Of All the Things I Didn’t Write About the Minnesota Game, Not Mentioning 42 is the Most Impressive as it Would Have Been so Easy

It’s a good thing I was really busy today. Had I not had one meeting after another and a series of other things that needed to be accomplished in between those meetings I might have found myself writing the obvious column today, which would have been the standard Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “Don’t Panic.” I also probably would have found a way to remind you how important it is to know where your towel is.

But, because I was busy and didn’t get to write until now, I can ignore most of the Don’t Panic stuff because Penn State beat Michigan tonight which puts us two games up on Michigan and Ohio State, one game up on both Wisconsin and Michigan State (who play each other next week, btw) which makes us all breathe just a little easier going into the last three games of the regular season.

So, I could write the, losing-last-night-is-the-best-thing-that-could-have-happened-to-this-team-because-now-they’ll-be-extra-focused-going-into-these-next-three-games column. But that’s a little too Pollyanna for me. Plus, it’s got two things going for it that kind of bore me. First, it’s lazy. It’s the easy thing to tell you because it sounds kind of smart and will make you feel better, but it’s not really very smart because the problem against Minnesota wasn’t focus and it wasn’t motivation. It was rebounding. And I’ve not studied KenPom all that closely, but I’d be shocked if he had some statistical analysis that would tell you that losing a road game makes you a better rebounding team. Second, it is to this basketball season what Napolean’s assertion that the video of Uncle Rico throwing a football is the pretty much the worst video ever made. Like anyone could even know that. You might be able to look back on this Minnesota game in a few weeks and say, “Boy, it was really good we lost that game because we never would have run the table if we’d won that.” You might be able to say that, but even then I would say to you, like anyone could even know that.

I could also write the we-got-out-toughed-out-coached-out-hustled-Minnesota-wanted-it-more-than-we-did-because-they-were-playing-for-their-tournament-life-and-we-had-a-two-game-lead column, but that suffers from the problem that I’m pretty sure none of that is actually true. I’d have to go back and rewatch the game, but Minnesota didn’t try harder or toss us around the court and Tubby didn’t out-coach Crean. They did a better job of rebounding. They got some really lucky bounces on some knocked around offensive rebounds. And the exploited a weakness we have, which is that Cody, for all the things he does really well, doesn’t play through contact very well and shoots the ball from his shoulder, enabling bigger guys to block his shot. But we went on the road and fought down to the last second. We made our free throws down the stretch. We didn’t turn the ball over that much. We didn’t shoot terribly (we didn’t shoot great either) but a wanted-it-more victory looks like Miami v. Duke or Michigan State v. Michigan. One team gets beat by 20. Minnesota just beat us on their home court. It happens. Don’t Panic.

Damn, I did it anyway.

I know what happened last night. We didn’t play very well. Minnesota rebounded exceptionally well. We lost by four on the road on a night when both Cody and Christian played poorly. I don’t know why that happened. It could have been the week off, or a couple of match up problems, or one or more of our players could have been upset that their fake internet girlfriend had just died, we were so excited about beat Michigan State and too focused on playing Iowa that we overlooked a road trip to Minnesota. Or it could just be that road games against good teams are hard and it’s not very likely that you’ll win all of them.

I just know that we got beat, but we’re still in a position where all we have to do is win our next three games and we win the Big Ten. That’s not easy, but it’s better than having to win the next three games and hope someone else loses one or more games for us to have a chance to grab a tie for the title.

I would have greatly preferred a win in Minnesota. It might have made my busy day more pleasant. But it’s ok. Because I’m a frood who really knows where my towel is.

Do you?

Jeff Taylor