The Morning After: Staying positive
There are only so many things to say from game to game about the way IU is playing. For example, what was there to say after Illinois? The Hoosiers were destroyed by a far superior (and still underrated) team. Michigan was the real disappointment — a game the Hoosiers should have had, even if most of us suspected a second-half letdown — but one that was ultimately caused by the same systemic flaws that caused IU to lose to Illinois. Youth. Inexperience. Lack of depth. Lack of athleticism. Poor defense. And so on. It gets repetitive listing out these things every third day of the week; what’s worse, it gets depressing.
In the interest of staving off those existential demons, let’s get positive for a few paragraphs here, shall we? Cool. As there is no Shon Morris to take any rage out on this week, it’ll hopefully be a little easier.
(First, let’s do a musical interlude, something to help the mood:
WHOA OH OH. WHOA OH OH. Man, I’m ready now. Let’s do this.)
Ryan touched on much of “The Good” last night, but at least one of his points deserves to be hammered home: Verdell Jones is an improving basketball player. The freshman was set behind by an early season injury, but he seems fully recovered. What’s more, he seems to be learning. His direction of the offense (which at times against Ohio State’s matchup zone stretched the good-faith use of the term “offense”; standing overloading one side of the court doesn’t work if the overloading duo are standing right next to each other) was, as Ryan wrote, competent. His ability to get to the rim is a welcome sight. Jones isn’t a conventionally quick player. He glides, swoops to the lane, takes long jump stops before settling in to his mid-range jumper. He’s far from a perfect player — his defense is a long way away, among other things — but having someone who can both distribute the ball and command the team and also, you know, shoot the ball from time to time (cough Daniel Moore cough) is big.
What else? Well, fortunately for IU, last night’s loss could have been a lot narrower. I suppose that isn’t fortunate, since IU ended up losing anyway, but it should be noted that Ohio State shot the ball exceptionally well. Like, almost-off-the-charts well. Their effective field goal percentage (which accords an extra half percentage point for three point shots made) was 65.1 percent. Their season average is 51.1. And, though IU has had its woes in guarding the perimeter this season, they’re holding opponents to 52.7 percent eFG% on the season. What does all this mean? It means that while IU was probably worse than usual in defending the three, they played a team that was also very hot from the field, especially in that first half.
Anyway, for a little more statnerdness, below is a chart with Dean Oliver’s Four Factors; you’ll notice the eFG discrepancy immediately.
Ohio State misses a few of the shots and well, who knows? Actually, I know: IU still would have lost. But the loss wouldn’t have seemed so bad, and we would be talking about how the Hoosiers bounced back well from the Illinois loss, etc. See what I mean?
Let’s see, what else was good last night? Oh, yeah: Steve Lavin and Brent Musberger.
Because IU isn’t very good this year, it will likely be the rare Tuesday that I get to watch the Hoosiers play while the dulcet sounds of Brent Musberger ring in my head, but Brent, if you’re out there, just know that I love you. Your verbal flubs and occasional senior moments are totally fine with me. For whatever reason, your gravitas is like Tom Brokaw’s — you could fail miserably at your job and I’d still think you were awesome, just because your voice is so great. You and Brokaw were the televised soundtrack to my childhood. Keep trucking, Brenty.
And as for Steve …
Some people may get tired of Lavin’s schtick. Some people might get irritated when he says “pepper-pot,” or get confused at any of his one-off coined phrases that he invents and then discards like so much detritus. They’d have a perfectly reasonable preference. I could understand such a belief. But I do not share it. Rather, Lavin was the highlight of my night last night, the only guy that makes things interesting. And it’s not just the schtick, either — he’s a genuinely reasoned, well-thought-out dude, and he makes smart points both about the nuts and bolts of the game and about the larger situation, in this case, the ongoing rebuilding saga surrounding Our Indiana. I thought he and Brent killed it, and that was, as I’ve noted, a very good thing.
Lastly: We have to invent some sort of weekly award for Tom Crean. Maybe we can put it in the end of TMA, maybe not. But for a guy coaching dudes who are not only outmatched physically but who are routinely outsmarted and outplayed, he never — ever! I’ve been trying to catch him! — shows overt frustration. He only goes so far as the same level of frustration other coaches have with their players regardless of talent. He could be coaching the Harlem Globetrotters; his face gives nothing away. I can’t maintain the same, and I’m sitting at home on the couch with my laptop out. This man deserves the Nobel Prize. Or at least something we can cook up.
Anyway, that’s The Day In Indiana Positivity. Fun, right? Let’s see how long this one lasts.