As you loyal Rumors and Rants readers are all too familiar with by now, we’re a bunch of Indiana University graduates. Which means a few things:
1. We apparently weren’t smart enough to get into our No. 1 college choice (Northwestern in my case).
2. We watch “Breaking Away” at least twice a year.
3. We’ve most likely contracted mononucleosis through a drinking game known as “Sink the Biz.”
4. We usually have unrealistically high expectations for our college basketball team.
So the fact that I was yelling at my TV Saturday while the Hoosiers played the basketball powerhouse that is Northwestern (the only team from a BCS conference never to make it the NCAA Tournament), should tell you how the once mighty have fallen.
Why was I yelling? Because I wanted to avoid consecutive seasons without double-digit wins.
Before the year started, I was hoping for 13 wins. I know, that seems pretty low considering we’re talking about a program with five national titles. But remember, IU won just six games all of last year in the wake of the “Purge Everything Kelvin Sampson-ish Era.”
Tom Crean is in Year Two in his Hoosier Resurrection and not even Norman Dale could have provided a quick fix. Crean inherited a program rife with drug use and failing grades. He cleaned house and started from scratch, piece-mealing a recruiting class last minute that featured two guys no longer on the team (Nick Williams and Malik Story) and arguably – who am I kidding, not arguably – definitely the worst scholarship player in NCAA history in Tijan Jobe, who has inflicted more injuries to teammates than points scored.
After Sampson’s firing, five players transferred and two highly touted recruits opted out and signed elsewhere. Of those seven players, eight currently play in the NCAA (Brandon McGee supposedly went to Auburn, but I don’t think the people at Auburn are aware of that). And all six average double figures with their respective teams.
In case you were wondering, only two IU player average double figures this season (Verdell Jones III – 14.8 ppg and Christian Watford – 12.1 ppg). We’re not counting super frosh Maurice Creek, who went down with a broken knee cap 12 games into the season, which pretty much killed any hope of getting to my 13-win goal.
Here’s how the former Hoosiers are doing elsewhere (stats as of last week). We’ve included Joey Shaw and Ben Allen on this list, despite the fact that they transferred the year before Sampson’s resignation:
Jordan Crawford, Xavier – 19.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.0 apg; Xavier’s leading scorer.
Armon Bassett, Ohio – 15.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.4 apg; Ohio’s leading scorer.
Xavier Keeling, Detroit – 12.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg; Detroit’s second leading scorer.
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia – 12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.6 apg; West Virginia’s top rebounder and third leading scorer.
Eli Holman, Detroit – 11.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg; Detroit’s top rebounder, third leading scorer and is shooting 61 percent from the field.
Terrell Holloway, Xavier – 11.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.8 apg; Xavier’s starting point guard.
Ben Allen, St. Mary’s – 10.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.1 apg; St. Mary’s second leading rebounder.
Joey Shaw, Nevada – 10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 apg; Nevada’s fourth leading scorer and third in rebounding.
Again, the list doesn’t include Nick Williams and Malik Story, who transferred last season from IU after just one year in Bloomington.
So we have a convenient, built-in excuse for sucking. But that doesn’t change the fact that watching Indiana basketball the last two seasons has been akin to Chinese water torture. It’s gotten so bad, I watched ice dancing rather than my alma mater. It’s getting to the point that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon redoing Shakespeare would be a desired alternative.
Prior to the Northwestern game, the Hoosiers and I had endured 11 straight losses (though I could only force myself to watch half of them). Many of the defeats were by wide, wide margins (only two featured gaps of less than 14 points). Wisconsin beat Indiana by 32 in Bloomington, the worst loss in Assembly Hall history – though if you ask me losing to the likes of Lipscomb, Northeastern and Loyola (Md.) in a two-year span are worse home losses.
But Saturday was Senior Day for three guys no one is going to miss (the aforementioned Jobe, an elbow-throwing, 35-foot jump shot missing, turnover machine named Devan Dumes and a walk-on holdover from the Sampson Era), and Assembly Hall was packed.
How many other schools coming off a six-win season and still languishing in the conference cellar with nine total wins would sell out? Not many. In fact, I’m even surprised the Hoosier faithful came out like they did this weekend. A friend called me Friday night asking me if I’d like to make the drive down and go to the game – for free. My response: “No thanks, I don’t feel like watching us lose to Northwestern – again.”
But I managed to grab my Snuggie and drag myself to the couch to watch the game. Being single, I really had nothing better to do at noon on Saturday. All my married friends were either building swing sets for their kids or decorating their new houses. And the day-drinking/grilling wasn’t scheduled for another few hours.
I know, a loser fan for a loser team.
Well, would you believe it? The Hoosiers were actually playing decently. They gave me hope. Indiana built a nine-point lead with five minutes to go. It looked like 10 wins was within our grasp. Then of course they blew it as Northwestern forced overtime. I think my neighbor probably thought there was a domestic dispute going on based on the volume and veracity of my profanity. Seriously, just when you’ve convinced yourself it couldn’t get any worse and that you don’t care anymore, this sh*t happens.
All this for a 10th win? Only Indiana.
Luckily for my neighbors and anything and everything breakable in my vicinity, the Hoosiers pulled the game out in OT on the strength of eight 3-pointers from freshman Jordan Hulls and 31 combined points from freshmen Derek Elston and Christian Watford.
Then my phone starting buzzing with text messages from other IU alumni.
“Is that a win? It’s been so long.”
“Hulls has eight 3s!”
“Finally, this fu*kin team gives me ulcers.”
Turns out I wasn’t the only loser watching another meaningless game.
Ah, Indiana basketball. It’s good to know we’re all losers, even when we win.