So, Illinois, huh? How about that?
Not too good. Not too good.
The 5th place team in the Big Ten, a team that is well-established as solidly mediocre, goes into the lion’s den of a building that doesn’t even have the balls to call itself Assembly Hall anymore, and loses to the last place team in the Big Ten, a team that not only hadn’t won a conference game, but could not pass the “This team is terrible, right?” test.
What does that tell you?
A few things
Of Course The Did
I haven’t been on here to remind you in a while, but this is exactly the type of thing that happens with mediocre teams. They win games they shouldn’t win (on paper anyway). They lose games they shouldn’t (in reality quite often). They get blown out sometimes. They win big sometimes.
It’s what they do.
It’s who they are.
You can’t be mediocre if you don’t do those things. Fail at any of them and you’re either good or bad.
This team is squarely middle of the road. Their record reflects it. Their record will very likely continue to reflect it.
Because this is true, every single outcome is completely consistent with this stunning mediocrity, and thus, I’ve had very little to say about this season.
I could come out and tell you how this once again proves me right, but that’s boring for both of us, so I’ve been silent.
Plus, I’ve been podcasting. You should listen to them.
It Doesn’t Matter
Pronouns, pal. What doesn’t matter?!
It doesn’t matter who wants it more and this Illinois game proves that.
I’m not saying IU wanted it more and lost, thus disproving the theorem. I’m saying that regardless of who wants it more, you have to execute to win. And IU did not execute.
You saw the free throw shooting. It was abysmal.
You saw Green’s pass to an open Morgan for the basket that would have tied the game. He threw it off Morgan’s knee, primarily because it was a sloppy one-handed, off-balance, bounce pass.
You saw the way Illinois, through their use of an incredibly aggressive and handsy defense, made all of our ball handlers uncomfortable, pushed us into sloppy passes to guys who weren’t in position to catch and shoot, and led to a lot of rushed and poor shooting.
You saw how the easiest way to beat that defense was just to drive past them and make lay-ups.
You also saw that we didn’t do that nearly enough.
It’s not the will to win. Everybody has that. It’s not even the will to prepare to win, as someone once said. It’s actually going out and doing the things you prepare to do.
You think Archie made them run suicides when they MADE free throws in practice, thus incentivizing missed free throws? You think he ran post-entry passing drills where you had to do 20 push ups if your pass DIDN’T bounce of a guy’s knees?
Of course not, but the players did not execute. And sometimes that’s what mediocre teams do.
The Importance of Comfort
Until very recently I had this couch that was awful. It didn’t matter where you sat on it, you could feel the wood frame. You felt it in your lower back, under your arm, under your butt, everywhere. It made almost every minute of being home after work physically uncomfortable. And it made me grumpy. A lot.
Now, we have a nice new couch. It’s long enough for me to lay down on. It’s comfortable. The arm rests are firm, but cushioned and just the right height. Now, when I come home and sit down, I am happy.
Comfort is incredibly important.
This holds true on the basketball court.
The one thing that seems to matter most of all for this IU team, and last year’s team as well, is whether they are allowed to be comfortable on the offensive end. If the defense forces our guys slightly out of position, or messes up their timing, or disrupts a pass or a cut, the team gets grumpy. They get rushed. They make bad decisions. They execute good decisions poorly.
Lack of comfort causes a world of problems.
By the same token, if we make the other team uncomfortable when they have the ball, we get stops. We get turnovers. We win games.
Against Illinois, especially in the second half, we were not comfortable.
And as such, we gave up a lead, we fouled a lot, we got fouled a lot, we missed free throws, and we lost.
Yet And Still
Never forget that this is a mediocre team, not a bad team. Don’t be shocked if we beat Purdue on Sunday.