Indiana’s dream season ended far too early

  • 03/29/2013 1:05 pm in


WASHINGTON — Jordan Hulls sat at his locker room in the Verizon Center, tears welling to his eyes when asked questions about the season and about his special senior class.

For four years, Hulls had dreamed of the opportunity he and his teammates had in front of them. They were a No. 1 seed, a favorite to reach the Final Four in Atlanta. All this after beginning from the very bottom with the NCAA Tournament a mere pipe dream.

This wasn’t supposed to end so soon. This was Indiana’s Dream Team, one constructed with so much talent and chemistry, it may never be replicated by Tom Crean and his staff. You can recruit all the top 50 players you want, but you can’t make them like each other and play together the way these guys did. There will never be an Indiana team quite like this again.

Crean and his staff know that, which is what made this one hurt more than most. The Indiana coaching staff remained in the Verizon Center locker room until after 2 a.m., and the team bus didn’t pull out of the arena until 2:21 a.m.

“There are no words to describe how I feel,” junior guard Victor Oladipo said after Indiana’s 61-50 loss to Syracuse in the Sweet 16. “I love playing with these guys. I’ll never forget this team for as long as I live.”

He should remember the good moments from this season. This team has earned that. Wins at Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. A Big Ten outright championship. Two All-Americans. A No. 1 seed. A second straight trip to the Sweet 16.

But, fair or not, the loss to Syracuse will probably always stick to the memories of the Indiana players the most. It was an opportunity missed, it turned an otherwise terrific season into a giant disappointment. The Hoosiers went to the Sweet 16 last year. This year, they needed to go further. They should have gone further.

“It’s over,” Hulls said, his voice cracking. “It’s just tough. We prepared so hard, we just didn’t go out there and execute like we needed to. It’s a terrible way to go out.”

All week long, we talked and heard about the challenge of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. The Hoosiers seemed confident on Wednesday, acting like they were prepared for the unique defense they would see.

But they were not. Twelve turnovers in the first half told you that. As hard as they may have prepared for Jim Boeheim’s team, they didn’t know and never did figure out how to attack and score against the zone.

“They’re length is not really something you can practice against,” Hulls said. “We turned the ball over, didn’t hit shots. We were overthinking, didn’t quite know what we wanted to do at certain times.”

The Hoosiers made a run in the second half — they got it to within six points at one point — but they couldn’t sustain it for a fairly simple reason: They didn’t make shots. To beat the Syracuse zone, you have to make some perimeter shots to loosen it up. Indiana was 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.

“We were a little anxious, a little overwhelmed,” Oladipo said. “We all just needed to take deep breathes and slow down, and after we did that, we started coming back. But we dug ourselves too deep a hole.”

There’s plenty of blame to spread around. Crean deserves some because he never found a way to beat the Orange’s defense. Still hasn’t in three career games against Boeheim. Hulls and Ferrell deserve some for their offensive ineptitude. Neither scored a single point.

“I’m sure the strength and the size of the Syracuse guards had something to do with it,” Crean said. “It’s a matter of where you enter the ball from, and we got tentative shooting the ball, which we didn’t need to do. Our whole thing was to get our guards off the point so we could play more off the wing and enter the ball more from the wing and that was easier said than done.”

Zeller deserves some blame, too, for not protecting the rim as well as he should have and for continuing to go up too soft to the rim at times. He’ll be an NBA player someday, but he needs some serious work in the offseason.

But Syracuse deserves a helping of credit, too. The Orange entered the game as one of the hottest team in the country, a team too hot for Indiana to contend with.

“They’re not where they’re at for no reason,” Crean said.

This group deserved to have a fairytale ending. It felt like they were destined to get one for much of the season. But that’s it, it’s over, and the team will never look the same. Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston are gone. Maybe Oladipo and Zeller and Maurice Creek, too.

When the Hoosiers return for next season, they’ll be equipped with a brand new chip, this one larger than before. They’ll once again be the underdog, no one will believe they can win it all.

But, hey, maybe that’s not so bad. After all, that’s when Crean and the Hoosiers are at their best.

Filed to:


    First off I enjoy your comments. You stated earlier that you were from Germany so you may not be familiar with it, but there is a well known U.S. rock musician by the name of Joe Walsh and the name of one of his albums pretty much applies to what you are attempting to do here I believe and that is, ” you can’t argue with a sick mind “. Should you decide to keep fighting the good fight all I can say is good luck.

  • Ole Man

    Stop watching so much ESPN. You might just come up with some original thoughts?
    Louis. beat them with shorter guards than we did.


    no way hes mor athletic than cody, he has better post moves n jumper buts hes weak rite now he ll need jeney to buld him up

  • Remy Willing and Abell

    I’ve been saying that on here for a long time , and people got mad at me .

  • Remy Willing and Abell

    I’ve been saying that on here for a long time , and people got mad at me .

  • D’Artagnan

    I’m with you on that one. At least the snake oil concession is good hands

  • HoosierTrav

    I feel like we hadn’t been the same team since the MSU game. We shot the ball so poorly the rest of the season. Honestly, I believe deep down that the enormous pressure from beginning of the season took its toll on a group that hadn’t been used to it. It was championship or bust and that’s tough for 19-22 year olds. The worst thing that happened to us, IMO, is that we won games while playing poorly for a significant stretch. I think it would have benefited us to have a 2-3 game losing streak like Louisville’s and hit us with the gut check early.

    I’m extremely disappointed in the loss but I’m in no way disappointed in a group of guys who got us back to contending for a national championship, year in and year out. The Final Fours and Banners will come as long as we have a chance at them every year and these boys and Coach Crean put us in the position to do so. Thanks guys on a very resiliant career.

  • CreanFaithful

    Better stock up on ambien.

  • HoosierTrav

    Look I’m as critical of Crean’s subbing pattern and in game coaching as anyone but those who think he should be fired should get real. Really? You want to fire him? We weren’t supposed to be this good this soon. The class we have coming in is leaps and bounds better than the one with Vic and Will…. How’d that one turn out? He won an outright B1G championship! He’s probably out right now inking another recruit that the likes of Bloomington hasn’t seen since the mid- Knight era. Well Coach K, Bill Self, Jim Larranega, Steve Alford, Thad Matta, John Thompson3, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, John Calipari, Brad Stevens, and Shaka Smart ALL fell short of their expectations this season, so they better be fired. Get a grip you morons! Dont give me that Brad Stevens BS! Brad Stevens got outcoached and squandered a double digit lead in the game to Marquette. Buzz Williams, the coach at Marquette, is a Crean disciple. Brad Stevens is an excellent coach but some coaches, no matter how good they are, dont fit in everywhere. Crean fits. He’s our man. When he wins it all, I’m sure you’ll be telling everyone you had faith in him the whole time… Jokers!

  • CreanFaithful

    Well said.

  • Scott, I agree completely. Is this forum designed as a love fest for CTC only or can we express our disappointments and concernes? CTC deserves credit, but he clearly deserves criticism. By the end of the season it was clear how to beat IU, and it was clear we couldn’t play the half court game. Does CTC know how to prepare a team to play half court or is he simply not willing? I just pray that he takes a serious look at this season and does what he has to do to make corrections, including himself. He can make an excellent coach if he can do so.

  • Brian, I share your sentiments. IU was and is now becoming a blue chip program and CTC deserves all of the credit for our return to the national spotlight. With that spotlight comes scrutiny and your questions mirror many that others like myself have. If we are satisfied with a sweet 16 achievement then CTC doesn’t need to change a thing. If we want to begin making final four appearances then CTC has some lessons he neeeds to learn and adjustments he needs to make. If he will truly acknowledge his own shortcomings and take measures to correct them he can take this school to the big dance and bring back another banner to hang in Assy Hall. I truly hope he does so.

  • Jersey Hoosier

    No need. If I am wrong, I will sleep soundly with dreams of a successful program. However, if I am correct (as I am), your insomnia will be fueled by the knowledge that your faith in this poseur has been misplaced.

  • Jersey Hoosier

    No need. If I am wrong, I will sleep soundly with dreams of a successful program. However, if I am correct (as I am), your insomnia will be fueled by the knowledge that your faith in this poseur has been misplaced.

  • Jersey Hoosier

    Praise Jesus!