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In Indiana, these are the times that try fans’ souls

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“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

— William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s line was not written for college basketball fans in Indiana, but it should have been.

Not since I went stag to the prom have I have felt more on the outside looking in.

As the rest of the civilized world celebrates the start of March Madness tonight, Hoosiers will view without the usual passion and fervor. In a tournament where the state commonly sends four or five teams, none from Indiana are going. It is only the second time since 1973 it has happened.

This must be what it feels like to live in a basketball desert like Idaho. Oh wait, Weber State is in.

Okay, how about Rhode Island? Nope, Providence made it.

Not North Dakota, either, where North Dakota State qualified.

Nebraska and New Mexico have two teams each.

Ouch. Gloom, baby.

Even the guys our schools did not want are in.

Former IU coach Mike Davis, who took the Hoosiers to the championship game in 2002, is back in the tournament with Texas Southern, a program he turned around in two seasons.

Maurice Creek, who the Hoosiers cut loose, is in as a player with George Washington.

It gets worse. Only one Indiana team, Indiana State, was selected to the NIT, the 32-team tournament for those that don’t make the NCAA cut. (IPFW will play in the College Insider Tournament, which is for schools from non-BCS conferences.)

Do the math: 98 teams selected for the postseason and only one from our state.

It would be cathartic to call this a surprise, to rant about the injustice of a selection committee that overlooked our deserving teams.

Of course, that is not true. We can’t even muster indignation. Sure, IU had a chance to make the NIT but burst its own bubble by losing its last three games.

Still, the moment is filled with a certain numbness.

Butler was in the 2010 and 2011 title games. IU was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the start of the 2012-13 season.

We — whether Bulldog, Boiler, Hoosier, Irish or one of the others of the state’s 10 Division I schools — are simply not used to this.

“In the heart of basketball country, this is a crisis,” the New York Times wrote last week in a story detailing the decline of college basketball in Indiana.

Nowhere is that crisis more acute than in Bloomington, where the New York Daily News reported that influential alumni were talking about a buyout of coach Tom Crean’s contract. (Crean makes $3.16 million in base salary on a contract that runs through 2020; a buyout would cost at least $8 million.)

Of course, that report was met with all the denials that one would expect from the university. The real damage is not the story, but the fact that it is not at all surprising.

The Hoosiers, the flagship of the state’s basketball hierarchy with five national titles, are reeling. After a disappointing end to last season with a Sweet Sixteen loss, IU has been maddeningly inconsistent.

They are not alone. Butler and Purdue are struggling to find players capable of carrying on their bright traditions. At Notre Dame, the Irish’s move to the ACC has proved to be much tougher than expected.

It is tempting to take the high road here and suggest that better days are ahead for each. That, however, would be more wishful thinking than informed judgment. The fact is that all will struggle to gain ground next season.

There are few bright spots, but these programs are resilient and have survived tough times before.

First, there is the matter of getting through this year’s most maddening March Madness.

Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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