The Verizon Wireless Centers floor gleamed bright orange late Thursday night as joyous Syracuse fans flooded the court. In the mix of ‘cuse fans too bewildered to leave the stands, Indiana University friends, students, and alumni slumped in their seats, heads hung low, burying their solemn faces in their Hoosier attire. Despite the significant score range, Indiana fans were stuck in a daze. Shocked by the poor performance of their beloved team, they struggled to accept the reality of the buzzer.
The implications of this loss were massive. The Hoosiers would not only leave the tournament so early [thus failing to meet Obama’s predictions], but they may have just blown their last best shot at another National title in a long time.
As the year unfolded, discussion of Oladipo and Zeller as top ten NBA picks circulated, but the excitement of the season prevented fans from comprehending the impact such projections would have on future Indiana basketball. When the Hoosiers stepped off the plane in Indianapolis from their short-lived business turned tourist trip to D.C., the suspense truly began.
…Until Oladipo made his announcement—he is moving on to the NBA, graduating this spring, a year early, to join the ranks of professional basketball players. A day later sophomore Cody Zeller mimicked Oladipo’s response. Different wording, similar message; both expressed sincere gratitude to the IU community and assured their feelings of pride as forever a Hoosier.
Two starters down. And while some may have been distracted by the decisions of Oladipo and Zeller, let me tell you, I had further concerns. My personal long-time favorites, Watford and Hulls, are graduating.
Every game I sport my Watford number 2 jersey, but unless decisions to retire his number are confirmed, I am haunted by the fact that next year I may be representing an entirely different player. Similarly, when I’m visiting home next year during the holidays and run into Jordie at the supermarket as I occasionally do, I will feel uneasy knowing he wasn’t at practice that morning.
Watford and Hulls both play with a particular poise that can be accredited to their experience as seniors. They have committed themselves to this team for four years, experiencing extreme highs and lows and confronting countless obstacles, whether those were tough competitors, feelings of disappointment, or challenges in creating the correct team dynamic. Some struggles they overcame and others they learned from but most are forever engrained as memories. It goes without saying the Hoosier nation will miss them dearly.
The IUBB schedule site is now a sad, sad place. The top right—the countdown to football season. The top headline of tweets rotates from honors and awards won by Oladipo and Zeller to IU tennis news. But still, in the fall when the IU students go to football tailgates to socialize and drink, they are truly only flaunting their cream and crimson attire to test it out before the real season begins. As the song proclaims, “This is Indiana,” and it is all about basketball. Despite the weak class of recruits and the loss of 4/5 of the starting line-up, it will continue to be about basketball. Season tickets will sell out, and students will still chant the Indiana fight song in the crowded lines outside of Assembly Hall when November rolls around. The rest of the world might not recognize the new roster, but the school’s spirit lives on. Here is hoping it does not take another ten years for another Hoosier revival.