The Morning After: It’s a win, and I feel fine

The Indiana Hoosiers have not been an easy team to root for this season. In their 11-game losing streak and Big Ten winlessness, they’ve struggled to inspire much of anything in the way of interest, or intrigue, or emotion, really. (With the exception of the Michigan game, that is. That sucked.)

By far the most satisfying part of the season has been watching Tom Crean, watching him both on and off the court. Watching him handle his business, watch him coach every game like IU has a Final Four shot, watch him prod players along without showing even the slightest hint of frustration, watch him work a Chicago crowd into a veritable frenzy. All the while, his former team, Marquette, has been running roughshod over the best conference in college basketball; they might get a No. 1 NCAA Tourney seed. Until last night, it was a question as to whether or not IU would win a single game the rest of the season.

Ah, but win they did. Ryan predicted it (he downplays his predictive abilities, but the man has a gift), as did Devan Dumes and Tijan Jobe (whose new nickname should be “prophet.”) It felt like it was time, didn’t it? An awful Iowa team playing Indiana at home. Indiana seeming to, in its last few games, pull things together a bit more. Last night was the night.

It’s not about us, really, but I’m curious: After the game, how did you feel? Excited? Relieved? Anything? I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t overjoyed or thrilled or cathartically relieved like I assumed. I thought I would be jumping up and down, or something. Instead, I was just kind of pleased — glad to know the Hoosiers won’t go the entire season without a Big Ten win, that Crean’s and his players’ hard work was rewarded, at least for one night. Not overjoyed. Just happy. That’s good enough.

Of course, though the result was the same, there was plenty about the game that had 2008-09 Hoosiers written all over it. Let’s take a look:

SHON MORRIS

Just kidding. I’m not going to write about this dude anymore. The only thing worse than having to listen to him ruin a perfectly good IU win with non-sequitors and weirdness is stressing it too much the day after. Forget it.

TOM PRITCHARD, CORRELATION, AND CAUSATION

In all of IU’s Big Ten losses, Tom Pritchard played at least 24 minutes (and usually around 30), scored at least eight points, and, with the exception of IU’s loss to Northwestern, attempted at least eight field goals. Usually more. Last night, he played 14 minutes, attempted two shots, scored one, and that was that.

There’s no question Pritchard has been IU’s best player. This means nothing. It’s curious and funny to look at and it caught my eye this morning when I was looking at stats, but as they say, correlation does not equal causation. Pritchard playing few minutes last night was not why IU won. That would be funny, were it true. Alas, it is not.

(Note: Not that anyone actually thought this. Just pointing it out.)

DEVAN DUMES

Devan Dumes is Rex Grossman. Remember the “Good Rex, Bad Rex” thing he had going on in 2006, where he would be utterly brilliant for one game and then put up some of the worst, most incomprehensibly bad numbers the next? That’s like Dumes, except he does that every possession. Last night, he strung a really efficient, smart, incredibly well-shot game together, and he only turned the ball over twice. If he can re-create even a facsimile of that — maybe missing a few times, coming back down to Earth, whatever — and still protect the ball, he may have turned a corner. Maybe “Bad Devan” just needed a few games at the Big Ten level to get gone forever.

TEMPO-FREE IS THE WAY TO BE

(I don’t even know what that means.) Key to victory: Making shots and not turning the ball over. Seems simple enough. But usually IU is awful at both of those things, which is why they only score 91 points per 100 possessions (and that number is probably way lower during Big Ten play). Last night, they scored 1.7 points per possession, their best mark of the year and one so good that they didn’t need to really clamp down defensively. They allowed about as many points as they usually do. That mark will be difficult to keep up, but again, for one night, we’ll take it.

That’s my motto for Feb. 4, 2009: We’ll take it.

  • Gary

    I have to disagree with you. For me it has been VERY easy to root for this team. Have I been disappointed and discouraged at times–sure. But these kids (and coachs) have played their hearts out. Everytime I thought they could just give up (after UM, Minn, NW) they come back the next game with the same enthusiam and drive to win. Hard to root for??? You're nuts!!!!!

  • JerryCT

    Agree. I think he just hasty in his choice of words. I think he meant difficult to “cheer for” since we have had so few things to cheer about …..but we are all rooting for the team.

    I happen to like this team better than last year's ( except for DJ ). I also think Taber is going to be missed next year more than I ever thought possible. The attitude this team shows will be the foundation for the future development of our program

  • Dale

    ESPN said we stormed the court and made fun of us for it! Well, that definitely didn't happen! ESPN simply showed a clip of the boys celebrating with the fans in the student section after the game (not on the court!) and one of the announcers drew a VERY wrong conclusion!

  • Abs

    I feel fine, too. FWIW, IU's offensive efficiency in conference games is actually better than those 91 points per 100 possessions. It's right in line with their whole season adjusted efficiency of 96.7 (per kenpom).

    Tempo-Free Big Ten stats for conference games only can be found here: http://statlernwaldorfarena.blogspot.com/2009/0

  • Abs

    I feel fine, too. FWIW, IU's offensive efficiency in conference games is actually better than those 91 points per 100 possessions. It's right in line with their whole season adjusted efficiency of 96.7 (per kenpom).

    Tempo-Free Big Ten stats for conference games only can be found here: http://statlernwaldorfarena.blogspot.com/2009/0

  • dale11

    Dale! nice to see there are more Dales out there. We are a dying breed.

  • cooper

    Great game by Dumes, Williams has shown he is a very goodrebounder and all around player. He just has to show up and be more consistent which will happen with time. I don't think IU will miss Taber much at all. He played decent last night but IU needs more talent down low and needs someone athletic to complement Pritchard who is not.

  • Triple

    You say that IU this season has “struggled to inspire much of anything in the way of interest, or intrigue, or emotion, really”. Have you not experienced the five stages of grief, from denial all the way to acceptance, with regards to this IU team? I felt a lot of emotion early in the season as I passed through denial (wins), anger (losses) and bargaining (coming to terms with reality) stages. I continued to watch, but admit I did lose some interest for a span of five-six games, which I now recognize was my depression stage. But somewhere along the way in mid-late January I must have experienced acceptance. It’s true I no longer get as emotional (relative to past seasons) when IU loses, but my interest level is recovering and as far as intrigue…it’s actually a great word to describe my IU state of mind.

  • BFowler

    This team, I root for because they have met my criteria for a succesful season (and the fact that I need IU basketball in my otherwise mundane life). They have played extremely hard, they have improved, and they have had a great attitude the entire season. I see glimpses of talent and it looks like Coach Crean holds them accountable.

    I think Taber will be missed in that he seems to be in the right place at the right time quite a bit. When Kyle was guarding Gatens, Gatens did not play well, then Matt went off in the 2nd. But hopefully, some of the talent coming in next year (Elston, Capo, Watford) will make up for that intellgence, and some of the leadership next year will come from the elder statesmen (Dumes, Rivers, etc.).

    Pritch was not great last night, but he not a good matchup with anyone on the floor, and a smaller line-up was called for against that team anyway. That being said, I think Iowa is similar in terms of talent to IU, and had Tate been on the floor, it may have been a different game.

    I want to end this rant but complementing Devan Dumes. That shot he hit with about a minute to go took moxie (I would have used a different word here, but it is a family site). That was the kind of non-verbal leadership that instills confidence in the entire crew and you could feel the team in the minds say “we've got this now.” I will also say that he used screens better than anyone else on the floor and that was by far his best floor game overall. The only thing I could have done without is the chest-pounding after making a shot. I still don't get that “look-at-me” mentality when it was Nick Williams (screen) and VJIII (assist) who set you up…..just my 2 cents.

  • MikeyD

    IU will be featured on College Gameday Sat @11. Should be interesting. Isn't Bobby on that program now? Either way, it will be interesting to see which angle they take. BTW, I love this team. Could be an interesting B10 tourney…seriously (no rose colored glasses here). I really feel IU will be at least a “light-heavyweight” contender in 2 more seasons.

  • tsell

    Pritchard not playing as much equals more usage for better offensive players (at least last few games) Roth and Dumes.

  • MikeyD

    IU will be featured on College Gameday Sat @11. Should be interesting. Isn't Bobby on that program now? Either way, it will be interesting to see which angle they take. BTW, I love this team. Could be an interesting B10 tourney…seriously (no rose colored glasses here). I really feel IU will be at least a “light-heavyweight” contender in 2 more seasons.

  • tsell

    Pritchard not playing as much equals more usage for better offensive players (at least last few games) Roth and Dumes.

  • Jim

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