The Indiana men’s basketball program faced the disappointment of not hearing their name called for the 2019 NCAA Tournament. But the show goes on. As part of the “first four out” of the big dance, the Hoosiers earned a No. 1 seed in the National Invitational Tournament. While the lights aren’t quite as bright in the NIT, the stories can be just as compelling. This is still Indiana basketball, and these are the Lessons From the NIT.
It has been used as a derisive chant directed towards struggling visitors through the years.
“NIT! NIT! NIT!”
When your standards are as high as Indiana, earning college basketball’s consolation prize can feel more like a punishment than a reward.
When you are St. Francis, and you see that you have been invited to the NIT, it is something altogether different.
Red Flash head coach Rob Krimmel put it this way —
“You know, to be able to play in postseason basketball is exciting because you’re one of the few teams that are left playing college basketball in the middle of March,” Krimmel said after Tuesday’s game against Indiana.
But playing in the postseason became even a little more special when St. Francis saw the NIT bracket on Sunday night.
Upon seeing his team’s draw, the next question on Krimmel’s mind was simply how fast could he get a flight to Bloomington.
Clearly a student of the game, the seventh year head coach made it a point to get his team in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall as soon as possible to soak in all of the history.
“When they come into a place like this, we always try to get here early so that they can do all the banner looking and kind of film all the stuff that’s going around, because it’s something they will never forget,” Krimmel said.
St. Francis plays its home games at DeGol Arena. With a 3,500 capacity, it is a facility that would be characterized as small even for Indiana high school standards.
Holding nearly five times as many fans, and replete with history, everyone remembers their first time at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
For Krimmel and his players, the experience of walking into IU’s venerated home court was analogous to a small child going to Disney World.
“It’s neat to see those reactions” Krimmel said of his team walking into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. “As a parent, I look, I have two kids at home and I have 18 on the roster, so I have 20 kids, right.
So when you see your kids do anything, and you see the joy, it’s pretty cool. You know, kids like to go on a water slide, or they go to the amusement park.
They will never forget coming in and playing on the same court that some of the greatest basketball players ever to play the game played on.”
Beyond the academics and the competition, this is why you play college basketball at a school like St. Francis.
Incredible opportunities. Once in a lifetime experiences.
While some Indiana fans see the NIT as an indication of failure, others see unforgettable moments.
And it was the people of Indiana that made this particular moment all the more memorable for Krimmel and his team.
“And to the great people here in Indiana, our stay has been fantastic,” Krimmel said. “What an opportunity for our guys to come in and compete against one of the most storied programs in college basketball history in one of the most storied arenas. It’s a pretty special experience for our guys and the coaches.
That’s what college basketball is all about. We grow up seeing those kids, those programs and the TV and to be able to come and experience it firsthand, it’s awesome. It’s great. Especially when the people are so welcoming. They allow us to do some of those neat things to soak in the environment.”
Only 5,431 fans soaked in the environment for the game. But after attending every home game this season, I can confidently tell you that if you closed your eyes and just took in the sounds, it felt like more.
A lot more.
Many of the fans at Tuesday night’s game were taking in that same once in a lifetime opportunity to attend an IU basketball game and sit wherever they wanted for just $20.
Not distracted by their cell phones or unimpressed by just another game on the schedule, much like Krimmel and St. Francis, these fans were there to soak it all in.
And their energy was palpable.
From “Indiana our Indiana” before the game to Archie Miller earning a technical foul, the noise inside IU’s home court sounded more like the Big Ten than a big letdown.
Those enthusiastic fans knew the same thing as St. Francis’ Coach Krimmel.
Those are the same candy stripe pants. Those are the same banners. That is the same Juwan Morgan.
Memories that will last a lifetime were made on Tuesday night.
And these are the lessons from the NIT.
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