Yeah, that’s right I said it. Rooting for Indiana University’s men’s basketball team is just freaking great. Not only has my Alma mater been tearing it up on the court the past two seasons (to the tune of a 16-46 record), but hated rival Purdue has become a national power. Those things I can deal with. Indiana is building under Tom Crean after Kelvin Sampson left the program as a steaming pile of toxic rubble. Next year is the target year for Crean’s Crimson to finally show that they’re competitive. I’m optimistic about the future of Hoosier basketball.
Then yesterday happened.
After a circuitous recruiting saga that left me dizzier than a whiff of West Lafayette’s atmosphere, 6’9 forward Moses Abraham picked Georgetown over Indiana almost immediately after his visit to Bloomington.
Following that gut-punch, IU super-commit Matt Carlino re-opened his recruitment. The junior guard was so sold on Crean’s program that his parents moved from Arizona to Bloomington so Carlino could attend national powerhouse Bloomington South and get acclimated to the area. He was basically the face of Indiana’s recruiting efforts for the next few seasons and now he’s decided to look elsewhere. Since Carlino could still end up at Indiana, that was probably no more than a knock on the shin on the fan-pain scale.
But last night was the kicker. Xavier took Kansas State to the edge in one of the best NCAA tournament games in years. The Musketeers did all they could to stave off elimination before falling in double overtime to the Wildcats. What killed me is that Xavier’s leaders, sophomores Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway were Indiana property before Sampson’s program-destroying meltdown.
Crawford was a promising freshman during Sampson’s final season and Holloway was a highly-touted, signed recruit. They moved flipped to Xavier and have put on phenomenal showings in this year’s tournament.
Crawford has easily been the tournament’s most enjoyable player to watch this far. In three games he averaged 29 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He’s also hit big shot after big shot, and looked incredible knifing through traffic and finishing around the hoop. The kid has a great future and could be one of the top players in the country next year – if he isn’t already.
His backcourt-mate Holloway has been just as clutch. He dropped 26 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out six assists against Kansas State, while hitting three clutch free throws to tie the game at the end of regulation. He buried four huge 3-pointers and was a steadying influence for the Musketeers during a wild game.
Watching those two guys establish themselves as among the best in college basketball was like a swift kick to the groin. No, actually it was worse than a kick to the junk. I imagine the pain was somewhere on the level Maurice Creek felt when he obliterated his knee earlier in the season. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was doubled over in pain every time Crawford nailed a big basket or swooped in on a sweet drive to the tin.
So yeah, being an Indiana fan right now is just about the best thing in the world. Especially considering I’m in Houston working on a project where I have to interview Purdue fans right before they tip things off in their Sweet 16 appearance.
While we’re here why doesn’t someone just give me a papercut and pour lemon juice on it.