In a rematch of one of college basketball’s best contests of the season, Indiana fell short against Kentucky, 102-90, in the Sweet 16.
It was Indiana’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2001-2001, when they fell to Maryland in the NCAA Championship game. But more importantly, it was their first trip back to the Big Dance since 2008, and their first under coach Tom Crean.
Officially, we can say Indiana basketball is back!
It’s been a while since students from Indiana University have had something to cheer about on the basketball court. Former head coach Kelvin Sampson tarnished the program with his NCAA violations, and that resulted in the school being placed on three years’ probation.
The probation damaged IU’s recruiting heavily, and it made them one of the worst schools in the country. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, however, after the team hired Crean.
Crean, the former head coach of Marquette, led the Golden Eagles to a bunch of success. He had a 160-68 record at Marquette in the final seven seasons he coached there. He even led them to a Final Four appearance in the 2002-2003 season.
Hiring Crean was not enough, though. The school still suffered heavily, and in Crean’s first season (2008-2009) the Hoosiers went 6-25 while only winning one conference game. It was a low point in the school’s history.
The next two seasons didn’t get any better either. Crean steadily improved the team to a 10-win season in 2009-2010 and a 12-win season in 2010-2011. Then, this season happened.
The Hoosiers started the season winning 12 games in a row, including a home victory over the No. 1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats. IU would win three games against teams ranked in the top-five throughout the season and earned their way in the NCAA Tournament.
Freshman Cody Zeller was a big addition to the team. He averaged almost 16 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Zeller won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award for his play this season.
Junior Christian Watford is also enjoyed a great season. He averaged almost 13 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Watford is also the player who hit the game-winning shot against Kentucky.
The Hoosiers are ranked as a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament and had victories against New Mexico State and a Final Four team from a season ago, VCU.
IU’s fan base is re-energized this season because they finally have something to root for again. The court-rush against Kentucky is enough to show how much passion fans have for the Hoosiers.