Colby Knerr arrived at Assembly Hall with a sleeping bag, folding chair and enough food for two meals. It was 7 p.m. Thursday. Hoosier Hysteria tipped off in 24 hours.
“This is incredible,” Knerr, a ‘72 IU grad, said from his folding chair at the front of the Hoosier Hysteria line Friday afternoon. “Oh my god, I’ve been waiting six months for this moment, this is exciting.”
Friday night Indiana basketball fans packed into Assembly Hall for the first public look at both the men’s and women’s teams. Hysteria is a tradition for many fans.
“It’s who we are and what we do,” IU fan Katy Stepp said. “The tradition and getting to share it with my family, I used to go to games when I was 10 with my dad.”
Stepp made the three-hour trip down from Fort Wayne with her son James to join the line at 11:30 a.m. Her dad was coming to join them from Tennessee.
For Knerr, by his approximation, Friday was his 18th time in the past 21 years he’s been first in line for Hoosier Hysteria. So long, in fact, he remembers camping out for Hysteria and Bob Knight leaving Assembly Hall to find Knerr in a sleeping bag. Knerr’s effort earned him a signed photo from the former IU coach.
But this year felt a little different for everyone in line Friday afternoon.
“It’s a big deal. I think it’ll be their best season in a long time,” freshman Tyler Wos said.
For students it is the first of many long waits outside Assembly Hall. They started lining up at noon on Friday with doors opening at 5:45 p.m. for a 7 p.m. start.
“I’ve been a fan since I’ve been a kid. It means a lot, it’s part of being from Indiana,” sophomore Addi Ruby said. Her group of friends were first in the student line to enter Hysteria.
Nearly the entire lower bowl of Assembly Hall was full for a raucous atmosphere of player intros, speeches by both Mike Woodson and Teri Moren and a post-event concert by hip-hop artist G Herbo.
Miller Kopp and Chloe Moore-McNeil won the 3-point contest while Race Thompson, Mackenzie Holmes and former IU forward Collin Hartman won the skills competition. Reggie Bush, in town for FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff show, hit a few 3s and even Snoop Dogg had a video message for IU basketball.
But all everyone could talk about is how high IU men’s basketball could fly this season.
“I would say regular season championship for sure,” Wos said. “I would say final four and national championship is nice… at least Sweet Sixteen.”
And what does Mike Woodson think is next?
“A Big Ten title and a national title,” he said to the Cream and Crimson crowd Friday night.
He has instilled trust in those waiting outside Assembly Hall on this October Friday.
“He has put a lot of emphasis on being a team, holding each other up and responsible as a team as opposed to having stars,” Stepp said.
Meanwhile, Knerr lounged in his lawn chair working on some word games on a sheet of paper. He couldn’t play Scrabble on his tablet without wi-fi. But in line with many fans he has come to know for being with him outside Assembly Hall every October there was plenty of conversation material.
“You’ve got people coming back that are great teachers but you’ve got these babes,” Knerr said. “It’s like watching babies grow up right in front of you on the IU court.”
Babes such as highly touted freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who threw an alley-oop to Trayce Jackson-Davis in the men’s brief scrimmage to conclude Hysteria.
Indiana men’s basketball fans have lost a great deal of sleep in recent years with inconsistent play. But maybe Knerr’s night in 40-degree temperatures on the steps of Assembly Hall is a good sign for the Hoosier faithful.
“[I] slept well,” Knerr said. “It’s been great.”