Archive for March 2013

WINE OF THE MONTH- MARCH

March 25, 2013

Columbia Crest continues to domimate my selections for everyday American table wines. There is not another producer I have found that is able to produce such quality wines at these price points, and with such wide availability. For the 2010 vintage, there are selections in the sub-$10 range, such as the Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon (87 Points, $7) and the Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (88 Points, $10) that offer a stunning expression of the unique terroir of Washington state for a bargain value. The next level of wines come from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation, and are labeled “H3” in remarkably attractive bottles. The winery produces a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, a Chardonnay and a Blend called “Les Chevaux” under this label. The latter is one of the better $15 wines you’ll find anywhere, and is worth a special trip to seek out.

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Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Horse Heaven Hills 2010, 91 Points, $15, 72,000 Cases Produced- Inviting nose of floral, elegant red plum and cherry fruit that shows off elements of baking spice. Supple and plush on the palate with a controlling streak of creamy vanilla bean holding together the red currant and blackberry fruit notes, and finishing with a blast of exotic spice that lingers long beyond the fruit and oak influences. Juicy and complex without being overripe, light on its feet. The spicy finish is commanding, picking up just a dash of mineral as well. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

THE TEN GREATEST IU BASKETBALL PLAYERS SINCE THE LAST CHAMPIONSHIP

March 19, 2013

Before the most promising NCAA Tournament in the last twenty years begins for Indiana, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at all of the great players to wear the Candy Stripes since the Hoosiers last won the National Championship in 1987. However this season turns out in the end, at least three players from this year’s team are well deserving of their place in Indiana lore, alongside several other greats who fell short of bringing home the big prize.

*** In order to be eligible for inclusion, at least three seasons of collegiate play were required. Notable players that missed the cut as a result include Jay Edwards, Jared Jeffries and Cody Zeller.

#10: Brian Evans 1992-1996

* All American (3rd Team 1996)

* Big Ten Player of the Year (1996)

* Team Scoring Leader (21.2 in 1996)

* 10th All-Time Indiana Scoring Leader (1701 points)

Brian Evans Indiana

 

At 6-8, Evans presented a big time match up problem with his versatile shooting ability. He could light it up from the perimeter or bang it inside, and he was also able to be a strong force on the boards. He was utilized off the bench as a freshmen during the 1993 season that saw the team elevated to the #1 spot in the AP Poll heading into the tourney, but it later years he became the primary scoring threat for the Hoosiers, and holds a spot in the program’s all time top ten scorers list.

#9: Damon Bailey 1990-1994

* All American (3rd Team 1994)

* 7th All-Time Indiana Scoring Leader (1741 points)

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He was to be the golden boy of Indiana Basketball, a home grown kid with polished fundamentals, but the fact that he never brought the Hoosiers a championship has led some to erroneously conclude that he fell short of expectations. In reality, Bailey averaged double figures in scoring for each of his four seasons in Bloomington, culminating with a team high 19.6 over the 1993-1994 season while he earned a spot on the All-American Team. With Bailey in the backcourt, the Hoosiers advanced to a Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16 berths over his four seasons, the only player on this list to have played in a Sweet 16 game in every season of his career. His scoring prowess places him firmly in the top ten of the all-time leaders list. During the regular season, he will probably be most remembered for leading the upset win over then #1 Kentucky in December of 1993 and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, the last Hoosier to earn that honor.

#8: Christian Watford 2009-2013

*11th All-Time Indiana Scoring Leader (1684 points)

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His legacy will always be the three point shot he hit in December of 2011 to knock off the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats while Indiana was still rebuilding and unranked. The impact of that shot will always be immeasurable, but Watford is worthy of this list even outside of that shot. He battled through a 10-21 season as a freshmen to eventually earn a #1 seed as a senior, averaging double figures in scoring each year. His ability to shoot the three at his 6-9 height, especially while trailing on the break, made him a consistent offensive threat and one of the most effective offensive sparks for the Hoosiers’ potent scoring assault over his final two years. In his senior season, he shot 49% from beyond the arc, which ranks fourth all time among IU shooters with more than 100 attempts. A true Hoosier, he chose to return for his senior season, arguably hurting his draft stock in the process, but delivering a season to remember for the Hoosier faithful.

#7: A.J. Moye 2000-2004

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Moye didn’t have the stats or the accolades, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a player that better defined what it means to be an Indiana basketball player. While only in his senior year did he average in double figures for scoring, he did the sorts of things throughout his career that don’t show up on the stat sheet- diving for loose balls, keeping plays alive, coming up in the clutch and just demonstrating an overall toughness that made him impossible not to love. He’ll always be most remembered for the two free throws he drilled against Duke as a sophomore in the 2002 Regional Semifinal, the first of which was the front end of a one and one (and the Hoosiers needed every bit of both points to hang on for the win). He was the definition of scrappy and clutch, and stuck by the program during some tough years and tournament misses towards the end of his career, without ever giving up and bringing his energy 110% every night.

#6: Alan Henderson 1991-1995

* All-Time leading Indiana Rebounder (1091)

* 6th All-Time Indiana Leading Scorer (1979 points)

* Averaged a Double Double (1994, 17.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg)

* Team Scoring Leader (Leads all players over the era with 1995 season average of 23.5 ppg)

Duke V Indiana

It defies explanation somewhat how a player could average a double-double in the Big Ten one year, lead the conference in scoring the next year, and miss out on being named an All American in both seasons. Doesn’t it seem like those types of numbers in a Power Conference in this day in age would make a player a virtual lock for National Player of the Year? However under-appreciated he was, Henderson was an absolute beast, a stretch four who was a threat from deep and a complete terror on the glass. His importance to the 1992 and 1993 teams, even as an underclassman, cannot be understated, as his absence in 1993 prevented virtually any chance that the team had of reaching its full potential. Their season ended at the hands of Kansas in the Regional Final while ranked #1 in the nation. Henderson watched from the bench, unable to play due to a knee injury.

#5: Jordan Hulls 2009-2013

* All-Time Indiana Effective FG Pct Leader (564.5/936, 60.3%) (439/936, 251/562 3 pt)

* 2nd All-Time Indiana 3 Point Shot Leader (251)

* Consecutive Free Throws Made, Indiana and Big Ten Record Holder (58, 2011-2012)

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The undisputed best shooter of this era (post-Alford), Hulls was also the full embodiment of the prototypical Indiana player. As an under-recruited Mr. Basketball from Indiana, Hulls made up for his lack of athleticism and size with hard work, mental toughness and consistency. Since the last National Championship, only Greg Graham in 1993 has posted a more impressive three point shooting campaign than Hulls did in 2012 (49.6%) and his performance in 2013 (46.4%) was nothing to ignore either.  The fact that he owns the all-time leading effective field goal percentage record for the program is a testament to his consistency and potency, especially when isolated and set. Hulls also holds the record for consecutive free throws made, as he once knocked down an astounding 58 in a row over the course of two seasons. While often a liability on defense because of his size, it was not uncommon to see him stepping in to take a charge or coming up with a loose ball rebound.

#4: DJ White 2004-2008

* All American (2nd Team 2008)

* Big Ten Player of the Year (2008)

* Averaged a Double Double (2008, 17.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg)

NCAA Indiana Gonzaga Basketball

 

It is important to remember that to get D.J. White to come to Indiana out of an Alabama high school was a complete and utter heist by Mike Davis. Unfortunately, recruiting out of the South to come to a Midwest school wasn’t a sustainable strategy for Davis, and his inability to recruit inside the state led to his eventual downfall, but D.J. White was indeed a special one. While talented players like Robert Vaden followed Davis to UAB, White was always committed to his University before the coach that recruited him there, and stuck around during the Sampson transition to produce two spectacular seasons, the final of which remains the last Big Ten Player of the Year award given to a Hoosier to date. He averaged a double double over the 2007-2008 season, the last Hoosier to accomplish that feat as well. I will always view the ending of his career as a tragedy, as the young man gave so much to the program and demonstrated such loyalty during such turmoil over his four seasons in Bloomington, that for it to end in a cloud of smoke with such a talented team in his senior season as the Sampson allegations hit just seemed so incredibly unfair. He will always be one of the IU greats nevertheless, and has continued to be a strong supporter of the program in the aftermath.

#3: A.J. Guyton 1996-2000

* All American (1st Team 2000)

* Big Ten Player of the Year (2000)

* 4th All-Time Leading Indiana Scorer (2100 points)

* All-Time Indiana 3 Point Shot Leader (283)

A. J. Guyton

 

Guyton was as dominant a scorer as Indiana has had over this time period, and the numbers speak for themselves. While he never had a season of higher than 45% from the three point line, he shot accurately enough to hold the all-time record from beyond the arc, and his all-time scoring numbers rest within the top five for the program. He is one of only three IU players on this list to earn a spot as a 1st Team All-American. Amazingly, Guyton never played in a Sweet 16 game, as towards the end of the Knight era the team was plagued by early tournament exits. During his senior season, he came to the adamant defense of Coach Knight as the Neil Reed choking allegations hit, and shook off the outside distractions to deliver the most spectacular season of his career, scoring 19.7 ppg and earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors as well.

#2: Victor Oladipo 2010-2013

* All American (1st Team 2013)

* National Player of the Year (2013, TSN)

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What made Oladipo so special is that his spectacular 2013 campaign seemed to come literally from out of nowhere. His athleticism had always been there, but something happened to him between the 2012 and 2013 seasons and he was able to combine his hyper-athleticism with rock solid fundamentals. The result was an unprecedented improvement from a limited role player to the single most exciting and tenacious basketball player in all the land in the year 2013. Oladipo shot over 60% from the floor including close to 50% from behind the arc, a vast improvement from prior seasons, and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 2.2 steals and 6.2 rebounds per game. In addition to his uncanny ability to have an effect on every play on both sides of the ball, Oladipo was the most explosive, confident player at the rim that I can ever remember watching as a Hoosier, and combined his abilities with a humble, happy-go-lucky off the court persona that only added to his intrigue. As one of only two National Player of the Year winners over this time span, his placement near the top of this list is a no-brainer.

#1: Calbert Cheaney 1989-1993

* 3-Time All American (1st Team 1993, 3rd Team 1992, 3rd Team 1991)

* National Player of the Year (1993- TSN, AP, Naismith, Wooden)

* Big Ten Player of the Year (1993)

* All-Time Indiana and Big Ten Scoring Leader (2613 points)

* 3-Time Team Scoring Leader (22.4 in 1993, 17.5 in 1992, 22.2 in 1991)

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Cheaney was the anchor on what was arguably the best group of recruits to come through the program over this era. His consistent dominance throughout his career is without peer; while he is the only player on this list to be named an All-American more than once, he actually accomplished the feat in three consecutive seasons. Over his career, his 55.9% field goal percentage is remarkable considering how many of his shots consisted of long jump shots. His 1993 Hoosiers remain the only team over this era to finish the season ranked #1 in the AP Poll, and his value to that team goes without saying, as he was named National Player of the Year. As the All-Time Scoring Leader not only for the Indiana program but for the Big Ten Conference as well, placing anyone else atop this list defies credibility. Cheaney gets an added bonus for sticking by the program during tough times and for his commitment to this year and future teams as the Head of Basketball Operations. I think I speak for every one of us Hoosier fans when I say that it is great to have Calbert back sitting on the bench these days.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Greg Graham 1989-1993

* 2nd Best 3 Point Shooting Season ever for an Indiana Player (1993, 57-111 for 51.4%)

Kirk Haston 1998-2001

* All American (3rd Team 2001)

Marshall Strickland 2002-2006

* 5th Best 3 Point Shooting Season ever for an Indiana Player (2006, 69-144 for 48%)

* Best Free Throw Percentage ever for an Indiana Player not named Steve Alford or Jordan Hulls (2006, 89%)

Eric Anderson 1988-1992

* 9th All-Time Indiana Scoring Leader (1715)

Tom Coverdale 1999-2003

* 3rd All-Time Indiana 3 Point Shot Leader (200)

BRACKETOLOGY- FINAL

March 17, 2013

MIDWEST            EAST                      SOUTH              WEST

1 Indiana               Duke                      Louisville          Gonzaga

2 Miami                 Georgetown         Ohio State         Kansas

3 New Mexico      Michigan State   Kansas State    Michigan

4 Syracuse             Marquette             Wisconsin        Florida

5 St. Louis             Oklahoma State   Oregon             Notre Dame

6 UCLA                  UNLV                      Pittsburgh       Cincinnati

7 Missouri             Arizona                   Colorado State  San Diego State

8 Witchita State   Creighton               St. Mary’s          Illinois

9 VCU                      Butler                      Minnesota        North Carolina

10 Colorado           Iowa State             NC State             Memphis

11 Temple               California              Villanova          Ole Miss

12 Belmont             Davidson              Oklahoma/ MTSU  Boise State/ Virginia

13 Akron                 New Mexico State   Bucknell         Northwestern State

14 Montana           South Dakota State  Albany           Valparaiso

15 Pacific               Florida Gulf Coast    Harvard         Iona

16 LIU Brooklyn   Western Kentucky   JMU/ NC A&T   Liberty/ Southern U

Last 4 In: Oklahoma, Middle Tennessee, Boise State, Virginia

Last 5 Out: Baylor, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, LaSalle

INDIANA BASKETBALL MOMENTS- The Best and Worst Since the Last Championship (Updated for 2013)

March 11, 2013

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THE MOST MEMORABLE WINS

#9: Indiana 87, San Diego State 83, 2006

Mike Davis was on his way out, but this one was quite sweet even as the program looked to restructure, blissfully unaware of what the future what hold only a ahort three years later after a disastrous hire. Nevertheless, after being outplayed for much of the game and trailing 83-82 with 40 seconds to go, Marshall Stickland made a great defensive play that resulted in an over-and-back call on the Aztecs. After the timeout, Robert Vaden drained a three to give the Hoosiers an 85-83 lead that they would not relinquish. Although they would go on to lose to Gonzaga two nights later, this win felt fantastic coming off of two consecutive tourney absences, the first time that had happened since the last championship. We would get our revenge on Gonzaga in the first round the following year, but it would be a painful five year wait until the next tournament win.

#8: Indiana 63, VCU 61, 2012

This was, for the most part, a wild, frustrating game against a tough defensive squad in VCU that created a season high 22 turnovers and led this game by 9 points on two separate occassions. Thanks to the tempo of the game going against the Hoosiers’ preferences, such a deficit seemed almost insurmountable. However, on the first occassion, near the end of the half, Christian Watford was able to rattle off two three pointers and convert on an and-one to bring us back, and later in the game, we were able to hang around just close enough. Trailing by 3 with under a minute and with VCU at the line, Victor Oladipo, in a moment that would foreshadow what was to come the following season, grabbed the rebound and went coast to coast, and converted on a tying three point play. VCU ran the shot clock down on the next possession but solid IU defense forced a contested three, which Oladipo again grabbed, pushed back up the floor and passed (or had his shot blocked, but whatever) to Will Sheehey, who spotted up and drained an easy 12 foot jumper with just under 13 seconds to play. VCU had an open look for the win, but another three point miss was hauled in by the Hoosiers, who were off to their first Sweet 16 in ten years, and were officially, once and for all, back.

#7: Indiana 59- Michigan State 58, 2001

This was the defining moment of Mike Davis’ first full year at the helm, as the Hoosiers knocked off the #1 ranked Michigan State Spartans. It was the first #1 ranked team Indiana had beaten since 1993 when they knocked off the hated Kentucky Wildcats. However, this game provided a brief sigh of relief for fans still enraged by Bob Knight’s firing. Trailing by two with the ball, Davis drew up a play to go for the win rather than send the game into overtime at home, a plan that could have easily backfired. Instead, junior Kirk Haston knocked down a three pointer at the buzzer and bedlam ensued as fans stormed the court. Probably the most memorable aspect of this moment, however, was Davis’ reaction, as he dropped to his knees in a combination of relief, disbelief, and probably thankful prayer.

#6: Indiana 76- Michigan 75, 1989

It is easy to forget what a great player Jay Edwards was in his brief time with the Hoosiers, but this was the defining moment of his career. Trailing by two against a Michigan team that would go on to win the National Championship that year, Edwards just barely beat the clock on a three pointer that was nothing but net, and Indiana walked away with a huge victory. This might be the only victory where Coach Knight showed so much genuine emotion at the moment the shot went in; it was a rare occasion indeed to see the General jumping up and down after a win. When I met Edwards a few years back at a bar in the South Loop, I immediately mentioned that this game was one of the high points of my entire childhood, and told him how upset I was when he decided to leave after his sophomore season. He admitted that he regretted that decision, and had nothing but good things to say about Knight.

#5: Indiana 73- Oklahoma 64, 2002

Does everyone remember how overmatched Indiana was coming into this game? I can’t think of a single analyst that picked them, and for good reason; Oklahoma was many people’s choice to win it all, and Indiana was coming in as a big underdog and seeded #5 in the South Regional. But those of us who believed knew that the Hoosiers had one last miracle left in them during their furious charge to the championship game in 2002. Worthy of note is the fact that Indiana actually trailed by four at the half, but went 8-13 from three point land on the game, a statistic that was key to their success throughout their tournament run. Over a decade later, it is still tough to believe we were heading to the National Championship for the sixth time in history following this unlikely upset.

#4: Indiana 106- UCLA 79, 1992


Bob Knight didn’t know it at the time, but after winning this game, he would make his last trip to the Final Four. Only five years removed from a championship, this was still an incredibly difficult game for a young but talented Indiana team that was just hitting its stride. UCLA had easily beaten the Hoosiers in the preseason, but IU turned the tables this time, and blasted the Bruins 106-79 after putting up a whopping 62 points in the second half. I was in Orlando, Florida with my family visiting Disney World, and I couldn’t ever remember having more fun watching an IU game at any point in my life up to that point. The combination of the significance of the game, the decisiveness of the win, and the fact that I didn’t expect a win in the first place make this game one of the most memorable. It is worthy to note that in November of the same season, the Bruins crushed the Hoosiers, which made turning the tables in such decisive fashion with a trip to the Final Four on the line even more sweet.

#3: Indiana 72- Michigan 71, 2013

It was a very tough call to put this victory ahead of tournament wins that put us in the National Championship and Final Four respectively, but the circumstances of this game and the amount of years it had taken to realize what this win accomplished (20) places it higher on this list simply because of the two decade drought it watered. In 1992, Indiana had been to the Final Four just five years earlier, and the trip to the Final Game in 2002 broke a 15 year drought. But this improbable, heart-stopping win over Michigan clinched the Big Ten regular season title outright for the first time in 20 years, and was the ultimate coronation for a group of players and coaches that had been through hell and literally went from the bottom to the top in what was arguably the strongest edition of the Big Ten conference in its storied history. Trailing by five points with under a minute left, the Hoosiers took advantage of two front end misses at the line by the Wolverines, and played smart, efficient offense. Cody Zeller scored the final six points for the one point win as the team efficiently exploited the mismatch down low in the final minute. Zeller also hit two crucial free throws before hitting the shot that would be the eventual game winner. To add to the drama, Michigan had two very legitimate shots to win game, trailing by one with under ten seconds to play. All-American point guard Trey Burke’s runner missed long, but Jordan Morgan’s tip in rolled in and around the rim for what seemed like an eternity before sweet gravity finally overcame it and Christian Watford came up with the game-saving rebound. I haven’t reacted to a win this wildly, well, maybe ever. As the years pass, it will probably be forgotten that these Hoosiers had the chance to clinch the outright conference title on their home court on senior night against an Ohio State team they had beaten handily in Columbus just three weeks earlier. Indiana lost that game, but cut the nets down anyway. And it was only fitting that a group that stuck together and endured such misery in its first few years together would have to earn this the hard way on the road in Ann Arbor in the most unlikely fashion conceivable.

#2: Indiana 73- Kentucky 72, 2011

In terms of pure shock value, this should probably be number one. Coming off a ten win season, the unranked and overlooked Hoosiers battled the top-ranked and eventual National Champion Kentucky Wildcats in Assembly Hall. Behind a raucous, rejuvinated home crowd, the Hoosiers built a ten point lead midway through the second half behind hot shooting, smart passing and solid defense. Outmatched from a talent perspective, Indiana would give away that double digit lead late as they failed to get stops down the stretch and the offense turned cold. After hitting two free throws, Kentucky held a two point lead with under ten seconds to play, and had fouls to give. In a mental lapse, they failed to get that foul to stop the clock, and Verdell Jones split the defense before unselfishly dishing the ball to a trailing Christian Watford, who knocked down a three pointer at the buzzer for the win. Bedlam ensued  on the court, and Indiana was officially back. We would lose a hard fought offensive onslaught to this same rival in the Sweet 16 round of the tournament three months later, but there is no way to measure the impact that this win had on the program. It was a preseason game that should have had no real bearing on the future trajectory of the team, but instead, it instilled a confidence and left a legacy that will likely never be forgotten. The Hoosiers would go on to knock off another top ranked team at home in the weeks that followed, and carried its momentum into the tournament for its first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade.

#1: Indiana 74- Duke 73, 2002

This was the game that I will always remember most of any game I have ever seen Indiana play. The win here catapulted the Hoosiers into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1993 in stunning fashion over the #1 team in the country. At the time, we were all happy just be back in the Sweet Sixteen, and didn’t hold much hope for a win, especially after falling behind 26-8 early. But what made this game so special was the way that we came back; slowly but surely, we chipped away at the lead with threes and smart inside play, and all of a sudden, we were only down by one point with five minutes to play, and then it hit me- we could actually steal this game! The very thought was almost too much to bear, but inched closer to reality when Tom Coverdale hit a layup to take a 72-70 lead with under a minute to play. It was almost happening too quickly to comprehend, but there it was, clear as day- if Duke didn’t score again, Indiana would win the game in an astonishing comeback. But I’d watched way too many IU games over the years to come anywhere near celebration mode quite yet, so instead I braced for the final seconds, which passed like an eternity.

The drama was at full throttle. After we got a huge defensive stop, a near over-and-back on the inbounds saved by Dane Fife resulted in a fortunate foul call on Duke. A.J. Moye knocked down two free throws, and with 11 seconds to play, IU led 74-70. Now, the celebration could begin, right? Not so fast. Any other coach would have essentially pulled his team off the court at this point, but not Davis- the team played defense way too aggressively after failing to retrieve the offensive rebound on Duke’s first missed three and fouled the nation’s best player, Jason Williams, as he drained a three with 4 seconds remaining. Williams, a 90% free throw shooter, needed only to make one free throw to send the game into overtime, which to me would have meant almost certain defeat for the Hoosiers. I was absolutely beside myself, sick to my stomach, but what happened next was nearly an even worse scenario. Somehow, Williams missed the free throw, but in a horrific development, Carlos Boozer out-rebounded Jared Jeffries and threw up a desperation shot that was well within the realm of his accuracy. Now instead of overtime, we were looking at losing the game outright in regulation!! The time that it took for the ball to leave Boozer’s hand until it banked out of the hoop must have taken a year, and Jeff Newton pulled down the rebound as time expired. Then, bedlam set in, as we realized that it was actually, finally, over, and the first of many celebrations on Kirkwood Avenue that spring was the most memorable moment of my senior year, and of the last 25 Indiana seasons. Ironically, it is the same score that gave Indiana their last national title in 1987 over Syracuse in an equally enthralling finish.

THE MOST GUTWRENCHING LOSSES (watch if you can bear)

#8: Charlotte 74 , Indiana 73, 2004

This is what we refer to as a “sky-is-falling” loss. Not only was the fact that the refs allowed this halfcourt shot to count utter and complete bullshit, but the shot effectively ended the season for the Hoosiers before it had even begun. Three days before Christmas, we were an unimaginable 2-6 and on a six game losing streak. Indiana would ultimately miss the tournament for the second straight year, which was an absolute abomination considering the prior year’s absence was the first since I had ever watched or cared about them. I still watch this replay in anger waiting for the officials to reverse the call all these years later. What ended up making this loss even worse is that the team rallied in the Big Ten season, going 10-6 to finish 4th, but it was too little too late. I have always argued that had this game been rightly awarded as a Hoosier victory, we would have made the tournament that year. The differences between a 15-13 and a 16-12 record are vast. (Don’t ask me why they only played 11 non-conference games, and a first round thrashing at the hands of Minnesota in the Big Ten Tourney didn’t help either.)

#7: Iowa 62, Indiana 60, 2002

Iowa v Indiana X

I had to do a bit of research to recall why exactly this was as painful as it was. The way I had remembered it, IU had lost to Iowa in the 2001 Big Ten Championship on a last second shot by Luke Recker. But that’s not how it happened. In 2001, (our only appearance in the Big Ten title game in 15 tries), we led most of the game but gave way late, and it was actually Kirk Haston who had a potential game winning three point shot blocked. That’s what made this game so much infinitely worse, even though it was only a semifinal contest the second time around. Former Indiana Mr. Basketball Luke Recker, who had made the unprecedented move of transfering from the Hoosiers to an interconference rival, sank a three pointer at the buzzer. Not only did the Hawkeyes put us down for the second straight year, this time, they had done it with one of our own. Absolutely brutal. This one would rank much higher were it not for the fact that the loss apparently lit a fire in this team that made my senior year of college a pretty fun spring after all…

#6: Illinois 74, Indiana 72, 2013

Admittedly, at the time, this seemed like a sky-is-falling loss which turned out to not be the case. In fact, one could argue the utterly brutal specifics of this loss lit a fire under this team that would lead to successive road wins against much tougher teams in Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. But with the bitterness of the rivalry between these two schools still fresh despite Bruce Weber’s departure, this was an incredibly tough pill to swallow for die-hard fans. I for one didn’t sleep for at least a couple of days. While everyone wanted to talk about how utterly horrendous our defense was on the last play, that has never been a sticking point with me. We were going to get destroyed in overtime anyway with the way the momentum was shifting. But to control an entire game by double digits, and then to play as though we were trailing while up ten, throwing up quick, ill-advised shots and giving up easy jump shots on the other end, was particularly stomach-churning. The fact of the matter is, no one should have been talking about the last shot, because the last shot should have never  happened. Indiana had the ball with the shot clock turned off and a tie game. That should mean overtime in a worst case scenario. Instead, Victor Oladipo, in perhaps the only mistake he would make in his entire junior season, saw a lane and tried to go behind his back to get there, only to be picked by D.J. Richardson. To his credit, Oladipo made a tremendous play to get back after the steal and make what should have been a game saving block. Then, with under a second left, the above happened.

#5: Maryland 64- Indiana 52 , 2002

In all honesty, this loss didn’t devastate me as much as it should have, because I had a feeling that my beloved Hoosiers were about to be exposed. But it was obviously a sad feeling when the ride of the 2002 tourney ended with a loss one game short of a championship. They just didn’t have enough depth to knock off another superior opponent once the threes stopped falling. However, this was the first time Indiana had ever lost in a title game in six tries, and it has to make the list just due to the sheer magnitude of the game. Also, we did have the ball when game was tied with just under ten minutes to play, so we had a real chance to pull the upset in this one.

#4: Wisconsin 68- Indiana 66 , 2008

What made this game even worse than the outcome would suggest is that this was also the day that the Kelvin Sampson allegations hit. Indiana was coming off huge back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Purdue, and would be in control of the Big Ten with a victory. The game was tightly contested all the way through, with over a dozen lead changes. Sampson was still at the helm at this point, and the Hoosiers clung to a 66-65 lead with ten seconds left, Wisconsin ball. It seemed that the call would be to go inside for an easy two, but instead, Brian Butch, the only polar bear that I have ever disliked, threw up a deep three-pointer that somehow banked into the hoop. Indiana had a chance to go back ahead, but a hurried three rimmed out, and deflation set in. One could argue that it was the single turning point for that promising season, the moment when the music stopped on one of the most talented teams to ever put on the Candy Stripes.

#3: Illinois 70- Indiana 67, 1989

In 1989, the Big Ten boasted three of the nation’s top five teams throughout the season, and games like this one really were the true glory days of the conference. Trailing 67-65, Indiana went to its star, Jay Edwards, who hit an improbable jumper from behind the backboard, seemingly as time expired to put the game into overtime, and with the crowd and momentum on the Hoosiers’ side. But, before the days of replay or tenths of seconds on the scoreboard, the officials had to rely on their own judgment, and in this case, that meant giving Illinois the ball with one second left. For some reason, Knight chose not to defend the inbounds pass, which turned out to be a perfect one directly to Nick Anderson, who was still well behind the three point line. Anderson had a enough time to catch, plant his feet and throw up a perfect 30-plus foot jumpshot that hit nothing but net as time expired. Ugh.

#2: Minnesota 59 – Indiana 58, 2008

As bad as the Wisconsin game had been earlier in the year, this was much worse, coming in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals. The Sampson fiasco had played itself out, and Dan Dakich was running a team that clearly didn’t want to play for him. I’ve seen many frustrating losses to the Golden Gophers over the years, mostly when we had ten point leads with under two minutes to play (that happened twice under Davis), but this one takes the cake because we played poorly and trailed the entire game. Until the last few seconds, that is. That’s when trailing by two with 3 seconds left after a made free throw, Eric Gordon intentionally missed the second in a manner so perfect that D.J. White went up and grabbed the rebound and put the ball back up to tie the game at 57. White was also fouled on the play, which meant that IU now had a chance to win the game! He missed the free throw, but recovered his own rebound and was fouled again. He drained one of the two free throws, and somehow, Indiana had a one point lead, and only needed to play good enough defense to stop Minnesota for 1.5 seconds. The ball flew like a laser beam through three Indiana defenders and through the only possible path to Blake Hoffarber’s wretched little hands. He threw the ball up so quickly that I could hardly even believe that he had caught it, much less believe that the ball was now making its way to the center of the rim and through the net for the Minnesota win. My Hoosiers, once a Final Four favorite in 2008, were then royally screwed by the selection committee and given a #8 seed despite their 25-7 record, and after all of that, lost without much of a fight in the first round to #9 seeded Arkansas. The mass exodus that followed would result in the never-to-be-mentioned 6-25 season next year, but this shot is the moment of that season that completely defined rock bottom. What could be worse than that?

#1: Kansas 83- Indiana 77, 1993

This was actually a tough call, but when I look back over the last 25 seasons, no loss was more painful to take than this one. Coming off a Final Four season in 1992, the 1993 Hoosiers returned all five starters and were ranked the #1 team in the nation heading into the tournament, something than even the 1987 champions could not say. Hopes for a national title were high after a 17-1 Big Ten campaign, but star power forward Alan Henderson’s knee injury prevented him from contributing in the regional final against a pesky Kansas team that had beaten the Hoosiers earlier in the year. Those Jayhawks once again proved too tough for the depleted but determined Big Red, and the most promising season since the last national title ended without even making an appearance in the Final Four. Looking back on that season, I’m not sure we would have won the championship anyway, as Kentucky had also beaten us already, Michigan had the fab five (although we beat them twice in Big Ten play) and North Carolina had it all. But still, it would have been nice to have a chance with a healthy, experienced team, especially considering that Kansas would lose to the eventual champion Tarheels in the semifinal. I still haven’t gotten over this one.

 

WINE OF THE MONTH- FEBRUARY

March 1, 2013

It has been a recurring theme in this feature to seek out great Italian table wines, especially in the winter when I tend to fire up the stove and churn out hearty Italian cuisine. Wines from this area of the world have become somewhat saturated, and if you don’t know what you are doing, you can end up with a pretty subpar bottle in the lower end of the price scale. Luckily, there is an abundance of solid producers from this great country still making affordable table wines that provide some of the best value for the dollar in all the world, and you’d be hard pressed to find better wines to pair with food than those based with Sangiovese. So, instead of dropping $150 on a bottle of the famous Testammata Blend from Bibi Graetz, seek out the Casamatta table wine for less than a tenth of the price. You can essentially buy a case of the table wine for a price equal to buying a single bottle of the higher level offering. In the case of the 2011 vintage, this an easy decision.

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Bibi Graetz Toscana Casamatta Rosso 2011, 89 Points, $12, 6000 Cases Imported- Ripe red cherry and licorice on the nose. There’s an impressive rustic note up front on the palate, as wet stone mineral, cigar box and loam intertwine with fresh, ripe cherry, licorice and plum fruit, finishing with a subtle note of graphite and spicy tobacco earth.