Following in the footsteps of the media and the Big Ten coaches, OTE has also decided that Tom Crean was the Big Ten Coach of the Year for the 2015-2016 season. And while some believe the whole thing to be a
Conspartacy conspiracy to keep Crean employed, the simple fact remains that Tom Crean guided his team to the top of the Big Ten, and kept them there pretty much the whole season.
Sure, Greg Gard did some great things at Wisconsin after taking over for Bo Ryan just before conference play (good enough to get the job full time, even), and Tom Izzo did very well to coach around injuries and still keep his team in the hunt for national recognition on Selection Sunday. They both had very good seasons, and the OTE staff recognized them as such (Gard finished 2nd in COTY voting, Izzo 3rd), but the fact remains that Indiana finished with a better conference record than both MSU and Wisconsin while also dealing with a major injury for most of the season and some less major injuries near the end of the year.
Tom Crean took a squad that people had given up on following the debacle in Maui and had really given up on following the blowout in Cameron Indoor, and made them outright Big Ten Champions. And he did that after losing the team's second leading scorer James Blackmon, Jr. to a season ending right knee injury in early January. Crean was forced to change the way his team was playing, and in a marked departure from other seasons, the team took to the change extremely well. There were still a couple of blemishes before the end of the season (the befuddling loss to Penn State and the continuing futility at Kohl Center), but where every other Big Ten contender stumbled, Indiana remained standing, and finished off their regular season by beating midseason favorite Iowa and preseason favorite Maryland in back to back games.
Now, Indiana sits in the number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and with a good performance could reach as high as a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a far cry from where many thought they would end up at various points of this season. And while he hasn't been perfect, and having a team led by Yogi Ferrell certainly helps, a good portion of the credit has to go to Tom Crean, the media, coaches, and OTE writers' Big Ten Coach of the Year.