BLOOMINGTON – The pulse of campus isn’t really the thing that he can gauge at this point.
“Since I’m in graduate school, I don’t see people on campus too much,” said Indiana guard Jordan Hulls when asked about the atmosphere around Bloomington before the biggest game of the season at Assembly Hall.
Yet in many ways, he doesn’t need to be out-and-about to understand the significance of what is going to happen Saturday morning and afternoon on the campus. There will be spectacle in the form of ESPN’s Gameday show which will air live in the morning at Assembly Hall and then again at 9 P.M. when the Hoosiers tip-off with top-ranked Michigan.
It’s an event that Hulls can truly appreciate, even if his classes are somewhat different.
“It’s pretty cool for Bloomington. Being a townie myself it’s pretty cool to see that experience,” said Hulls. “Growing up you always wanted to go to those kind of games and come to Assembly Hall and it gets pretty loud in here, so it will be fun.”
Don’t forget this is a celebration and a contest for a program that two seasons ago brought up the rear in the Big Ten, struggling to get to .500 let alone be relevant. Its started with Christian Watford’s shot to beat the last number one team in the country to visit Assembly Hall-Kentucky-and may could come full circle with a defeat of another.
“It has been a long, hard road to get to where we have the program,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean. “That is worthy of it in the sense of having Gameday come in here like this, to have the national audience that it’s going to be.
“But it’s well-earned by a lot of people.”
Put the emphasis on “a lot” in that statement, because Crean broadly credited a number of people for helping to bring the program to this point. The players have the most to do with it, obviously, as they’ve been able to crack the top five for most of the season just a two years removed from a three-win Big Ten season.
So far this season the Hoosiers have seven victories in conference play through just eight games, but according to Crean that success doesn’t happen without the constant support from the fans of the team. Often dubbed the “Hoosier Nation”, Indiana has played to sell-out crowds all season long as Assembly Hall is viewed by many as one of the toughest to play in the country.
“When you look at these situations, your team has to be good and your atmosphere has got to be good too,” said Crean. “I think that’s what has helped draw Gameday here and I think at the same time, that’s why it’s going to be such an exciting day and the world is going to get to see the Hoosier Nation at its finest.
“Hopefully tomorrow night inside of the game we do our part to make it a great game.”
Make no mistake, Indiana will have to do the same. The Hoosiers will be facing arguably the best backcourt in college basketball in Michigan’s Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskus. Each of one of them average double figures in scoring while giving their own unique attribute to the lineup.
Burke-a candidate for the Cousy Award-leads the team in scoring with 17.9 points per game while dishing out 7.1 assists a game. Hardaway contributes five rebounds a game to his average scoring output of 15.5 while Stauskus leads the team in shooting from behind the arc, hitting 49 percent of his tries.
“They do a lot of different things really well offensively like run in transition, hit open 3’s, penetrate,” said Hulls. “Defensively, they get into the ball and try and take you out of some things, so we’re just gong to have to do a good job of executing our plays and doing the things that we need to do.”
Yes, that does including enjoying the atmosphere a bit. A few players and Crean will likely participate in the ESPN Gameday show, which will air all morning from Assembly Hall.
“We enjoy it as a team and we talk about it,” said senior forward Christian Watford of the atmosphere and events surrounding the game. “We know how crazy it’s going to be, but we know we’ve got a job at hand and we are going to go out and try and do that.”
Just as they have the past two years. The players and the fans.