As the IU basketball season has come to a conclusion, I figured I'd look back at my 10 favorite games from the past season. I crowdsourced this list with the other CQ writers last week, and we decided that this was a tough list to put together, because there were so many enjoyable games that we remembered from the season. As you'll see below, the top-ranked game was an obvious choice, games ranked 2-5 could have been in any order depending on your preference, and 6-10 were all special for various reasons as well.
Also, I won't be posting as much between now and when football starts up again, so I just wanted to thank everyone here again for reading, commenting, and tweeting along with us all season. All of you helped us reach incredible new heights with our readership, and we hope we've given you lots to think or laugh about throughout what has been a very enjoyable year for IU athletics.
10. March 17, 2016 - Indiana 99, Chattanooga 72
Despite this game being a blowout, and despite the Mocs being overseeded on the 12 line (especially compared to Yale and Little Rock), It deserves mention here on this top ten list because it was a virtuoso performance from start to finish by the Indiana offense. After an NCAA Torunament afternoon filled with close calls and upsets, I was a little worried that the Hoosiers might not last very long. However, by the midway point of the second half - the pit in my stomach had disappeared. This may have been Indiana's most complete game on offense since the Maryland blowout in 2015, as they shot over 60% from behind the arc. The game also was a national introduction to IU freshman OG Anunoby - a guy that many Hoosiers and B1G fans already knew could be a game changer off the bench. Anunoby soared for a 360 dunk that better appear on One Shining Moment tonight. This cruise over Chattanooga demonstrated that Indiana was not trying to look ahead to their next game in the Tourney, which we'll get to later in this countdown.
9. January 10, 2016 - Indiana 85, Ohio State 60
48 to 18.
That was the halftime score in this game, a nationally-televised contest on a Sunday afternoon that the Hoosiers dominated from start to finish. The message from this game was clear: Indiana wasn't satisfied with scoring as many points as possible, but they were also going to bring the pressure on defense, something that had been missing from the non-conference portion of the season.
8. January 5, 2016 - Indiana 59, Wisconsin 58
Sure, it had been less than a month since Bo Ryan abruptly retired, leaving Greg Gard in charge of the Badgers. But this was still Wisconsin - a program that Crean had previously only beaten once during his Indiana tenure. The game was a low-scoring contest, and demonstrated that Indiana has the mental fortitude to earn a gritty, low-scoring victory. Yogi Ferrell led the way in this victory with 19 points, including the two game-clinching free throws that iced the victory in the closing seconds.
7. February 11, 2016 - Indiana 85, Iowa 78
There is nothing like a 9 p.m. Thursday night start time in Assembly Hall, and this game was proof. At the time, Iowa was ranked 4th in the nation and the clear B1G frontrunner; after this game, their season wasn't the same. Indiana started the game on fire, pulling away to a 16-point lead at one point during the first half. Iowa eventually caught up to them, and took back the lead during the second half, but a late charge sealed the victory for the Hoosiers. A key to this win was IU's depth - no one outside of Iowa's starting five scored a single point, whereas the Hoosier bench put up 28 points.
6. March 6, 2016 - Indiana 80, Maryland 62
27 wins, Sweet 16 berth, 5 seed in the tourney - not a bad season at all for Maryland, in a vacuum. However, considering the Terps were a top-five team to start the year and the preseason pick to win the conference, this final record could be considered a disappointment. By the time the Terps and Hoosiers played each other in Bloomington to finish the season, Indiana had already clinched an outright conference title. Despite this, it was still Senior Night at Assembly Hall, and the Hoosiers gave hometown fans one more chance to watch their team put on a show, and an easy victory led to five emotional speeches afterwards by the departing IU players.
5. February 2, 2016 - Indiana 80, Michigan 67
On the night before Signing Day in football, this was supposed to be a showcase for the Wolverines. Plenty of celebrities and top recruits were in Crisler Center to see Michigan take on Harbaugh's brother-in-law's team. And at the beginning, it looked like Michigan fans were in for a treat, as the Wolverines jumped out to an early lead. The Hoosiers didn't flinch though, as they crawled their way back into it.
Then, the floodgates opened.
Down 24-20, Indiana scored the next 28 points in a row on Michigan, including a 25-0 run to end the first half. The sequence was one of the most ridiculous things I've watched in an IU game - the crowd was hushed, and I got several texts from both IU and Michigan friends - all of whom were shocked at what they were seeing. And the fact that it happened on the road against an eventual NCAA Tournament team - along with Max Bielfeldt's former team, of course - made it even more memorable, considering how the Hoosiers had been shaky in road games all season up until that point.
4. December 19, 2015 - Indiana 80, Notre Dame 73
I've written substantially already about how this game was the obvious turning point in Indiana's season. While the run against Michigan came early enough in the game to put aside all doubt in that outcome, The 17-2 run to end the game against Notre Dame might have been even more surprising. For 30 minutes, this game was looking like a dismal end to what was already a disappointing non-conference slate. I already started to write the game recap about how this would be another missed opportunity, and that IU's tourney chances had just taken another huge hit.
Then, the offense clicked, while at the same time, and a switch to zone defense helped the Hoosiers stop a potent Notre Dame offense. All of the sudden, the game was tied with three minutes to go, and a Troy Williams steal followed by two free throws sealed the victory in the final minute for Indiana. This game is up there with the 2012 VCU tournament game as one of the most impressive comebacks of the Tom Crean era in Bloomington.
3. March 1, 2016 - Indiana 81, Iowa 78
Indiana had already clinched a share of the B1G title, but with an outright title within grasp, I don't think anyone wanted to settle for just a share. The March 1 showdown at Carver-Hawkeye was already looming as an important one throughout the season, and the game lived up to its billing.
Not only did this game clinch an outright conference title for Indiana, it also gave Yogi Ferrell his "signature moment" - a three pointer that put the Hoosiers up five in the final minute of the game.
2. February 20, 2016 - Indiana 77, Purdue 73
Three long years without a victory made for some frustrating moments in the IU-Purdue rivalry. Luckily, the Hoosiers struck back in front of a raucous Assembly Hall crowd on a Saturday night in late February. Despite having a comfortable lead for most of the game, Indiana fell into some trouble in the final five minutes, as Purdue mounted a furious comeback that came just short when Yogi Ferrell was able to draw a goaltending call on A.J. Hammons in the closing seconds. The three-game losing streak against Purdue, which had seemed like an eternity, had finally come to an end.
There's no excuse for why IU and Purdue don't play twice every season. It should be a home-and-home rivalry that the B1G protects each year. However, right now this isn't the case - and the Hoosiers only got one shot at the Boilers this season, and they made the best of it.
1. March 19, 2016 - Indiana 73, Kentucky 67
I mean, what else was going to be number one?
UK fans made a lot of noise about it only being a round of 32 game, and how this is not a real rivalry. But the play on the court suggested otherwise. This was two and a half hours of some intense, high-stakes basketball between two teams whose rivalry was unfortunately interrupted a few years ago (for whatever reason you believe it was). The Hoosiers didn't need this victory to validate what had already been a fantastic year in Bloomington, but this was the icing on the cake.The way that the Hoosiers won this game was also special. Unlike against Chattanooga, the shots weren't falling as easily, so the Hoosiers had to gut out a victory thanks to defensive toughness and frontcourt play. Thomas Bryant, who was in foul trouble early, took over the game in the closing minutes, and wrapped up the victory with two free throws to put the game out of reach. Even if Bryant declares for the draft in the coming weeks, Hoosier fans will always have him to thank for leading the team to victory over UK in crunch time.
Hopefully, this reignites calls for the game to be played on a regular basis. But if not, IU fans can take solace that for now, they have the last laugh on Kentucky.
At least until the next time the selection committee matches the two teams up in the tourney.