Hoosiers back in tournament for first time since 2008

It took barely a minute from the time CBS started delving into the NCAA Tournament bracket before Indiana saw its name on a line and knew its opponent and destination. But of course, after four years that took the program to hell and back and until this season never took them anywhere near any postseason tournament, the Hoosiers didn’t need any more time or drama to build up an emotional response.

Immediately upon seeing that they would be a No. 4 seed in the South bracket and play No. 13 seed New Mexico State on Thursday in Portland, Ore., every single player got up out of his chair at the Heinke Hall of Champions in Memorial Stadium where the Hoosiers were watching the selection show. In a move that appeared totally spontaneous and organic, they created something similar to a post-game handshake line and every player embraced every single one of his teammates, sharing in the joy of being a part of the sport’s biggest spectacle and in the appreciation of what it took to finally get back there.

The Hoosiers’  first game will be at approximately 9:45 p.m. on Thursday night.

“When it’s set in stone, its a pretty special feeling,” junior point guard Jordan Hulls said. “Getting the 4 seed is pretty cool. It’s a dream come true, man. It really is. You always want to play in the NCAA Tournament. Dream about big shots, all that kind of stuff. I’m definitely excited to be able to celebrate with my teammates and the people around us. … A lot of people doubted us all the way through, it’s a great feeling to finally get here and accomplish it.”

The Hoosiers last trip came in 2008 when the program was in the midst of a complete implosion. Coach Kelvin Sampson had resigned in mid-February due to NCAA recruiting violations. Interim coach Dan Dakich was at the helm, but the roster was falling apart around him. The Hoosiers got a No. 8 seed that year and lost 86-72 to Arkansas. Tom Crean was hired to replace Sampson in April, but due to player dismissals and defections Indiana brought just two returning players back to the roster for the 2008-09 season. Both of them, Kyle Tabor and Brett Finklemeier, had come to Indiana as walk-ons, and the rag-tag group Crean put together to get a team on the floor finished 6-25.
But after a 10-21 season in 2009-10 and a 12-20 campaign in 2010-11, the 2011-12 team came together quicker than expected and accomplished feats that no other team in the history of Indiana’s celebrated program had. They became the first Indiana team to beat three teams ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll in the regular season, beating then No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan State. With a 25-8 record, the Hoosiers came into Selection Sunday certain that they would be dancing by the day’s end.

But it was still special for them to actually see it happen.

“It’s an amazing experience,”  senior guard Kory Barnett said. “Especially to think about from August, 2008 to where we’ve come now, it’s unbelievable to think about the things we’ve gone through. Especially these seniors. I’m excited for this day. We’ve been looking forward to this since last April. As soon as we were done, we marked this date on our calendars. It’s finally here.”

The first round pits the Hoosiers against New Mexico State team that went 26-9 in the regular season and won the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship. The Aggies have won nine of their last 10 games and boast a victory over New Mexico, which drew a No. 5 seed in the tournament. Senior forward Wendell McKines, a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder, leads the squad with 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“Wendell McKines is one of the better players, not only on the west coast but certainly in the country,” Crean said. “… I’ve seen them over a period of time and they are a relentless team. An absolutely relentless team.”

If the Hoosiers survive that first game, they will meet the winner of a matchup of dangerous mid-majors. No. 5 seed Wichita State (27-5), which won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title, plays No. 12 seed Virginia Commonwealth (28-6) which won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Should they reach the South Regional semifinal, which will be held in Atlanta, there’s a good chance they’d meet an old foe. The Kentucky team the Hoosiers defeated on Christian Watford’s buzzer beater on Dec. 10 — which may still be the signature moment of this college basketball season thanks to the court rush that followed —is the No. 1 seed in the South and the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.

“He kept saying that, in all honesty,” Crean said, referring to friend and Kentucky coach John Calipari. “That was one of his guesses more than anything else. That’s him. He’s got some conspiracy theories. But no, that’s one thing he said, ‘You know, we’re gonna end up in the same region. But I wasn’t shocked at all.”

Of course, the Hoosiers found out immediately after they were selected that not everyone thinks they’re going to get that far. Immediately after Indiana’s bracket path was announced, CBS sports commentator and Sports Illustrated reporter Seth Davis said he expected the Hoosiers to be upset by Wichita State in round of 32.

“I loved it,” Crean said. “That’s Seth. That’s Seth Davis. Seth has been giving us ammunition all year. Seth is the gift that keeps on giving right now with his predictions. We look forward to that. I never have a problem when anyone picks against us.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 1

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 2

AUDIO: Victor Oladipo

AUDIO: Jordan Hulls

AUDIO: Matt Roth

AUDIO: Derek Elston

AUDIO: Christian Watford

AUDIO: Verdell Jones

AUDIO: Remy Abell

Share the Scoop!


  • Laffy says:

    What is up with all the weird font stuff?

    Am I the only one that’s seeing that?

  • Tom in Indiana says:

    Mar. 11, 2012 8:40 p.m. – by Pete DiPrimio

    Coach Tom Crean said 13th-seeded New Mexico State (26-9), which will play fourth-seeded Indiana (25-8) in Thursday’s Round of 64 game in Portland, Ore., is a challenging opponent. “I can’t remember a team that averages 30 free throw attempts like they do,” he said. “They are relentless and aggressive.”

    The torrent of excuses has started.

  • Sleeper Team says:

    Sleeper team

    New Mexico State. The Aggies looked mighty impressive dismantling Louisiana Tech in the WAC title game early Sunday morning, with 6-6 Wendell McKines hitting the Bulldogs with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Would it be stunning to see them still around next weekend? To Indiana fans, sure, but perhaps not entirely.

    Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/story/2012-03-11/ncaa-tournament-breakdown-south-region#ixzz1os82aBCZ

  • Laffy says:

    Torrent of excuses? Huh?

    You Knight-worshippers are complete and total fruit cakes.

  • CatManT says:

    Don’t even concern yourselves with any hopes in this years tournament IU Fans. IF you win enough to play Kentucky in Catlanta. The Cats will finish your season quickly on a neutral court.

  • SpankyBtown says:

    Tom In Bitterland–
    There is an old saying about a broken clock. Its right twice a day. Why don’t you just recognize how wrong you continue to be and give credit where it is due? That would be too mature and reasonable? This team (and its coach) have won the right way with good student athletes that bring credit to IU. I guess you just cannot handle that.
    I enjoy the FACT that IU is one of the top 16 teams in the country.

  • Geoff says:

    CatmanT – I’m sure you’re right, but you may want to watch out for UConn… They have a pretty good PG and 2 future lottery picks. It isn’t quite a forgone conclusion that you even make it to the Sweet 16.

  • Geoff says:

    Oh boy, let the excuses begin for these other terrible coaches….

    Head coach Bill Self
    On if he likes the draw KU received:
    “I don’t know if you ever say you like it or you don’t like it because it never plays out the way I envisioned it. I learned that because I used to say, `I like this or I don’t like that’. I don’t think Detroit is an easy first round game. When you think of a 2 and 15-seed game in the past, you certainly don’t see Detroit being on that line. I’ve only seen them play a couple times, but I know their coach (Ray McCallum) well and of course, we recruited their best player (Ray McCallum, Jr.).”

    Calipari had high praise for Woods and Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper:
    “Again, there’s a team that will be on a mission, and that’s our first opponent we will have. It’s not going to be easy.”
    “They stacked the region… …The only thing I was happy about is that I heard they were trying to get an exemption for the (Miami) Heat to be the second seed in our bracket,” Calipari said. “And they weren’t allowed to get that, so they couldn’t put them in there, too.”

    How about Syracuse…
    “UNC Asheville is, I think, a very, very good team,” Boeheim said. “They’ve been very consistent. You can tell by the scores. Tough first game. They’re pretty good.”

    Wow sounds like Crean is on an island when it comes to praising his opponent and talking about the difficulty of a draw…

    I was looking for some Brad Stevens quotes about Butler’s draw since a coach that has gone to back-to-back title games must have a ton of confidence heading into the tourney, but I couldn’t find any???

  • HoosierSmitty says:

    Look at their roster:

    5 players from Canada; 2 from Paris, France; and 2 from New Orleans. Should the Hoosiers touch up on their French?

  • HoosierSmitty says:

    So is it safe to assume that Kentucky is going to rooting for Indiana in the first two games? You have to think they want some revenge…and no offense to my Hoosiers, I think they’d probably get it.

    A sweet sixteen would be nice, but I just want to enjoy one more win this year.

    Really hope they can dress Verdell and just put him in at the end of the game to hold the ball if it’s a blowout. Would be a nice touch. I read that UK did that in 1997 with Derek Anderson.

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    It would not be the 1st time a young star-studded team looked too far ahead for a “wanted” game. UCONN could easily ring pUKe’s bell.

  • Bart says:

    I think I read a small article that was buried on page 4 about syracuse players from recent teams that were playing but should have been suspended, if that were Indiana or Ky, it would be national headlines, did anyone else see that?

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    Kinda sounds like CatManT has a case of the December red-ass. If not for their OOC schedule their SOS would be 52. Somebody told me yesterday that if not for Vandy there would be no basketball played in the SEC. Why hasn’t Teague performed up to expectations this year? I do expect in his 3rd or 4th year in Lexington he could lead pUKe to the Final 4.

  • Chet says:

    Let’s face it, Vandy had to beat one decent team to win the tourney and they did it.

    Upset special, Harvard over Vandy. The SEC is as bad in basketball as they are good in football. Wouldn’t be shocked if New Mexico had another first round loss. It’s become a tradition.

    I think the biggest obstacles for the Hoosiers are three time zones.

    Too bad UNCA got handed a 16 seed. There are a lot of teams in the tourney they could beat.

  • Geoff says:

    Bart – don’t know where you live… I’m sure it’s pg 4 news in Indiana, but it was talked about plenty on sports talk radio in Maine and ESPN certainly covered it.

    Also, when teams self-report, as Syracuse did, it is almost always not seen as as big a scandal…

    They also didn’t violate NCAA regulations, only internal Athletic Department rules. The “pattern” of violations could lead to an NCAA violation, but that’s still under review.

    This story was in every major publication and sports news outlet…

    Syracuse wasn’t let off the hook by the media for the Bernie Fine debacle.

    There is no anti-IU conspiracy. You are myopic.

  • HoosierSmitty says:

    Maybe Alford can give Crean some tips on New Mexico State since they split the meetings. What worked? What didn’t work? They happen to both be playing in Portland this week.

  • Chet says:

    Geoff, I was listening to ESPN and, from this report, it could be a case of the coverup being more damaging than the violation. It was on Cowherd’s show. He said Boeheim claimed it happened five years ago and affected no current players when, in reality, it happened last year and involved several current players.

    For whatever that is worth.

  • Laffy says:

    Great post on quotes from other coaches, Geoff.

    The Knight-worshippers are truly insane.

  • HoosierSmitty says:

    Wow, if that’s true, given the recent track record, Boeheim is either a blatant liar or has a terrible memory.

  • Chet says:

    Boeheim has always been, what is referred to in the medical field, a ‘poor historian’.

    He is still claiming all his players were signaling for a timeout but couldn’t get one following Keith Smart’s. They aren’t doing it on the video, though.

  • AWinAZ says:

    Boeheim is a classic cheater. How can he ” not know anything about” his 10+ players failing the school’s drug test? Or Fine or his wife having sex with kids & players. He’s always been one of those guys that make excuses.

    And it’s shameful but Calipari will leave UK in shambles just like he did UMass & Memphis. It’s just a matter of time that a coach with a history of violations will repeat the things that he’s never been punished for before. Nobody is so naive they don’t see that coming, right? And you know the old boosters are still looming large in Lexington. Why Crean likes this scumbag bothers me.

    IU will have the last laugh. Give us about 5 yrs and we’ll be consistently spanking UK’s ass again due to violations, which should be, the death penalty, but won’t due to $.

    If it ends up Syr vs. UK it will spell out all the things wrong with CBB. The game will be damn entertaining with record ratings with the scum left behind the curtains.

  • Chet says:

    The thing about Kentucky is, the fans don’t care. My family is full of them. They just pretend it didn’t happen. UK is the ONLY program to be sanctioned in EVERY decade. Kentucky fans are fine with it.

    When a postal inspector found a video addressed to a UK recruit with thousands of dollars taped to it, my brother-in-law (a banker) insisted it was a postal worker who did it. Yeah, a few thousand is nothing to a postal employee.

  • Chet says:

    Interesting how much the ‘experts’ are saying the loss of Verdell is going to set back the Hoosiers.

  • Laffy says:

    All the Kaintuck fans I’ve ever known have NO PROBLEM that they’re a bunch of cheaters.

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