Mar 29, 2013, 1:50 AM EST
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Started from the bottom …
Christian Watford committed to Indiana on September 9th, 2008. That was six-and-a-half months after Kelvin Sampson was bought out of his contract by Indiana in the throes of Big Ten play while Indiana was going through an NCAA investigation for illegal phone calls Sampson made.
When Jordan Hulls committed to Indiana on May 20th, 2008, it was just two months after the Hoosiers, a team that had ridden Eric Gordon and DJ White to a No. 8 ranking earlier that season, bowed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed.
Neither player wavered from their commitment to Tom Crean’s program despite the fact that they stood idly by as high school seniors, watching the 2009 version of the Hoosiers finish with all of six wins, going just 1-17 in the Big Ten. They didn’t transfer after going 10-21 as freshmen or 12-20 as sophomores. Those two laid the foundation for the rebuild of Indiana, taking a program that had been napalmed by Sampson as he departed and turning it back into one of the elite.
One day, whether it’s in a week or a month or a decade, those two will be able to look back on what they accomplished and be proud of it. They will be able to pride themselves on the sheer determination that it took to grow an outright Big Ten champion and a No. 1 seed out of the smoldering ashes of that 2008 team.
But that won’t happen quickly, not when Indiana’s season came to a screeching halt on Thursday night. No. 4 seed Syracuse simply overwhelmed the Hoosiers with their zone, forcing 19 turnovers and holding Indiana to one of their worst offensive performances of the season in a 61-50 win.
“There will be a time to celebrate ‘em, but they’ve done things that have not been done in Indiana in a long, long time,” head coach Tom Crean said after the game. “They did it from scratch. I think that every once in a while it’s easy to forget that.”
As talented as Indiana is, Syracuse simply provided the kind of length and athleticism that Indiana had never seen before. “Not too may teams are used to our zone,” Cuse guard Brandon Triche said after the game, and he’s right. Michael Carter-Williams is 6-foot-6 with go-go-gadget arms. Brandon Triche is 6-foot-4. Those two play at the top of the patented Syracuse 2-3 zone. Baye Moussa-Keita and Rakeem Christmas are both pushing seven-feet and man the middle while 6-foot-8 physical specimens CJ Fair, James Southerland and Jerami Grant take up residence on the wings.
Hulls and Yogi Ferrell are 6-foot-nothin’. There’s a reason they combined to go 0-8 from the floor with six turnovers and not a single point.
Cody Zeller struggled with the Syracuse length as well. He finished with ten points and ten boards, but he shot 3-11 from the floor and was completely overwhelmed by the Syracuse front line. The Orange played him an interesting way. When Syracuse got lit up by Georgetown in this very building three weeks ago, it was because they collapsed on Otto Porter every time he touched the ball in the middle of that zone, freeing up the Hoyas sharp-shooters. Jim Boeheim knew that he wouldn’t be able to beat Indiana if he allowed them to get open look after open look from the perimeter, so he opted to let Zeller try to go 1-on-1 with his center.
And it worked.
“[Zeller] got the ball a little bit away from the basket,” Boeheim said. “We forced him where he wasn’t underneath the basket, and we could get help back to him. You know, when one guy stood him up, now he doesn’t have the step to get up in the air so we can come back and get a block in that situation.”
Here’s the irony: Indiana, the best offensive team in the country all season long, according to Kenpom, played well enough on the defensive end of the floor to win. They forced 14 turnovers, they didn’t allow Southerland to get anything going offensively and they only gave up 0.968 PPP. If I told you that heading into Thursday night, few would have guessed that Indiana would have lost that game.
And that has to be the most frustrating part for Indiana.
By picking the wrong night to play their worst offensive game of the season, Indiana cost themselves a chance to cap off a pair of story book careers with the perfect ending: a national title.
“It’s been full of ups and downs,” Watford said, “but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love my team and I’m happy to be an Indiana Hoosier.”
This team could have won it all, and with the way that Indiana is recruiting and the talent that they are bringing into the program, that national title may not be all that far off.
Indiana is back on the college basketball map. Watford and Hulls may never play another game in Assembly Hall, but their legacy at Indiana will live on.
… now the whole team here.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Vanderbilt was able to hold off Marshall on Thursday night, beating the Thundering Herd 69-67 with Damian Jones and James Siakam leading the way with 15 points apiece. But the victory was a Pyrrhic one, as on Friday morning head coach Kevin Stallings announced that junior center Josh Henderson tore both the ACL and MCL…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:34 AM EST
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Dec 6, 2013, 10:24 AM EST
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Dec 6, 2013, 1:23 AM EST
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Dec 5, 2013, 11:15 PM EST
Seton Hall established a season high for points in a game on Thursday night in their 92-81 win over LIU Brooklyn, with Brian Oliver knocking down eight three-pointers and scoring a game-high 26 points to lead the way offensively. In total four Pirates scored in double figures, but the win may have come at a…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:30 PM EST
In a thrilling game down in Richmond, Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams outlasted a tough Eastern Kentucky team in overtime, beating the Colonels 71-68. Treveon Graham led four players in double-figures with 15 points and Rob Brandenburg knocked down four threes, including a huge three to kick off the overtime period. That would be the only…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:01 PM EST
With Phil Pressey leaving school after his junior season for the NBA, Missouri had an important question to answer entering the 2013-14 season: who will grab the reins and lead the team from the point guard position? And with the team boasting an 8-0 record after beating West Virginia 80-71 on Thursday night, it’s become…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:51 PM EST
Throughout the history of collegiate athletics there have been instances of schools moving from one conference to another, only to return to their original conference shortly thereafter. This had not happened in the recent wave of conference realignment, but that changed on Thursday as Oral Roberts announced that it will return to the Summit League…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:11 PM EST
With the graduation of key contributors Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith from last season’s CAA regular season champion squad, Northeastern junior guard Quincy Ford was expected to be a major contributor for the Huskies. But after playing in the team’s first two games of the season a back injury has sidelined Ford, and on Thursday…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:55 PM EST
Normally when the discussion of someone being “posterized” takes place, there’s usually no doubt that a player was dunked on. But this video is a bit different, as it’s a compilation of three impressive dunks by Ohio State wing Sam Thompson in the Buckeyes’ 76-60 win over Maryland on Wednesday night. All three were alley-oops,…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:55 PM EST
After playing just over six minutes per game as a redshirt freshman, Duke forward Alex Murphy saw the task of earning more minutes become even tougher in 2013-14. With Rodney Hood eligible after having to sit out a season per NCAA transfer rules and freshman Jabari Parker arriving on campus, there weren’t going to be…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:53 PM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: West Virginia at Missouri, 7:00 p.m. ET The Big 12/SEC Challenge kicks off tonight, headlined by the Mountaineers treking down to Columbia to take on former Big 12 member Missouri. While there isn’t exactly a Final Four contender taking the court, this will be an intriguing game to watch simply because…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:17 PM EST
On Thursday morning, Anali Okoloji was suspended by George Mason for conduct unbecoming of a George Mason student-athlete. It stems from an incident in Wednesday’s game against South Florida. Okoloji felt he was fouled at one end of the floor and then, after a foul was called against him, he half-stepped, half-kicked South Florida point…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:02 PM EST
The North Carolina basketball team was just a bit fired up after last night’s win over No. 1 Michigan at the Breslin Center? How fired up? Just look at Joel James: Now take a peak at this pictures from J.D. Lyon, the team’s photographer, who posted these pictures on twitter:
Dec 5, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
Today marks the 35th anniversary of Dick Vitale’s first broadcast as a color-commentator for ESPN, and in a video that the network released today, we get a chance to see Vitale’s first pregame intro. A couple things stand out: – In his first broadcast, Vitale still managed to drop some nicknames. “The Kiddie Corps, T’n’T,…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:25 AM EST
Arizona State had a rough weekend out in Southern California for the Wooden Legacy tournament. They went 1-2 in their three games, which included a 28-point loss to Creighton and a 60-57 loss to ACC cellar-dweller Miami. Making matters worse is that Jahii Carson managed to hurt his ankle in the process. He played through…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:39 AM EST
BYU’s basketball team has found a unique way to promote games this season: by choosing terrifically awful love songs and convincing some of the team’s most recognizable faces to lip-sync them in ridiculous ways. Here, you’ll see Tyler Haws and Erik Mika joined by Skyler Halford and Luke Worthington singing “Because of You” by 98…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:11 AM EST
Vin Parise from CollegeBasketballTalk caught up with Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley and Providence head coach Ed Cooley. The Friars and Rams square off tonight in the Battle of the Ocean State. *Ed Cooley – Providence CBT: Let’s first talk about your Sunday night loss to Kentucky. Cooley: I though we played well in…
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