It’s not often that Indiana’s No. 10 men’s basketball matchup comes as high as it did Wednesday’s game against the University of North Carolina at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
It’s happened even less for the current group of Indiana students. On Wednesday morning, ahead of one of the most hyped Indiana games in years, more than 100 students arrived more than 12 hours early, hoping to grab the best seats in the assembly hall.
The first in line arrived at 7pm on Tuesday and set up deckchairs, inflatable mattresses and tarpaulins, enduring the rain and cold temperatures. They took turns going to Briscoe to warm up and go to the bathroom. They camped out at Starbucks, ordered Chick-Fil-A from DoorDash, and made ready meals in hopes of seeing Indiana’s basketball culture return.
“If we could win from this game, I think it could bring life back to campus and the student body,” said IU junior Brent Peterson.
Peterson and his friends arrived at 8 p.m. Tuesday, knowing how important Wednesday’s game would be. They were told not to pitch a tent, so they endured the inclement weather. IU Senior Daniel Larson said they only slept for about 20 minutes – enough to get them through the 9:15 p.m. tip.
[Related: BATTLE OF THE BLUE BLOODS: The recent history of Indiana and North Carolina men’s basketball]
Students skipped classes to arrive on time and avoid nosebleed seats. A student missed a group project and worked in line on an Excel spreadsheet while waiting. IU senior Monica Fronzcek passed a biochemistry exam to pass the time.
“I couldn’t sit here and do nothing,” Fronzcek said. “I have to do something.”
At Ticketmaster, the cheapest tickets cost $300 24 hours before the tip. General student admission tickets for sale at IU Classifieds fell a little closer to the $100 mark. The stadium is almost guaranteed to sell out, and Indiana Athletics has worked to ensure fans create a white-out environment.
“IU and UNC are historic basketball schools,” said IU Senior Blake Bilger. “IU hasn’t played anyone since Kentucky and the Watford shot (2011). It goes back to the roots of IU in the 80’s when all the big teams wanted to play at IU because we’re back.”
This senior class watched their team go unranked for 1,372 days until the AP Preseason Poll was released earlier this year. That streak, dating back to the AP’s first poll, is associated with the longest drought in the program’s history since Indiana went unrated between 2008 and 2011.
Wednesday evening could be something special. Sure, Indiana has beaten its share of ranked opponents in recent years — No. 17 Florida State University in 2019, No. 9 Penn State in 2020, and No. 4 Iowa in 2021.
But this? That could be different. This would be Indiana beating a very talented team, a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country just last week, but a team that Indiana has now ranked higher than expected and will beat. It wouldn’t be a surprise, only Indiana would take care of business on their home court against the reigning national runner-up.
It would also be the emergence of head coach Mike Woodson’s Hoosiers on the national stage, an announcement that this team can compete and make a deep run.
“This is another change in the program,” said IU senior Ariana Zdobylak. “Everyone knows UNC is a good program, so it would help Woody a lot. It’s only his second season, so he’s starting his own thing.”
This year things are different. Indiana is doing well and is back in the top 10 on the leaderboard ahead of Wednesday’s game. They are 6-0, have an average of 89 points per game and beat their opponents by an average of 30 points. They’ve gone through with their plan without conferences so far – which makes Wednesday’s matchup all the more intriguing.
With the recent slide in the rankings for North Carolina, which lost two games last week as the country’s No. and it won’t soften the atmosphere.
“[The plan is]to get scrappy,” said IU senior Devon Neth. “We always like to find someone on the other team and then everyone picks that kid and yells at him the whole game. We haven’t chosen one yet.”
Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz) and columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.