Indiana needed a buzzer-beater win over Kentucky in December of 2011 to become relevant again. That regular season win over the Cats was and still remains the signature moment of the Tom Crean era, after losing in the Sweet 16 this March for the second straight season. Now that Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo have left for the NBA, Yogi Ferrell will be the Hoosiers’ most experienced starter. Of the seven players who played in each of IU’s 36 games last season, only two will be back next season: Ferrell and Will Sheehey (h/t Andy Proffet). Indiana brings in a solid recruiting class, but only has one incoming player that figures to make a serious impact as a freshman. Other than 8th-rated (according to Rivals) Noah Vonleh, the Hoosiers’ other incoming recruits are ranked No. 47, 56, 94, 125 and NR. Long story short: Indiana isn’t going to be very good next season.
If Indiana isn’t going to be very good next season, there’s a chance they may not be good again for a while. When Tom Crean rebuilds, it doesn’t happen over night. Despite this bio only giving information for two of his seasons at Indiana, he has actually been there five years. It took Crean a fourth year to get the Hoosiers back in the NCAA tournament and a fifth year to win their regular season conference championship. Heading into last season, in which the Hoosiers were a preseason No. 1 team, Crean probably did not think he absolutely needed to have Kentucky on his program’s schedule at the time. They didn’t need to have UK on their schedule last year to grab anyone’s attention, and it probably wouldn’t do them any good having the Cats on their schedule next year either (it wouldn’t be very pretty). Eventually, however, if Indiana wants to stay relevant, a date with Kentucky every year would only help them stay on track or get back on track.
It may be a long road back for the Hoosiers to get back to where they were the past two seasons, but it was the Kentucky game that brought them over the hump two years ago. If Indiana takes a step back, and possibly into the NIT in 2013, will Tom Crean realize the importance of having Kentucky on their schedule? Indiana thought they had power last summer while negotiating to continue the rivalry with the defending National Champions at the time, and refused to continue the series in Indianapolis. Will the Hoosiers be humbled in 2013, and eventually agree to play the Cats any time, any place, every year? How many down seasons will it take for Indiana to come crawling back to Kentucky and agree to play in the traditional neutral-court setting the schools have played in for many years?