What to make of a disappointing season

Indiana was left out of the NIT field on Sunday night, end the Hoosiers' season. Just a year after they were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers will have to watch the tournament from home.

I have to admit, it felt weird. The NCAA selection show came and went, and I didn't even pay particularly close attention. I was waiting for 8:30 p.m. to watch the NIT Selection show to see whether or not Indiana would play more games.

It seemed odd not because I expected the Hoosiers to make the NCAA Tournament, but rather because we were led to believe the program was "back." Indiana had quickly progressed over the last several years, going from no postseason, to a No. 4 seed, to a No. 1 seed in three years' time.

And while I still believe the program is in good shape and will see bright days sooner rather than later, being "back" for a program like Indiana means making the tournament every year. That didn't happen this season, so it must be viewed as nothing short of a disappointment.

This is Indiana, after all. Its fans shouldn't be left sitting around waiting to see if the Hoosiers get invited to the NIT. They just shouldn't. They do and should expect more, especially considering this year's team had enough talent to be included in the field.

It returned Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey, and added a very good recruiting class that included Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson. Sure, after losing what they did from a year ago, nobody expected the Hoosiers to be a top seed. But there's no reason this team shouldn't have made the tournament. It needs to become an every-year thing again. That's what it takes to bring a program of this prominence back.

This team was plagued by its youthful inexperience, its inconsistency, and its inability to learn from previous mistakes. Indiana turned the ball over at a remarkable rate in November, and it continued to do so in March. The Hoosiers struggled to make outside shots during exhibition games, and they continued to do so in the Big Ten Tournament.

They finished the season with a turnover rate of 21.8, better than only 21 Division 1 teams in the country. They shot just 34.3 percent from beyond the arc, good for 169th nationally.

The Hoosiers (17-15) were really good at times -- especially when they beat Iowa and Ohio State in back-to-back games -- but they could never carry it over for long stretches.

Our physical maturity improved a lot. Our competitive maturity improved as well," Indiana coach Tom Crean said on Twitter today. "Now whatever maturity leads to great consistent game play did not come like we needed it to. We could put together stretches and games but not at the rate needed to excel. Big part of the spring."

Looking forward, the road doesn't get much easier for Crean and Co. They add shooters James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson next season which should solve one of the problems, but they are likely to lose big man Vonleh to the NBA.

They'll have to play small. They'll have to play fast.

And the Hoosiers will also lose Sheehey, their unquestioned senior leader who was a big part of changing the culture in Bloomington. Who will carry his leadership next season? Ferrell? Someone else?

There are plenty of questions as we look forward. But as we look back on the season that was, there's little more than disappointment.


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