Wisconsin’s run to the Big Ten regular season and
tournament titles was made significantly easier this season by Indiana’s
collapse down the stretch.

It won’t happen again next year.

The turmoil that plagued IU, starting with the
resignation of coach Kelvin Sampson, might finally have come to end for the
Hoosiers this week, courtesy of a man that Wisconsin fans are pretty familiar
with.

Tom Crean, formerly the head coach at Marquette, was
hired by Indiana University to take over a basketball program that went from
Final Four contender to total disarray almost overnight.

At the very least, Crean’s presence should bring
stability to a program that is desperately in need of it.

His 3-6 career record against the Badgers might not
indicate it, but Tom Crean was trouble enough for Wisconsin when it had to play
his Marquette squad once a season. Now, UW will have to match up with Crean
twice as often.

The impact of Crean at Indiana might not make a difference
in Wisconsin’s win/loss record right away, though. IU could be facing a
significant punishment from the NCAA in response to Sampson’s transgressions,
and the Hoosiers may not return a single starter next season. Barring a major
change, next year should be an ugly one in Bloomington.

In fact, the biggest threat the Crean-led Hoosiers pose
to the Badgers next year isn’t on the court, but on the recruiting trail.

For years Crean has competed with Wisconsin for the top
recruits from the area and has done a pretty good job of landing some of the
state’s top talent.

Now, he moves to a school with even more cache then his
old one and will have the advantage of calling the basketball-rich state of
Indiana home, in addition to the solid base he already has in Wisconsin.

The addition of Crean boosts the overall coaching pool
of the Big Ten as well, and as newly hired coaches continue to get comfortable,
things can only get harder for the Badgers.

Crean comes in with experience of coaching — and winning
— in a power conference. After Marquette left Conference USA in 2005 to join
the talent-laden Big East, the Golden Eagles were still able to produce 20-plus
wins in each of their first three seasons and consistently finished in the
conference’s top tier.

In 2003, Crean, with the help of Dwyane Wade, took
Marquette to the tournament’s semi-finals. He now joins Tom Izzo, Thad Matta,
Tubby Smith and Bruce Weber as the fifth coach currently in the Big Ten to have
guided his team to the Final Four. With five coaches having accomplished the
feat, the league now has more guys to have done it than any other conference in
the country.

Keep in mind that the list doesn’t include Bo Ryan or
Michigan’s Jon Beilein, who have both advanced as far as the Elite Eight.

In fact, only Penn State’s Ed DeChellis and
Northwestern’s Bill Carmody haven’t reached the Sweet 16 as a head coach.

By the time Crean — along with last year’s hirees Tubby
Smith (Minnesota), Jon Beilein (Michigan) and Todd Lickliter (Iowa) — start to
get their own system in play, the conference is going to be much more
dangerous.

It’s the Hoosiers, though, that have the most potential
to reign supreme.

Indiana has been a sleeping giant for the last few
seasons. Following in the footsteps of Bobby Knight, Mike Davis was destined to
fail. Sampson had too much baggage to succeed. But in Tom Crean the Hoosiers
have hired an experienced coach that has the ability to restore the luster lost
by the IU basketball program.

And the better the Hoosiers are, the tougher things
become for the rest of the conference. Wisconsin included.

Tom Crean, with his .333 winning percentage against UW,
may not be a Badger killer. Ryan knows Crean’s tendencies just as well as the
new Indiana coach knows his.

But hand Crean the reigns to one of college basketball’s
most premier programs, and it’s going to be tough to maintain the current
status quo.

So yes, Crean may have his hands full in his first few
years with the Hoosiers and for now at least, Ryan may have his number. The
Hoosiers may be down right now, but don’t get used to it.

Sooner or later, taking on Crean’s Indiana team twice a
season isn’t going to be much fun.

?

Mike is a sophomore majoring in political science. If you think Indiana is
still a long way from returning to national prominence?or want to offer an alternative
to IU’s “Crean and Crimson” campaign, he can be reached [email protected]