Indiana left Washington in a dour mood.
Tom Crean knows his team can’t afford to let it linger if it intends to continue chasing another national championship banner.
After falling two wins short of their own expectations, making their first Final Four trip since 2002, the Hoosiers headed home after Thursday’s stinging loss to Syracuse trying to keep this loss in perspective.
“These guys have done a fantastic job. There will be a time to celebrate them, but they’ve done things that have not been done in Indiana in a long, long time, and they did it from scratch,” coach Tom Crean said. “When we look at that, we will feel good about that and there are a lot of things to celebrate for them.”
Certainly the three seniors who helped Indiana rebound from a 6-win season the year before their arrival and the teammates who helped put the Hoosiers back on the national college basketball map have plenty of memorable moments — Christian Watford’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Kentucky, the school’s first outright Big Ten title in two decades, the most weeks of any team in the No. 1 spot all season.
But disappointed Hoosiers fans are already pondering what the future might hold.
There are plenty of questions heading into the offseason, including whether 7-foot sophomore Cody Zeller and 6-foot-5 defensive stopper Victor Oladipo will leave school early for the NBA. Both are projected to be top-10 picks in June’s draft, and if they do declare, they could improve their draft stock during predraft workouts. Crean has promised to provide both players with the best advice he can get from NBA scouts, though neither Zeller or Oladipo was prepared to talk about his future Thursday night.
“I’ve been focused on Indiana Hoosier basketball, and I loved playing with these guys and I’ve enjoyed the ride,” Oladipo said. “I’m never going to forget this team, the players on this team, this coaching staff, anything. That’s all I’ve really been thinking about.”
If they do leave, the Hoosiers have some replacement parts in place such as tough-guy forward Will Sheehey, highly-touted freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea and backup guard Remy Abell. They also can build around another strong class of incoming freshmen.
If Zeller and Oladipo stay, as most Indiana fans hope, Crean and his staff will face a different kind of quandary — trying to fit a six-man recruiting class into just three open spots. Crean has repeatedly indicated he has a contingency plan in place though he has not elaborated about it publicly.
The Hoosiers and their fans just didn’t think they’d be facing this dilemma until sometime in April, but their worst performance of the season came at exactly the wrong moment and against Syracuse’s zone defense that exposed some of the flaws Indiana must get fixed if it intends to make a deeper tourney run next season.
On Thursday, Indiana finished with more turnovers (19) than baskets (16) and a season-low point total in the 61-50 loss. Afterward, Crean explained the Hoosiers and point guard Yogi Ferrell, in particular, had never seen a zone that played quite that way.
“We got tentative because we kept trying to put the ball in from places that it just wasn’t going to come from there, it had to come more from the wing. So he will learn from it,” Crean said when asked about Ferrell. “He will be a great learner from it.”
Still, the Hoosiers (29-7) have a solid foundation to build around following a season full of accomplishments.
They started the season ranked No. 1 for only the third time in school history and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for only the third time in school history, too.
Indiana won more than 25 games in back-to-back years for the first time since 1991-92 and 1992-93. It reached the regional semifinals in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1993 and 1994.
And, of course, the three seniors — Watford, Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston — came in when the cupboard was bare and turned a reeling program back into a national contender.
None of that will be forgotten.
“It’s been full of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Watford said when asked to describe his career at Indiana. “I love my teammates, and I’m happy to be an Indiana Hoosier.”
Even if the final chapter ended a little earlier than anybody expected.
“Well, we have had a heck of a ride with this group, and it doesn’t feel like that tonight, won’t feel like that for a couple of days, maybe longer,” Crean said. “But the bottom line is that this program has come from so far and I hope at some point in time, the seniors, the guys on this team will remember that they did things that hadn’t been done first off in 20 years at Indiana but more importantly there are not any programs, whether it be Syracuse, Kentucky, Carolina, Duke, you name it that are the blue-blood programs of the country that have had to endure what these guys have had to endure. They have done it with perseverance, toughness, and improvement and they have done it with great class and they will all be better for it.”
Indiana left Washington in a dour mood.
Colts Quick Hits: Tuesday, July 29
Notes,news and fun facts from Colts Training Camp at Anderson University on Monday.
Anderson hopes to make name with Colts
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was the first person Colt Anderson saw upon reporting to Anderson University last Wednesday. And he couldn't resist making the obvious connection. "Colt Anderson's a Colt ... in Anderson," Manusky said as a way of greeting the new Indianapolis Colts safety to training camp.
Colts release RB Rainey
Just two days after earning praise for his playmaking ability from head coach Chuck Pagano, running back Chris Rainey was waived by the Indianapolis Colts on Monday morning. The news was broken in a press release around 8:30 a.m. and later confirmed by Pagano during an afternoon session with the media.
Luck still learning
Wind chill estimates put the temperature at 59 degrees Monday morning at Anderson University. During one stretch of his fifth training camp practice of the year, however, it likely felt much colder to Andrew Luck.
- Lions star plays in national tourneys Liberty Christian senior Chris Nunn, a three-year starting guard for the Lions and Indiana Class Basketball Junior All-Star, took his talents on the road this summer,competing in back-to-back tournaments with his AAU travel team, Team Progeny.
Colts Camp Update: ESPN's in town
The first week of practice at Anderson University wrapped up Monday morning with the Indianapolis Colts working out from 9 a.m. to noon.
Castonzo comfortable with Colts' changing O-line
For all the changes along the offensive line the past three seasons, Anthony Castonzo has been the lone constant. He joined a veteran group anchored by center Jeff Saturday in 2011, was part of a remodeled unit in 2012 and became a mainstay at left tackle for all 16 games last year.
Colts' offense adapting to new arsenal
Third-year tight end Dwayne Allen suffered a season-opening hip injury in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders, then watched as left guard Donald Thomas, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Reggie Wayne also exited the lineup over the next six weeks. It left offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton scrambling to come up with new ways to attack defenses with an ever-changing cast of characters.
- Fifth Brickyard for Gordon Indiana racing fans roared their approval of the kid they watched growing up in open wheel cars as Jeff Gordon scored his record fifth Brickyard 400 victory Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Dorer scores JEGS win at Anderson Florida driver Steve Dorer has had career moments at Anderson Speedway, and at other times ones he would just like to forget. Dorer recorded the biggest win of his career when he passed Chase Elliott on the final lap in the 2011 Stoops Freightliner Redbud 300. The next year he flipped in Turn 1 during the CRA Super Series event. He scored another highlight Saturday night by winning for the first time with the CRA/JEGS All-Stars Tour event in the Edgewater Woods 100.|ANDERSON — Florida driver Steve Dorer has had career moments at Anderson Speedway, and at other times ones he would just like to forget. Dorer recorded the biggest win of his career when he passed Chase Elliott on the final lap in the 2011 Stoops Fre
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- Colts Quick Hits: Tuesday, July 29