When you think of Indiana, there is one, iconic theme that comes to mind: basketball. From the snowy, winter days shooting hoops on a basket connected to a barn to the big time AAU players lighting it up in front of college coaches galore, everyone in Indiana is crazy for basketball. There is a reason that one of the best sports movies of all time, Hoosiers, is about a high school basketball team overcoming the odds to win a state championship. There is a reason that some of the names most associated with the sport (Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Oscar Robertson, to a name a few) are all from or associated with Indiana in some way. And thus there is a reason that the annual Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis is one of the best things for college basketball each year.
When I first heard about the Crossroads Classic back in 2011, I had some skepticism to the idea of the event. In principle, it seemed fine; just like any other non-conference event like the Maui Invitational or Diamond Head Classic out in Las Vegas. However, those events rotate the schools invited each year to freshen it up. That’s what makes it fun for me, getting to watch teams play that I rarely have the opportunity to. With only four teams every year to participate in the Crossroads Classic, I was doubtful as to whether there could be a draw for the event each year. Boy, was I wrong.
Perhaps the biggest thing I overlooked was just how iconic basketball is in the state of Indiana. I didn’t think about the magnitude of bringing the four biggest college teams in the biggest basketball state for the biggest basketball Saturday of the non-conference slate. You have Butler, the new comer who always plays with a chip on its shoulder and always finds a way to get it done. You have Notre Dame, the high-powered offense who doubles as being a pretty-dang good basketball school while football isn’t in season. You have Purdue, the defensive scrappers who may not have the most talent, but they always have the most heart. And of course you have Indiana University, the perennial power with one of the biggest followings in all of college athletics. How I overlooked it, I don’t know. But I do know this: the event has produced some damn good games, and it has grown into must see TV for basketball fans all across the state each December.
Take for example the first Classic in 2011, when Andrew Smith’s buzzer-beating put back won the game for Butler against my Boilermakers. Or look at 2012, when Butler again won, this time taking down mighty Indiana, ranked #1 in the country. We have seen some displays of excellent basketball, with each school fighting not only for the win, but bragging rights in a state where bragging rights means everything.
One of the points that goes unmentioned is that the Crossroads Classic is always played in Indianapolis. Over Thanksgiving break a lot of teams go to various spots such as Hawaii or the Bahamas which makes it hard for family members to visit and watch their players. With the games being in Indianapolis, it is much easier for family and friends to go watch the game and visit with the players. We do have to remember that we are still talking about young men so their families are very important.
The Crossroads Classic offers a little bit of everything. In the first game you will see two high powered offenses. Indiana likes to play as fast as possible pushing the ball after every defensive rebound. Notre Dame prefers to set a slower pace to allow them to cut through the defense like an onion. The second game will show a team in the top 10 in Purdue who has 3 very high quality post players and Butler who has a lot of talent in all areas in the game but haven’t truly found their identity yet. These games are must watch games for Hoosiers and Mid-West basketball fans. I can guarantee you one thing: the Crossroads Classic showcases the great basketball in Indiana, and that can never be a bad thing.
I can not wait for this year’s Crossroads Classic! Brad and I will be in attendance sitting next to each other and Notre Dame writer Nick Courtney will also be there to take in the games before heading home for Christmas break.
Go Hoosiers and Boil Up!
Indiana University Class of 2018