When I saw that IU was the pre-season #1 in both polls, it smarted.
When Purdue floundered and IU played some of the best basketball in the nation, it flat-out sucked...And the media piled on and pretty much took college basketball away from me for a few months; I couldn't stand to watch morons like Vitale tell me how good Crean was at his job.
Four players on IU's starting five were on the three All-conference teams...the fifth was on the all-Frosh squad; and it was kind of tough to argue with it.
As the Naismith Award lists were trimmed, and trimmed and trimmed, IU had 2 of the final 8 players on the list...and finally, IU still had one of the final four players on the list.
But tonight, IU's movement was flushed out of the tournament...and the accolades and hype matter little.
The only upset that I had in my bracket that I was sure of, was tonight's game...and for once, my logic was sound. Cuse's zone created havoc for IU. Hulls' poor defensive abilities kept him on the bench...this eliminated a scoring threat that might have been able to break the zone. And, of course, a guy who has won a few games, Boeheim, out-coached the Forehead. Crean made no effective adjustments...He tried to get his guys to run to keep the Orange from setting up their defense, but as the pace picked up, Cuse's offense looked better.
I've said it before and I'll say it again- there were some guys on IU's team that I would love to have seen in gold and black...but Sheehey has never been one of those guys. So seeing him whimpering on IU's bench as time expired warmed the cockles of my cold, gray heart.
Fellow BS co-founder, J was pretty confident back in January that IU wasn't a legit national title contender...I disagreed adamantly, especially after watching them beat the crap out of our Boilers...but he didn't think they were built for the long haul in the grueling NCAA tournament; and I still don't understand why.
This IU team was healthy, experienced, has slashers, shooters, a great big man, team speed and athleticism, amazing chemistry and a decent bench...with the exception (of course) of the guy who was supposed to be sitting upon it...and instead was always pacing in front of it. But as we all know, it doesn't take a ton of coaching talent to wrangle and organize one of the most-talented groups in the nation.
Illinois and Kansas fans alike have lamented that Bill Self isn't the greatest coach...but he has a national championship. Boeheim has been accused of being inflexible and unable to adjust on the fly...but with a few AAs, he got the Orange a national title. Steve Fisher and Jim Harrick rode the coattails of great players to earn a ring*.
But, a truly great IU team, with seemingly all of the parts needed to earn the crown couldn't get it done this year. So once again, I can enjoy college basketball and take a bit of a deep breath.
I'm blessed to
For a storied program that a true basketball genius once led, success used to be measured by National Titles and little else. But, the new look IU fan told us nearly two years ago that they were back. They believed they were there because Crean had recruited a few guys that RMK could have only dreamt about- two five star players, a handful of four stars and success was all but assured. Last year, IU had 20+ wins and made it to the Sweet 16. Crean built a trophy case, had rings made...and IU fans shouted from the hills of Southern Indiana that they "were back!!"
This season was the next logical step: A B1G title and another sweet 16. True success, I guess.
Funny thing is, in '09 and '10, Purdue averaged 28 wins, had a B1G championship and two Sweet 16s.
No trophy case.
No talk of the program returning.
Oh yeah, and Purdue lost one of their best players to a torn ACL just a few weeks before that second tournament...but the past is the past.
Now, this season is over for both Purdue and IU...so we can look ahead for a moment.
Will Purdue get back to contending for the conference title? Who will transfer (if anyone), who will improve during the off-season?
And for IU, how will they replace their Senior leaders? Who will go pro?
If I were a betting man, I'd put a quarter on Oladipo leaving...and IU returning just two of its starting five...but at this point, my guess is worth no more than the IU fan's who assures themselves that the only guys leaving are the Seniors.
Ding Dong, the wicked witch from the South died as Tom Crean's Diet Coke-fueled PR/hype machine ground to a halt in the sweet 16.
*No, not a sweet 16 ring.