Indiana Basketball: Ranking the 5 Greatest Shots in Hoosiers History

Kyle Grand@@KyleGrandFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2013

Indiana Basketball: Ranking the 5 Greatest Shots in Hoosiers History

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    There isn't a doubt that Indiana basketball has a storied history. Five national championships and a multitude of Big Ten titles make IU one of college basketball's elite programs. 

    Throughout this winning tradition, there have been plenty of important games, moments and shots. This slideshow will examine and rank the five greatest Hoosier shots in history.

    The shots were ranked based on who the opponent was, the stakes of the game and the importance of the shot to the Indiana program. 

5. Cody Zeller vs. No. 7 Michigan, March 10, 2013

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    When the Hoosiers showed up in Ann Arbor last season, they were looking for their first outright regular-season Big Ten title since 1993. For a program like IU's, not winning the conference outright for 20 years seemed like an eternity. 

    The game went back and forth between the two conference foes. Michigan could sense victory as it led by five points with only a minute to play. Cody Zeller then sprang into action, erasing the deficit by scoring the game's final six points. His last shot (go to 3:20 above) gave the Hoosiers a one-point lead and the Big Ten title they were searching for. 

    The shot created an important milestone for Indiana basketball. Players like Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo came to a program that looked like it would never have a shot at a Big Ten title after the Kelvin Sampson saga.

    Zeller's shot brought Indiana back to the top of the Big Ten. This Big Ten title, though, was much more important than all of IU's others, considering the circumstances that preceded it.

4. Kirk Haston vs. No. 1 Michigan State, January 7, 2001

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    Michigan State was the defending national champion and No. 1-ranked team in January 2001. The Spartans had won 23 straight games, dating back to the previous season. At the time, it was the nation's longest winning streak.

    Indiana was down by two when Kirk Haston made a three-pointer at the buzzer. 

    The shot is significant because of the opponent. Michigan State was the class of college basketball at the time. Haston's shot ended an impressive streak and reminded the country how tough it was for visiting teams to win in Assembly Hall.

3. Bobby Leonard vs. Kansas, 1953 NCAA Tournament Championship Game

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    Indiana's 1952-53 squad made it to the NCAA tournament championship game where it faced the Kansas University Jayhawks. Kansas was the defending national champion. 

    The two teams battled in an intense game that came down to the final seconds. With 27 seconds left and the score tied at 68, Indiana's Bobby Leonard was fouled. Leonard missed the first free throw but made the second. Kansas had one final possession but missed a last-second shot.

    Leonard's free throw gave Indiana its second national championship. 

2. Christian Watford vs. No. 1 Kentucky, December 10, 2011

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    When No. 1 Kentucky showed up to face the Hoosiers, both teams were undefeated. It was much more surprising for Indiana to be undefeated, considering the program was supposed to still be rebuilding from the Kelvin Sampson era.

    To officially say the program was back, Indiana needed a signature win. When Chrisitan Watford's shot went down, IU had the win it desired.

    The shot by Watford catapulted IU into the AP Top 25 and back onto the national scene. The Hoosiers were back.

    Watford's shot began the next age of Indiana basketball. It's so important to the program because of what has happened after it. 

    That season, IU made the NCAA tournament and got to the Sweet 16, an awesome accomplishment considering it had only won 12 games the season before. Last season, IU earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Recruiting has improved drastically, evidenced by Indiana's last two recruiting classes.

    So, while the shot might have occurred during a regular-season, nonconference game, the opponent was a big rival that was ranked No. 1, and it marked the return of Indiana basketball back to national prominence.

1. Keith Smart vs. Syracuse, 1987 NCAA Tournament Championship Game

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    It's pretty simple to see why this shot is No. 1 on the list. Keith Smart's jump shot won Indiana the 1987 national championship. 

    Smart's shot gave Indiana its fifth national championship, which is tied for third most all time. 

    Smart's game-winner is the defining shot of the program. Because of the stage, situation and stakes, it's the easy choice for the greatest shot in IU history.