As his crimson IU emblazoned cape fluttered in the afternoon breeze, Drew Hussung couldn’t help but be filled with a renewed sense of Hoosier pride. His dirty converse shoes treaded the ground in front of him and he made his way to a spot in the back of the line with only fifty or so people in front of him. He still had to wait 5 hours, but he was content knowing that basketball season was about to begin for his beloved Hoosiers.
Is this our year? Are we at least going to win and get back to the tournament? Drew began to wonder. He has a whole season ahead of him to find out. Hoosier Hysteria is a time for fans like Drew to get back into the Hoosier spirit. When the football team hits the rough waters of Big Ten play, basketball season is Jesus Christ there to calm the tide.
It isn’t by any means an overstatement to say that basketball is a way of life in Indiana. Travel down old back roads and you will find barns with hoops nailed to the side. Courts aren’t made of hardwood, but instead formed from gravel, dirt, asphalt, concrete. It’s every little boy’s dream to don the cream and crimson uniform with the name “Indiana” across the chest. Thanks largely in part to traditions of winning instilled by Branch McCracken and Bobby Knight, the Hoosier legacy of a state filled with pride for its basketball team continues.
It’s about 4 pm now and guards have moved the line up to allow for more people to file into the line. The line has gone through a queue and now stretches along the sidewalk of 17th Street. However, Drew smiles to himself knowing he got here at the right time. For the Indiana native, its been all about the Hoosiers since the day he was born. Though the last Hoosier championship came seven years before he was born, he knows what the tradition is all about. Its more than a team to Drew, it’s an emotional connection that fills his heart like a river spilling out of its banks.
Doors are opening, and Drew elbows his way through the crowd to get a seat. He finds his way down to just behind the media table where Don Fisher has called many a Hoosier win.
Hoosier Hysteria has arrived and nobody is more ready than the faithful that have traveled to this sacred building. The temple of the Midwest, the mecca of the basketball world. ESPN writer Eammon Brennan called it the most classic court in the nation. And whether a fan is from Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Gary, Chicago, New York or any other reach of Hoosier nation, the season is back.
As far as the event itself goes, there was no shortage of pomp and circumstance. Sage Steele was back for her second time hosting the event. Her last appearance came in 2012 and calling it an honor and a privilege to get to return. Fireworks a la Fred Glass of course, but also new traditions as well. Thanks to the Student Athletic Board, Hoosier Hysteria features its first ever 3v3 basketball tournament with the championship game taking place on the floor of Assembly Hall. “The Takeover” took the win 11-6, a moment that those students aren’t soon to forget.
The newcomers to the men’s team also had a new tradition started this year. They were ceremoniously given their first pair of candy stripes. The pants, which represent Indiana basketball not only across the state, but across the country, were given to the players by former players of Indiana basketball. A tradition that started in 1971 now has spawned a new tradition of its own.
Of course no Indiana basketball event is truly such without “The Greatest Timeout In College Basketball.” The flags waving once again to the tune of William Tell Overture and thousands of Hoosier faithful clapping along as if it were the Purdue game tied 75-75 at the under-eight timeout.
But then came the events. What would this team show up and be? Would the team live up to the hype in its grand unveiling? Those questions were answered. Not just for the men’s’ team, but for the women’s’ team as well. Maura Muensterman took the women’s three point contest but the whole team shot the lights out of the place.
Speaking of shooters, the Indiana Hoosiers men’s team has enough of them to form a well-organized militia. Max Hoetzel took the three point contest scoring 22 points in the final round. He put it best when he said, “I’m Max Hoetzel. That’s all you got to know.” But if you want the feel good story of the night, look no further than Nate Ritchie. The freshman stunned the crowd by taking home the dunk contest title. Nobody gave Ritchie a chance. Ritchie, who was a little humbler than Hoetzel, said he was just glad the team gave him another chance. Finally the Red team beat the White team by a score of 49-42. The scrimmage was fast-paced with no shortage of scoring. This young team looked both athletic and talented.
Underline that, star it and then highlight it. This team looked ATHLETIC and TALENTED. Those are the two biggest takeaways from this year’s Hysteria. The team has a lot of options that it can go to for scoring. The familiar faces that have returned such as Ferrell, Williams, Robinson help with the athleticism, and the newcomers such as Blackmon, Hoetzel, Johnson, Ziesloft, and others give this team its talent.
Excited. That is what Hoosiers should be. There is no doubt that this team is better than it was last year. Can they play up to the challenge? Can they make it back to the NCAA tournament? Hoosier fans, hold on. This season is going to be a roller coaster ride. There will be good wins and bad losses. When it is all said and done, who knows what awaits this squad. With Hoosier Hysteria in the books, there isn’t much longer to find out.
Follow Lucas on Twitter @TheLucasCorley and listen to him on “The Sunday Showdown” Sundays from 6-7 pm