I’ve had 6-plus hours to process the double rainbowness of the win against UK. Here goes.
For most of my adult life, I’ve prided myself on trying to maintain skepticism. I insist on being shown things or researching them for myself before forming an opinion on them. It’s a perfectly reasonable position in life. Nay, it’s the position that folks should take in life. And, being called a skeptic is a compliment to me. Paraphrasing the great James Randi (James Randi Educational Foundation): Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Put in the simplest of examples, again provided by Randi, if you tell me you have a dog in your backyard, I’m probably just going to believe you. After all, it’s a very reasonable claim. A lot of people have dogs in their backyards. It’s within the realm of reason that you’re telling the truth. However, if you claim you have a unicorn in your backyard, I’m going to need a little (lot) more evidence.
Which brings me to our beloved Hoosiers. I’d heard a lot of the IU faithful claim that Indiana was a really good basketball team this year. I took this position: I need to be shown. There was no doubt we were improved. Tournament contender? Maybe. But REALLY GOOD? I needed more. We were what? 25-242 (Packer method) in the previous three seasons? I needed more.
Well, today, I got more. I believe it. My skepticism on this team is no more. I’m in.
Let me get the obligatories out of the way before proceeding. This win was momentous. Fantastic. Jubilant. Deserved. And yes, in my 36 years and counting of life, I don’t believe Assembly Hall has been MORE raucous than it was today. As raucous? Perhaps. But more? No, No, Nanette. There, now I can move on.
Here’s what I believe this game means to the program moving forward, more than any of that. I imagine, at least subconsciously, that a few teams and coaches had probably circled IU as a win on their calendars. Well, Pottsy, go ahead and scratch that. You heard me. That’s what this team showed today. We’re nobody’s circle. Those days are over.
As has been mentioned here in the Hoosierverse before, Bob Knight frames games in three categories, again paraphrasing: Those you should win. Those you have to play well to win. And those you have to play near perfectly to win. Before today, I thought the UK game was in the last of three. I knew were capable, but…
I was wrong. With hindsight on my side, I was dead wrong. We didn’t play near perfectly today (I say this as a good thing, in a manner of speaking). We played well. Very well. What we lacked in decision-making (I can’t tell you how many times either Jeff or I shouted “Jesus Christ, Verdell/Jordy! We don’t need to force that pass!”), we made up for with attitude, team play, and a commitment to win. (I avoid EVER using the don’t-believe-they-can-lose phrase. A crazy person could have gone in the ring against Mike Tyson in 1989 not believing he could lose. Wouldn’t have changed the pending visit to the ER or morgue. It’s the equivalent of the guaranteed victory. It’s only valid if you pull it off. I’m aware of only two instances where you might be able to apply it rationally and it works: The ’76 team and the ’84 Olympics basketball team. Otherwise, most likely, it’s trite and meaningless.)
So, what does it mean? I’d argue that it moves, by logical progression, every game out of the third aforementioned category for the season. We can BEAT (not just play with) anybody this year, and we don’t have to play perfectly to do it. And that’s damned exciting to me. And I’m telling you now, if I hear one talking head or person on the street argue after this game “Well, maybe Kentucky’s not as good as…”, that person is very likely to get nut-punched. (Or ovary-knocked. No sexism here in the Hoosierverse.) These kids beat a Kentucky team who beat Kansas (who looks to be good) and UNC, who I know is damned good.
Probability dictates that we’re going to lose some games this year. We’re very likely going to have a game or two where we don’t play well and lose to someone we should beat. But, that doesn’t change any of the previous truths.
I told Jeff last week that I thought we should be about a 21-10 team this year for the regular season (I try to avoid the post-OJ era tendency for outright predictions; I frankly never understood the logic toward the need for that kind of stuff, but this is close enough, I admit.) I’m throwing that out the door. I believe we should be about a 24-7 team. Yep. 4 game bump. The B1G (nod to maybe the worst logo/brand of the 21st Century, supported by the “Leaders” and “Legends” divisions) is a tough league. It’s a long season. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here. But that number, after today, figures entirely reasonable to me.
Finally, today’s win means a retirement of phrases and qualifications. We have, and again, this is a good thing, crossed the threshold. We cannot permit ourselves the use of “signature win” anymore in the Crean era. No more can we “turn the corner”. We will not allow “moral victories”, and we are not “building for the future”. Nope, we’ve done turned that corner. If we get whooped, whether by equal or lesser competition, from here on out (and it’s bound to happen at least a few times), we take it. We rub some dirt on it. We express disgust at it, and we move on. And that’s why it’s great to be an IU fan again.