The Problem with Should

My therapist would be proud of me for what you are about to read. We’ve been talking a lot about getting rid of the notion of “should.” Nothing “should” happen other than what actually happens. “Should” is something we impose upon the disorder of the world to try and add an element of control over something over which we have no control.

It is through this prism that I am viewing last night’s loss to Eastern Washington.

You see, I thought we “should” win that game going in, and so did you. I can’t speak for you with any degree of certainty, but I thought we “should” win because we’re Indiana. We were playing at home. This school has a direction in its name. It’s November. We “should” win games like that. Of course we “should.”

If the reactions I’ve seen are any indication, the belief that we “should” have won that game was so deeply held and wide spread that people are fired up for a firing.

I’ve told you before that the enemy to happiness is your own expectations. This is very much the same message. You’re mad because you expected a different outcome. A two-point loss at MSG to Louisville will not feel the same because you think we probably “should” lose that game.

So, relax. We were not going undefeated this year. You already accepted that into your head months ago. Congratulations! You were right.

Now that we’re calmed down a bit, and so much more self-actualized than before you read the previous 250 words, let’s talk about the game itself.

We were terrible on defense. We made no real effort to prevent wide open lay ups, and this is a problem. But guess what, that’s not news. Our on-ball defense hasn’t been good yet this year. If you were paying attention in games 1 through 4, our shitty defense was no revelation to you.

Here’s what really concerns me. This feels a lot like 2008 to me. For greater detail I recommend reading my book Who Cares About Phone Calls? (which makes a terrific holiday gift), but the short of it is this.

There are a lot of parallels to this point in the season.

1. It was shortly after Hoosier Hysteria in both years when the news broke that a lot of off the court stuff was going on that we didn’t know about or approve of. There were immediate calls for the coach to be fired and the unrest was palpable.

2. The coach was not immediately fired.

3. James Blackmon is drawing plenty of comparisons to Eric Gordon. I don’t know that he’s 1 and done, but his ability to shoot and to score are most comparable to EJ of any recent Hoosier.

4. The teams have glaring flaws on the defensive end. In 2008, it was transition and help side defense. This year it is on-ball and help side defense.

5. Both teams are winning games because they can score.

6. In 2008, we lost to Xavier and everyone was surprised, even though the problems that cost us that game were easily seen by anyone with eyeballs in every game prior to Xavier. This year, repeat that, but replace Xavier with Eastern Washington.

6. In 2008, all the outrage over the NCAA stuff slipped quietly into the background once the games started. The same thing has happened this year. The usual voices are calling for Crean to be fired, but it’s because of basketball stuff, not off-the-court stuff.

It worries me that this year is setting up so much like that year. But there’s nothing I can do about that except notice and comment on it. And plug my book.

If you’d like something basketball related to focus on, how about this. This game can act as a perfect baseline. We now have proof of how bad our on-ball defense is and we can use this as a data point to measure against. We can gauge our improvement, or lack thereof by looking back at this game. That can be pretty helpful to keeping your head right about the realities of the season.

And to not just use whatever happened in a loss to support your already held position that Crean should be fired.

I know you’re surprised and pissed that we lost and that it broke a 43-game home, non-conference, winning streak that you didn’t even know existed before last night. But if you’re calling for Crean’s head after that, you were calling for it before and this just serves as an excuse to shout what you’d been shouting before.

The fact is that nothing that happened last night is news. We’re a good scoring team and a bad defensive team. We’re young and have a lot of growing and improving to do. We were going to lose some this year. The only difference is that now these facts aren’t just theoretical, they’re actual and you’re having to confront them.

And in light of such obvious information you can choose to return to your previous position of yelling about stuff, or you can take this for what it is. An early season loss against a team that was better than you thought they’d be in a game where we played pretty poorly.

Jeff Taylor