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Basketball: IU assistants don’t buy the ‘underachiever’ designation

Indianhead coach Tom Crean tries will comeback from Hoosiers final minutes WisconsBadger's 68-56 wover IndianHoosiers semi-final game Big ten Tournament

Indiana head coach Tom Crean tries to will a comeback from the Hoosiers in the final minutes of the Wisconsin Badger's 68-56 win over the Indiana Hoosiers in a semi-final game of the Big ten Tournament March 16, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Fifty-six wins in two seasons, back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances, and two players selected in the first four picks of the NBA Draft.

Were Indiana’s players and coaches disappointed that they didn’t bring home a national title? Of course, but don’t call them underachievers, IU assistant coach Tim Buckley said on Tuesday.

“Someone point out to me what was underachieved from April 1, 2008 (when Tom Crean was hired), until we went through draft night,” Buckley said.

“We are pretty proud of this group and we were disappointed as much as anyone else was with not going further in the NCAA Tournament. Our fifth-place team in the Big Ten played for the national championship — that’s how good this league was. ... We had a resilient bunch and I am really proud of what we have done and I think everybody who is associated with Hoosier Nation should be really proud of what we did.”

Buckley’s comments stemmed from a recent Wall Street Journal article that labeled last season’s IU team as the biggest underachievers in NCAA Tournament history, primarily because they won the Big Ten regular-season title outright and had Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller selected second and fourth, respectively, in last month’s draft, yet failed to advance past the Sweet Sixteen.

IU was the only school with two lottery picks in this year’s draft.

Considering the turmoil the Hoosiers faced when Crean took over, Buckley doesn’t buy the “underachievers” tag.

“Every day we found something new and different that was going to be a great challenge,” he said. “I was here when we brought 320 unofficial visits here that first year and we continued to build. We had former players here like Calbert Cheaney and you can go down the line of the guys that were supportive, and the fans that were here and into the games, or when we brought Cody Zeller in and we weren’t playing well and we could point to those fans and say ‘Look, they are here now, think what they will be like when we get really good.’ And they helped us do that.”

Of course, with Oladipo and Zeller gone early to the NBA, and key seniors like Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls graduated, it’s up to a new group of recruits to mesh with returning stars like Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey — both in Russia this month representing the U.S. in the World University Games — while the likes of Jeremy Hollowell and Austin Etherington take on more important roles.

“When you see him, he has gotten bigger and stronger, like all of our guys do,” Steve McClain said of Etherington, who’s working to rebound from a broken leg last season. “You would rather have guys that you have to pull back instead of guys you have to push, and we are having to pull Austin back.”

Cheaney said the incoming freshmen, led by Noah Vonleh, might be one of IU’s best classes ever talent-wise.

“But at the same time, it is just talent,” Cheaney said. “Now it’s about what they can do for themselves and what we can do to develop that talent.”



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