Scott Underwood column: Indiana men’s college basketball a mixed bag this winter

As reflected in the current iteration of March Madness, the 2022-23 season has been a mixed bag for men’s college basketball in Indiana.

Just two teams from the Hoosier state, Purdue and IU, were selected for the tournament.

The Boilermakers proved preseason skeptics wrong by winning both the Big Ten regular season crown and the conference tournament, earning a No. 1 seed in March Madness.

Sadly, as most of you know, Purdue crashed and burned against Fairleigh Dickinson, becoming just the second top seed in the history of the tournament to lose in the first round.

IU, meanwhile, was preparing as I wrote this column Sunday to play in the second round. The Hoosiers defeated Kent State on Friday, setting up a showdown with the Miami Hurricanes. A victory would propel IU to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2016.

Here’s a brief roundup of the fate this winter of other teams from Indiana that have a noteworthy March Madness history:

Notre Dame, a frequent participant in the NCAA Tournament during the 23-year tenure of coach Mike Brey, had a miserable go of it in his last season at the helm, finishing just 11-21 and failing to win a single game away from home. It was a sad send-off for Brey, who won more games than any other Fighting Irish coach.

Indiana State University is a long, long way from the glory days of Larry Bird, but the Sycamores are trending upward. They’ve won 23 of 35 games this season and Saturday notched their first postseason victory since 2001.

ISU defeated University of South Carolina Upstate in the College Basketball Invitational, which is two rungs down from the NCAA Tournament on the postseason ladder.

Butler University, conversely, has hit a low plateau in the storied history of its basketball program. With former coach Thad Matta back in the saddle, the Bulldogs mustered just 14 victories this season and placed ninth in the 11-team Big East. They have not been part of March Madness since 2018.

It’s been an even longer drought for Valparaiso. The Beacons limped to an 11-21 finish this season and haven’t been included in the NCAA field of 68 since 2015.

Ball State hasn’t been selected for the tournament since Y2K, and the Cardinals are far, far removed from their memorable run to the Sweet 16 in 1990. But new coach Michael Lewis, a former player at IU, seems to have the program headed in a good direction. The Cards won 20 of their 32 games this winter.

One other note from the 2022-23 men’s college basketball season:

Anderson University had a historically good campaign. Under first-year head coach Carter Collins, the Ravens won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament before losing a close game at Mount Union (Ohio) in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

Mount Union advanced all the way to the championship game, where it lost by just two points.

More good news for the Ravens: Their roster is rife with underclassmen, promising more success next winter.

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