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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Column: Season ends in bittersweet fashion

IU’s road wasn’t supposed to end like this.

The journey that started with a preseason No. 1 ranking was supposed to be on the yellow brick road leading all the way to the wonderful land of the Final Four.

The path wasn’t supposed to guide the Hoosiers right into an orange brick wall.
But it did, and now the 2012-13 IU men’s basketball season is over.

“We’ve had a heck of a ride with this group,” IU Coach Tom Crean said Thursday night. “It doesn’t feel like it tonight, won’t feel like that for a couple of days, maybe longer.”

Thursday night’s game was a game of indecision for the Hoosiers.

Instead of looking like the confident, fearless team that won an outright Big Ten title for the first time in 20 years, the Hoosiers looked like a completely different team — one we have never seen before.

Because the game felt so one-sided and Syracuse was more dominant than any opponent IU has faced all season, playing the “blame game” is inevitable for fans and critics after a loss like this.

Looking for people to blame is a natural way, and maybe the only way for people to cope with the type of emotional let-down felt Thursday night.

It’s an unfortunate, knee-jerk response, but let’s face it, there is plenty of blame to go around.

People want to blame Crean for not preparing his team to face Syracuse’s suffocating zone.

Personally, I think they were prepared for it. There’s a difference between not being prepared for the zone and not executing against it.

I believe IU’s problems stemmed from the latter more than the former.

At times, the Hoosiers’ ball movement was spectacular against the zone, but when you can’t knock down open shots, great ball movement doesn’t matter.

Missed shots aren’t Crean’s fault. He can’t get out there and shoot the ball himself.

That responsibility falls on guys like senior guard Jordan Hulls, sophomore forward Cody Zeller and freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, who combined to shoot 3-of-19 from the field and only scored 10 points (all coming from Zeller).

Realistically, if you want to blame Crean for anything, it has to be for sticking with Hulls and Ferrell too long, when the two shorter guards were clearly overmatched by Syracuse’s physicality and length.

The only ball-handler outside of junior guard Victor Oladipo and junior forward Will Sheehey that showed any aggression against the zone was sophomore guard Remy Abell, who for some reason only played 10 minutes.

When Temple’s Khalif Wyatt was lighting up IU’s defense in the round of 32, Crean was not afraid to play Abell in important minutes.

But when Syracuse continued to force Ferrell into turnovers and consistently took advantage of Hulls’ and Ferrell’s inability to guard Orange players, Crean kept Abell up his sleeve.

You can’t blame Crean for the Hoosiers’ execution, but you can blame him for not putting the right guys on the court.

He stuck with a freshman guard who was overwhelmed from the tip-off and a senior guard who was playing with a separated shoulder, as reported by InsideTheHall.com.

“I’m sure the strength and the size of the Syracuse guards had something to do with it,” Crean said. “It’s a matter of where you enter the ball from and we got tentative shooting the ball, which we didn’t need to do.”

Regardless of who deserves the most blame — Zeller and senior forward Christian Watford didn’t play their best games either — nothing can change the fact IU failed to perform in Washington D.C.

Maybe that’s what will hurt the IU players, coaches and fans the most in the up-coming basketball-less months that will feel like an eternity.

In the most important game of the season, IU, as a team, played some of its worst basketball we have seen.

The season might not have ended the way IU thought it would and the enormous expectations that were placed on this team were not realized.

The Hoosiers would be the first people to admit this.

But the reality of the NCAA tournament is a harsh, demoralizing feeling for 67 of the 68 teams that dare to dance.

There can only be one national champion every year and as we found out Thursday night, this was not the Hoosiers’ year to be crowned.

Although this season ends in a bitter disappointment that will linger in Bloomington for a long time, the beauty of sports is this is never the end result.

Teams win and teams lose, but it’s the journey that makes us believe that anything could happen.

“They have done things that have not been done at Indiana for a long, long time and they did it from scratch,” Crean said.

For this reason, we must not remember the 2012-13 season for how it ended; we must remember this team for allowing us to be a part of the ride that took IU by storm.

We must remember the three seniors, forward Derek Elston, Watford and Hulls, that dreamt about bringing IU basketball back — and then fulfilled that dream beyond most of our wildest hopes.

Most importantly, we must remember this team for how special it was as a whole.
“As you know, it’s been full of up’s and down’s but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Watford said. “I love my teammates and I’m happy to be an Indiana Hoosier at the end of the day.”

IU could not have asked for better representatives to embody the face of the University that loves basketball as much as humanly possible.

This loss leaves Hoosiers around the country feeling disappointment and sadness, but when the dust clears and those feelings subside, we will remember this IU team for bringing something back to Bloomington that is even more important than banner number six.

This team brought pride to every person that has ever considered himself or herself an Indiana Hoosier — win or lose.

What more could you ask for?

­— mdnorman@indiana.edu

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