Indiana Hoosiers Basketball: IU Was Never What the Hype Portrayed

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College basketball is suffering from “dominant team deficiency” disorder.

So desperate is the sport for a prohibitive favorite like last year’s Kentucky that it has mythologized one team to fill the void, worthiness be damned. The thinking: if there isn’t a truly deserving No. 1 team, make one up and sell it well.

Feb 07, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean talks to forward Will Sheehey (0) during the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall. Illinois defeated Indiana 74-72. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

And so a spurious “team to beat” was born.

The college hoops community has done everything it can to exalt Indiana as the nation’s golden standard. AP voters have tried to convince the masses Tom Crean’s assembly is a cut above the rest. The writers gave preferential treatment to Indiana earlier this month, allowing the Hoosiers to retain their No. 1 ranking even after squandering a late double-digit lead to Illinois in the preceding week. No other top-ranked team this season has held onto the coveted spot after losing the week before.

Say it enough and eventually it will become true –that’s been the media’s rationale in fabricating a dominant team. Too bad the self-fulfilling prophecy hasn’t materialized. Overlook the sugarcoated perception and you’ll find the Bloomington beast has been no more beastly than any other outfit ranked in the Top 10.

Indiana is no closer to staking a fair claim as the nation’s best team than Gonzaga, Duke, Miami, Michigan, New Mexico or Georgetown. The Hoosiers are one of at least a dozen bona fide Final Four contenders differentiated only under the guise of a lofty preseason billing. Just don’t make the mistake, as many have, of confusing past projection with present performance.

Judging by overall body of work, there’s certainly nothing exemplary about what the troopers from Assembly Hall have accomplished. IU’s résumé is indistinguishable from –perhaps even inferior to — the portfolio assembled by New Mexico. Seriously, see for yourself. Where are the cries for the Lobos to pin down the No. 1 overall seed in March? Heck, where’s the movement to get Steve Alford’s team one-line consideration of any kind?

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