A wizard was in the house where, let’s face it, a pretty magical season unfolded a year ago.
And one of the many thoughts that came to mind while enjoying Sunday’s Haunted Hall of Hoops event, sitting across the way from some dude dressed as Gandalf the Gray, was this:
Whether or not a regular starting lineup emerges, or whatever primary player rotation develops, Indiana junior swingman Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo need to spend a lot of time on the court. Like, say, 25 or 30 minutes a game each. Even, yes, for a team as deep and talented as this Hoosier squad.
In terms of overall game on both ends, versatility, competitiveness, energy and motor, it’s hard to perceive a better pair of juniors in a loaded Big Ten Conference than “Sheeladipo.”
And there are a lot of good junior tandems in the league, mostly frontcourt-backcourt combos, such as: DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft (Ohio State); Keith Appling and Adreian Payne (Michigan State); Melsahn Basabe and Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa); Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Jordan Morgan (Michigan). Most observers would probably rate OSU’s Thomas and Craft the best twosome, and they are indeed formidable.
But, when it comes right down to it, I wouldn’t trade Sheehey and Oladipo for any of them.
I’m hard pressed to remember any two players who matriculated in Bloomington as relatively unheralded prospects (outside the national top 100 rankings of most recruiting services) who have progressed so far and so fast, and have brought so much to the table.
And there is, among a great many other things the sheer entertainment value they provide. Oladipo and Sheehey comprise two big reasons why, as esteemed IU staffer Jeremy Gray noted in a tweet Sunday, that this IU team figures to lead the Big Ten in dunks. By a lot.
Hoosier fans got some very welcome news Sunday with the verbal commitment of consensus Top 40 prospect Troy Williams. And he is an exciting talent, no doubt about it, who should fit into IU’s program very well. But Oladipo and Sheehey serve as terrific reminders that recruiting ratings don’t always tell the entire tale.
And now a couple of thoughts on “The Haunted Hall of Hoops” event itself:
Why do so many more people prefer to camp out or stand in line for hours to attend the “midnight madness” of Hoosier Hysteria when, on a subsequent Sunday afternoon, they can cruise right into good seats at the Hall and take in pretty much a full scrimmage game featurng the nation’s No. 1 ranked team?
Sure, “Hoosier Hysteria” encapsulates the excitement of the season’s formal kickoff event. But it does tend to drag on, with the dunk and 3-point contests too lengthy in structure among other things, and the atmosphere tends to dissipate well before the much-delayed scrimmage (even though the scrimmage is perhaps the element serious fans most want to see.)
“The Haunted Hall of Hoops,” on the other hand, offers its scrimmage right away. And one would have to be a real sourpuss not to derive at least some enjoyment from the subsequent parade of cute kids bedecked in some bedazzling costumes. Yet, that event drew only maybe 3,000 or so (with everybody getting a great seat) Sunday while people had to be turned away at Hoosier Hysteria.
So some friendly future advice for Hoosier fans who can’t (or choose not to) get into Hoosier Hysteria: The Haunted Hall of Hoops serves as a very nice, and in some ways better, alternative.
And you’ll still get to see Oladipo and Sheehey dunk.