Indiana finally blew someone out. The Hoosiers have faced their fair share of cupcakes in 2009-10, and haven't really put the hurt to any of them. The last time IU was heavily favored at home, Tom Crean's squad laid a first-half egg against Loyola-Maryland and wound up losing a close game late. Against tiny Bryant on Monday night, IU finally figured it out, running away with a 40-point lead in front of the home fans. It could have been a good-news night.
Make no mistake, there could not have been a bigger blow dealt to Indiana's and Crean's reclamation project than this. Creek is IU's most promising player, a sharp-shooting guard (with a slightly akimbo release that seems to work anyway) whose natural athleticism and good size have made him Indiana's most effective player in 2009-10. Creek was averaging 16 points per game for the Hoosiers; he threw in 31 against rival Kentucky and followed up with 29 in a home win over North Carolina Central. There's a reason Crean's 2009 recruiting class was so highly touted.
As you might imagine, Indiana fans are none too pleased. Inside The Hall's Ryan sums up the experience of watching the injury happen:
That wasn’t the case with Creek tonight. It was slow moving. As he came down on his legs after he was fouled on the layup, Creek barreled a little, fell, then did a bit of a somersault into the row of photographers. But as he tumbled back over and righted himself on the court, he clutched his left knee and began the writhing. Yet, he remained mostly calm as the training staff attended to him.
But when Tom Crean came out onto the court, you knew it wasn’t good. And when subsequent replays seemed to indicate his knee had popped out of place, you knew it might be worse. And when the stretcher made its way on the court, you knew it was really bad.
John M at Crimson Quarry is equally apoplectic:
Of course, it affects the team in a number of ways that will reach beyond this year. For the immediate future, of course the loss of IU's most talented player, most polished freshman, and leading scorer dramatically decreases the odds that IU will improve upon last year's 1-17 Big Ten record. Also, it means that even presuming Creek is ready for 2010-11, he will have only 12 games of experience, and will have played only four games (Ole Miss, Maryland, Pitt, and Kentucky), against major competition. In other words, the most important player on IU's roster next year will have less than half a season of experience. Really, it seems like a practical joke at this point. There couldn't have been a worse injury to a better player at a worse time.
So, yeah, this is bad. And it's not only bad in 2009-10. The Hoosiers will be rebuilding for the rest of the year anyway; an NIT berth was always an optimistic prediction. No, the Hoosiers will be feeling this one long after the year is over. Injuries don't get much worse than that.