Thursday, October 31, 2013
Which State is THE Basketball State?
In the words of IU men's coach Tom Crean: "It's Indiana, It's Indiana". Other states will argue that they are the holy land of hoops, but they are wrong. California and Texas? Sorry, too big, football rules, and no one shows up for high school games.
Kentucky? They are the only state who can make a legitimate argument, in my opinion. They have UK, U of L, Western Kentucky, and a high school history that is deep, rich culminating with one champion in their Sweet 16 tournament that ends in Lexington each March.
But...it's Indiana. I will argue that we have the Pacers, Butler, IU, Purdue, and other D1's, I will argue that our high school history is deeper and richer, and yes, many think class basketball has ruined it, but I will argue we still are better.
How many high school players from Kentucky play at UK? or U of L? Not many. It isn't like the best players from Kentucky high schools are good enough to attend their two premier universities. What about Indiana? The best high school players are being recruited by all of the major colleges including....UK and U of L. Butler showed a few years back that a school with the second tier best players from Indiana can go to the Final Four and come within a hair of winning the whole dang thing. In Kentucky, it all starts with UK and filters down. In Indiana it starts in the driveways and the parks and filters up to all high schools and universities.
UK is by far the best college basketball program in the country right now. You can't argue with their success (unless you're from Duke) especially since John Calipari has been there. But many UK fans forget history. They remember all the wins and they remember all of the banners, but they forget the Eddie Sutton years and the beginning of the Pitino years, it seems.
Recently, IU has tried to dig itself out of the bottom of the elite pile due to NCAA infractions. This past season in Crean's 5th year, IU won the Big Ten regular season title, in a season in which it wasn't that easy. It was the first conference title for IU since 2002 and IU hung a banner. UK fans have made light of this to show that the IU program isn't elite for doing so. They forget that guys like Deron Feldhaus, Sean Woods, John Pelphrey, and Richie Farmer got their numbers retired and they never played in a Final Four at UK. Why did they get those numbers hanging from the rafters? They helped Pitino bring UK back from the bottom of the elite college pile. They deserve their numbers hanging in Rupp's rafters as does IU deserve that banner.
Finally, Kentucky people want to point to the superiority of their one class tournament. I won't argue against that one champion is superior to multiple champions. What I will argue against are these two things. One, in Kentucky's high school tournament, you can lose and advance when playing in the District. There is just something fundamentally wrong with losing in a tournment and advancing. Unless it's double elimination, but those don't happen do they? In real tournaments? And also, consolidation hit Kentucky and there are fewer and fewer small schools. Grayson County, North Bullitt, Oldham County and others compete with the city schools. Often their smallest schools are private with really great players migrating there for their education (tongue in cheek).
And since Indiana has gone to four classes with four champions, the overall win/loss of the Indiana vs. Kentucky high school series is so one sided to Indiana that their argument can't be used to show superiority anymore. Because they rarely win and I mean rarely.
Which state is THE basketball state? It's Indiana. Who is a close second and I will concede is better in some ways, it's our friends to the south in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. But overall, they are still second. Because in 49 states it's just basketball, but this is Indiana. Out of 50 states, being second isn't too bad.