Indiana’s basketball season continues falling to depths that have only been previously measured in the Marianas Trench, with the latest indignity coming on Wednesday night with the Hoosiers’ first home loss to Northwestern in 41 years. In fact, the Wildcats had never beaten IU at Assembly Hall, with the last win coming at the old Fieldhouse that now hosts indoor track events and is connected to Assembly Hall through a vast series of tubes. (Which, on a sidenote, had to have been a terrible venue for basketball.)
As if losing 75-53 to Northwestern wasn’t humbling enough, this season’s coup de gras came when Michael Santa checked in for the final minute.
Who is Michael Santa? Good question. When you Google his name, this is the first thing that comes up.
But as it turns out, he is actually a team manager/towel boy. Considering that our good friend Thporth used to fill this role with the Thalukith, we realize that you don’t exactly need an athletic build for this position. In fact, the thought of Bruce Weber or Matt Painter asking Thporth to suit up at SIU Arena back in his heyday amuses us to no end.
Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as funny when that guy is suiting up for your own team. Believe me, I love an underdog story — even USC fans probably get a little teary-eyed watching Rudy. Or at least I like to think the savages do. It’s just much more enjoyable when that little guy is walking on in the final stages of a win rather than a blowout loss to Northwestern.
But even if Santa, bless his heart, had gotten the start, IU would still be above the level of disaster that has become the DePaul basketball program. The Blue Demons, who like the Hoosiers were once a proud, top-level national program, are the absolute pits of the Big East this year.
DePaul is only one of three programs in D-I this year without a single conference win, the others being Air Force and the clusterfuck of a program known as Southeastern Missouri State. The Blue Demons came painfully close to picking up that first win against Villanova on Wednesday before squandering their lead and falling 74-72. Far more typical scores for DePaul have been 99-54 (Louisville), 92-69 (Pitt) and 80-58 (South Florida — yes, South Florida). And as a point of comparison to IU, DePaul has a 63-36 loss to Northwestern on its record.
At this point, you’d think that DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright would be certain to get the axe after the season, but DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto already stated that he would return next year. On a personal note, I love Wainwright, who is probably the nicest — and funniest — D-I coach I’ve ever encountered. Even when I was an obscure sports writer working for an obscure small-town paper, he remembered who I was several months later when we ran into each other in Chicago.
I also think Wainwright can coach, which he did with great success while at Richmond and UNC-Wilmington. But the fact of the matter is DePaul is way in over its head in the Big East. Conference USA was a much better fit for the program, but once Marquette decided to jump ship to the Big East along with half of the schools east of the Mississippi River a few years back, DePaul really had no choice — plus it matched them up with their other natural rival in Notre Dame.
However, that switch has meant a whole lot of ass-whoopins. It seems that IU is closer to getting back to being on the giving end of those than DePaul, even though that day can’t possibly come soon enough.
IU Photo of depressed white guys is from the Associated Press. Photo of DePaul’s old logo on a basketball makes me laugh because I always thought he was about to take a dump in the hoop.