When Indiana's Christian Watford sunk a game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knock off No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday, it validated the Hoosiers' return to prominance in the college basketball world.
The shot was as big as any, coming on national television and keeping Indiana undefeated while giving the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Immediately after the buzzer sounded and the ball went through the twine, the students poured on the court to embrace the win and the team.
Every student who chooses a school for a big-time sports atmosphere wants a chance to rush the field of play after an enormous upset. It is one of the purest moments in sports, letting everything go and leaving it all out there after an exhilarating victory.
But due to the frequency in which college students and fans have rushed onto the field of play, what once was a rarity has lost its flair. It has become commonplace after almost any home team gets a big win.
Indiana is one of the most successful schools in college basketball history. The Hoosiers have won five national championships and reached the Final Four eight times, which is seventh-most among all schools. With countless All-America selections and one of the best coaches the game has ever seen in Bob Knight, Indiana has been there before.
Kentucky is one of its longtime rivals, and the Hoosiers were undoubtedly underdogs coming into the game, but this was no David vs. Goliath matchup. It was expected to be a good game. While the win was big, it wasn't rush-the-court worthy.
Another Big Ten Conference member, Michigan, is guilty of the same offense, rushing the field after defeating Ohio State in its regular-season finale in Ann Arbor, Mich. Yes, it is perhaps the biggest rivalry in college football and the Wolverines hadn't beaten the Buckeyes since 2003, but they were clearly the favorites coming into the game. In fact, had Michigan lost, it would have been a disaster, as it would have cost itself a BCS bowl bid.
This is the same sport in which players are barely allowed to celebrate after scoring a touchdown. These collegiate athletes are expected to act professionally and routinely jog off the field following a score, yet when the the game ends, thousands of fans come streaming onto the field after a routine win.
It is understandable that students at big-time sports schools want to celebrate victories. If you go to a school in the SEC or Big Ten, though, and you have a long, storied history, you're a big dog. Your school brings in the most sought-after, top-notch recruits from around the country, you have the facilities that rival a professional sports franchise, and you probably have a coach who has achieved a lot of success in his career. You're expected to win. That's just the way it is.
There is definitely a place for these types of celebrations, but they are better saved for small, mid-major schools. If a school from the Horizon or Sun Belt conference picked off a No. 1 team, for instance, not only would the celebration be warranted, but necessary to effectively capture the moment.
As with anything else, too much can be a bad thing. But if done just right, storming the field of play can create memorable experiences that last a lifetime.
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