The 2018-19 Indiana Hoosiers Men's Basketball season was built up to be one of hope, one of revival and resurgence, and ultimately one of winning. The result was a miserable failure in all regards.
Following the commitment of 5-star in-state recruit Romeo Langford - the best prospect for the Hoosiers since Eric Gordon more than a decade ago - hope for the future among Hoosier fans was likely as high as it had been since the 2012-13 season. Ultimately, the feeling after this season seems eerily similar to the feeling after being sent packing by the elaborate Syracuse zone in March of 2013. That season was ultimately more successful than 2018-19, but we're left with the same disappointment and the same questions: Is the IU basketball program heading the the right direction and what do we have to do to find real success again?
Clearly the actions taken to resolve these questions haven't worked as Hoosier fans end another season in the same depressive state that's lingered following most of these seasons since Bob Knight was fired in the fall of 2000.
It's only fitting that today Indiana was included in ESPN's list of most miserable power basketball programs. Granted, IU finds itself as a 16 seed just barely making the field, but one could argue mitigating circumstances make IU fans more miserable than most of the programs on the list.
The circumstances behind the misery start with Bob Knight's firing in 2000. Truth be told, Indiana Basketball has never been the same following Knight's dismissal. The magic left with Coach Knight. Arguments can be made for and against Knight's firing, but if you ask the majority of Hoosier fans, Knight's firing was a mistake. This is a mistake that can't be undone and one that IU Basketball has never recovered from. It's a mistake that led to a string of additional poor decisions that have sunk IU basketball lower and lower on the totem pole through the last 2 decades. The first poor decision was hiring an unproven, unexperienced, Mike Davis to take over the helm of a storied, blue blood and follow in the footsteps of one of greatest coaches of all time. The decision to hire Davis wasn't for the long-term good of the program, but a solution to the short-term problem of disgruntled players following Knight's removal. The Davis era did feature one big highlight - a run to the National Championship game in 2002, but by now that run is a distant memory for older Hoosier fans and one that current Hoosier students likely don't even remember.
The Davis era ended in disappointment, and the Kelvin Sampson era began.
This mistake is one that continues to sting to this very day for Hoosier fans. The IU administration hired a known violator of NCAA rules and IU fans continue to pay for it dearly. Sampson didn't make it two seasons at IU before he was forced out for breaking more NCAA rules sending the program into the lowest of lows. It's only fitting that following another depressing season that Sampson's new team looks to receive a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and is good enough to make a serious run for an NCAA title. To add insult to injury Sampson's violations are now perfectly legal - not that it's an excuse for his behavior - but that's just kind of luck IU basketball has seen over the past 20 years.
IU decimated the entire basketball program for a mistake that's now perfectly legal. It's only fitting that just across the border in Kentucky, Louisville sits pretty for an NCAA bid with their new coach, Chris Mack, not long after two major scandals far worse than IU's inadmissible phone calls. Granted Louisville was forced to vacate a national title - but it certainly doesn't feel like the Cardinals are doing the time for committing the crime.
This story could go on all night, but when it comes down to present day Indiana basketball, Hoosier fans have been forced to get used to dramatic disappointing losses and seasons rather than victories. It almost feels like IU Football season year-around these days. Talk about misery.
This evening, Indiana high school 5-star basketball recruit Keion Brooks chose IU's arch-rival Kentucky for his college career over the Hoosiers.
The Archie Miller era may yet see success, but the hope of Hoosier fans is dwindling rapidly following this season's disappointment. This IU team had the talent to compete for a Big Ten Championship and make a run in the NCAA Tournament, but were left packing up early yet again for the 6th time in 10 years. Another wasted season in one of the most anticipated seasons in years. Romeo Langford ends will end his IU Basketball career with at least 5 more losses than in his 4 years at New Albany High School. Next year's seniors are given the task of preventing the first shut-out of the NCAA Tournament for 4-year players in IU history.
There isn't a solid conclusion to this story. There aren't solid answers to the questions posed in the second paragraph of this story. There isn't a light at the end of the tunnel for Hoosier fans right now. Just the reality we now live in. It's no longer March Madness for the Indiana Hoosiers - it's March Sadness.