Memories tempt us to be frozen in a snapshot of time, usually a treasured moment. Such a static allure is a spider web for Tom Crean. The Indiana basketball coach has too mobile of a mind to linger. He's got to move, a bluesman would sing, and that's forward. So there's irony in him trying to push his program to where it used to be.
Indiana's glorious past is its desired future. The Hoosiers hope to turn the season's stretch drive into 1987, when the irascible Bob Knight ruled at the peak of his powers, winning his third national championship, the school's fifth. A No. 1 ranking and 21-3 record suggests that Crean's five-year reclamation project is destined to produce a sixth title on an upcoming April night in Atlanta. The team's engine purrs with a couple of national player-of-the-year candidates in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Their coach, of course, is driving hard and fast.
The pace accelerated in last season's breakthrough success. An upset of top-ranked Kentucky, the eventual national champion, in a raucous December home game trumpeted the return of the proud Hoosiers from an era of unprecedented pain. They ended up winning 27 games, after totaling just 28 in Crean's first three seasons, and crashed the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. His resuscitation powers were hailed, and a monster awakened. Tradition-rich programs provide a sense of ownership to a fan base, especially when the state's name is striped across a jersey. In Indiana, the natives are ravenous to hang another banner. Heightened expectations have stalked the Hoosiers since they were ranked No. 1 in the preseason for the first time since 1993.