This Is All Worth It, Right? February 24, 2010
The pacing. The inability to eat dinner until 8:30. The couch cushion punch when we scored 11 points over a 17 minute span. This will all be worth it, right?
I mean, I found myself screaming “stop calling him ‘Manny’” at Illini homer Brent Musburger. I stood for the entire second half. My son made fun of me for leaving the room during 1-and-1 free throws (again). My neck is sore for some reason.
Does a tournament bid matter THAT much? Am I simply investing all of this emotional energy – finding new bracketologists every day, cheering for West Virginia at UConn, watching 6 RPI sites – for a team that might flame out in the first round? Is this season simply streaking toward one final roundhouse gut punch?
Speaking of guts, this has been as gut-wrenching season as I can remember. The Utah loss, followed by a loss to our punk kid brother. Barely hanging on to beat Boise State at home. The Georgia meltdown. A loss to Missouri. Overtime at home with Northwestern. An overtime loss against Gonzaga. Needing a 15 point comeback at Indiana. Watching another Talor Battle shot hang in the air as time expired (he missed) as we beat Penn State. Back to back to back losses, the last two where we let a second half lead slip away. Needing another second half comeback to win at Penn State. Beating Indiana at home on a McCamey buzzer beater. Watching a safe lead at Iowa shrink to three with 4 minutes left. The whistles at Purdue. And now tonight’s “Michigan is shooting 19%… and trailing by three” performance. I’m not sure how much more I can take.
So will it be worth it? Are we continuing to hang on to our tourney hopes because a surprise Sweet 16 run is in the works? I saw a bracket this week that had us as a 10 seed opposite 7 seed Richmond, with the next game being 2 seed Kansas State (across from 3 seed Pittsburgh). Tell me there’s that kind of payoff at the end of this.
Or maybe it’s an old fashioned Big Ten Tournament run. Those have been fun over the years. Ride that to a 7 seed or a 6 seed and be the team that no one wants to face?
But then I watch games like tonight and think “who wouldn’t want to face us?” When McCamey is out of the game, we’re lifeless. Brandon Paul is the bizzaro freshman – only comes up big when the pressure is on. Our bench keeps getting shorter, our bigs are now taking nineteen foot jump shots, and our coach can’t wait for the exact moment in each game where he can call the stall. What noise would we make if we even got to the tourney?
Then again, this game turned around because Demetri McCamey decided “I’d like to win now, please.” I’m convinced that Tyler Griffey will never miss one single bunny in his entire 4-year career. Mike Davis has returned, DJ hits clutch free throws, and Bill Cole’s defense has improved 84% from game 1 to game 28. And, the team that lost to Purdue was not the team that lost to Utah. Improvements have been made. We’re 6-3 on the road, and the committee loves road wins.
The best news – this is the year we’re likely out of our 4/5 seed rut. If we finish with 20 wins like I think we will – beat Minnesota at home, lose at Ohio State, and then split with Wisconsin (either beat them at home and then lose to them in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, or lose to them at home and then beat them in the first round of the BTT) – then I think we’re a 10 seed. Since 1998, our seeds have been 5-1-4-4-5-1-4-12-5. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the other side of the bracket looks like.
What’s that? Looking forward? Excited? Why, would that mean this is all worth it? Is it?
Of course it is. Go Illini.