For hope, look to Indiana

There is no doubt Utah basketball is at its worst state in program history. This has been something brewing for years now and doesn't necessarily tie back to the last coaching staff or even the staff before that. Really, ever since Rick Majerus 'retired' in 2004, the program has been on a steady decline to irrelevancy.

Even the dead cat bounce in '05 and '09 couldn't ultimately alter the course.

So, because the fall has been so deep and so sudden, the climb back is going to be long and painful. We're witnessing that this season. This is rock bottom. There is a good chance Utah struggles to sniff five wins this year and could be on the cusp of the first one-win season in school history.

It's the pits. It sucks. If you're a fan who, like me, grew up in the 1990s and watched the Utes steamroll their way through the WAC and on to the national title game, it's painful knowing you're relieved Utah somehow covered the spread against the Cougars - which was 22 points.

That's not Utah basketball. This is not what guys like Vadal Peterson, Jack Gardner, Jerry Pimm and Rick Majerus worked so hard to build.

We are a proud program that has a great history and that makes this whole situation even more difficult to grasp.

Fortunately, it's not written that Utah basketball will always be bad. I am confident one day we'll return to past success. It might not be next year or the year after that, but it will come. College athletics is too evolving of a sport to allow the Runnin' Utes to be this bad for this long.

We're due.

So, how do we find some glimmer of hope in this mess?

Well, look no further than Indiana.

I get the circumstances leading up to both teams' struggles are not comparable. The Hoosiers were decimated by a scandal that cost their former coach, Kelvin Sampson, a job and left Tom Crean, their current coach, with barely anything to work with.

I get that. Larry Krystkowiak didn't take over a program consumed by scandal. Yes, much of the turnover seen after Jim Boylen was fired is his own doing. That's not relevant. In the end, both ended up with a situation where the head coach was almost literally starting a program over from scratch.

For Crean, it wasn't easy. In his first season, Indiana produced their worst season in school history. They managed only one Big Ten victory and finished with a paltry six wins.

Fans were not impressed. Fans questioned the direction of the program. Even with all the turnover, the fact they only returned two players from a year prior, 6-25 and 1-17 in Big Ten play is remarkably bad...especially for a program of Indiana's prestige.

His next two seasons were only marginally better. He won 10 and 12 games respectively.

Their conference record wasn't all that impressive, either. In fact, last season, his third there, they were 3-15 in the Big Ten and finished dead last.

But the administration was patient. It didn't hurt Crean was bringing in stellar classes, but record-wise, when you're 27-66 in three years, there is going to be some grumbling.

Most felt this was the make-or-break season for Crean.

So far, he's making it. Indiana sits at 9-0 and is coming off a last second victory over Kentucky.

The Wildcats were ranked number one nationally.

Four years ago, this program was ambling through the worst season in program history and now they're riding high.

I'm not going to proclaim the Hoosiers are back or that they'll even contend in the Big Ten, but they're at least on the national radar again.

Yes, Indiana got there through spectacular recruiting classes. Yes, Utah and Larry Krystkowiak probably won't come close to grabbing the type of recruits who have chosen the Hoosiers over the last few years. But we don't need to be at that level. Utah basketball has never been about building for national championships.

We don't expect Krystkowiak to take Utah to the Final Four.

We just expect a team that competes every game, is solid in its fundamentals and contends for its conference championship - whether the WAC, Mountain West or Pac-12.

That's pretty reasonable.

So, while we watch this season unfold and the losses pile up, look to Indiana as evidence it does get better.

At least that's our hope, right?

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