Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 19, 2014

GASKINS: IU, Purdue — a sad state of affairs

Basketball teams reeling from recent shortcomings.


Kokomo Tribune

---- — The men’s basketball season is over for Indiana and Purdue. The NCAA tournament tipped off Tuesday night, but IU and Purdue are at home and their fans’ frustrations are running high.

The Hoosiers took a bigger-than-expected step back after winning the 2013 Big Ten title, finishing 17-15 overall and 7-11 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers, meanwhile, continued their free fall from relevance. They finished 15-17 and 5-13 — dead last in the conference.

Both teams played fundamentally poor basketball. How else to explain Purdue and IU ranking at the bottom of the conference in turnovers? The Boilers committed 12.3 per game and the Hoosiers coughed it up a whopping 15.1 times per game.

Purdue also shot the ball poorly (10th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, last in free throw percentage) which is inexcusable when your recruiting base is a state known for producing great shooters. The Hoosiers had their own maddening tendencies. The Hoosiers led at halftime in 10 of their 18 conference games but won only four of those games.

Not surprisingly, both teams took quiet exits from the Big Ten tournament last week. Both teams needed to go quietly into the offseason as well. Instead, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass made an interesting comment, and Purdue lost yet another player to transfer.

First, let’s look at Glass’ comment Sunday night after the NIT passed over Indiana. Glass made it perfectly clear the Hoosiers had no interest in playing in any of the lowest-tier postseason tournaments such as the CBI, telling the Bloomington Herald-Times: “We’re Indiana. We don’t play in the CBI.”

Wow, Glass puffed out his chest, which I guess is your prerogative when your school has won five NCAA championships. But Indiana played down its history last year when it cut down the nets in Assembly Hall to celebrate winning the Big Ten title — and two years ago when it handed out rings for reaching the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.

Glass seems to want to have it both ways, to point to Indiana’s rich history at times, and to its modern-day reality at other times.

The reality is Indiana is far removed from the dominant Bob Knight era. IU has failed to make the NCAA tournament in four of coach Tom Crean’s six years. Obviously, Crean faced a massive rebuilding project, but that is no longer an excuse. The Hoosiers had a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans on the squad this season and still failed to make the Big Dance, or even the NIT.

Glass followed up his “We’re Indiana” comment with a zinger on Monday.

“We are Indiana, we do have five [NCAA title] banners, we are a former NIT champion, and no elite teams, or what I’d consider elite teams, have played in the CBI and I really wasn’t interested in being the first one,” the Hoosier AD said on the “Ride with JMV” radio show out of Indianapolis.

Purdue fans had to love that one considering the Boilers played in the CBI just last year.

Of course, Purdue is a mess right now after finishing in the Big Ten’s basement. The Boilers came into the season with four returning starters and a nice group of newcomers — but never jelled and were simply not fun to watch.

Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and Chris Kramer built a program for coach Matt Painter and he cashed in with a fat contract two years ago — and Painter has failed to sustain the program.

Painter at least stepped up and took some of the blame for Purdue’s predicament.

“First of all, it’s my fault. It’s my job to get guys to play together, it’s my job to get guys to play hard, it’s my job to get guys to play smart, and we don’t do any of those. And so that is my fault. So when you start off, people will always give you a break. But when you’re somewhere for nine years, they shouldn’t. They absolutely shouldn’t, because it is my fault we are in this position,” Painter said after the Boilers lost to Northwestern to finish last in the conference.

Starting point guard Ronnie Johnson opted to transfer following the season. He is the fifth player to leave the program since the end of the 2012-13 season — when you couple that turmoil with two straight disappointing seasons, Painter is losing the support of some fans. His disappointing recruiting is an issue as well.

The 2014-15 season will tell a lot about Crean, Painter and their programs.

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune’s sports editor. He may be reached at bryan.gaskins@kokomotribune.com.