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Indiana coaches fire back after last year’s team is labeled an ‘underachiever’

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Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller (Getty Images)

One week after the Wall Street Journal published a story labeling last season's Indiana team the biggest underachiever in NCAA history, the Hoosiers coaching staff fired back with a vigorous defense.

Head coach Tom Crean sent out three tweets Tuesday morning lauding Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo for spearheading the program's resurgence after three years of struggles that followed Kelvin Sampson's scandal-tainted era. Associate head coach Tim Buckley built on Crean's argument, noting Indiana may have lost in the Sweet 16 last season but it won 29 regular season games and captured the outright conference title in the nation's strongest league.

“We’re pretty proud of this group,” Buckley told reporters in Bloomington. “And we’re disappointed as much as anybody else with not going further in the NCAA tournament. Our fifth-place team (Michigan) in the Big Ten played for the national championship. That’s how good this league was. And for us to do it night in and night out; I don’t think we ever lost two games in a row.

"We had a resilient bunch. I’m really proud of what we’ve done, and I think everybody who’s associated with Hoosier Nation should be really proud of what we did."

Buckley has every right to be indignant about the Wall Street Journal story because the premise of the piece is so flawed.

The story calls Indiana an underachiever because the Hoosiers were one of only three teams with two top-five NBA draft picks (Oladipo and Zeller) to fail to advance past the Sweet 16. Duke's 2002 team and North Carolina's 1984 team were the other two, but it's harder to criticize them since Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy won a national title in 2001 and Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan won theirs in 1982.

What the Wall Street Journal story fails to note is the folly of judging a team's season based solely on the results of a single elimination tournament.

Indiana won the Big Ten and spent 10 weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation, but the Hoosiers played a poor game against Syracuse's smothering zone and were sent packing. Furthermore, while Oladipo and Zeller were two of the nation's better players this season, nobody will mistake either of them for Jordan and Perkins – or perhaps even Williams and Dunleavy.

Ultimately, Indiana had an excellent season that ended in disappointing fashion in a single-elimination tournament. Nobody viewed the Hoosiers as historic underachievers when they lost in March. The fact Oladipo and Zeller went in the top five of the draft shouldn't change that.

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