Image courtesy of IU Athletics
IUSClassic is a five-part series that extensively revisits the 2011-2012 IU Basketball season. Tunnel into the IUSportCom archives and unearth our chronicle of Indiana basketball’s most successful season in a decade. The series will run every Wednesday, beginning on October 3rd and concluding October 31st, the day before the Hoosiers’ exhibition opener.
Foreword by Jimmy Cavanaugh
Where to begin?
When the 2011-2012 Indiana basketball season tipped off last fall against Stony Brook, a nervous anticipation was painfully tangible throughout the crowd in attendance at The Assembly Hall. Hoosier Hysteria’s season-opening festivities had packed the building to its rafters about a month before and the crowd in attendance had been full throated in its support - especially for a fan base that had witnessed a third straight 20-loss season (and grumbled against the direction of the program after almost every setback) the previous year. But when the ball went up to begin IU’s first regular season game of 2011, the atmosphere in The Hall felt more like a crowd had gathered to watch a toddler take his first steps … and wasn’t entirely sure how he would do.
College basketball prognosticators weren’t kind to the Hoosiers in 2011. Athlon Sports (the same publication that lists IU as its preseason #1 team in 2012) predicted that Indiana would finish 9th in the B1G and reach the NIT. Numerous media outlets followed suit, with most characterizing a low-to-middle finish in the B1G and an NIT berth as a successful year – and some even questioning Tom Crean’s job security.
Even as IU won its opener and other early games against the likes of Chattanooga and Evansville – as well as tougher contests against Butler and NC State – fans refrained from excess excitement. That is, until #1 Kentucky came to town, and this ensued:
Did Indiana show plenty of good things before they hosted the #1 team in the country on December 10th? Unquestionably, but nothing approaching what was to come. Beating the eventual national champions at the horn vaulted the unranked Hoosiers squarely into the national spotlight, so it’s there that we start our story. Gathered below are a collection of stories from that day and those that immediately followed, each of which paints a different picture of the day IU basketball put itself back on the map.
Michael Felish, IUSC contributor, interviewed multiple students in the mammoth line outside Assembly Hall before the game. Some of their predictions were uncannily accurate. “If we beat Kentucky, it’ll be crazy,” one student said. “There’ll be riots in the streets.”
IUSC alum Ben Baroff tries to capture the Assembly Hall atmosphere following ‘The Wat-Shot’. In doing so, he encapsulates Watford’s reaction, Crean’s response, and the entire celebration in a way that transports the reader inside Assembly Hall and – in the case of many – brings them back a second time.
Jimmy Cavanaugh, an IUSC editor, takes in the joyous Assembly Hall atmosphere and asks the question, “How does this win compare to other ‘signature wins?’” He also references Kirk Haston’s similar shot, and asks if Watford’s will bear more positive momentum – a question that is still open-ended.
Lucas Mayer – currently a sports reporter for the NBC affiliate WTWO – tells the story of his IU basketball experience; which started with his discovery during a campus visit that IU’s basketball program would face heavy sanctions, and led him down a long and winding road to the Assembly Hall floor on the day of a historic upset.
Drew LaMontagna – IUSC copy editor – gives his emotionally charged take on the deep bond he feels to Indiana University. In this piece, he goes in-depth on the small things that make being a “Hoosier” so special – and the big things (like the win over Kentucky) that will bond all Hoosiers long after they leave.