News From Terre Haute, Indiana

From the Press Box

November 27, 2009

From the Press Box: State collegiate men's basketball tourney? A man can dream can’t he?

TERRE HAUTE — The Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic draw takes place on Tuesday and the much-beloved tournament tips off on Dec. 26 at Terre Haute North.

I don’t think I’m going out on any precarious limb when I say that the wild success of the event has made it the most talked-about, most cared-about and best-locally attended event in the area ... and that includes things like Indianapolis Colts training camp and the NCAA Cross Country championships, which draw more regional and national attention, but not always local interest to match.

One of the reasons the tournament is a smash hit is that it brings local fans together in a context that is no longer possible given the fragmentation of high school athletics in the class sports era.

Another is the potential of upset that was mostly removed from sectional play once class sports began.

Hindsight and the overflow crowds over the years at South and North make it seem so obvious that a concept like the Pizza Hut Classic would be a smash hit. It also seems clear a college tournament featuring Indiana’s Division I schools would also be extremely popular. And, obviously, many of the aforementioned factors that make the Pizza Hut Classic a smash hit would make an Indiana tournament wildly popular too.

I’m not the first one who has thought an all-Indiana Division I tournament would be a great idea and I won’t be the last. However, it’s a concept that’s been a pipe dream. Perhaps, it remains so.

Indiana — and to a lesser extent, Purdue — are reluctant to play the state’s mid-major schools, much less in a tournament format. Notre Dame almost seems divorced from Indiana at all, given its Big East Conference affiliation and fanbase that is national more so than Hoosier in nature. Even Butler has got to the point where it picks and chooses what state teams it prefers to play ... Indiana State not being one of them at present.

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