It’s easy to get wrapped up in hysteria, to follow the tide. Chaos, disorder and pandemonium are often the instantaneous reaction when following sports.
Crazies screech, “The sky is falling!” Bunkers are built. The nation seems to be going mad.
In the world of sports, this is a habitual response. It’s understandable. We pour ourselves into a team. Buy jerseys with the numbers of our favorite player. Memorize stats of a lineup from our childhood in an attempt to impress fellow fanatics. When things don’t go our way with the team we care about, it feels like a personal affront.
This is usually an absurd reaction.
Fans are told to think their team isn't actually that bad. There’s room to improve and pieces to build on. There’s always next year. Maybe we’re just living too much in the moment and we’ll look back and laugh at our anger and frustration.
This year of IU basketball is not that. This was bad, by every metric and standard.
The Hoosiers’ season ended Tuesday night with a 75-63 loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the McCamish Pavilion, also known as The Thrillerdome. This was a misnomer for the game we collectively watched, a game in which a team that was once ranked No. 3 in the nation got outclassed.
Junior guard Josh Newkirk and company made a few runs, but once the Yellow Jackets got a formidable lead in the later parts of the second half, the opposition quit.
Like every other Hoosier, they were ready for this season to end.
Big Red wore white; the home uniforms for a road game. It was fitting that even the jerseys didn’t make sense. The reason for this confounding variable is that IU declined to be host to its opening-round NIT home game due to IU students having spring break.
It seems proper to acknowledge that at least half of the other home teams in the NIT first round also had spring break that week.
IU was the only program to decline. There would be no assemblage of fans at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall this season for men’s postseason play.
Knowing how porous the team was away from its home gym, the athletics department still decided to send the team to Georgia untethered. Sending them to their timely demise.
One of the best things I read about this episode was from Sam Beishuizen, a fellow IU sportswriter and former IDS reporter.
He lamented, using quotes and stories from Hoosier faithful, that IU’s refusal to host left a lot of born and bred fanatics in the dust.
“Low-income families,” and a “parent who can’t normally afford to bring their kids to a game” lost out on a chance to watch a basketball game in Bloomington, a real shame. Regardless of the product, it would still be a treat. He concluded with a plea to go see the IU women’s team take the court, a truly energetic and entertaining team this season.
I agree. That would have been the better thing to watch. Instead, like the majority of you reading this, I sadistically watched what unfolded in Georgia.
IU men’s basketball lost, as Coach Tom Crean’s squad shot poorly from the 3-point line at 26.3 percent, lost the free-throw battle, committed 16 turnovers and allowed a team that hasn’t scored more than 70 points in nearly a month to put up 75. Those are the statistics, but that’s only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.
Crean’s team couldn’t attack a 2-3 zone (hello, 2013) and instead dribbled around the 3-point line concluding far too many possessions with a shot clock violation or difficult heave. Inbound plays were a hassle, including one in which the inbounder did everything but hand the ball to other team on a silver platter. Assignments were lost on defense leading to backdoor layups or wide-open 3-point shots. We’ve dissected these problems ad nauseam, but it seems as if I’m yelling into an empty chasm at this point. It no longer matters.
The season’s over. That’s it. There aren’t any solutions.
In the last four years, Crean and company made the NCAA Tournament twice. Over the course of 2013-2017, great players trotted onto the court. Noah Vonleh, Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Will Sheehey came and went, and are all now trying to make their mark in the NBA. Talent failed to pan out, from Stanford Robinson to Emmett Holt to Hanner Mosquera-Perea, and each is now a member of a different team in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
This year, I saw potential, led by sophomore center Thomas Bryant, master shooter and junior guard James Blackmon Jr. and eventual-pro OG Anunoby. None will likely not be wearing the candy stripes at the start of the next season.
One Sweet Sixteen appearance, one backdoor sneak into the tournament with a prompt exit and two years with a combined one NIT game. I’m out. That’s it for me as a student watching IU men’s basketball. Frankly, it’s disheartening.
This is not Indiana basketball. Or maybe it is.
Without deep reflection and changes, the incoming freshmen are about to be put through the same wringer.
Some low highs, some low lows and a road loss to Georgia Tech — that should have been played at home — in the first round of college basketball’s backup tournament.