Hoosiers overcome emotional challenges to reach NCAA Tourney
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana spent all season on the brink.
Players coped with suspensions, injuries and a late-season slide. Coaches comforted parents and confronted claims that the program was out of control. Fans complained the Hoosiers had lost their way and a new coach was needed to lead them back to national prominence.
Somehow, Indiana managed to salvage its season and made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.
''It's like a new season just started,'' forward Troy Williams said after watching Sunday's selection show.
The Hoosiers (20-13) need a fresh start after an emotionally challenging season. Sure, they beat four ranked teams and made the pessimists look silly by earning the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region.
But they also took plenty of hits, none tougher than three days in early November.
Hours after the Hoosiers completed a Halloween practice, Crean found out sophomore Devin Davis had been transported to a local hospital with a head injury after freshman forward Emmitt Holt ran into him with a car. Though police did not cite Holt for the accident, the report said both players had consumed alcohol under age.
Crean met with Davis' parents at the hospital and spent days at Davis' bedside until doctors allowed him to return home to Indianapolis where he continued to recover from a traumatic brain injury. Holt was suspended four games.
On Nov. 3, Crean announced sophomores Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson also had been suspended for four games. The reason: Failed drug tests.
Coupled with three arrests earlier in the year, angry fans blamed Crean for damaging Indiana's image.
Crean took it hard. At times, Crean choked up during pregame or postgame news conferences when asked to reflect on what had happened. He almost did it again Sunday night while watching the selection show.
''I didn't cry, actually, which is rare,'' Crean said when asked for his thoughts on getting selected.
And the players made amends.
Point guard Kevin ''Yogi'' Ferrell referred to the legal trouble as ''embarrassing.'' Williams and Robinson apologized. Holt later acknowledged that he blamed himself for what happened to Davis, and that it changed him.
''We definitely were humbled a little bit with some things that happened before the season,'' junior guard Nick Zeisloft said. ''It was a tough, tough preseason and some things that didn't go our way happened. We persevered through it. Adversity can hit you, but you've just got to fight back.''
Indiana did. It started fast by beating two ranked teams -- Butler and SMU -- in non-conference play and going in 5-1 in the Big Ten with wins over two more ranked teams, Ohio State and Maryland. With Davis returning to classes in January and showing up at games, it looked like the Hoosiers might be in for a banner year.
Instead, the bottom dropped out.
The undersized and short-handed Hoosiers lost twice to rival Purdue and once to Northwestern. Hanner Mosquera-Perea, their best post player, missed seven games with a right knee injury. His replacement, Collin Hartman, missed two games with a left leg injury.
With a 5-9 finish and no wins over NCAA tourney teams since Jan. 22, Crean was under scrutiny again, this time for failing to meet fans' lofty expectations in a season when the Hoosiers weren't expected to do much.
Some bracketologists insisted the overall resume put Indiana squarely on the bubble.
''As you could probably imagine, it was like any reaction would be from any team that doesn't know if they're in the tournament or not,'' Ferrell said of the celebration. ''Jumping up around, hugging each other, getting hyped, just a great feeling inside to know that we're one of the top 68 teams.''
The goal now is to prove their one of the best 32.
To do that, they'll have to beat seventh-seeded Wichita State on Friday by overcoming another obstacle: Mosquera-Perea reinjured his right knee in last week's Big Ten tourney. It was unclear whether Indiana will have its best inside player available Friday.
But after everything the Hoosiers have been through this season, this should be the easy part -- especially with Davis around to watch.
''It's a great, great feeling to watch people that put so much into it,'' Crean said. ''Being the players, the coaches and the families, and see them have that kind of expression of just pure, unbridled joy, and there's no question that's what it was.''