Been Busy. Now I’m Just Confused.

I’ve got more thoughts than I’ve got time.

After the Illinois game I had this great idea to write a double position column where I argue equally that the Illinois game was a cause for hope and a cause for panic, fervently defending the most strident and opposite positions, using the same game as proof of each. But holiday travels interfered and then it was Saturday.

I had this idea to write a column about all the things we could focus on about that game that didn’t make any difference at all. I also had thoughts of writing something on “The Movement” and how I can’t think of a group of players so hyped that have, as a group, done so little, but is ended up stuck inside with a toddler for two straight days of -50 degree wind chill and lost all ability to have a coherent thought.

Then I went back to work.

So, here we are 1-2 in the Big Ten after a close victory at Penn State and I have so much less to say about this game. Largely because I’m conflicted.

I honestly don’t know what to make of the way we won that game. There are things I’ve come to believe about basketball in general and this team in particular that were if not proven false, then provided with the exception that proves them correct.

Belief 1. Don’t complain about the substitution patterns. It sounds like a smart thing to notice, but it’s actually a limited complaint as it comes from so little knowledge. I view this the same way as I view people in the 40th row (near my seats) who boo an out of bounds call made by a guy 4 feet from the ball. There’s no way you had a better look at that than the ref, and still you boo. Complaints about the sub patterns are generally based on three pieces of information. A. Who you think the better player is. B. Are they in foul trouble? C. Crean’s an idiot.

Completely ignored are the following A. You don’t know the game plan. B. You don’t know the scouting report. C. You don’t know about injuries, sickness or fatigue. D. You don’t know how they practiced running up to the game. E. You don’t know if coach told them to pass the ball four times before shooting and then Rade made two shots without making a single pass first. F. There’s a lot you don’t know.

Countermander 1. I have no idea why Noah was on the bench with four minutes left to play. This bothered me. I’m ashamed of myself.

Belief 2. It’s a terrible thing to know the names of your walk-ons. We know who Tapak, Taber, and Suhr are because they played a lot. And when your walk-ons play a lot it’s because your team stinks.

Countermander 2. Jeff Howard played really well on defense against Penn State and fought his way to the line for points that matter. (Note: This doesn’t disprove my point at all. Tapak, Taber, and Suhr all contributed to wins. Those teams still stunk.)

Belief 3. We are a bad shooting team who should look to get the ball inside or to the line on almost every possession.

Countermander 3. We started the game doing it my way. Noah looked great and we were down by 15. We passed the ball and shot threes and we came back, took the lead, and won the game.

Belief 4. Age and experience matters. It’s no coincidence that in Crean’s first four years each team got a little bit older and more experienced and also got better. Did you watch that MSU v. OSU game? Those are two veteran teams and they are in a different class than we are. UK is young, and it shows. Kansas is young, and it shows. After last season we got younger, and we got worse.

Countermander 4. I think our best starting line up might be 3 freshmen, a sophomore and a senior, with Stan Robinson working his way into big time minutes with his play in the Big Ten season.

Bottom line is, we’re exactly the team I expected us to be, middle of the road Big Ten team, athletic, with a lot to learn. We’ll be better next year as we get older and more experienced. And I’m pretty sure nothing I saw against Penn State disproves anything I believe to be true, but it leaves me on unsteady ground when so many things seem so wrong, and we still get a road win.

It’s a strange world. Somebody oughta sell tickets.

Jeff Taylor