Indiana to honor 1976 undefeated national champs, plus other notes from Monday's press conference

After winning back-to-back Big Ten road games for the first time since 2013, the Hoosiers return home to face Wisconsin and honor the 1976 undefeated national championship IU team.

There are many pictures that stand out throughout Assembly Hall, but one in particular tends to get the most attention: a photo 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers. 

It's the team that finished the season undefeated behind the efforts of Scott May, Kent Benson and others - a feat which hasn't been matched since that team pulled it off.

On Tuesday, members of that undefeated national championship will be honored at halftime of Indiana's home game against Wisconsin. 

"I mean, it's crazy," IU junior forward Collin Hartman said. "We walk by their posters, their pictures and their banners every single day, and it's great to have those guys come back." 

Hartman played high school basketball for Cathedral (Indianapolis) and is well aware of what basketball means to the state of Indiana. He can't remember when exactly he learned just what it meant other than learning about the team as he got older. However, he says what that team accomplished is something that teams across Indiana strive for at all levels. 

"I don't think you really realize the magnitude of what they did until you play high-level basketball," Hartman said. "I don't know how it explain it, going undefeated, especially in the era that they were in and just absolutely dominating the game.

"I heard people talking, when they would come to games, they wouldn't be like, 'are we going to win, or are we going to lose,' they would come in thinking, 'how much are we going to win by?' So it's going to be a great honor." 

Indiana head coach Tom Crean's earliest memories of the team came from growing up in Michigan. The Wolverines were the Hoosiers' national championship opponent. 

Crean said when he was in school, the teachers told him to go home because Michigan was playing for the national title. 

"I'm at a home, I get to stay up a little later, and I'm watching the game sitting in our green shag carpet, and it's like, wow," Crean said. "It just caught you, watching this team play. I didn't know anything about basketball, but I was captured by the candy stripes. Kent Benson and Scott May became my favorites." 

That scene, Crean said, was his first huge basketball memory outside of Central Michigan University. With Marquette winning the national title in 1977 and Crean eventually coaching there, he said he's always felt from the beginning of his coaching tenure at Indiana he's been able to coach at the two places that got him caught up in a love for basketball. The 1976 game was especially a big part of it.

Now, the team whose undefeated run has remained unmatched over the last 40 years will be recognized at Assembly Hall. 

"They're the last team to ever do what they've done," Hartman said. "It's going to be a honor to be able to play in front of those guys and represent those guys directly tomorrow night." 

Preparing beyond a seven-man rotation

Wisconsin only has seven players averaging at least 13.3 minutes per game. The Badger who plays the eighth-most minutes averages 9.6. 

It creates a perception on paper that the Badgers play a rotation of just seven players, but the Hoosiers are preparing for every Wisconsin player who has received playing time this season.

"They've got numerous guys that can play, and they're playing some young guys," Crean said. "They've got different people that can do different things at different times... if Wisconsin's putting someone out on the floor, they can play." 

Three of Wisconsin's five starters are averaging double figures in scoring, led by Nigel Hayes at 15.7 per game. It nearly has a fourth in touble figures as well, with Vitto Brown averaging 9.8 points per game. 

Across the roster, 15 different badgers have received playing time. 

With that many prepared players, the Badgers tend to use as much of the shot clock as possible, playing at a much slower pace even with a new head coach in Greg Gard. That playing style is a direct contrast with Indiana, as the Hoosiers like to play up-tempo. 

Hartman said the team has to stay solid, stay aggressive and stick to its principles. 

"They run a very methodical offense, in a sense that they just keep running it and running it and running it," Hartman said. "And it's very effective, and it always has been, and with the new staff that they have now, it has not changed at all. It's all up to us, our coaching staff and our players to follow the gameplan."

Blackmon Jr. still being evaluated

Sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr.'s right knee is still being evaluated, according to Crean. 

Indiana's second-leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, Blackmon has missed Indiana's last two games after suffering the injury in practice last week. According to the Indianapolis Star's Zach Osterman, Blackmon was wearing ice or a brace beneath his warm-up jumpers last Saturday against Nebraska and did not participate in warm-ups with his teammates prior to that game. 

"He's still being evaluated, going through some testing and things like that," Crean said. "That's where we're at, and when we come to some type of, I don't want to say decision, but when a decision is made, we'll go from there." 


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