While it's difficult to truly enjoy the NCAA Tournament when IU isn't playing, the 2010 tournament has provided some great moments. First, how about those Bulldogs? IU and Purdue both have much stronger alumni and fan presences in Indianapolis than Butler, but a Final Four appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium by either school would be a source of consternation for fans of the other school. Butler, on the other hand, seems to have wide support from the city and the state. It's an amazing run in any event. As if IU's struggles weren't enough, a month ago it looked as if both Purdue and Kentucky were Final Four bound. I don't feel great about the main reason Purdue's run ended (Robbie Hummel's knee injury), but the end of Kentucky's run was sublime goodness. Bob Huggins, on the side of the angels for once. In any event, here are the IU-related headlines:
IU defense will look different (The Indianapolis Star)
"Indiana lost eight of its top nine tacklers from a year ago. Gone are defensive ends Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew, linebackers Matt Mayberry, Justin Carrington and Will Patterson, and defensive backs Austin Thomas, Nick Polk and Ray Fisher." Yet, last year's defense was less than the sum of its parts. The offense should be strong, so finding any way to develop a competent defense could make a big difference.
Observations from the 100th Indiana State Finals (Inside the Hall)
Between class basketball and the IHSAA's indefensible decision to move the game to syndicated cable (DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse subscribers are out of luck, for instance, although that will change next year when the games return to broadcast TV), sometimes it's tough to remember that the tournament still is around.
And the coverage from SB Nation blogs of the three Big Ten Sweet 16 teams:
The Team That Would Not Die: Michigan State 70, Tennessee 69 (The Only Colors)
"That's now four tournaments wins by a total margin of 13 points. When you're winning close games like that, it means you're getting some breaks along the way. But it also mean that this team (1) hasn't allow opponents to make big runs on them, despite missing their team leader and playing with a limited number of healthy regular contributors, and (2) has made big plays down the stretch in tight games. As good as Kalin Lucas has been with the ball in his hands late in close games, it's amazing that we've got two guys, in Morgan and Green, that now seem every bit as confident when the game is on the line." Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to six Final Four appearances, one more than Bob Knight. If MSU wins the next two games, Izzo will join Knight and Branch McCracken as the only Big Ten coaches to win multiple NCAA titles. This is a historically great coach, and his teams play their best when the games matter most. I think MSU is going to win it all.
One week short (Hammer and Rails)
"There is no shame in this, but it still feels like we left business unfinished this season. For months the goal was Indianapolis. The way the tournament has played out so far we could have won the whole thing, too. There is no question that Robbie's absence was a factor. It was not a guarantee of victory, but we all cannot help but wonder what might have happened if he hadn't gotten hurt. In the end of this one their big three was better than our big two. We never got that consistent third scorer we needed, be it KG, Kramer, Byrd, or anyone else." Travis is correct about the way the tournament transpired. This year's tournament was (and is) wide open, and Purdue with Hummel would have had as good a chance as any. It will be interesting to see how Purdue's 2011 season transpires. Purdue will miss Chris Kramer terribly, perhaps more than even adulating Purdue fans realize, and I didn't think the comment of JuJuan Johnson in today's Indianapolis Star were as convincing as prior comments about whether he would be back in the fall.
Volunteers End Buckeye's Season in the Sweet 16 76-73 (The Buckeye Battle Cry)
"The Tennessee Volunteers knocked out the Buckeyes in the Sweet 16 by a final score of 76-73, avenging their previous loss in the Sweet 16 to the Buckeyes 3 years ago. Wayne Chism was the star for the Volunteers, notching a double double on 22 points and 11 rebounds. Evan Turner scored the game high 31 points to try to keep the Buckeyes in it, but the Tennessee defense proved to be too much for the Buckeyes as they were unable to secure the last second basket to send it into overtime."