USA Today

Indiana clinches at least a share of the Big Ten championship

With Iowa's surprising loss at Ohio State on Sunday, Indiana clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title.

Tom Crean's tenure at Indiana has been anything but ordinary. His teams have been sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes underachieving and other times have exceeded expectations.

And with those peaks and valleys -- which included several off the court incidents last year -- Crean has taken as much heat as any coach in college basketball. He's been ridiculed on social media and message boards really ever since his top-seeded Hoosiers were embarrassed by Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen three years ago. 

An Indianapolis columnist called for Crean's job, national sites repeatedly listed him as a coach on the hot seat.

Crean came into this season needing overwelming success to win back a passionate, vocal and frustrated fan base. Some saw it as his last chance to do so. And when the Hoosiers had the worst-ever trip to Maui and then got embarrassed at Duke, the noise grew to an entirely new level.

But in the span of only a couple months, Crean has gone from the smoldering hot seat to the favorite for Big Ten Coach of Year. Indiana clinched at least a share of the Big Ten championship with Iowa's loss to Ohio State on Sunday, giving Crean and the Hoosiers two conference titles in the last four years. Indiana can win the title outright with a win at Iowa or vs. Maryland, but if the Hoosiers lose both of those games, they could end up as low as a 5-seed in the conference tournament. The top four teams earn a double bye.

In essence, this season has been a microcosm of Crean's tenure in Bloomington. We live in a result-driven world, but even so, few have faced the kind of game to game, week to week criticism that Crean has. The noise stops when the wins come, but the critics don't become supporters. They merely stay quiet and wait for the next chance to jump on Crean again.

His career at Indiana has been one of the most bizarre, interesting and tumultuous that we've ever seen. Crean gets little praise when he wins, and carries loads of blame when he loses.

So, with his second Big Ten title in his 8-year tenure at Indiana, I think it's a good time to recognize the job Crean has done with this team. He's changed his coaching style to fit this current team, something that he hasn't always been willing to do. This team could have easily folded and mailed in the season when they trailed Notre Dame by 16 points at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

But Crean didn't let that happen, and for that, he deserves significant credit.

Crean and Indiana are Big Ten champions. 


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