When asked what immediately comes to mind when you hear Indiana, the first word from your mouth should be basketball. Barns with goals on the side. Kids carrying basketballs into the corn fields. Fundamentals. Hoosiers. Enough said.
However, the condition of Indiana basketball over the past few years has been subpar at best. The best college basketball team to come out of Indiana for the last few years has been the Butler Bulldogs. The rivalry between Indiana and Purdue had become nothing more than a matchup between two average, middle of the conference teams.
Some people have said that Indiana just doesn’t produce the type of players that can compete at the highest level. They are not athletic enough. Sure, they are fundamentally sound and can shoot the lights out. But when it comes to competing with the boys from New York, Florida, or California they are a step too slow. Nevermind that Indiana has just recently produced Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden, and Eric Gordon. However, other people might not argue with the talent level but point out that most of the talent goes out of state to schools like North Carolina or Arizona. They are right. Most of the top Indiana high school basketball players seem to pack up and head off to places other than Indiana or even Purdue. Let’s face it, college basketball in Indiana has been in decline.
That brings us to the ’07-’08 basketball season and the resurgence of Indiana basketball. This season the state of Indiana leads all other states with the most college basketball teams in the Top 25. Who are they? Butler pulls in their highest ranking ever at No. 8 led by Mike Green. Green is ranked No. 8 on Jeff Goodman’s Player of the Year list. Purdue comes in at No. 14 with a roster full of freshmen and sophomores. Indiana is ranked No. 15 behind the muscle of potential Big Ten Player of the Year D.J. White (also ranked No. 7 on Goodman’s POY list) and the scoring ability of freshman phenom Eric Gordon. Rounding out the group is Notre Dame at No. 21. They are being carried by a sophomore who ranks No. 5 on Goodman’s list, Luke Harangody.
Tonight, Indiana and Purdue revived their storied rivalry with hopes of a Big Ten title on the line. It was a hard fought battle but my Indiana Hoosiers prevailed 77-68. The Hoosiers have won two of their last three games against ranked opponents (narrowly being defeated by Wisconsin). Hopefully they will be able to ride the momentum into the Big Ten Tournament and deep into March Madness despite the distraction caused by the allegations against Sampson.
So as you can see, college basketball is alive and well in the state of Indiana. Indiana will always have their Hollywood claim to fame, Hoosiers. But Indiana is much more than a movie. It is the home of basketball. As the saying goes, “there’s more than corn in Indiana…”