Craving a “team to beat” in the same vein as last year’s Kentucky, college basketball scribes and talking heads have tried to manufacture an aura of invincibility surrounding Indiana hoops.
Now the team itself is succumbing to the mania.
So absorbed in their own mythical legend are the Hoosiers that even gut-wrenching losses have become cause for celebration. In a strangely pitiable display of misplaced arrogance, the Hoosiers celebrated a tenuous share of the Big Ten title more than an hour after Ohio State strolled into Assembly Hall, spoiled Senior Night and foiled Indiana’s opportunity to clinch the conference outright.
The Hoosiers are winners when they lose too, didn’t you know?
On the squeaky floor of an eerily deserted gymnasium, with only remnants of reporters and late-going fans sticking around to witness the inelegant celebration, the team hauled out stepladders and cut down the nets, then posed for team pictures as if having just won the conference tournament. Show us your best fake smile, Hoosiers.
Understandably, players and coaches fought hard to conceal their excitement.
For good measure, how about one more up-close photo with the trophy the Hoosiers may not even have all to themselves.
Long considered the best team in college basketball’s best conference, IU has curried favoritism from the media since the fall. The Hoosiers pinned down the preseason No. 1 ranking, even retained the top honor in February after losing the week before. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has kept Indiana on the 1-line in light of not one, but two losses in the last seven days. Somehow, despite a handful of teams toting palpably superior portfolios, Lunardi insists the Hoosiers are still the No. 1 overall seed to boot.
Don’t let a ruined Senior Night rain on your parade, Hoosier Nation. IU basketball can do no wrong. The team has hats, snippets of net and a 35-pound trophy — all commemorating one forgettable loss — to prove it.