When the #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils roll into Bloomington on Wednesday night to take on the Hoosiers, I’m sure most fans are wondering what to expect.
Sure, I know what the “experts” say, and I know what the casual fan thinks too, but the fact remains that no one really knows, they all just have their opinions.
In comparing the rosters it’s easy to see why both the experts, and the casual fans feel as though the Hoosiers will offer little resistance for the Blue Devils. They have as talented a group of players that any team has brought into Assembly Hall in some time.
They are a mixture of super talented Freshman, and equally as good returning players. They are not only tall, but also long, athletic, smart and obviously very well coached. On the flip side, IU could be described as a team of role players that are trying to find their way, all the while learning a new system and under the guidance of a new coach.
So yeah, on paper, I’m not sure Indiana is in this game past the 10 minute mark of the first half. But the great thing about the game of basketball is, it’s not played on paper, it’s played on the court. And that court is Branch McCracken court in Assembly Hall in this case.
Duke starts and plays a lot of Freshman and none of those have ever experienced the kind of atmosphere that they will encounter on Wednesday night. Yes, they very well may handle it like they’ve played in that environment their entire lives, but I have personally seen it effect even the most seasoned of veterans.
The Hoosiers will have to play their best game to date, BY FAR. But a well played game, coupled with a less than normal Duke like performance, throw in a raucous Assembly Hall crowd, and IU just might be in this game longer than Duke, or anyone else for that matter, expects.
The most dangerous team is the team with nothing to lose, and a belief they can win. Now add in those 17,222 screaming Hoosier fans that are trying to help their team anyway they can, and well, you just never know.
On March 21st, 2002 in Lexington, Ky. in the Sweet 16, Indiana faced off with the #1 and defending National Champions, Duke Blue Devils. Not many people gave Indiana a chance, and probably rightfully so at the time.
The Hoosiers scrapped, they fought and they just refused to go away, even after falling behind 42-29 in the first half. Then they started to chip away at that lead at the start of the second half, and slowly but surely they closed the gap.
There would be one single play that best summed up Indiana’s effort in this “David vs. Goliath” game. IU had pulled within one at 63-62, but Duke’s 6’9” All-American Forward Carlos Boozer had secured a rebound right under the basket and was starting up for a rim rattling dunk.
The only thing between him and the basket was Indiana’s 6’2” Forward A.J. Moye. Moye jumped and kept going up and up and up. He not only met Boozer at the rim, but he also blocked the ball back into his face. The approximately 18,000 Hoosier fans in Rupp Arena that night went absolutely nuts.
That single play by A.J. Moye embodied what that whole team was about. They believed in themselves, even when no one else really did. On Wednesday night Indiana may need quite a few A.J. Moye like moments to have a chance.
But like A.J. famously said about Duke before that game back in 2002: “It’s not like they are the University of Jesus Christ and we’re playing the 12 Disciples. It’s just Duke. Duke is just a name on a jersey.”