by Kent Sterling
Prior to being snubbed by the tournament that theoretically invites the 69th-100th best basketball teams in the country to play in anonymity for a couple more weeks, the brain trust at Assembly Hall decided that Indiana would not seek nor accept an invitation to the CBI Tournament.
That was the right call – the only call.
The alternative would have been to either lose in the CBI or win the CBI, and neither would have been an acceptable result for a mediocre season that teetered on the brink of success and failure throughout. It finally fell into the failure category late in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament with a torpid effort against Illinois that resulted in a 64-54 loss.
Win the CBI, and the impulse might have been to hang a banner commemorating the players overcoming adversity to beat several equally mediocre teams until there were none left to vanquish. Lose in the opening round, and the chorus of impatience would have grown louder and larger.
Better to put this dog of a season down for good, than to prolong it to the detriment of the brand and players.
Anyone saying that the players would have benefitted from the additional game work is not seeing things clearly. If the Hoosiers couldn’t muster the energy to compete with zeal during the Big Ten Tournament, how in the hell could they ever be expected to do it against Hampton, Siena, Tulane, Radford or the other teams who have entered the CBI?
There are reports that Indiana athletic director Fred Glass explained that the Hoosiers would shutter the season by saying “We’re Indiana.” He might have been better served by being a little less prideful, and asking the question back, “Why would we play?” That’s quibbling about style though, and I view comments to the media in the same way I evaluate a jump shot. If the ball goes in the bucket, I don’t care whether the shooter hiked it through his legs. The Hoosiers not playing is good enough for me.
Would it have played better if he explained how playing in a third tier event could only embarrass Indiana? I’m usually a big fan of honesty, but that would have unnecessarily pissed off a lot of people in college basketball.
If a TV game show had a wheel barrel filled with manure behind doors #1, #2, and #3, would you choose one or refuse to play? Glass is refusing to play because none of the results of participation are acceptable.
The question prompted by the supposed “We’re Indiana” comment is, “Who is Indiana?”
Here is who Indiana is:
- Over the last 21 seasons, the Hoosiers have advanced as far as the Elite Eight just once, and have won exactly one outright Big Ten regular season championship.
- They have earned a spot in the Big Ten Tournament finals just once in 17 tries, and have missed the NCAA Tourney six times in the last 11.
- They have been ranked the #1 team in the country during parts of three seasons since 1980-1981.
- Indiana has lost a minimum of seven games every single season back to 1994.
- Steve Alford was the best player on Indiana’s last NCAA Champ. He will turn 50 in November.
- James Blackmon, Jr. will be a sharp shooting freshman on next seasons team, and he was in Pre-K when Indiana made its last trip to the Elite Eight, Final Four, and National Championship game.
That’s history and math, and arguing with either is futile.
Indiana is what it is. The CBI is what it is. The two should never meet, but only because Indiana earns its way into the NCAA Tournament, not because it refuses to accept an opportunity. But better to refuse the invitation than to accept the results of playing.