Better get 'em now.
That's the word on Indiana.
If you want to make the Hoosiers really pay for Kelvin "Can You Hear Me Now" Sampson's telephone misdeeds, for sneaking now-L.A. Clipper Eric Gordon out from under the nose of neighbor Illinois, for once being the employer of Robert Montgomery Knight and for wearing those red-and-white striped warm-up pants, now's your chance.
Bruce Weber proudly proclaimed Indiana was going to, well, not be very good this season, and the bitter Illinois coach is on the button about UK's Saturday opponent.
But not for long.
Tom Crean will have the Hoosiers rocking and rolling in time. Crean is tireless and savvy. He has close ties to successful leaders — father-in-law Jack Harbaugh won a Division I-AA football title at Western Kentucky, brothers-in-law Jim (Stanford) and John (Baltimore Ravens) are head grid coaches. His résumé includes a 2003 Final Four trip, delivered by one Dwyane Wade, and consecutive 20-win seasons his last three years at Marquette.
And, oh yeah, Crean has already coaxed the nation's fifth-ranked recruiting class, so says Rivals.com, to Bloomington for next season.
So you'd better get IU this season, while the school is paying the steep price for rolling the dice on Sampson. The ex-Oklahoma coach brought his phone habit from Norman to the Hoosier State, and after the dial tone was finally disconnected on Feb. 22, the collateral damage has been sweeping.
There was Sampson's resignation. There was the resignation of Athletic Director Rick Greenspan. Player departures. Player suspensions. The school's first charge of major NCAA violations since 1960. Luckily, the NCAA recently studied the carnage and told the school, no additional penalties, you've suffered enough.
Ah, but if IU's shame resembles Kentucky's in the late '80s, complete with Sampson's Dwane Casey-like "show-cause" clause, then Indiana hopes Crean is to the Hoosiers what Rick Pitino was to the Cats. Even if Pitino's first team, the burgeoning Unforgettables, looks like NBA All-Pros compared to the grab-bag gang Crean has been forced to stitch together.
Indiana is 5-4 after beating Texas Christian 66-56 Wednesday night. But, in Maui, it lost by 38 to Notre Dame and by 16 to St. Joseph's. In the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, it lost by 25 at Wake Forest. Saturday, playing at new Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, it earned back-pats after losing by only 16 to Gonzaga.
"When a team is at that pace, and a team is playing that hard," Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said of the Hoosiers, "it's hard to get separation."
The Hoosiers have no choice but to play hard. Crean inherited two returning players. Forward Kyle Taber averaged 11 minutes per game and scored 28 points on the season. Guard Brett Finkelmeier played all of 11 minutes last season, scoring two points. So much for returnees.
So the Hoosiers consist of seven new scholarship players and four walk-ons. Freshman Tom Pritchard leads the team in scoring at 14 points a game. Next is forward Devan Dumes, a junior college transfer. Next comes freshman guard Nick Williams, who had committed to Crean and Marquette, but instead followed the coach to IU.
The best story is Kipp Schutz, who hit 11 three-pointers in a row during a shooting competition between the IU basketball and baseball teams. Schutz is a member of the baseball team. Crean issued a dual-sport invitation. At Wake Forest, Schutz was the first Hoosier off the bench.
That tells you something, but only for now. What tells you more is that the IU faithful, happy to be shed of Sampson, have rallied around their 42-year-old head coach, that AAU staple Roshown McLeod was hired as an assistant coach, that the school awarded Crean a two-year extension before the first game.
And, oh yeah, Crean's 2009 recruiting class was ranked by both Rivals.com and Scout.com as best in the Big Ten.
If you want to get IU, better get 'em now.
Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or (800) 950-6397, ext. 3226, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at johnclay.bloginky.com.