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Column: My Miller-Era apathy and newfound hope

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Is Hoosier basketball good again? Who’s to say.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Purdue
Indiana Hoosiers head coach Archie Miller yells at his team during the second half of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into the meat of this column, here’s a bit of information about me. I’m not a born-and-raised Hoosier fan. I didn’t come out of the womb bleeding cream and crimson. I didn’t grow up going to Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium with my family. I’m not sure I really even knew what a Hoosier was until I was well into my teens.

I moved to Indiana in 2009 as a seventh-grader, so my earliest memory of IU basketball is the Wat Shot. It wasn’t something I celebrated or really recognized the full significance of at the time. It was just a game that was on while I was at dinner with my family, a game whose ending we got home in time to catch. We watched fans pour out of the stands and onto the court, said “wow that’s cool,” and then moved on with our lives.

When I arrived on campus in 2015, however, I decided it was time to get better acquainted with the program since I was now a Hoosier, too. That paid off quickly.

I was at nearly every game over the course of the 2015-16 season, mostly as an usher or ticket-taker, but even when I had the night off I was probably in the stands or watching on TV. I brought my parents, my friends — anybody who’d go with me, really — to Assembly Hall because they had to experience the atmosphere and they had to see That Team, the Yogi Ferrell-led squad with a handful of future professionals that would go on to win a Big Ten Championship and make the Sweet 16.

I was, frankly, hooked. I couldn’t get enough Hoosier hoops.

The next season, as we all remember, wasn’t quite as good, but I was still bought in because I really liked the roster and I really liked Tom Crean. They were, at worst, exciting to watch most of the time. Then Crean got fired.

I was excited for the Archie Miller era, as I’m sure many of you were, as well. I had the Marchie Madness T-shirt or whatever, and he was gonna Recruit The State. He managed to land some exciting names that summer and it seemed like the ship was back on the right path.

I was in the west balcony, working, for the first game of Miller’s tenure, excited as ever to get the season going. Then we all proceeded to watch the Hoosiers get boat raced by Indiana State. It was great. I wasn’t mad actually, just laughing.

Just over a month later, I was in the southwest corner of Branch McCracken Court, waiting to watch the Hoosiers get revenge on Fort Wayne after the big upset the year prior. That, uh, didn’t happen.

The season ended with the Hoosiers holding a 16-15 record, finishing sixth in the Big Ten and missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. I wrote it off as the players getting used to a new system. Once Archie got some of his guys in there everything would be fine, right?

Then IU landed one of the biggest recruits in a decade or so — Romeo Langford. I was front and center when the five-star made his announcement, covering the event for IU Student Television. The place exploded when he picked the Hoosiers. The program had life once again.

The combination of Langford and Juwan Morgan gave the Hoosiers plenty of promise heading into Miller’s second season. They cracked the AP poll for the first time under Miller around the holidays and were 12-2 on January 3, holding wins over Marquette, Louisville and Butler. Their lone losses were to Arkansas by one point and to Zion Williamson's Duke Blue Devils — both on the road, both forgivable. It was a pretty exciting time, though I hadn’t been able to make it to the Hall because of an internship I had in Indianapolis.

Then, just as things were looking up, everything fell apart. The Hoosiers lost 12 of their next 13, they missed the tourney again and God were they miserable to watch. The concerns I had the year prior came back. They latched onto the whole “missing the tourney with Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan on the roster” thing and I sat with them for the whole offseason.

By the time the next season rolled around, I wanted nothing to do with IU basketball. I’d, at some point, become apathetic about the Hoosiers on the hardwood. If I wanted to watch a bunch of dudes try real hard on defense and lay a bunch of bricks on offense I’d go to the Y. At least I’d get some exercise that way.

Another season came and went. Another underwhelming performance in the Big Ten led to another missed tournament, and I was checked out completely. I was tired of losing in the least aesthetically pleasing manner over and over again, so I hopped off the treadmill.

This season, you ask? I think I watched half of the Texas game, maybe a few minutes of the Stanford game. I vaguely remember tuning into the overtimes when IU was at the Kohl Center, probably on my phone while I was playing video games or something. I think the one game I actually sat through was the Big Ten Tournament loss to rutger. That’s it. Those viewing experiences were few, but they were mostly unpleasant and didn’t give much hope for next season.

Now, however, I’ve gotten a jolt to the system, as I think many of you have. I audibly gasped when I saw The Jeff Goodman Tweet on Monday. After four seasons, Scott Dolson asked Miller what the shape of Italy is. Some kind philanthropists dropped The Bag to get him outta here.

Now, as you see with a lot of coaching searches, it feels like there’s an endless number of opportunities for IU. Names like Chris Beard and John Beilein and Brad Stevens (lol brad pls i’m begging you) are being thrown around. A particularly shitty chapter of IU basketball’s history has come to an end.

For the first time in years, I personally have hope for the program. I believe that Dolson has an inkling of what he wants to do and the quotes that made their way onto The Internet all sounded pretty nice.

Of course, how good or bad this next chapter of Hoosier hoops depends on the AD’s next decision, but for now I’m just excited about the possibility for something good to happen.