“Part my hair like this, Coach?”
What is happening at Indiana?
If you missed it last night, the Fighting Zellers from Bloomington lost to Nebraska, 70-69. This is the same Indiana team that, you might recall, used a Christian Watford junk shot (the “garbage three” kind, not the “Marquis Teague’s forearm” kind) to beat our beloved boys a few weeks ago.
Indiana, honestly, had been playing really well. I hated watching our game against them, but I have to admit when a team plays really good basketball, and they did just that. The Watford shot was the icing on the cake, but they put themselves in the position to win it, and came up money. These things happen. They didn’t beat just us, either; THE Ohio State Buckeyes also felt the cold sting of Victor Oladipo’s crazy circus shots, and lost 74-70 on New Year’s Eve.
Since those two great wins (three if you count Michigan, which is solidly “…mehh” this year), Indiana has undergone a Cardinal-esque collapse, losing not only last night to the Huskers, but also to Tubby’s Gophers at Assembly Hall. Both of those teams, by the way, are 2-5 in the Big Ten. Pretty piss-poor. Oh, and one Jared Sullinger got something this year that we won’t: a rematch. That didn’t go so well for Tom Crean and Co.
The question is, how does this make you feel? The small, vindictive Corey wants to think that this is some sort of providential retribution–that Indiana is getting embarrassed themselves for embarrassing us on national television. I wanted to believe that it serves them right for keeping us from being undefeated and an overwhelming #1, but really I think the answer is quite simpler than that. And if Occam’s razor has taught me anything, it’s that the simplest answer is most often the correct one. Also, it taught me to shave against the grain, and use some sort of lubricant if I want any skin left on my face.
Most likely, Indiana simply ran out of mojo. Not the megalomaniacal monkey kind of mojo, but the “I’d-rather-be-lucky-than-good” kind of mojo. The kind of mojo I have on my side whenever I win a game of ping pong. Because I suck at ping pong. I know I have no business winning those games, and every time I win I just wonder how long it’s going to take before it all goes away and I get demolished again. I know it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time.
And that’s just about what happened with Indiana. They were living above their means for too long, borrowing undeserved fortune, and it finally came time to pay their debts. Like the nerdy guy who somehow gets a date with the prettiest girl in school (yes, that one you’re thinking of; she was really something, wasn’t she?), we all knew the romance wouldn’t last forever. And it’d be a spectacle when it was over. Well, it’s over now, and it’s ugly. They may finish the season in the Top 25. Maybe. But gone are the days of Lunardi practically knighting them as a 2-seed. I understand that they beat us fair and square, but this isn’t just sour grapes. Kentucky has improved since that loss, and is playing better right now than they have all year (I literally just knocked on wood, so don’t blame me if something happens). IU, conversely, is looking worse and worse. I like Tom Crean’s middle-part as much as the next guy, but something’s going to have to change if they expect to get as far as the Sweet Sixteen this year.
Although, compared to their last few years, I suppose even getting to the tournament makes the season a great success. So don’t worry about a thing Indiana. You could not win another game and still have three more Ws than you did last year. Baby steps, okay?
Finally, though, let’s not ignore the true low point: the Nebraska student section rushed the court after beating an Indiana team that had fallen out of the top ten and was already on a two-game losing streak. At least when other teams rush the court on us, it’s because we’re ranked number one and are generally pretty stacked. So Indiana can take solace, at least, in the fact that they were at least good enough to celebrate beating this year. At least for a team like Nebraska. Apart from that, it looks like their basketball goodwill is like Jeff Pearlman’s mom: all used up.
*Edit: I submitted this article last night at around 11:30. Since then, Myron Medcalf has also expressed concern with Indiana’s future over on ESPN.com. Panic time, Hoosiers?