I fancy myself a realist, which means that when it comes to Indiana Athletics, I'm a pessimist. The Hoosiers always save the worst for last. So that's what I've done here.
Best of the Best
Honorable Mention: IU Men's Soccer pulled off a turnaround not too unlike the one that catapulted Indiana baseball into the NCAAs. Hoosier soccer started the season 4-3-1, but only lost one contest the rest of the regular season and earned their way into the NCAA tournament, where things continued to go well until the waning moments against Wake Forest.
5. #iufb4gameday. No matter who receives or deserves credit for starting the movement, #iufb4gameday was incredible. Eventually, College GameDay producer Lee Fitting took notice of the unbelievable response by Indiana football fans and that passion that you all showed that week even made Pawwwwlllllll Finebaum mention the Hoosiers (undoubtedly a first in his sad little life). In fact, the whole world seemed to take notice. In the end, GameDay went to Clemson and was rewarded with a hurricane, but the positive vibe and passion surrounding Hoosier football provided one of the most fun weeks that any of us at Crimson Quarry have ever had with this site.
4. A sleeping giant awakens. From March 27 through the end of April, Indiana baseball went 7-14 (and three of those wins were against Rutgers, so really, it was worse than it seems). But as the calendar turned to May, the Hoosiers came to life by scoring 25 runs in three games at No. 20 Maryland, including five runs off of All-American Mike Shawaryn, giving him his first of two losses on the season, and sweeping the Terps in College Park. The series kicked off a stint of nine wins in 10 games that propelled the club into the Big Ten tournament and the NCAAs.
3. The night they set Assembly Hall on fire. On January 22, Indiana basketball welcomed No. 8 Maryland to Bloomington for a basketball game but instead gave the Terps front row seats to a shooting exhibition. The Hoosiers went 30-for-50 from the field, including 15-for-22 from behind the arc. After outscoring the visitors 51-35 in the second half to secure an 89-70 victory, Indiana found themselves 15-4 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, looking primed for a long-shot run at the Big Ten title. Don't think about what happened after that.
2. Women's Rowing raises the bar. In a downtrodden year for a number of teams, Indiana's rowing program had the best season in program history. After going 22-2 in the Spring 2015 season, the team fought back from a 4th place finish in the Big Ten meet to finish 11th in the National Championships. Add in the coaching staff being named the regional coach staff of the year and a handful of All-Big Ten and All-region selections, and its easy to see that the women's rowing season was one of the few bright spots in 2015.
1. Hoosier Football wins the Old Oaken Bucket, 54-36, to earn a bowl berth. For all the things that went wrong in games five through 10, the football season just had a feeling to it that if Indiana could somehow find a way to "play 13", the heartbreak wouldn't hurt so much. A month after the third straight win against the Boilermakers, that feeling seems justified. The beatdown in West Lafayette let the Hoosiers into a bowl game for the first time since 2007, and the last month has give the program extra weeks or practice and has given fans a glimmer of hope in the fact that, for the first time since before Hep's death, and maybe longer, there is a positive feeling surrounding Indiana football and its future.
Worst of the Worst
Honorable Mention. Indiana's football season seemed to be derailed in mid-June when their best defensive player, Antonio Allen, was arrested for dealing in cocaine, dealing in methamphetamine, and dealing in heroin with a firearm after the Indiana State Police obtained video of Allen selling drugs to a confidential informant through a controlled buy. And because Allen was arrested while leaving Memorial Stadium, all the news cameras that were present upon his release on bond caught the safety decked out in Indiana garb. What a look for the University.
Honorable Mention. Chris Lemonis and his boys had reigning national champion Vanderbilt on the ropes early in the winner's bracket contest of the Nashville regional and looked primed for a shot at advancing to the Super Regional. When Indiana scraped out a run in the 6th to tie the game after Vanderbilt hung four in the 4th, the Hoosiers again looked ready to steal the spotlight. But all-world Dansby Swanson hit a ball about six miles in the 9th to lead the Commodores to a 6-4 victory. The Hoosiers' season spiraled to a disappointing end the next day against Radford.
5. Seven weeks of heartache. Seven weeks. Six games. Five heartbreaking losses. Seven words might be all it takes to describe what happened to Indiana football in games with Ohio State, Rutgers, Michigan State, Iowa, and Michigan between October 3 and November 14. Another way to describe that stretch is five of most painful losses that one team could ever experience in an entire season, let a lone a six-game span. It is incredible to think that one or two plays in four of the six games in those seven weeks are what stood between Indiana and a 10-2 record. It's also depressing.
4. Nothing to show for it. There is no shame in a calendar year that doesn't see a Hoosier team bring home a national championship. But in 2015, the Big Ten cupboards were bare as well. No Indiana program won a conference regular season or tournament title in 2015, which is simply unimaginable and unacceptable.
3. Maui meltdown. The Golden State Warriors of college basketball headed to the islands for a Wednesday night showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks that would let everyone know just where they stood among the elite. But along the way they got embarrassed by Wake Forest and out-hustled by St. John's and UNLV on their way to a 1-2 record. And in a span of three days, the Warriors moniker that the PR machine on 17th street thought was cute returned Indiana basketball to the position it has come to know so well as of late: the butt of jokes.
2. Everything else the basketball team did. The loss at Northwestern. The embarrassment at Mackey. Players getting arrested. A 14-point home loss to Iowa. Kicking Emmitt Holt off the team (right or wrong) and then using him as an excuse for a lack of post depth. Diet Coke. A second half letdown in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Getting run out of the gym in Durham. Crean face. Everything. Fire this program into the sun.
1. An imperfect tie in the Big Apple. There are plenty of reasons and no excuses for why Indiana found themselves in overtime with Duke the day after Christmas. But there is no question that there is one play to point to as the reason there wasn't a second overtime. If Griffin Oakes missed the kick, then this was the worst moment of 2015 for obvious reasons. If Griffin Oakes made the kick, then this was the worst moment of 2015 for obvious reasons. After watching the videos and seeing the still frames a number of times, you won't convince me that the kick wasn't good (even if you're an engineer, so shut up Purdue grads). And no matter how much time passes with the official record being 6-7, I'm not sure I'll ever shake the feeling that the 2015 Indiana Hoosiers went 6-6-1.
Note: If the basketball team loses to Buttgers on Wednesday, that will become the five worst moments of 2015. All five of them.