BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana associate head coach Tim Buckley wasn't about to turn the other cheek. Not after a Wall Street Journal story described last season's basketball Hoosiers as, “The biggest underachiever in NCAA history.”
“Someone point out to me what was underachieved from April 1 2008, until we went through (NBA) draft night,” Buckley said.
The Wall Street story, written by Ben Cohen, used statistics to show that IU, with two top-four NBA draft picks in No. 2 Victor Oladipo and No. 4 Cody Zeller, “underachieved more than any similarly talented team in NCAA tournament history.”
The top-seed Hoosiers lost to fourth-seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Cohen wrote that five college teams with similar talent won the national championship, including the 2012 Kentucky team with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The story indicated that only two other teams with a pair of top-five picks didn't advance past the Sweet 16 -- Duke in 2002 and North Carolina in 1984. That was qualified by saying Duke (which had Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy) did win the national title in 2001 and North Carolina (which had Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins) won the national title in 1982.
That 2002 Duke team lost in the Sweet 16 to Tom Coverdale-led Indiana.
Buckley had a big problem with the Hoosier bashing, bringing up the topic at the end of Tuesday's media gathering at Cook Hall.
He arrived with head coach Tom Crean in 2008 from a successful run at Marquette to rebuild a program ravaged by NCAA sanctions, academic deficiencies, substance abuse issues and other problems from the Kelvin Sampson era. IU lost 20 or more games for three straight seasons, the worst stretch in program history.
Two years ago IU won 27 games and reached the Sweet 16. This past season the Hoosiers won 29 games, were ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks and won their first outright Big Ten title since 1993.
“I want to say something in regard to this team under-achieving,” Buckley said. “The reason I do is No. 1, I know myself and Coach Crean and the coaches and players. We're a very prideful group.
“I was in Coach Crean's living room at 10 a.m. on April 1 of 2008. I was there when we faxed the letter of agreement (to accept IU's offer) at 4:26 p.m. We came to Indiana and every day we found something new and different that was going to be a great challenge.
“I was here when we brought in 320 unofficial visits that first year. We continued to build, and we had former players here, like Calbert Cheany, and you can go down the line, who were supportive. The fans who came to the games.
“When we brought Cody Zeller here (during his recruitment) and we weren't winning, we could point to those fans and say, 'They're here now. Just think what it will be like when we get good.' They (the fans) helped us do that.
“We went through three tough years, then we won 27 games and went to the Sweet 16, and then (last season) we were ranked No. 1 longer than anyone in the country.
“We went through the best Big Ten season in I don't know how long on a night-in, night-out basis. We were on that bench and watched that ball roll off the rim at Michigan (IU held on for a 72-71 victory) and we clinched the outright Big Ten title for the first time in 20 years. Then we had two players drafted in the top four, which I believe was the best in the history of the program.
“I know what everybody put into it. I know what everyone's family put into it. I know what the players and their families put into it. We're proud of this group. We're disappointed as much as anybody was in not going further in the NCAA tournament.
“Our fifth-place team in the Big Ten played for the national championship. That's how good this league was. For us to do it night in, night out … we never lost two games in a row. We had a resilient bunch. I'm proud of what we've done and everybody associated with Hoosier Nation should be proud of what we did.”