As is the annual tradition for the first week of spring, our state had its finest talent dutifully stationed all over the country. But not a single delegate, for all their regular season success, could survive the final throes of a bitter March.
In a foretelling disappointment, the Indiana Hoosiers, our namesake, were the first to fall. They were unfavorably paired against Arkansas, but from the first tip-off their deflated hearts bled dry through their crimson jerseys, and Eric Gordon’s 0-6 three-point shooting snuffed out their wayward season. The final score was 86-72, marking the Hoosiers’ third loss in a row; an undeserved conclusion to the college career of D.J. White, who has been the only constant standby over four years of flailing leadership and wavering success. IU ends the season 25-8, with four discouraging losses out of their last five games, and they now meander into the off-season without D.J. White, (probably) Eric Gordon or a head coach.
After a smooth 20-point blowout over South Alabama, Butler faced the tenacious Volunteers of Tennessee on Sunday afternoon, as the last hope for Indiana-represented college basketball in April. The heavy underdogs found themselves in a sloppy mess of turnovers and foul trouble in the first 10 minutes, and despite the typical lights-out shooting of A.J. Graves, they could not rally enough offense to outgun the Vols. The foul trouble was especially catastrophic — a neutering slice between the legs of the Bulldog nation. The Bulldogs fought back with ferocity and sent the game into overtime, but when the conference’s player of the year Mike Green fouled out, Butler was left with inadequate scoring ability, and ultimately fell to the second-seeded Vols 76-71. The departing all-conference backcourt of A.J. Graves and Mike Green leaves their fresh-faced comrades with a gaping hole to plug next November.
On Saturday, Notre Dame got the pants beat off them by No. 4 seed Washington State. Their surprising success in the Big East Conference was mashed into a steaming hot bowl of coddle, and greedily devoured by the Cougars. Despite Luke Harongody’s 22 rebounds, the Irish simply could not score. They tallied a miserable 19 points in the first half, and by the game’s end could not even break the half-century mark, losing by a disinteresting score of 61-41.
Purdue, like Butler and Notre Dame, won their first contest handily — then faltered clumsily as an underdog. Xavier pummeled the Boilers with a steady and calculated offensive attack — spreading them wide with their sharpshooters, and then hammering them down like a railroad spike with their size. However, the young and starry-eyed inexperience that cost Purdue their tournament run will mean their return to national contention in the coming years; the Boilermakers started five underclassmen, including two freshmen, in Saturday’s game.
Despite the somber and premature ending to Indiana’s invested interest in this year’s brackets, the state’s college basketball teams gave Indiana a reason to get lost in basketball again, maybe for the first time since Reggie. The state has two conference champions (Butler and Notre Dame), two of the top three spots in the Big 10 standings and four ranked teams. So, it is a seemingly fair trade — their one weekend of misfortune cost us nothing but a $2 fiscal loss in the office tournament pool — after giving us four brilliant months toward a return to national basketball prestige.