I Should Have Posted This on Sunday

I am feeling very superior heading into the Michigan State game. Not because this IU team is good, or that I expect us to win in East Lansing. No. My superiority is not based on IU being awesome. Nope. It’s about me being right.

I set myself some proper expectations and because of it, I am getting through this mess of a season just fine, emotionally.

Sure, I’m irritated that we aren’t better. And I’m a little frustrated with some of my fellow Hoosier fans who steadfastly refuse to have realistic expectations and spend a lot of time either mad at Tom Crean for things like substitution patterns or saying that one thing or another should or should never happen, depending on what that thing is.

“IU should contend for the Final Four every year!”

“IU should never lose to Northwestern at home!”

I’m frustrated because so many of the people who take these stances a. take them loudly and b. don’t know what they’re talking about.

Loud is one thing.

Wrong is one thing.

Loud and wrong together is irritating.

And lest you think I’m calling people who believe these things stupid, or saying that they don’t understand the game of basketball, I want to be very clear about this. The people who complain about substitution patterns don’t know what they’re talking about because unless you are in practice every single day, and in the huddle during every time out, and in the film room with the coaches and players, and on the bench having strategy discussions throughout each and every game, then you are missing roughly 98% of the information you need to understand why certain decisions are being made.

From what I can tell there are only a few factors going into their assessment of our substitution patterns.

1. Who is the better player.

2. Is someone “hot” or “feeling it”

3. That seems to be about it.

To point number two, I will stipulate that sometimes you want to ride the hot hand, unless they aren’t playing defense, are out of position a lot, aren’t boxing out, injured, need a breather, are fighting off the flu, aren’t communicating on the floor, are not playing within their role, didn’t pass the ball four times before taking a shot, or any number of 1000 other factors.

To point number one, I will say this.

Any notion you have as to who our best player is, or what our best line up is is wrong. You want proof? Watch us play.

The best line up on Saturday, by which I mean the one that had the greatest impact on the game when they were in, (this is eye test material, not group +/- or anything scientific like that) involved Jonny Marlin and Jeff Howard. Go ahead and convince me you had that going into the game.

And to be clear. I am not claiming know-it-all status here. I didn’t see that coming. I don’t know all of those things that go into the line up decisions. I watch the game closely. I watch the press conferences. I listen to the coach’s show. I do all the things I can to be well informed about IU basketball, but I don’t know any of that stuff. So, no, I don’t know it all, but I know what I don’t know and I understand that before taking a stance.

Now, I won’t sit here and tell you I expected us to lose to Northwestern at home, because that would be a lie. I expected us to win, but I am not a bit surprised that we played terribly against a lesser team, especially after beating a better team. In fact, I told you last week to be ready for that to happen. It’s what mediocre teams do.

I won’t tell you that I’m happy about how we played or that we lost. I hate that we aren’t a better, more mature team. I want these kids to figure out how to play and win at this level sooner rather than later, but I get that it’s a process and that it is going to take longer than any of us want it to take, so during the games, you’ll hear me scream and yell and complain about our play, but after the game, regardless of the outcome, you won’t find me surprised.

And you won’t find me blaming Tom Crean for the ills of mankind like he was Verdell Jones III or something (go to the archives if you’d like to read me rail against the belief that VJIII was the worst person on the planet, which was a prevailing theme a couple of years ago). Crean is responsible for the kids he brought in, and for the game plans and preparation going on behind the scenes. He is not, however, responsible for Evan Gordon taking a step-back three-pointer when a drive to the basket was diagrammed or for Yogi taking 8 threes against Wisconsin, when he could have taken 8 open lay ups. He’s responsible for teaching them that those decisions are bad and helping them to learn not to make them again, but the players take the shots, or miss the box outs, or don’t help and recover quick enough, or make the hardest pass available rather than the easiest one. And these bad decisions are what happens when you lose not only 70% of your scoring, but 90% of your leadership from one year to the next.

In closing, and briefly, I would like to address the Cult of Should.

There are things we all want to be true for IU Basketball. Conference Titles or runner-ups every year. Frequent Final Four Appearances. Banners 6, 7, and 8 all in the next ten years. Dominance on the court and in recruiting. A Big Ten Tournament Title at least once in a while. I want those things.

And when I was a kid, I got those things (excepting the conference tourney thing as it didn’t exist). I got those things so frequently and with such regularity that I thought they were just the way things work. I remember being actually confused in 1988 when we weren’t in the Final Four. Weren’t we supposed to be in the Final Four?

It’s easy when you grow up with success to think that’s the way it should be. Should is about entitlement.

We should be in the Final Four every year. We are entitled to be there.

We should never lose to Northwestern at home. It is the natural order of the world for us to beat Northwestern at home.

We should compete for the Big Ten Title every year. Our rightful place is at the top. All else is an abomination and an affront to nature!!

Should is wrong. We beat Wisconsin 31 straight times in the 70s and 80s. Do you really think that is realistic now? Do you think we should be doing that again?

I would like that to happen. I want that to happen. But that doesn’t mean it should happen.

Get over should. Your only hurting yourself by clinging to should.

Set realistic expectations and get rid of should and you will be a happier person.

Jeff Taylor