BOZICH | The angry basketball discussion at Indiana begins with - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | The angry basketball discussion at Indiana begins with Syracuse 61, IU 50

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Syracuse University athletic program, basketball team prominently included, shook hands with the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis last week. They huddled for two days.

Jim Boeheim's program is alleged to have checked the boxes on all the usual big-time college sports hijinks, including academic misdeeds.

There's more. In March of 2012 Yahoo! Sports reported that the Orange were “awash in positive drug tests and, in many cases, failed to adhere to its internal drug policy while playing ineligible players.”

What is the connection between alleged rogue behavior at Syracuse and the off-the-court issues that have infected Tom Crean's program at Indiana?

Just this: Syracuse 61, Indiana 50.

A Syracuse program with an alleged pattern of looking the other way at positive drug tests toppled Crean's best team in the 2013 NCAA Tournament East Regional semifinals.

That was the ugly loss that pumped the first dosage of doubt about Crean into the Indiana bloodstream. Follow that with a 17-15 season that included five double-figure leads blown in the second half in 2014 and the chirping became a persistent howl.

A few recruiting misses. The signing of several recruits who don't appear to be Big Ten ready. The departure of an assistant coach. Lingering affection for what Brad Stevens did at Butler. There's a long list of items stirring the dissatisfaction around Assembly Hall.

Add the names of one, two, three, four players who made the police blotter for issues involving alcohol. The howl became a roar.

Suspend two players for four games (two exhibitions) for failing drug tests that some schools apparently ignore and the roar becomes all that is audible around IU.

Tom Crean should not be fired.

He does not have a program that is out of control. Crean is in trouble because he is the coach of a program that is exercising control.

He has a program that has delivered perfect 1000 APR academic scores from the NCAA for four consecutive seasons. He has a program of players who graduate, often in three years. Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls are textbook representatives of what any university wants.

Let's remember something here: Crean is the coach at Indiana today because he had to repair a program that actually was out of control. Guys were flunking drug tests. Guys were not going to class. NCAA rules were being violated.

The ringleader of that fiasco – Kelvin Sampson – has already been welcomed back into the circus at Houston. Nobody is calling for Boeheim to quit at Syracuse, likely because the last five seasons have been the best of his career.

I don't have space to outline the breadth of a real college scandal at North Carolina. Ask Roy Williams about that.

None of that helps Crean. Let's be honest. Only winning can help him now.

You can argue that Crean should have suspended Hanner Mosquera-Perea for more than two games after he was cited for driving while intoxicated last February. You say the internal penalties were too soft when Yogi Ferrell and Stanford Robinson were cited for an offense that included alcohol last spring.

You can absolutely question why Robinson and Troy Williams have flunked a pair of drug tests. Do they believe rules don't apply to them? Are they unafraid of consequences?

But you can't say Crean didn't do anything. He eliminated off campus housing for his players after last season and talked to them for at least 20 minutes about not doing anything stupid on Halloween. Some didn't listen.

Several hours later, Devin Davis was taken to the hospital with a serious head injury after he was struck by a car driven by underage freshman teammate (Emmitt Holt) who had a small amount of alcohol in his blood.

Crean has a mess to fix – and this time it is his mess, not Sampson's.

He needed more than three seasons to clean the mess Sampson created – and to win the way that a coach must win to keep fans smiling.

Indiana won the Big Ten championship outright in 2013, the school's first outright title in 20 years. The Hoosiers were ranked Number One more than any other program that season. They entered the NCAA Tournament as one of four top seeds.

Then Crean's team lost to Syracuse by 11 points in a game that wasn't that close. They looked like a team frozen by the sight of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Their starting guards failed to make a field goal, getting outscored 38-0. It was a brutal loss -- that looked worse after Oladipo was taken second and Zeller fourth in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Syracuse, the program alleged to look the other way at failed drug tests, put Crean in a hole that has only gotten deeper.

Let's not pretend. That's where the problem starts. What matters is winning, not enforcing penalties for failed drug tests.

The loss to Syracuse unleashed frustrations that have been building around a program that has not visited a Final Four since 2002 or won a national championship since 1987. Indiana isn't feared the way it used to be feared.

Crean's 2013 team was supposed to change that – at least half of it. Didn't happen.

Now Indiana will start a new season with three guys on the suspended list, another in the hospital with a serious head injury and two more injured freshmen.

My math translates that into seven scholarship players. Crean was already looking at a lineup featuring three guards. Now the lineup could feature four. The backup power forward appears to be Ryan Burton, who averaged 4.1 points and 1.6 rebounds during two seasons at Bellarmine.

Crean's players have let him and the program down.

But Crean deserves the chance to clean this mess.

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