O'Neil: Catharsis for Tom Crean and Indiana

This was the view from Dana O'Neil's seat as the Assembly Hall crowd celebrated the landmark win. Courtesy Dana O'Neil

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Surrounded by security guards as he circumnavigated through the bowels of Assembly Hall, Tom Crean stopped every fourth or fifth step.

First there was a hug for his wife, Joani. A fan walking by needed a high-five. Then it was a crowd of students with camera phones, asking for pictures, screaming, 'We love you, Coach Crean,' and another begging for his hat to be signed.

While a party three long years in the making still raged on the court, the private celebration for Crean was muted by comparison but every bit as meaningful.

Crean came to Indiana on the dreams and visions of what the program used to be, convinced it could be rebuilt and that he could be the architect.

But dreams sometimes don't come true, and as the building came more incrementally than even diehard Hoosier fans could stomach -- from six wins to 10 to 12 -- the visions grew a little cloudier with each passing season.

And then Christian Watford hit a 3-pointer for the ages, a stunning buzzer-beater that, in the blink of an eye, sent No. 1 Kentucky to its first loss, 73-72, and signaled Indiana's return to the national basketball conscience.

For Dana O'Neil's complete column, click here.