The passion for basketball runs deep in Indiana – there are probably more rims planted 10 feet high than flowers – so this has to be a tough time of year for the Hoosier State with no team in the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time in nine seasons, none of the 10 Division I teams earned an NCAA bid. Before 2005, you have to go back all the way to 1973 – we’re talking two years after Bob Knight took over at Indiana – when the state didn’t have a team in the field.
This is the fourth time in six seasons Indiana hasn’t made the field under Tom Crean and he’s starting to feel the heat but at least he didn’t finish tied for last in the Big 10 like Matt Painter and Purdue.
Maybe Brad Stevens knew the end of Butler’s run was near when he bolted the school for the NBA and the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, Mid-American Conference foes saw an easy “W” when they ventured into Muncie to face Ball State (5-25).
“In a basketball state to not have any of us be part of that thing would be very strange,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose team was ousted in the first round of the ACC Tournament by Wake Forest. “It would be very strange territory in this state for hoops fans who are crazy to not have anybody to really look at and cheer for.”
No rest for the talented
After playing an average of 39.9 minutes a game – the most of any player in the NCAA Tournament – one would believe Providence’s Bryce Cotton would be too exhausted by now. But Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim believes the best players all want playing time.
Three of the Orange’s starters – C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney – average at least 32.5 minutes a game while Jerami Grant is slightly behind at 31.4. The litany of media timeouts helps – “I got engaged in less time than the media timeouts,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli joked last week – so there’s plenty of time to rest during games.
“In today’s world, you get a 2ø-minute rest every four minutes,” Boeheim said. “It’s a different game today. You don’t need to come out and the top players in the league play 36-37 minutes. I don’t think 39 minutes is a huge discrepancy. The top players play those kinds of minutes, they like it and they enjoy it. They want to be out there.”
Seniors have their moment
Time to break out the warm buttermilk and give a nod to the seniors in this year’s tournament.
After all the talk about freshmen ruling the sport it was Florida, with four senior starters, that captured the SEC title and earned the No. 1 overall seed. The nation’s top player is Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who eclipsed the 3,000-career point mark and made a late-season push to snatch the scoring championship away from Niagara’s Antoine Mason.
Meanwhile, Virginia won the ACC regular season and tournament titles with two senior starters, including tournament MVP Joe Harris.
An Ennis family reunion
It will be a family affair for the Ennises, who will get to see Tyler and Syracuse and his older brother Dylan and Villanova here in Buffalo. Dylan is a redshirt sophomore for the Wildcats.
The Orange plays Western Michigan while the Wildcats take on Milwaukee.
Last week their mother, Suzette Ennis McIntyre, went to Manhattan to watch Dylan play in the Big East Tournament while Tony McIntyre went to Greensboro, N.C., to watch Tyler in the ACC Tournament.
This week, it will be a 95-mile trip from their Brampton, Ont., home to First Niagara Center.
Tyler tweeted on Sunday: “It’s a dream come true being a part of selection Sunday with my brother at Nova! Also happy for my little bro.”
“I couldn’t get more excited,” McIntyre told the Syracuse Post-Standard this week.
“The chances of that happening are probably very little. Now all they gotta do is go in there and win some games. Both of them.”