Have you experienced your Victor Oladipo Conversion Moment yet? It's when you watch the play that makes you realize that no one in college basketball is more exciting than the junior Indiana guard from Maryland. Every year, there's one player in college hoops who inspires such a conversion—think Jimmer Fredette or Kemba Walker—and this year it's Oladipo.
My Oladipo moment came a few weeks ago, when the Hoosiers knocked off then-No. 1 Michigan, and Oladipo failed to convert this alley-oop from Jordan Hulls on the fast break in the second half. Missed alley-oops are not generally revelatory moments, but missed alley-oops don't generally begin with an arm cocked back at the three-point line and a 180-degree arm rotation before the throw-down. That oop makes you gasp and it didn't even go in.
"Think I need to do a few more squats," Oladipo said after that game. "I don't know how I missed. I was so close."
But your Oladipo moment could just as easily have come in the first half of that Michigan win, when Oladipo froze his defender on the left wing, sliced through the paint, and threw down hard enough to make Dick Vitale call him "a mini version of a kid that played at North Carolina—a mini version of a number 23!"
(He was talking about Michael Jordan.)
Or maybe your Oladipo moment came last night, when he took over in the final stretch against Michigan State and helped the Hoosiers to a 72-68 win. He scored six points in the final minute of the game and finished with 19 points, 9 boards, and 5 steals. (There was also this block. And this out of bounds trickery. And this drive. Take your pick.) He did all this coming off of an ankle sprain, and Tom Crean told reporters after the game that his guard "wasn't even close" to 100 percent.
Oladipo is an explosive slasher, to put it mildly, and also a hell of an on-ball defender. As our Watchability expert noted recently, he's thrilling enough in man-to-man match-ups to warrant a defensive highlight reel, and one that you'll actually sit through. He swipes and paws on defense like an impatient toddler—he's averaging 2.4 steals a game—and no one's stopping him once he gets his first step into the paint. It's those plays, when he gives a little shoulder shake on the move and ties up his defender, that will convert you.
The fawning can't be helped. Here's ESPN's Eamonn Brennan on last night's game in Lansing:
And then there's Oladipo. Just two days after Indiana's do-everything junior sprained his ankle in a win over Purdue, there he was opening the game with cannon-shot drives to the rim, ruining passing lanes with chaos-inducing defensive hands, chasing back for crowd-silencing fast-break blocks, using crossover dribbles capable of putting even good perimeter defenders — in this instance, Keith Appling — at risk of their own ankle damage. There was Oladipo looking like the best player on the floor no matter what he did, which is probably most succinctly described as "everything."
When asked to name the difference between 2012's surprisingly good IU team and the title-or-bust 2013 edition, Tom Izzo's first-instinct response was exactly one word: "Oladipo."
Someone's had his moment.