He turned to his left, mouth agape.
Bespectacled former IU Coach Tom Crean intently watched as his 2011-12 Hoosiers made a leap right in front of him.
A No. 1 Kentucky team led by current NBA star Anthony Davis had lost in Assembly Hall, and the recently downtrodden Hoosiers had reinserted their name into the college basketball stratosphere.
This moment will forever be associated with Crean. No matter what happened after, this moment of glory dubbed the “Wat Shot” will always be part of the Crean regime shown on a loop into oblivion.
There’s many reasons why this game is so special: from the shot to Dickie Vitale’s near-incoherent screeching to the chaos ensuing on the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall court immediately after the buzzer sounds.
Chief among them, however, is the blue — the sadness of the Wildcats and the fall of the top-ranked leviathan.
The IU-Kentucky rivalry dates to 1924, when IU won 20-18. They have played 55 times since that first affair, and after the Hoosiers beat the Wildcats in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, then-freshman center Thomas Bryant shouted, “This is why I’m here!”
This is a rivalry , and the fact that we don’t get to see the matchup every year is a travesty. Like Bryant, we’re here for it. It’s time to bring the red and blue clash back.
During new coach Archie Miller’s press conference, IU Athletic Director Fred Glass said exactly what Hoosier nation wants to hear.
“I’m very receptive to restarting the Kentucky series,” Glass said. “I’d like to play one of the games in the cycle here, but I think the most important thing is we get that thing going again.”
Miller echoed the sentiment by stating that it’s an “important piece to the puzzle here with our tradition.”
The hold-up right now is that Hoosiers want the series to be played on the respective campuses. Kentucky Coach John Calipari is intent on having the games in Indianapolis, a neutral court.
It seems obvious, at least to me, that the best possible scenario would be a home-and-home bout, but just seeing the two teams on the same court again would be enough.
One of the main complaints about IU basketball last season was its poor non-conference schedule filled with matchups against teams like Houston Baptist and UMass Lowell. They are the Davids to IU’s Goliath, but if Goliath beat up David and then kicked him a few more times while David is laying on the ground.
Not only would scheduling Kentucky signify an emphasis on a stronger schedule by Miller and his staff, but it would reignite a rivalry that has been needlessly sidelined.
It’s time to see Miller take on the Wildcats. A rite of passage for IU head coaches should be how they fare in one of the best rivalries in college basketball.
How will Miller respond to a last-second victory like the “Wat Shot”?
Maybe he’ll make the same blank stare Crean did. Perhaps he’ll jump in elation with his fist reaching for the rafters. Possibly a group hug with his assistant coaches. We’ll never know until the matchup returns.
Let’s find out.