Basketball has always been king to most sports fans in the state of Indiana.
The success of the Indianapolis Colts and the growth of football in general has somewhat taken the spotlight this past decade, but things are about to change.
Known to most people as the “Basketball Capital of the World”, Indiana has some very rich hoops history and traditions.
Whether it’s the Indiana Hoosiers and Bob Knight, or the Indiana Pacers and Reggie Miller, there are many fond memories of basketball in Indiana. We haven’t even gotten to the famous “Hoosiers” film, but I think everyone knows the story there.
Football has exploded in popularity, and with the success of the Colts coupled with the hard times of the Pacers, and Hoosiers, the state has really put basketball on the back burner.
It has been that way for about a decade now, but you can see the tide rising, you can sense a shift coming.
The change will be here before you know it.
Within the next two years, there will be some major developments that will put basketball back on the front page in Indiana. Here are the ten reasons I see that will restore the greatest sport in the world back into the spotlight in Indy.
The End of The Peyton Manning Era
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
In two years, Peyton Manning is going to be a few months shy of 37 years old.
We have already seen him struggle this year, and we know what the team looks like without him.
If he is not on the field leading this team, the Colts are the Cleveland Browns, without Peyton Hillis.
Basically, ever since the Colts made the move to Indy, the only success they have had was with Peyton.
After he is gone, what will be left?
Those are some enormous shoes to fill, and whoever tries to fill them, they will almost certainly not get this team to a Super Bowl anytime soon.
Window Will Be Closed For Colts
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Even if Peyton is still playing at a high level in two years, it’s hard to see him getting back to a Super Bowl.
With the parody of the league, and so many other teams on the rise, it doesn’t look like the Colts will be Super Bowl favorites at all.
Younger teams with more “team talent” are going to have their way with the Colts, and the window will pretty much be closed. The true Colts fans that were there before they were a dominant team will remain, but the fan support will not nearly be what it has been for the past decade.
Super Bowl Excitement Over
The Super Bowl will have come and gone in two years time.
The excitement and buzz that people have been feeling recently, will be gone. Unless they have another accepted bid for a Super Bowl, there won’t be any reason to get amped up for the biggest event in sports.
Yes, there will still be High School State Championships played in Lucas Oil Stadium, but that’s not exactly on the same level, is it?
College Football in Indiana
Let’s face it, IU, Purdue, and even Notre Dame have really done nothing on the football in recent years.
IU has always been bad and is in the middle of making a coaching change.
Purdue thought they would have a good year, but were embarrassed by the season they have had.
Notre Dame did okay in the first year of head coach Brian Kelly, but will that translate into success for the future?
The fact is, there is no chance of any college football team in the state getting into a BCS bowl game in the near future. The Irish could make me eat their words, and I hope they do, but I just don’t see it happening that quickly.
Indiana Hoosiers Basketball on the Rise
Ever since Kelvin Sampson got caught with his hand in the cookie jar (again), Indiana has been as bad as anyone can ever remember in the history of the program.
Tom Crean was hired to fix the mess, and bring them back to the top.
Despite what some people may think, he has done a great job, and really put a stamp on things a few weeks ago when they landed star recruit Cody Zeller.
Cody has two older brothers, Luke who played at Notre Dame, and Tyler, who is currently leading the Tar Hells in North Carolina. Many people have stated that Cody is better than both Luke and Tyler. Cody chose to stay at home with the Hoosiers, instead of heading to Butler, or North Carolina.
As if things couldn’t get better, many of the AAU teammates of Cody have also decided to follow him to Bloomington.
There is no doubt in my mind that in two years, this program could be back where it belongs, in the NCAA Tournament.
Big Ten Basketball
When looking at the best conferences in all of college basketball, the Big Ten is clearly in the top two.
They have always been rich in basketball history and tradition, and this year is no different.
People in Indiana really take pride in the Big Ten, especially when it comes to basketball.
Both IU and Purdue will be mixing it up with Tom Crean and Matt Painter, just like they used to with Knight and Keady.
The recruiting when it comes to basketball is intense, and with both teams capable of making a run in the NCAA Tournament in two years, it will become even crazier.
The Big Ten Tournament Champion is crowned every year in Indianapolis.
Everyone would agree that Indy is the perfect place to host this tourney for the Big Ten. The town goes crazy every year around this time, as they hold the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse, and also host other NCAA Tournament games at Lucas Oil Stadium, including last year’s Final Four.
Pacers on The Rise
There once was a time where Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Rik Smits, Antonio Davis, and Dale Davis were kings of Indianapolis.
Before Peyton Manning was in town, this was Reggie’s city, and some people still think it is.
The memories that he gave us in his loyal 18 years with the Pacers are something that many people, including myself are very thankful for.
There was nothing better than sleeping in on a Sunday, having a late lunch, then turning on NBC to watch a Pacers playoff game against Ewing and the Knicks, or Jordan and the Bulls.
Hopefully, in two years from now, we can watch a Pacers playoff game.
The Pacers are the second youngest team in the NBA, and they actually have some talented pieces in place already.
With Granger, Hibbert, Collison, and Rush, they look to be headed in the right direction. So far they are above .500 this year with an 11-10 record, but they have only really had one blowout loss.
They have some signature wins against the Heat and Lakers on the road, and they are one of the better defensive teams in the league, which has surprised everyone, including myself.
Though they likely won’t be able to contend with Miami, Orlando, and Chicago in two years, they could be a playoff team, that could do some damage. Pacers fans could be back sooner than expected, and filling up Conseco Fieldhouse, which was rated one of the best venues in all of sports by Sports Illustrated last year.
Get Your Fill
People that often want to lose weight will look for foods that are “more filling” and “fight hunger”.
The same can be said for sports fans.
When it comes to the NFL, you get one game per week, and only eight home games all season.
In the NBA, you get three or four games per week, and 42 chances to see your team play at home.
With the season starting in September and ending in January, the NFL has a much shorter season than the NBA, which lasts from October to June.
The college level is somewhat different, but the same general idea as far as season length goes.
College football fans have a month of no football, before having bowl games shoved down their throats like leftovers after Thanksgiving.
The NFL playoffs are great, but I get more amped when March Madness arrives.
History of Indiana Sports
Everyone knows the story of the Colts midnight move from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
They weren’t an awful team when they moved here, but there were some really bad seasons before Peyton Manning put on a Colts uniform.
Meanwhile, the Pacers have been here in Indy since the ABA days. They have provided us with some great seasons, playoff games, and unforgettable plays, ala eight points, nine seconds.
While the Colts have been “the team” here in Indy for the last handful of years, let us not forget who has been here for the longest, and what they have given us over that period of time.
Not to say they are more deserving, but before Manning, the Colts were bad and we know what will happen when he is no longer taking snaps.
The Colts will be more beloved by fans during the Manning era, but the Pacers fans will be back once he is on his way to Canton.
Basketball Will Always Be King in Indiana
I strongly believe that if the Pacers and Colts were both Championship contenders in their respective sports, I think many people would still see us as a basketball state first and foremost.
I think the past few rough years for the Pacers and Hoosiers combined with the greatness of Peyton Manning have created a hiccup in the eyes of many people, but history will show we will always be a basketball state.
We weren’t named the Basketball Capital of the World for no reason—The film Hoosiers wasn’t a made up story—and Reggie Miller is still the Mayor of Indianapolis.