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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Cody Zeller, left, and Victor Oladipo enjoy the closing moments of Indiana’s 83-62 win Friday over James Madison in Dayton.

Indiana gives James Madison history lesson

– Maybe the Namesake could have stopped this, though it ain’t likely. James Madison rises from the grave, him and his killer crossover. Brings Alexander Hamilton along from the Great Cosmic Cornfield. Brings Tom Jefferson, too.

Three guys who absolutely kill at the history thing, and wasn’t history what James Madison University needed most here Friday against that whirlwind with “Indiana” stitched across their shirts? A 16 seed had never beaten a 1 seed, but it had to happen sometime, right?

Some other time, maybe.

This time, this day, JMU got what a 16 seed always gets, and has every year since James Naismith inflated the first basketball, rolled it out there and told his charges to for God’s sake block out. It got rocked. It got rolled. It got … Yogi-fied.

That would be Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, not much bigger than wee Jemmy Madison himself, last seen scoring 14 points in roughly 12 seconds. Or turning the lane into a freeway off ramp. Or beating whatever traffic cone was supposed to check him and kicking a bounce pass into the post to Cody Zeller, who contemptuously turned and slammed it home.

This was Indiana all day Friday, and at the end James Madison had been invited to leave the Madness by the unsubtle score of 83-62. No history. No Founding Father coming back from beyond. Nothing but a 1 seed doing what it was supposed to against a 16 seed, which might not seem impressive but is a lot harder to pull off sometimes than it looks.

Or perhaps you’ve already forgotten No. 1 Gonzaga beating the dog out of No. 16 Southern on Thursday by a devastating six points. And perhaps you didn’t stick around to hear Ferrell, who finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and just one turnover in his first NCAA tournament game, show what a quick study he was, at least as regards the blindered mindset that’s largely driven Indiana all season.

“We know anything can happen in the NCAA tournament,” Ferrell said, sounding not at all freshman-esque. “We’ve already seen some pretty crazy things happen. So going into this game, we were not going to take this team lightly.”

We were not going to take this team lightly …

The words spread out from the postgame podium, banged a couple of times off the ceiling, ricocheted through door, pinballed down the narrow hallway to the walk-in closet that passed for Indiana’s locker room, and settled finally in the crawl space where Christian Watford sat wedged between Derek Elston and a wall of inquiring minds.

“We are taking no opponent lightly,” Watford told the Minds, echoing Ferrell. “Like I said, we gave those guys the same kind of scouting report we gave Ohio State or Michigan. We knew what we had to do to come out here and be successful.”

Which was: Play the way they played in the three games they won in their last six, and not the way they played in the three games they lost. Behave, in short, the way a No. 1 seed is expected to behave, taking care of the business at hand with brutal dispatch.

“I never worried about that,” said Crean, when asked if he saw anything that suggested 1-vs.-16 complacency. “My only concern was that, if we didn’t play well, we were going to be underworked, because we really did try to flip the switch at the end after the Wisconsin game.”

Flip it off. Flip it back on. Hope the thing caught – if, in fact, there was any real question about that.

“There was never a drop-off when we went into preparation,” Crean insisted Friday. “Our first walk-through Wednesday night, there was no question they were ready to go. So I was never worried about that with them.

“I think we played excellent.”

Take that, history.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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