Here I Am. Stuck In the Middle With You

If I was in the prediction game, I would have called the Wisconsin outcome with a pretty high degree of confidence. My confidence was not based on having watched a ton of Wisconsin games this year, or a study of advanced metrics, or some inside scoop on our starting line up or game plan. My confidence was based on two things.

1. That’s the kind of game a mediocre team wins. Mediocre teams don’t win the games they’re supposed to win and lose the games they’re supposed to lose. That would be too easy and comfortable for fans to deal with. Nope. Mediocre teams work your emotions over on a game by game basis. They lose some you expect them to win and win some everyone thinks they’ll lose.

We’ve already dropped games, not necessarily to teams we should have beaten, but we’ve lost in ways that are inexcusably bad. The home game against Wisconsin is one of the ones you’re not supposed to get that you get.

But that’s not all.

2. We hadn’t beaten the Badgers in seven years. They are the last demon Crean needed to exorcise. And you don’t get over that hump unless it’s a hump worth getting over. Wisconsin had to be good, we had to be underdogs, and the game had to matter for our overcoming to really hold any import.

The milestone wins for Crean have all been appropriate.

The first win against a Top 25 team was against Bruce Weber’s whiney, petulant punk face. Which couldn’t have been more right, as he was particularly gleeful about how low we sank after we fired Voldemort.

Our national spotlight resurgence game was against UK, and Calipari, and evil. And it was tense, and dramatic, and last second, but not flukey (we were winning most of that game).

We were #1 for a lot of last season. We won big games. We won the Big Ten. But we lost in the Sweet Sixteen, and we didn’t beat Wisconsin.

Two hurdles left. Wisconsin and the NCAA Title. This is not a year for the latter, but this week was the week for the former.

And we played well. We didn’t turn the ball over. We didn’t foul. We came back from 10-point deficits twice. We won. Dethroning one of the last unbeaten teams.

But we didn’t play perfect. Yogi was tremendous on the dribble drive, but he still took 8 bad threes, when he should have been drawing fouls and getting old fashioned three-point plays. And Jeremy is still learning to concentrate, focus power. On the bench.

Crean had to sit all the Non-Sheehy subs because they were playing like crap. He had to sit Troy because his defense was Alfordian in its terribleness. He lost his mind completely both by yelling and screaming at his clip board on the scorer’s table and by taking Noah out in the last minute to switch all screens.

But he got the win. Making us all feel like we’ve got a chance to make some noise, be a factor and get into the NCAA (I’m going on record as saying that we’ll get in, and it won’t even be a bubble situation). And a win like that can lead to better things.

And it can also lead to us losing a game we should win to balance this one out.

It will do both. It’s how teams like this, firmly stuck in the middle, remain firmly stuck in the middle all season.

Jeff Taylor