What You’re Feeling is Actually Rain

I have no interest in telling you a tale. I will not, as Sipowicz so eloquently put it, piss in your ear and tell you it’s raining.

That was bad. The loss to Ohio State, at home, on Senior night, with the chance to clinch the outright Big Ten title was bad. But, as part of my oath not to micturate in your aural cavity and explain the sudden presence of water by citing, as its root cause, a meteorological condition of precipitation, I am honor bound to tell you why it was bad. And possibly, depending on my mood when I get there, the ways in which you might think it was bad, but it really wasn’t.

The long and short of it is this. We are a good team. Don’t let one loss at home convince you otherwise. We’re good. We’ve spent more weeks at #1 this season than anyone else in college basketball. We are still firmly in charge of our own destiny. We win, we are the sole Big Ten Champions and a firm #1 seed. We haven’t suffered the type of 30 point ass kicking that nearly every other good team has suffered. Don’t listen to that voice that tells you that this team has been a fraud and that Yogi should never handle the ball, and Cody is terrible, and Jordy is useless because he doesn’t shoot it every time down the court and make 75% of his three-pointers. Don’t listen to that voice that is complaining about substitution patterns and saying that Tom Crean got outcoached yet again.

Don’t listen to that voice because that voice is stupid. That voice would name a baby Renesmee and fully support a werewolf falling in love with that baby.

We’re good. We’re very good.

But hear me now and believe me later and listen to it sometimes. We are not playing good basketball. And that’s not me overreacting to a tough loss. Ohio State was the third poor offensive game in a row. Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio State were games in which we played poorly.

And that’s a problem. Not because it means everything you thought about this team after it clinched the Big Ten title is suddenly wrong. Not because you believed something that wasn’t true. It’s not a problem because now we’ve discovered some hidden, fatal, flaw in our game that means we won’t make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. It’s a problem because now is an incredibly bad time to play bad basketball.

This time of year it’s not about playing the long game. It’s not about proving, over a long stretch of games, that you are good. That you are a contender. That you should be respected. This time of year, it’s about going out there every night and playing the best basketball you can possibly play, because if you don’t, to quote the guy who single-handedly built the rocket and flew to the moon, Apollo Creed, “There is no tomorrow. THERE IS NO TOMORROW!”

The only thing that matters right now is winning on Sunday. And after that winning on Friday. Then Saturday. Then Sunday, etc… And to do that, you have to play well.

These last three games there have been very glaring problems in our game. Against Minnesota it was rebounding. Against Iowa it was offensive execution and shooting. Against Ohio State it was transition defense, high screen and roll defense, offensive movement, and shooting. Ohio State was a game with a lot on the line. It was the one night a year Marni Mooney gets mentioned multiple times on TV and for that to come after a loss, kind of spoils it for her. It would have clinched the Big Ten title, the #1 Seed in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. Plus it would have made the decision to cut down the nets last night not seem so incredibly strange.

And coming up small when something big is on the line is bad, m’kay.

And here I am, not telling you piss is rain.

The notion that this is a good loss, because it will make us hungry on Sunday is Renesmee-level stupid.

It’s a bad loss. No spin involved. But it’s not something we can’t learn and improve from. A Final Four and National Championship is definitely still on the table because who can you say is definitively better than us? No one. Others may be playing better, but that only matters if they are playing us. Because all that matters now is how you play in the game you playing.

I would also like to caution against a certain line of thought that involves the phrase “playing down to our competition.” I know it may seem that way because until Tuesday we had beaten every ranked opponent we’d played and only lost to unranked ones, but let’s examine some facts. We lost to Butler, now ranked. We lost to Wisconsin, now ranked. We lost to Minnesota, ranked at one time. We lost to Illinois, not ranked and still confusing. We beat Penn State by 20+ twice. We beat Purdue by 20+ and 30+. Those are all examples of us not playing down. Now, add Ohio State as an example of us not playing up to the opponent, or the moment. Our level of play is not dependent on the ability or rank of our opponent.

I’m not sure what the dependent clause is for our winning vs. losing, because we’ve had different players play poorly in each loss, we’ve had different areas of the game show up as problems. Sometimes, it’s rebounding. Sometimes, it’s transition defense. Sometimes, it’s loose balls. Sometimes, it’s help defense and rotations. Sometimes it’s ball movement and turnovers. Sometimes, in fact most times, it tends to be toughness. We got pushed around by Butler. Had the game dictated to us by Wisconsin. Got beaten on the boards badly by Minnesota. And had real difficulty getting open shots against Ohio State while not making it difficult for them to get good shots.

But, Ohio State seemed to be more about focus than toughness. A wide open three, down six because we messed up a switch. Allowing an offensive rebound to the only Buckeye on the lane, the shooter, when what we needed most of all, a rebound.

So, it’s actually raining. And for us to reach our goal over come our ob-stac-als, it needs to stop. It needs to stop on Sunday.

Jeff Taylor