By Justin Suer
The Bermuda Triangle is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic between Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Over the years, a large number of aircraft and surface vessels have been mysteriously lost in this region.
The Hardwood Triangle is a region straddling southern Indiana and north-central Kentucky between Bloomington, Louisville, and Lexington.
At the vertices of this triangle lie three universities with rich basketball traditions.
Yet, with just two exceptions, since 1993, one or more of these accomplished basketball programs have been mysteriously missing from the Sweet 16.
Kentucky was absent eight times (40 percent).
Louisville was absent twelve times (60 percent).
Indiana was absent sixteen times (80 percent).
This season marks the first time since 1993 that the three corners of this triangle will advance to the NCAA Tournament’s round of sixteen.
Calbert Cheaney, Dwayne Morton, and Jamal Mashburn led the 1993 teams. Cody Zeller, Peyton Siva, and Anthony Davis lead this year’s triumvirate.
Louisville and Indiana faced off against each other in the 1993 Midwest Regional semi-final. Similarly, Kentucky and Indiana will face off against each other in the 2012 Regional semi-final.
New York City, in the 1950’s, supported three major league baseball clubs. New Yorkers either rooted for Willie Mays and the Giants, Duke Snider and the Dodgers, or Mickey Mantle and the Yankees.
A similar border phenomenon exists in the homes and communities near the center of the Hardwood Triangle. I’ve lived in the triangle for most of my adult life.
During the course of a day, I am assured of seeing flags, bumper stickers, hats, and t-shirts bearing the logo of Indiana, Kentucky, and Louisville.
This week, I am certain to chat with friends and co-workers who ally themselves with one or more of the illustrious programs.
In a span of five hours Saturday, all three teams advanced to the Sweet 16. Indiana barely survived the stifling defensive pressure of Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams.
Kentucky outscored the Iowa State Cyclones 45-29 in the final 16:32 to win 87-71. Louisville won 59-56 by holding New Mexico to 5 of 23 shooting from the three point line.
My Facebook timeline was lit up with posts by friends celebrating the victories of all three teams on Saturday night.
On the surface, the three programs are very different.
For all of their differences, however, there are a lot of similarities.
They all have a patriarch. Bob Knight, Adolph Rupp, and Denny Crum are widely considered to be the architects of their respective programs.
All have been to multiple final fours and have won multiple national championships. They all have a passionate fan base.
A recent Forbes article suggests that Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana are among the six most profitable basketball programs in America. Their leaders are charismatic, meticulous, and articulate. They have all suffered their ups and downs over the last thirty seasons.
Keep in mind, these three programs exist within 135 miles of one another. If you put three pit bulls in a confined space, there is bound to be some hot air. Twitter is already buzzing with tweets like these:
You may like John Mellencamp. You may prefer Ashley Judd. You may wear Red and Black. You may wear candy striped pants.
Whether you root for Big Blue Nation, the Cards, or the Cream and Crimson, one thing is indisputable.
March Madness is a lot more fun when all three programs are competitive and relevant.
I look forward to a week of ribbing, gab, yammer, blather, speculation, and banter with my Hardwood Triangle cohabitants.
About Justin Suer: Justin Suer, a former banker, is dean of the School of Business, Ivy Tech Community College. And you may not have guessed, but he’s an alumnus of Indiana University.