Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The No. 1 college sports state is only 20 minutes from downtown Cincy

Very rarely do I overstep the state line in the Queen City Sport Report, but today calls for an exception. The sometimes forgotten third of our Tri-State, Indiana is currently at the top of the sports world.           
On Saturday, surrounded by friends and family clad in blue and gold, I threw my hands in the air after the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated USC and secured their place in the BCS National Championship. Ranked first in the nation with a Heisman hopeful in Manti Te’o, the loyal sons marched onward to victory.
The following day, as I sat on my couch recovering from post-Thanksgiving turkey coma, I saw senior guard Jordan Hulls honored before a full Assembly Hall, scoring 1,000th career point as a Hoosier. Hulls then recorded 17 points in the game against Ball State University, leading the Hoosiers to a 101-53 rout of the Cardinals. The preseason Player of the Year, Cody Zeller, posted 15 points and eight rebounds in the win for the number one ranked team in the country.
 After watching the number one in college football and the number one in college basketball coast to victories, a realization came over me: I may be living the peak of Indiana athletics. Is this the greatest sports era ever in the state? Could it be? The Hoosiers basketball team and Irish football team have never won a championship in the same season, but that is a high possibility this year. (It should be noted that IU won a title in 1976, followed by a Notre Dame football championship in 1977, and the same thing in 1987 and 1988).
Before anyone becomes upset by the claim of Indiana greatness just because the Hoosiers and Irish both sit atop the polls, let me expand on the state’s recent achievements. In the first season without Manning in Indianapolis, the Colts are exceeding the expectations of analysts, fans, and quite possibly, even the players. The men in blue, rallying behind the cry of “CHUCKSTRONG,” are in 7-4 and currently sit in top AFC Wild Card position. If the season ended with last week’s games, Luck and the Colts would be travelling to Denver to challenge the city’s lost hero.
Less advertised but more successful than the Colts are the Indiana Fever, the WNBA team that won its first title in October. Tamika Catchings received the Finals MVP award, scoring 25 points in the 87-78 win over the Minnesota Lynx to secure the championship.
On another Indianapolis court, the Butler Bulldogs are already showing Cinderella signs, knocking off Marquette and number nine ranked North Carolina in the Maui Invitational. Brad Stevens’ squad fell to Illinois in the tournament’s championship game, but plays like Rotnei Clarke’s buzzer-beating three-pointer grabbed the attention of the nation.
Even on the pitch, the Hoosier state is showing that Indiana sports are a force to reckon with. The Notre Dame men’s soccer team entered the NCAA tournament as the number one seed. Unfortunately for the Irish faithful, the side fell 2-1 in the third round on Nov. 25…to the Indiana Hoosiers.
Obviously there are exceptions to the Indiana dominance (the Pacers aren’t living up to preseason expectations thus far), but glancing at NCAA Division I rankings in all major sports, there is at least one Indiana school in every Top 25.
As football season closes and basketball season begins, I will try to drink in these precious moments, a time where the best teams in the country call Indiana home. As a Hoosier, the year 2013 has the opportunity to bring ultimate glory or brutal heartbreak. Such is the life when you’re on top of the sports world.

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