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Mike Botkin is a lifelong Purdue Boilermakers fan. He has been offering the dissenting opinion on the IU hoopla all season.
I hate to say it, but I told you so. When I predicted at the beginning of the season that IU would bow out in the Sweet Sixteen, Hoosier fans still had quixotic visions of a national championship. (Although I'll admit, even I was wrong about Kentucky.) For most teams in the tournament, a Sweet Sixteen finish would have been a solid accomplishment. But for the Hoosiers, who haven’t had a collection of talent like this in decades, it’s a huge disappointment. Now all that’s left is doubt about this team’s legacy.
The story for Indiana this game was the same one we’ve heard in most of their losses this season—they couldn’t handle size and strength. And it was over early. After the first seven minutes, the teams were jockeying for the final score difference, not for the trip to the Elite 8.
When fans step back and look at the season, I think they'll see this was a good IU team—not a great one. They had athletes and speed, but lacked cohesiveness. In some ways, they didn’t even seem to have the momentum of last year’s team going into the tournament.
As the Hoosier Nation awakes today to rub the sting of defeat from its eyes and casts a glance to the future, they will find that the sun is still shining, but not as brightly as the day before. The expected departure of Victor Oladipo will really hurt. But excitement is already building around incoming 6-8, 220-pound power forward Noah Vonleh, Coach Crean’s five-star recruit from Massachusetts who is rated 8th in the nation by ESPN.
Cody Zeller, on the other hand, should take a moment to reflect. He is a predicted first rounder, but every time IU faced larger and stronger opponents this year, Zeller looked like a boy among men. Last night was just another example. Zeller was trying as hard as he could, but he was getting blocked and pushed around by the Syracuse bigs. This will only be worse in the NBA. He could really benefit from another year of weights and about 20 more pounds to increase his presence in the paint before making the jump. Now, just imagine the expectations for next year’s squad if Zeller returned ...
Dream on. Go Boilers!
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