When March Madness began today, it began without the state of Indiana.
No Indiana. No Purdue. No Notre Dame.
No Butler. Which doesn’t seem possible. (You can come back anytime, Brad Stevens.)
No Purple Aces from Evansville, no Sycamores from Indiana State, no Cardinals from Ball State, no Crusaders from Valparaiso. (Though I’ll bet somebody shows Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beating basket vs. Ole Miss at least once between now and when the Madness ends).
Indiana is AWOL.
The state had 10 chances to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The state went 0-for-10.
This is only the second time since 1973, when I was a sophomore in high school — which was a long time ago — that the Hoosier State has not placed a team in the bracket.
As one who grew up in Indiana — but just barely; you could throw a chair from my boyhood home to the Chicago city limits if the wind wasn’t blowing off Lake Michigan — this is somewhat upsetting.
I do not take solace in the fact that Michigan State has three players from Indiana, including its leading scorer, and Michigan has six.
I take a little solace in the fact that New Mexico, the state in which I went to college, has only two Division I basketball-playing institutions, and both are in the Big Dance. But my school, Western New Mexico, finished 2-23. We lost to Regis University by seven. We didn’t have anybody who could guard Kelly Ripa.
Somewhere south of Indianapolis, down there where leaves blow across two-lane county roads and they still run the picket fence play at the end of games, there’s probably a kid shooting baskets at a rusty rim hanging from the side of a barn who has a tear in his eye.
He also may be wondering if Stephen F. Austin awards out-of-state scholarships.