able to recruit seven more players, including two players that were highly ranked among many scouting services. Crean finished his first season at IU with a 6-25 record, last in the Big Ten.
More work had to be done.
His second season was a little bit better than his first season, the Hoosiers finished 10-21, tied for tenth-place in the conference, and 12-20 in his third season.
Now entering his fourth season as head coach of the Hoosiers, Crean has managed to bring in highly ranked players, such as freshman Cody Zeller. Also, Indiana is off to its best start under Crean (8-0), with victories over North Carolina State and Butler. They have five players that are averaging 10 points per game or more and are ranked 7th in the nation in points per game and 6th in field goal percentage.
The other side of this rivalry is Kentucky. Kentucky has been absolute powerhouse since John Calipari has taken over. He has had numerous first-round draft picks such as DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Patrick Patterson, and Brandon Knight. He has also gotten Kentucky to the Elite Eight and Final Four in his first two seasons. Calipari took the Kentucky job after his team, the Memphis Tigers, lost to Missouri in the NCAA Tournament in 2008. The Wildcats are currently 8-0 and ranked #1 in the nation.
The Hoosier/Wildcat rivalry will be certainly be intense. The personalities of Crean and Calipari will ensure that it’s intense. Two undefeated teams, meet on Saturday, at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana. I have a feeling that this rivalry, of the two of most-storied programs in college basketball history, is back.