It’s just the season of The Pritch

  • 02/03/2011 8:02 am in

Watch that again. Watch it again. You know you want to.

OK, now pay attention.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON????

Well, actually, I’ll tell you what’s going on. Indiana, and in this particular instance, Tom Pritchard, is figuring it out.

‘It,’ that elusive one-word coach’s answer when explaining the inexplicable, when praising or complaining about everything and nothing at the same time.

There have been moments for Indiana, just as there have been moments for Tom Pritchard, when the hustle and the head finally met, when all the necessary factors — positioning, awareness, whatever — came together to make one impressive moment of basketball.

More often than not, only some of the aforementioned necessities showed, creating an awkward scene, like someone getting stood up before prom.

Over the last three games, however, these moments have suddenly been in steady supply.

Walk yourself through that video, frame by frame. It’s not just Pritchard’s put-back dunk. It’s Verdell Jones’ shot, which wasn’t a terrible one. It’s Pritchard and Bobby Capobianco crashing the boards, Capobianco in particular firmly bodying up Ralph Sampson III. It’s Victor Oladipo and Daniel Moore turning to move back and stop anything in transition. It’s a well-executed basketball play.

Wednesday night, Tom Pritchard knocked in 12 points and seven rebounds. Of the seven shots he took (five field goals and two free throws), he missed none. He had more offensive rebounds (4) than defensive (3).

“He’s playing major minutes, he’s got a lot of responsibilities, because we were mixing defenses tonight,” Tom Crean said of Pritchard after the game. “He took a mindset that he was going to try and dunk everything, and he darn near did.”

For the evening, Indiana shot below 40 percent from the floor and hit just 5-of-24 3-point shots. Jordan Hulls scored eight points. Christian Watford took in the game with his arm in a sling.

And yet, Indiana turned the ball over a paltry nine times, forced a worse overall field-goal percentage out of their opponent and had Blake Hoffarber, one of the conference’s best shooters, frustrated to the point of physical confrontation.

For most of Wednesday night, Tom Pritchard was arguably the best player on the floor, in terms of intensity and performance at both ends. For most of Wednesday night, Indiana was the best team on the floor, by almost every metric.

Make no mistake, these last three games have not been by coincidence. One win could be explained. A second successive strong performance is hard to ignore. But Indiana has been faced with two ranked teams and another immensely talented one in the last six days, and it has coming within one Jeremiah Rivers free throw of a three-game Big Ten winning streak, all done without some combination of Maurice Creek and either Christian Watford or Verdell Jones.

“It’s defensive intensity, I think, you know, everybody’s on the same page, communication has gone way up,” Pritchard said when asked what has changed between the embarrassment at Iowa and Wednesday night. “Maturity’s big right now. I mean, it’s just, everybody’s on the same page right now, and our defense, when we really bear down and lock down, it’s a pretty good defense.”

It’s not the most succinct answer, but it’ll do — Indiana has reached a new level of total team effort and understanding. It’s not Dao-ist philosophy, or some kind of vision quest finally revealed. Indiana has simply begun to discover how to harness and employ the tools that make it a better basketball team, and good performances are following thusly.

Wednesday night, Tom Pritchard wasn’t Tom Pritchard. He was The Pritch. And his team was no longer an also-ran. It was a unit capable of beating a Top 25 team, and making it look like they were supposed to.

Filed to:

  • Anonymous

    Not sure if the early schedule is to blame for that or not. Remember two of our toughest non-conference games were just prior to conference play, so that would seem to indicate starting with the easiest and working your way up the ladder (minus the Kentucky game, which was fairly early.)

    I would agree with Aceman, though, I’d assume the greater the level of talent gets the stronger the schedule will become.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know if I’d want to try to zone a team that could potentially have Hulls at the point flanked by Creek and Etherington, either.

  • Anonymous

    Dude, it was surreal. When you watch it here you know it’s coming and it’s still impressive, but when watching the game in real time he just virtually came from nowhere. It’s going to be a play I’ll (and I’d bet most of us,) will remember the rest of our lives.
    Not sure of your age, but it reminded me more than anything of the 1990 Sweet Sixteen game between Ball State and UNLV (the only game that tournament where anyone managed to not suffer a double-digit loss to UNLV) when Chandler Thompson flew past Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon.

  • Anonymous

    Let me correct myself, UNLV won that game by 2, but Georgia Tech played them to a 9-point game in the Final Four.

  • Anonymous

    With this dunk, 2 years of frustration have been swept away (hopefully). The Pritch has been very steady all year and could almost be classified as a leader to some degree. Maybe these last couple of games, and this dunk, will propel him to be the player a few of us thought he could be from here on out.

  • Anonymous

    Pritch was my hero tonight for a completely different reason. My 11-year old daughter is playing on her school’s AAU team, and is one of only 2 on the team who didn’t make the regular season team, so she’s behind in her development as a player. She’s been complaining that “nobody ever throws me the ball,” and I’ve been trying to tell her that scoring may not be her job; “just focus on rebounding and defense and your points will come eventually.”
    Lo and behold, here comes ol’ #25 from every angle on the court, and as she sat next to me I was able to say, “See, Pritchard’s got 12 points and I don’t think they’ve thrown him more than one pass that led to a basket yet. If you want the ball, go get the damn thing yourself!”

  • Anonymous

    Unless Ohio State enters the conference tournament undefeated, I don’t see them having a reason to care about whether they win it or not. They pretty much have a #1 seed sewn up if they don’t fall flat on their faces from here on out.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for pointing out Capobianco’s contributions, too. He’s kind of gotten lost in the shuffle after the game Pritchard put up, but he was pretty solid in his own right.

  • Anonymous

    It’s crazy that a couple weeks ago a lot of us were talking about a lack of leadership on the team then all of a sudden it seems like everyone is trying to take on the role. A lot more communication on offense and defense and players are getting in each others ears after bad plays or when plays aren’t ran right. I enjoyed seeing Sheehey and Elston go back and forth a little after a certain play last night – Sheehey stood his ground and Elston seemed to take in what he was saying. To me that shows that the freshmen have just as much importance and say on the team than the classes above them and no one is putting themselves above anyone else.

  • InTheMtns

    Well, I don’t have a clip but I just listened to it again and can give you a transcript.

    As Jones gets the pass from Capo with 12 seconds on the shot clock, Fisch says . . .

    “Bobby now gives it back out to Verdell with 12 on the shot clock. Now, Jones, normally with 10 on the shot clock, you know he’s going to try going one-on-one. He pulls up and fires and rims it no good, BUT – THERE is Tom PRITCHARD with a stuff! (a little disbelief in his voice on the word “stuff.”) His THIRD BASKET off a rebound tonight! He’s got his 8th point of the ball game. He’s equaled his season high.”

    He was excited but he was actually more excited on Pritchard’s second tip-in a couple plays before where he finished his exclamation with “WOW”. During a lull after the tomahawk dunk by Pritch, Royce noted that, “That follow by Tom, I mean, ignited this crowd. That was not a little tip-in. He hammered that down.”

    A clip synched to Fisch’s call might be pretty neat, but how can you beat the wildly excited and undecipherable call by Quinn?

  • Kelin Blab

    I was a little worried that D. Moore would get abused defensively but minny’s guards could not lose the guy and played as good of D on that final shot as you can get.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah probably true overall, I’d be hoping more for the random writer trying to make a point after all those ranked teams lost last week and we beat 3 ranked teams (okay it was 2 but almost 3).

  • Anonymous

    Just out of curiosity, where are those other Big Ten wins coming from?

  • Anonymous

    Jerry, I’ve been wondering all day how you’ll respond to the surge in Pritchard man-crushes. Jealousy? Pride? Vindication? A feeling that you can now move on to defend Daniel Moore’s role on the team?

    I’m really curious as to where things go from here….

  • Anonymous

    you can flip the PF and C. Zeller will likely play the 4 spot and Pritchard fill the 5.

  • Anonymous

    I’m afraid we’d fall in the same category as Virginia Tech last year…decent conference run without strong non-conference resume. Doesn’t help that the BigTen seems to be increasingly viewed as a distant second to the Big East, who’s looking at possibly 10-11 (!) bids.

    But then again, D-1 as a whole is down this year and there are a dearth of teams looking worthy of an NCAA bid. And every other power conference is down this season.

  • Anonymous

    I think Iowa and NW at home and @ UM are circled right now, but that gets us to 6 wins. Truth be told, we will probably win a couple of those, but not all. We MAY be able to pick off PU or UW in Bloomington also.

    Still, while I think we have been playing much better, I think any scenario that involves IU making the NCAA tourney without running the table in the Big Ten tourney is exceedingly unlikely. Not trying to be a pessimist…just being realistic. I’d be ECSTATIC with an NIT berth.

  • JerryCT

    Ha Ha ! You are correct .

    I need to remind people that ” I was here first”. Well now that the entire fan base has come to their senses about him …… like a wounded little robin that has been nursed back to health ……….. I have to let him go.

    I hope Pritchard no longer needs my eyedroppers of support. Isolate on him sometime and you will see even more good things.

    I have been supporting Moore’s ball denial of Hoffarber and replayed the game to see how much hyperbole can still be reasonably true. Not done yet.

    Aw hell, why don’t I just leapfrog on over to Jeff Howard

  • JerryCT

    Ha Ha ! You are correct .

    I need to remind people that ” I was here first”. Well now that the entire fan base has come to their senses about him …… like a wounded little robin that has been nursed back to health ……….. I have to let him go.

    I hope Pritchard no longer needs my eyedroppers of support. Isolate on him sometime and you will see even more good things.

    I have been supporting Moore’s ball denial of Hoffarber and replayed the game to see how much hyperbole can still be reasonably true. Not done yet.

    Aw hell, why don’t I just leapfrog on over to Jeff Howard

  • HoosierDavey

    Pritch Fever sweeping ESPN…dunk just got a minute on PTI. Kornheiser and Wilbon agree that IU is “turning the corner.” Nice to see that we are getting positive national recognition again

  • GFDave

    Yeah, I saw that too. Second week in a row that IU got PTI love.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Man, I would be ecstatic with 3 weeks! I’d take by the last regular season game to give him one game to regain his legs before the B10 tourney!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Yeah, that’s what I meant by they could swap on D. I think Zeller will guard the 4 and TP the 5 but I actually think Zeller and TP will be forwards in the offense and there will be no center so that’s sort of a moot point. Both will probably do the exact same thing on offense.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Alright! Let’s hope that CTC is right and CWat can come back for the NW game like he hopes! That would mean he’d be around for the PUke game at home as well as Wisconsin at home and Illinois on the road. Honestly I think this team can still beat Iowa at home and Michigan on the road. That would put us at 5-8. I think we can beat PUke at home, Wisconsin at home, and NW at home. That gets us to 8 wins! I would be thrilled with 7. Shoot, I wouldn’t be disappointed with 6 with all that’s happened this season but a good season is still not out of reach!

  • HoosierSmitty

    Honestly, Pritchard’s reaction afterward is just as priceless. I love the intensity on his face as he yells. Perhaps even better is that he waited until he was back on defense to do it…almost like he was just as shocked as the rest of us that he just redefined what a dunk could be…and then it finally sunk in.

  • HoosierSmitty

    You should get bonus points …. one for the dunk and one for having the guts to pick him.

  • HoosierSmitty

    I agree, but given the Big Ten’s depth, there’s basically no team you want to see. Iowa and Michigan have nice wins on the resume and Penn State has certainly proven it’s not a slouch. Northwestern is dangerous and with Indiana, those are the bottom five teams (at least in terms of perception). Then you’re dealing with Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, and Minnesota in the top half of the Big Ten.

  • HoosierSmitty

    Given the short turnaround, I’m nervous about Saturday. How has Iowa fared on the road?

  • He made SportsNation on the 2nd Cheer….of course, they put Griffon’s on as the 3rd Cheer, but he still got a bit more advertising. (:

  • PTI……???

  • eph521

    This video makes me laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Pure joy. Dunk of the year. Amazing. Hearing Buckner with his jolly ol laugh makes it even more funny.

    I have sent this to my Dad, my sister, my boss (read wife), my local congressman, President Obama and to all 5 Hour Energy addicts…this is a true pick me up.

  • Anonymous

    Pardon the Interruption, show with Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, 2 pretty damn good journalists imo.

  • InTheMtns

    They’ve lost by 10 or more in every road game in the B1G. Non-conference, they won one in an early tournament away from home and they beat Drake at Drake. They are 2-8 (9-13).

  • Anonymous

    Tom Pritchard has made Deadspin.com (the blog that broke the Brett Favre/Jenn Sterger story).

    Don’t get upset at the comments, though. Deadspin is part of the Gawker network, so of course the commenters mostly make fun of his t-shirt under the jersey, the fact that he plays for Indiana, and his skin color.

    Still, it’s nice to be in the public eye for something other than “the fall from grace” or “rebuilding from the fall.”

    And the stupid commenters? Won’t stop Tom. He loves his haters.

    LINK: http://deadspin.com/5751080/heres-a-video-of-someone-dunking-who-is-not-blake-griffin

  • cooper

    It was a great play by TP, who I’ve ripped and I think rightfully so for his play. He finally played a game like he did as a freshman. I hope he can follow it up with a few more.

    Another player who has played well is Roth. I didn’t think he could handle playing D but so far he has been adequate.

    It was a great win that needs to be followed up with a few more

  • joe

    The only thing a harder preseason schedule would have produced THIS year was additional L’s. The PSU opening loss doesn’t look that bad at this point and the team played bad at NW and Iowa. A harder schedule does not remedy any of the aforementioned L’s IMO.

  • Anonymous

    As a regular Deadspin reader, I was happy to see The Pritch get on there. And like you said, the commenters tend to make fun of everything, not so much out of mean spirit but rather as an ongoing attempt to be funnier than the last guy.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah but to be honest, the Ginger has been writing like this in practice all year. He throws down posts like this on a regular basis during drills. I mean, we all knew he had it in him and were just waiting to see him do it when it counts. We all had faith in the guy.

  • defendtherock

    Is this really the difference between a confident player, and one who isn’t Surely it has to be more than that right? Tom was our main option during his freshman year, and then when the offense didnt start with him on the post getting the ball, he must have lost his way. I am really glad he seems to be having fun again out there. Most of the team seems to be having fun again. I just hope Christian gets healthy and comes back strong for that Michigan game or at least the NW game. That week will make or break us for postseason. I want to beat Purdouche so bad, and I know this team can do it.

    I really think a large part of our recent success is that Jordy is finally understanding how aggressive he has to be. Pritch and Roth as well for that matter, it is much more difficult to guard people who are looking to score.

    Hey Milla…errr Bullwinkle, isn’t it more fun to rant on here about good things? I mean, I’m not reading any name calling or heated conversations at all. Now, the streaking convo was unfortunate and pretty much disgusting but we can never really hold the thoughts of a giddy fan completely against them.

  • Anonymous

    Fair enough. I wasn’t sure if you were stupid or just wishful, it’s clearly the latter (what do I know, maybe you’re stupid too!). I definitely agree though that we have 5 games that certainly “could” be wins. Highly unlikely that we don’t falter in at least one of them (or more), but they’re all within the realm of possibility. Clearly this team can lose absolutely any game if it doesn’t come out ready to play, but they’ve also got the potential and lately the toughness to win games it shouldn’t. Here’s to wishful thinking!

  • MillaRed

    Yes but we have The Pritch! There is no stopping us now!

  • MillaRed

    Marcus if your daughter throws down one of those Space Jam dunks a la The Pritch, I guarantee her playing time will increase immediately.

    A good father would teach her this dunk.

  • MillaRed

    I think Pritch for the most part is quiet during the games but he is no doubt a leader. It has been mentioned many times he has that sleeping giant mentality and you don’t want to P him off. Pretty sure they think he will break their necks.

    I mentioned at the Wisconsin game during one of the TV timeouts in the huddle, Pritch was fired up. He was beating his chest and everyone got the H out of the way. Someone got lost on defense and we was not happy when the coaches asked him about it. I was liking the passion.

  • MillaRed

    We don’t talk about it much and in turn may not give Coach enough credit for how well these guys support each other. They really are a team. This is an important aspect of the program and many teams suffer from it (see Calipari who could build a bond between a bear and her cub).

  • MillaRed

    Ha! Yes, this article was Ginger’s Space Jam put back. OMG. Is Jerry Zach’s dad too? This is getting crazy!

  • Anonymous

    haha, I laughed out loud at the Jerry comment. Who knew he was such a slut two decades ago? First it was a business trip in Cleveland. Now it turns out he made it down to Atlanta* too?

    *(not really sure where Osterman was conceived but I remember him mentioning going to high school somewhere in that area)

  • MillaRed

    With a little research I think we would find Jerry has actually fathered 12%
    of ITH readers. I for one am impressed. Nothing to be ashamed of Jerry.
    Things were different in the 70’s.

  • MillaRed

    Absolutely. There were still a few things asked about how Crean handles things but maybe we just need to get to know him better. This team is evolving so quickly and there is a lot going on “on the fly.”

    I think it’s healthy to discuss both good and bad. That’s life man. And contrary to what some of the more ambitious CTC protectors have implied, aside from one crazy person I haven’t seen anyone ask for Coach’s dismissal. That just wouldn’t make any sense.

    We should have high standards for our players and coaches. It’s Indiana man!

  • Gustin

    Really liked the article though it might be someone unfair to single out JR in the comment “coming within one Jeremiah Rivers free throw of a three-game Big Ten winning streak.” CW and others also missed FTs, etc. The teams wins together and loses together.