Skip to content

The legacy of Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls will live on at Indiana

Mar 29, 2013, 1:50 AM EDT

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.

Latest Posts
  1. A key piece for Providence is cleared for full-contact practice

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Karvel Anderson, Kris Dunn AP

    Providence is hoping a key member of its backcourt will be healthy this season after two straight years with a shoulder injury.

  2. ACC program uses LeBron James’ Homecoming as recruiting tactic for local five-star wing

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    One five-star prospect heard a recruiting pitch centered on LeBron James’ homecoming to Cleveland.

  3. Throwback Thursday: Vince Carter highlights at North Carolina (VIDEO)

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT

    vince carter

    Vince Carter highlight reels are still the best.

  4. 2017 guard Trevon Duval’s freshman year mixtape (VIDEO)

    Sep 17, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

    Jon Lopez/Nike Jon Lopez/Nike

    With Isaiah Briscoe moving on to the college ranks next summer, Duval could be the next elite guard produced by the Playaz Basketball Club.

  5. UAB to open season with third annual ‘Hoops on the Haasephalt’

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptq5odriytgxyzrimznizmmymtbkzgnhmji1owvlyjhi AP

    Last year’s Hoops on the Haasephalt event attracted nearly 4,000 fans on the UAB campus.

  6. Top 2015 prospect emphatically states he’s ‘100 percent’ committed to attending LSU

    Sep 17, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Despite rumors to the contrary, one of the best players in the Class of 2015 is 100 percent committed to attending LSU next year.

  7. Wisconsin students waste no time purchasing tickets for 2014-15 season

    Sep 17, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan Bo Ryan

    “The Grateful Red” snapped up every available ticket within five minutes Wednesday morning.

  8. Penn State begins preseason training with new strength & conditioning challenge (VIDEO)

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Patrick Chambers Patrick Chambers

    The Nittany Lions return five of their top six scorers from a team that finished the 2013-14 season with a 16-18 record (6-12 Big Ten).

  9. Jim Boeheim calls Yahoo’s Coach K story ‘completely off-base’

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Jim Boeheim is not one to bite his tongue around the media.

  10. DePaul lands second front court recruit this week

    Sep 17, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT

    DMVElite 80 DMVElite 80

    Is Oliver Purnell is tapping into a D.C. pipeline?

  11. Two Missouri freshmen suspended after arrest (UPDATED)

    Sep 17, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

    Kim Anderson AP

    Missouri will move on with team-related activities without two freshmen following an arrest.

  12. Five-star freshman JaQuan Lyle removed from Oregon roster

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Lyle was originally committed to Louisville before backing off.

  13. Watch Kentucky fans sprinting to line up for Big Blue Madness tickets (VIDEO)

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    Via @J11Riley Via @J11Riley

    The rush for a good spot to wait for Big Blue Madness tickets is always entertaining.

  14. Tacko Fall, Class of 2015 7-foot-6 center, sets three visits

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    The tallest player in high school basketball has some visits set.

  15. Arizona State cuts ties with junior college recruit following arrest

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    jordan washington

    Arizona State has cut ties with a junior college forward and 2015 recruit was who arrested over the weekend.

  16. Bo Ryan hits golf balls into Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium (PHOTO)

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan AP

    Bo Ryan shows he’s a big man on campus at Wisconsin following his Final Four appearance.

  17. Jalen Rose believes Chris Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan

    Sep 16, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Jalen Rose says that former teammates Chris Webber needs to apologize.

  18. Texas lands impact four-star guard in 2015 recruiting class

    Sep 16, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    The Longhorns pull in a commitment from a good guard in 2015.