Indiana Will Miss James Blackmon, But His Loss Can't Be an Excuse for Tom Crean


Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers got bad news Tuesday as they learned sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. will undergo season-ending surgery on his right knee.

While Blackmon’s injury is certainly a blow to Indiana, it should have no bearing on whether or not Crean remains the coach at IU beyond this season. If the Hoosiers underperform the rest of the way, Blackmon’s injury cannot be used as an excuse. Even without him, the Hoosiers are simply too talented to land anywhere outside the top 15 this year.

Blackmon is currently second on Indiana in scoring (15.8 points per game), third in the Big Ten in 3-pointers made per game (2.8) and seventh in 3-point field goal percentage (46.3 percent). That said, Indiana has depth on the perimeter thanks to fellow sophomore Robert Johnson, junior Collin Hartman, senior sharpshooter Nick Zeisloft and emerging freshman OG Anunoby. There should only be a slight drop-off offensively with Blackmon sidelined, and the team should actually improve defensively given Blackmon’s struggles on that end of the court.

Moreover, Crean’s status at Indiana beyond this season has been in doubt all year. The Hoosiers enter Tuesday night’s matchup with Wisconsin at 12-3 and 2-0 in the Big Ten. While that looks pretty good, they haven’t beaten anyone in the Top 50, and their RPI and SOS (yes, it’s early) are not pretty: 71 and 207, respectively.

An embarrassing 94-74 blowout loss to Duke in early December was the latest in a string of high-profile failures for Crean. Losses to Wake Forest and UNLV at the Maui Invitational were two others. As an Indiana alum who witnessed the Maui Misadventure in person, I’m still having nightmares about the team’s trip to the island. Had my plane gone down in the South Pacific, it would have been the least horrifying disaster to happen that week.

Crean is facing his “Season on the Brink,” and it’s completely up to him what happens. Either his players will improve, or it will all fall apart in the yearly late-season collapse Indiana fans have become accustomed to.

With a likely All-American senior point guard in Yogi Ferrell, McDonald’s All-American freshman center in Thomas Bryant and a litany of shooters to go along with human Pogo Stick Troy Williams, there is no excuse for this Indiana team to fail. If the Hoosiers do, blame will land squarely on Crean’s shoulders, not Blackmon’s knee.