Minutes after the 2017 NCAA Tournament began Thursday, Indiana fired Tom Crean after nine seasons in Bloomington.
The timing of this was not lost on Doug Gottlieb. It wasn’t lost on Miles Simon, either.
“When news gets delivered at like 4 or 5 o’clock on Friday, this is kind of that Friday news, but it’s on a Thursday during the most important day of the college basketball season where everybody’s focusing on these games right now,” the ESPN college basketball analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It’s not going to fly under the radar because Indiana is one of the blue-blood programs of all time. But it gives them some time now to evaluate coaches over the weekend, start making their phone calls and get after it.”
Crean, 50, had led Indiana to three Sweet 16s since 2012, but the Hoosiers struggled mightily this season, going 18-16 and losing to Georgia Tech in the first round of the NIT.
Simon believes that Steve Alford is a prime candidate to replace Crean. The former Hoosier and current UCLA head coach led Indiana to a national championship in 1987.
“I like having former players or staff that bleed for that university,” Simon said. “I think it means a lot more to them to see their programs have success. I think it would mean a lot for Steve Alford if he could get to a Final Four. To win a national championship at IU would be unreal. He’s a call that should be made for sure to gauge his interest. He’s done a good job.”
The Hoosiers have reached the Final Four just twice since 1987 and once since 1992.
Moving from Bloomington to South Bend, Notre Dame struggled mightily in its opening-round win over Princeton on Thursday. The Irish led for almost the entire game, but it was close throughout, with Notre Dame hanging on for a 60-58 win.
“I’m worried about Notre Dame for the next round,” Simon said. “It looks ike they’ll probably get West Virginia. They didn’t shoot the ball well today. (V.J.) Beachem wasn’t good. I’m worried about them going against that physicality and that press. Even though Notre Dame does not turn the ball over a lot, they also do not play a lot of guys (who press). Princeton gave them everything they could handle.”
If given the choice, Notre Dame would likely prefer to play Bucknell instead of West Virginia.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” Simon said. “Not only do they only have one day (to prepare for the press), but you can’t simulate it. They’re going to walk through (Friday) and go over the traps and where the traps are going to come from and (where) the pressure is going to be, but the guys from 9-14 on Notre Dame’s bench aren’t long and athletic and strong. They’re not going to go full-court 5-on-5, so you’re actually not even going to see it live until you step on the floor Saturday. So that’s the other thing that makes it a little more interesting.”