So, We’re Good, Right? December 17, 2012
I’m voting in a blogger power poll this year. It’s on the Big Ten blog “Delany’s Dozen” (here’s a link to last week’s poll). It’s not really a big deal – just a bunch of nobodies like me (at least I hope they’re nobodies like me) ranking the Big Ten 1-12.
Each blogger takes a turn showing their work. This week it’s my turn. And I have no idea what to say about us.
I do get to show off a little bit. Each week there have been eight votes for Indiana as the #1 team and one vote for Michigan – mine. So, at least for a week, I get to be all “I TOLD you Tom Crean was the reason Michigan >> Indiana”.
But what do I say about Illinois? Where do I rank us? It would feel so great to put Michigan #1 and Illinois #2 in the poll, but do I really believe that? If we played Indiana on a neutral floor tomorrow, they beat us, right? Ohio State too, right?
When I watch a game like tonight’s game, the answer is yes. No chance we could beat Indiana or Ohio State (or Minnesota, or Michigan State) playing like we did tonight. 20 turnovers + 26% from three = 21 point loss to Indiana. No way I can put us anything higher than fourth in this poll, 12-0 or no 12-0.
But we’re 12-0. We beat Butler (by 17) on a neutral floor, and Indiana just lost to Butler on a neutral floor (transitive properties, yo). And we also beat Gonzaga at Gonzaga. You know who didn’t beat Gonzaga at Gonzaga? Lewis and Clark State College. They lost in Spokane by 47 back on November 29th. Oh, and also Kansas State.
OK, let’s get crazy. Say we win our next four games. Missouri, Auburn, at Purdue, Ohio State. We’re probably going 2-2 in those four games, but it’s not inconceivable that we’d win all four – heck, with Ohio State in Champaign, we’ll probably be favored in all four games. If that happens, and if Michigan and Duke have lost by then, you know we’re probably getting votes for #1 at that point, right? 16-0 with wins over two, maybe three (if Missouri is #10 tomorrow) top 10 teams, we’ll have one of the five best resumes in the country.
But it feels INSANE to type that. Because it is insane. Votes for #1? We might only be the 6th best team in our conference. I still think we’ll lose double digit games this season. Votes for #1? Get out of here with your votes for #1.
Hmmmm… there’s a dark side to this. What if we do start 16-0 and climb as high as #4 in the rankings? That could be setting up an epic collapse in this Big Ten. Something crazy like 16-0 start, 5-12 finish. I still think Minnesota beats us twice (Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe will both have 23 and 15 in both games). Michigan beats us twice, too. And I can’t see road wins at Ohio State or Michigan State or even Wisconsin. It’s so easy to look at our Big Ten schedule and find 9 immediate losses.
But that’s crazy, right? I said we had no chance at Gonzaga, and we won by double digits. I just wanted a 2-1 record coming out of Maui, and we won the thing. We’re probably #8 in both polls tomorrow. Why am I looking at a team like that and saying “yeah, 9-9 or 8-10 in the conference”? Maybe we’re actually… really, really good?
I have no idea where I’m going to rank us in this power poll. Gonna sleep on it. And I’ll probably dream of getting a two seed.
A few quick thoughts on the game tonight.
+ We just never make things easy. Since we returned from Hawaii, we’ve played four low-majors at home – Gardner-Webb, Western Carolina, Norfolk State, and Eastern Kentucky. And there hasn’t been a single game that was fully wrapped up by the under-4 timeout in the second half. Tonight was the largest margin of victory (13 points), but even this game was an eight point game at the under-four (with an Eastern Kentucky player coming very close to a steal and an uncontested layup to cut it to six).
So does it matter? Are all of these too-close-for-comfort wins a sign of trouble on the horizon? Or should we simply be encouraged that we’ve found a way to put all of these games away and all high-five each other because we’re 12-0?
(After typing “too close for comfort” above, I came thisclose to writing a Jim J. Bullock joke. You’re welcome, younger people. I’m sorry, older people.)
+ I hope John Groce can discover the Tracy Abrams switch in the next few years. When he turns it on, he’s pretty fantastic. Can get to the rim, can score in a variety of ways, and has even developed the little tear drop. He’ll be a big part of our success in 2013/14 and 2014/15. And, hopefully in 2012/13 too.
But it feels like it will be quite some time before he can perform at that level consistently. He’s had several off games (he was scoreless against Gardner Webb), but then he’ll turn around and score 15 or so with 5 assists. We’ll need him to find some consistency by the Big Ten season.
+ We saw a lot more of what I’ll call our “double bigs” lineup tonight – Egwu and McLovin on the floor at the same time. In the first 11 games of the season, we’ve almost always had a stretch four on the floor – either Griffey or Henry. Nnanna + Sam was never really a lineup we used very much. But tonight, especially in the second half, we played a lot of the DJ-Tracy-BP3-Egwu-McLovin lineup.
And it was highly successful. Especially on the defensive end. Egwu tonight was the shot-blocking 4/5 man we were all hoping to see when he signed. And McLovin altered his fair number of shots as well. I like that lineup a lot. Now if we could just get them to beat our own guards to the rebounds.