Sunday, March 11, 2007

ORDER RESTORED TO THE BASKETBALL UNIVERSE

RELIEVED AND ELATED. Four Indiana teams were picked by the NCAA to participate in the “Big Dance” that starts on Thursday. Congrats and best wishes are in order for Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana. None of their draws are easy; in fact, I think we'll be lucky to see one Indiana team advance beyond the first round. But it seems folks are (a) relieved that Indiana University seems to be back on track to become, once again, a nationally respected program and (b) elated that Butler University earned the respect it is due.

FALL FROM GRACE AND REDEMPTION. Two years ago, no men's team from Indiana made it. Imagine that: no team from the heart of the basketball world in the NCAA men's tournament. Yes, many of Indiana's own sons were playing for other universities that made the tourney--a cause for significant heartburn amongst the state's citizenry--but no team representation from Hoosierland. This year brings redemption. Indiana's university teams seem to back on track and ready to compete with the coasts and mid-majors. Order seems to be restored to the basketball universe.

REMEMBER HOOSIER HYSTERIA? It’s too bad, however, that folks around the state follow and know a whole lot more about the National-level NCAA tournament than about the Indiana High School Basketball Championship Tournament. Sports writer Bill Benner keeps telling us that class-level basketball has ruined “Hoosier hysteria.” I think he’s right. Name one high school team still in the state tourney for Class A, 2A, or 3A.

NO MORE DAVID AND GOLIATH. Remember "Hoosiers?" The very kind of open class basketball tournament that fostered the intense fervor we now see associated only with the NCAA was honed and perfected in Indiana. A David had the opportunity to slay a Goliath. Giants could fall. Small-town kids could become statewide heroes in a night. Hope sprung eternal. Until...until poobahs in the IHSAA broke up the party about ten years ago with a class-level tournament. If Hoosier hysteria hasn't been deflated, then tell me why the news media no longer gives much attention to it? Why don't we talk about it? Why don't we care?

Photo: Jared and Sam play basketball in the driveway on Sunday afternoon while, in downtown Indianapolis, an NCAA committee picked the teams for this year's tournament.

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