Is Indiana being slept on?
How to explain a massive expectations gulf between fans and media
Indiana fans are talking a lot about disrespect these days. It has been a constant preseason theme. Some new preview will drop, and Indiana will be picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the Big Ten standings, and few or none of Indiana’s players will be named to the all-league team, or whatever, and IU fans in the replies will caustically grumble.
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“Put this up in every player’s locker,” wrote Sanders_J, replying to a nondescript Inside The Hall post noting that The Almanac had picked Indiana to finish fifth, which does not seem like the most inherently insulting take in the world. “I love how under the radar IU men’s basketball is this year,” CrimsonCast wrote earlier this week, to which friends of Buzzer Assembly Call replied:
When was the last time and IU team with two 5-star McDonald's All Americans, another 4-star big, and a senior point guard was being doubted this much? Things may be a little rough early, but there aren't many teams in the country with this team's *potential* ceiling.
“I think they easily have the potential to be better than last year’s team,” Andy Luther followed. Whoa whoa whoa: Better than last year’s team? The team with Trayce Jackson-Davis, one of the best Indiana big men of all time? Better than the team with Jalen Hood-Schifino, a first-round one-and-doner who midranged Purdue to death at Mackey? Better than a team with veteran stalwarts like Miller Kopp and Race Thompson, gnarled veteran Big Ten pieces?
The aggressiveness of any given prediction is not really the point. The point is that there seems to be a very wide gulf between Hoosiers fans and the rest of the world about the 2023-24 Indiana men’s basketball team’s prospects for success.
Normally, you would assume the diehard fans are the ones detached from reality, emotions clouding their judgment. And maybe there’s a bit of that happening here. But — as a longstanding member of the “national” college hoops media — I’ve also long since learned that it is a huge mistake to discount the analysis of people who obsess about their team literally every single day of the year. National folks are interlopers. You have to keep an eye on everybody. You have to work really hard not to miss embarrassing details. You form general impressions, impressions which tend to stick. You balance that generality with the ability to synergize lots of information, to tell interesting stories from an outsider’s perspective, to remain sober and detached. These are very different approaches to understanding a team. Both have value.
Even so, it’s rare to see this big of a gulf between what a team’s fans think and what the rest of the world thinks. It makes an already fascinating roster arguably the most interesting in college basketball. And in this case, I’m not sure the fans are wrong.
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