Saturday, December 4, 2021

Indiana represents Big Ten pride, but Terrapins will be champions

I have to admit, I am an Indiana Hoosier Basketball fan. For my money, it doesn’t get any better when Tom Coverdale hits a triple from the top of the arc and limps, on his bum ankle, to the other end of the court to play defense.

I celebrate the Hoosier’s entire starting five, despite the fact forward Jared Jeffries looks like an alien and has the biggest lips known to man.

For me it wasn’t shocking when the Hoosiers ousted No. 1 seed Duke 74-73 in the Sweet 16 on March 21. Since I’m such a (bandwagon) fan. I know what they’re capable of.

Other than the Spartans, I couldn’t think of a better team to represent the Big Ten in the Final Four and National Championship game.

In addition to consistent play from Jeffries and consistent three-point shooting from, well, the entire team, it seems like every game someone new steps up for the Hoosiers.

Against Oklahoma, forward Jeff Newton led the Indiana scoring attack with a career-high 19 points on 7-of-10 from the field. He also had six rebounds and four blocks. Guard Donald Perry came up big, too. He hit some huge buckets down the stretch, scoring a career-high 10 points.

And at the end of the Duke game, guard A.J. Moye kept Indiana in the game with some clutch shots. It’s gotta be the T-shirt. I swear that T-shirt he wears under his jersey must go down to his knees when he untucks it.

Head coach Mike Davis deserves all the credit in the world. I was happy the Hoosiers beat Oklahoma 73-64 in the Final Four Saturday just so I could see his little boy sit on his lap during the post-game press conference one more time Monday night.

But while there are many perks that come along with being a Hoosier fan, it has its downside too.

Specifically, that downside is guard Dane Fife. Having resided in the hills of West Bloomfield, I did have an opportunity to play against Fife, a Clarkston native, in high school. Well I didn’t really play, but I did have a courtside seat from the bench.

I wasn’t a manager but I did have a jersey on. Anyway, back to my point: Fife was even the biggest crybaby back then.

But even the Hoosiers biggest pitfall has a silver lining. I gained respect for the senior guard after reading a recent article about his grandparents in the Detroit Free Press.

Fife’s grandparents have not only attended every single one of his college games, they’ve attended almost every practice - even when Bob Knight was coaching at Indiana. And it’s not an easy feat to get invited to a Knight practice, considering he used to toss out school administrators, including Indiana’s president.

Fife’s grandparents moved to Bloomington with him three years ago and rented an apartment near Assembly Hall during the season. Anyone with grandparents that dedicated has to come from a strong family and have strong character.

Fife was a free throw away from being branded as the guy who committed that dumb foul against Duke in the mind of every Hoosier fan. And a Hoosier fan doesn’t forget. Fife may have been lucky that All-American guard Jason Williams can’t shoot free throws to save his life, but he still came out stronger for it.

Fife may still be a flopping crybaby, but it’s hard to argue against his ability as a pure shooter, his mind for the game and the content of his character.

Those stats won’t necessarily show up in Fife’s stat line tonight against No. 1 seed Maryland. The Terrapins are too much for Indiana, even if it shoots the lights out of the Georgia Dome.

But that doesn’t take anything away from Davis, and a Final Four appearance that is definitely the last step to shedding the shadow Knight cast over Bloomington. Making the Final Four in a year that everyone bashed the Big Ten is a great accomplishment.

After a 15-year absence from the Final Four, the Hoosiers have reclaimed their status as an icon of college basketball and the American hoop dream.

Justin A. Rice, a men’s basketball reporter, can be reached at ricejust@msu.edu.

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