Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The one program in the country having it harder than UMass in 2009

I've been pissing and moaning all year about how bad T Boone Pickens screwed UMass. How he bought our coach for his alma mater (which is noticeably better than they were a year ago under Alcohol and Pills Addict Jr.). I've really never shut up about it. UMass is sitting on ten wins, and without a win tomorrow night against George Washington will likely miss the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time in 39,000 years (ever). However, that is nothing compared to the team I saw playing on ESPN tonight.

Kelvin Sampson massacred one of the most storied programs in history and left the team in ruins entering this season. Eric Gordon had declared for the NBA draft after his freshman year. DJ White graduated. Terrell Holloway transferred to Xavier. Eli Holman to Detroit Mercy. DeAndre Thomas was dismissed dismissed from the program. After ugly divorces from the school, guard Armon Bassett landed back with Mike Davis at UAB and Jamarcus Ellis is no longer with the team. Yet a group of walk ons and freshmen (two star freshmen at that) had the premier team in the Big Ten on the ropes for all but about 12 seconds of their game tonight.

I speak, of course, of Indiana, which appears it will end the season with six wins, one in the Big Ten. If I were to rank the programs in the Big Ten based on a tradition, it would look something like this:
1: Indiana
2: Michigan State
3: Illinois
4: Michigan
5: Purdue
6: Ohio State
7: Minnesota
8: Iowa
9: Wisconsin
10: Penn State
11: That team that has never been to the NCAA tournament.
Indiana is to the Big Ten as Kansas is to the Big XII, or as UCLA is to the Pac 10. To see them suffer like this is difficult. The amazing thing is that Assembly Hall is going nuts for this team. They love supporting these guys. It reminds be of a situation a few years back when St. John's had to dismiss basically their scholarship players (minus Kyle Cuffe) due to a sexual assault fiasco that occurred during a road trip in Pittsburgh. Much like Indiana, the once-proud program was a wreck. Much like Indiana, they managed to win one game in their conference, at home over Georgetown.

It was impressive watching guys who may not have been the best players on their high school teams giving Michigan State all they wanted. Sad to see them fall short, but fun to watch them compete at such a high level. It also serves as a reminder that the great programs, as tough as times can be, will always be back.

Indiana University, 2015 NCAA Champions.