The Best Basketball We’ve Played All Year.

There have been no fewer than five times this season when I’ve thought, this is the best I’ve seen us play this year.

I thought the second half against North Carolina was just about the best basketball I’d seen a team play in a long time.

I thought the first half against Minnesota was even better than that. I had nearly the exact opposite reaction to the second half of that same game.

I thought the entire Purdue game was a clinic, made all the more impressive for being on the road against a big rival, but slightly diminished by the fact that I’m pretty sure Purdue is terrible.

I thought our performance start to finish against Michigan was great. A complete domination of the then #1 team in the nation.

And then, Sunday, on the road against #10 Ohio State, a team that had just pushed Michigan to overtime only to lose by two, we played a tough back and forth game for the first twelve minutes and then went on a run to build an eight-point halftime lead, which we promptly doubled when the second half began. It ended as a double digit win against a Top Ten team in conference, on the road.

Something that hadn’t happened apparently since 1415, or was that something else in the news today? I get confused.

Coming as it did after the most inexplicable inbounds defense that anyone has seen since George XII abdicated to end a schism in the church. Damn. Sorry. Did it again.

Let’s just say that the Illinois loss had some IU fans acting like bizarro Oladipo, not all smooth but extremely explosive. It was an insanely stupid way to lose a game we had been leading by 14 points late in the second half, but it was a learning experience. Against Ohio State our turnovers dropped to single digits for the vast majority of the game and we didn’t give up one single uncontested baseline out of bounds lay up with the game on the line the entire game. Which is impressive on its own.

I fully expected us to lose this week, you can go back and check the tape on that one. But I sort of expected a win Thursday and a loss Sunday. That would have been understandable. Illinois was bad, Ohio State was good. I prefer the way it worked out. The loss to Illinois looks to have served as a wake up call based on the way we played Sunday.

The Indiana team that played in Columbus was scary good and showed the ability to beat any team, solidly, start to finish, on their home court if needed. Beating Illinois and losing to Ohio State would have left me feeling exactly the same about our ability as I felt last Wednesday. Losing to Illinois and bouncing back to beat a good Ohio State team with a very good Deshaun Thomas in such a convincing fashion makes me feel like we might be a lot better than I thought we were.

And before you get yourself started down the path of “plays to the level of our competition” let me just remind you that we beat Purdue by 37 on the road and Penn State twice, by 23. We’ve had a few not so great outings, but we haven’t just squeaked by anyone. We’ve beaten bad teams soundly as well as good teams.

We’re good. We’re number one again this week. This is the 8th week this season #1 has been in front of our name, more than any other team. We’re not just #1 because we were voted there before anyone played a game and stayed there by default. We’re #1 because we’ve beaten more Top 25 teams than anyone else in the country and because when we’ve lost they’ve been either last second shots or against Wisconsin, which may just be IU kryptonite right now. And no one calls Superman a punk because he has one weakness. He’s still Superman.

I’ve thought for a while that this Big Ten season would come down to IU and Michigan with both teams getting #1 seeds. I’m not so sure about that now. Michigan is good, but we’re better. We might be a lot better. That doesn’t mean we won’t lose in Ann Arbor, but after Sunday, I think a win is FAR more likely than I thought it was before.

Of course to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor we’re going to have to play the best basketball we’ve played all year. But we’ve done that a lot already. What’s one more time?

Jeff Taylor