Indiana left Washington in a dour mood.
Tom Crean knows his team can't afford to let it linger if it intends to continue chasing another national championship banner.
After falling two wins short of their own expectations, making their first Final Four trip 2002, the Hoosiers headed home after Thursday's stinging loss to Syracuse trying to keep this loss in perspective.
"These guys have done a fantastic job. There will be a time to celebrate them, but they've done things that have not been done in Indiana in a long, long time, and they did it from scratch," coach Tom Crean said. "When we look at that, we will feel good about that and there are a lot of things to celebrate for them."
Certainly the three seniors who helped Indiana rebound from a 6-win season the year before their arrival and the teammates who helped put the Hoosiers back on the national college basketball map have plenty of memorable moments -- Christian Watford's buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Kentucky, the school's first outright Big Ten title in two decades, the most weeks of any team in the No. 1 spot all season.
But disappointed Hoosiers fans are already pondering what the future might hold.
There are plenty of questions heading into the offseason, including whether 7-foot sophomore Cody Zeller and 6-foot-5 defensive stopper Victor Oladipo will leave school early for the NBA. Both are projected to be top 10 picks in June's draft, and if they do declare, they could improve their draft stock during pre-draft workouts. Crean has promised to provide both players with the best advice he can get from NBA scouts, though neither Zeller or Oladipo was prepared to talk about his future Thursday night.
"I've been focused on Indiana Hoosier basketball and I loved playing with these guys, and I've enjoyed the ride," Oladipo said. "I'm never going to forget this team, the players on this team, this coaching staff, anything. That's all I've really been thinking about."
If they do leave, the Hoosiers have some replacement parts in place such as tough-guy forward Will Sheehey, highly-touted freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea and backup guard Remy Abell. They also can build around another strong class of incoming freshmen.
If Zeller and Oladipo stay, as most Indiana fans hope, Crean and his staff will face a different kind of quandary - trying to fit a six-man recruiting class into just three open spots. Crean has repeatedly indicated he has a contingency plan in place though he has not elaborated about it publicly.
The Hoosiers and their fans just didn't think they'd be facing this dilemma until sometime in April, but their worst performance of the season came at exactly the wrong moment and against Syracuse's zone defense that exposed some of the flaws Indiana must get fixed if they intend to make a deeper tourney run next season.
On Thursday, Indiana finished with more turnovers (19) than baskets (16) and a season-low point total in the 61-50 loss. Afterward, Crean explained the Hoosiers and point guard Yogi Ferrell, in particular, had never a zone that played quite that way.
"We got tentative because we kept trying to put the ball in from places that it just wasn't going to come from there, it had to come more from the wing, so he will learn from it," Crean said when asked about Ferrell. "He will be a great learner from it."
Still, the Hoosiers (29-7) have a solid foundation to build around following a season full of accomplishments.
They started the season ranked No. 1 for only the third time in school history and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for only the third time in school history, too.
Indiana won more than 25 games in back-to-back years for the first time since 1991-92 and 1992-93. It reached the regional semifinals in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1993 and 1994.
And, of course, the three seniors -- Watford, Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston -- who came in when the cupboard was bare and turned a reeling program back into a national contender.
None of that will be forgotten.
"It's been full of up's and down's but I wouldn't trade it for the world," Watford said when asked to describe his career at Indiana. "I love my teammates, and I'm happy to be an Indiana Hoosier."
Even if the final chapter ended a little earlier than anybody expected.
"Well, we have had a heck of a ride with this group, and it doesn't feel like that tonight, won't feel like that for a couple of days, maybe longer," Crean said. "But the bottom line is that this program has come from so far and I hope at some point in time, the seniors, the guys on this team will remember that they did things that hadn't been done first off in 20 years at Indiana but more importantly there are not any programs, whether it be Syracuse, Kentucky, Carolina, Duke, you name it that are the blue-blood programs of the country that have had to endure what these guys have had to endure. They have done it with perseverance, toughness, and improvement and they have done it with great class and they will all be better for it."
Indiana left Washington in a dour mood.
- The "Z" Watch
Cavs agree to multiplayer, 3-team trade
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers have created salary cap space to make sure they have enough to offer LeBron James a maximum contract. A person familiar with the deals says the Cavs have agreed to trade guard Jarrett Jack, swingman Sergey Karasev and c
Clifford: Hornets need to get bigger to get better
Steve Clifford said the Hornets need to get bigger before they get better.
Charlotte's second-year coach expects the team to address its lack of height in the NBA draft Thursday night or in free agency next month. The Hornets own the ninth, 24th and 45th overall picks and have more than $16 million available to spend under the salary cap.
Jordan: Hornets in position to upgrade the roster
Michael Jordan anticipates the Charlotte Hornets will make another big splash this offseason.
Jordan said Monday with three draft picks and more than $13 million to spend in free agency the Hornets are in position to make a "big difference" in upgrading their roster.
- Bobcats coach Clifford needs heart procedure
Bobcats beat Cavs in first Zeller vs. Zeller matchup
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Kemba Walker admits there's always a little extra incentive when he goes up against Kyrie Irving.
Bobcats thrilled with rookie Cody Zeller's play
Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said he needs rookie Cody Zeller to play well in order for his team to improve.
At the same time Clifford wants the 7-footer to ease into his pro career and not feel the weight of expectations of a player picked fourth overall in last summer's NBA draft out of Indiana.
Zeller-less Indiana holds annual Hoosier Hysteria
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Amid all the smoke and music, Indiana put aside the excitement of a new basketball season to look back one more time at a year of achievement.
Bobcats coach Clifford says rebounding a concern
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said despite adding two big men to the roster this offseason, rebounding remains his biggest concern as the team prepares to open training camp Tuesday in Asheville, N.C.
Bobcats feel they're headed in right direction
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Rod Higgins believes the Charlotte Bobcats are a team on the rise.
Bobcats' Zeller says he can be perimeter threat
Cody Zeller has confidence he can be a perimeter threat as well as a low-post presence for the Charlotte Bobcats.
But he might need a quick refresher course on his jump shot first.
- More The "Z" Watch Headlines
- Cavs agree to multiplayer, 3-team trade