Basketball is a game, but that does not mean it is always fun. The Indiana Hoosiers have spent the entire 2012-13 season at, or near, the very top of the AP rankings, which is supposed to be a good thing — and it is.
However, that also means coach Tom Crean’s team enters each and every game they play, whether it is at home or on the road, with a massive target on its back. For a team like Gonzaga, getting the best effort from a team like San Francisco or St. Mary’s is a challenge. Having to face Michigan, and John Wooden Award finalist Trey Burke, and in Ann Arbor no less, is another animal altogether.
The task of blanketing Mr. Burke on Sunday afternoon fell to the Hoosiers’ own Wooden finalist, guard Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo was not even supposed to be the type of player who could hang with Burke. He was not supposed to be a star, or an All-America, or a player that makes the entire nation buzz with his tenacious defense and deafening dunks.
That was supposed to be 7-foot star Cody Zeller.
While Zeller did put in a superstar performance, scoring the final six points in the team’s 72-71 win, it was Oladpio’s work on Burke that played a key role in keeping the squad close until the final moments when Zeller took over.
Yes, Burke finished with 20 points, but it took him 20 shots to get there (he only made seven baskets) and he turned the ball over four times. On the other hand, Oladipo scored 14 points and hauled in a whopping 13 rebounds, seven of which were offensive.
It has been a helter skelter year across the college basketball landscape this season. There were five insane, buzzer-beating finishes on Saturday, and another Big Ten school, Wisconsin, needed one on Sunday to put away Penn State.
At the end of the day, the Hoosiers enjoyed a last-second, breathtaking victory of their own.
And a totally exhausted, mentally drained Oladipo was soaking in every moment of it with his coach.