I Like Where This Is Going February 17, 2013
Minutes after the Gonzaga win, I tweeted the following:
Come at us, America.We’ll play anyone, anywhere. IT IS SO FUN TO SAY THAT AGAIN.
— A Lion Eye (@ALionEye) December 9, 2012
Sure, I was swept up in the euphoria of beating a top-10 team on the road (a top-10 team that now has a decent shot at a 1-seed, by the way). But that’s how I felt at the time. If we can win at Gonzaga, is there any arena where we can’t win?
And then we lost at Purdue.
And then we lost at home to Northwestern.
And suddenly we were 2-7 in the Big Ten with #1 Indiana coming to town and a trip to #18 Minnesota over the weekend. At that point, my feelings were the exact opposite of that Gonzaga tweet. Is there any arena where we CAN win, Assembly Hall included?
Now… well, now I like where this is heading. Just this week: 20 point win over a Purdue team that we lost to in January. And now a 21 point win over a Northwestern team that we lost to in January. What once looked insurmountable at 2-7 now possibly becomes 7-7 on Thursday night. At home. Against winless-in-the-league Penn State. Winless-in-the-league Penn State who just played two back to back great games where they hit everything… and lost.
And the Michigan and Ohio State road games? Don’t they suddenly seem a lot more attainable? I’m not saying we’re going to win at either place, but both teams are kind of a mess right now. Truth be told, the way Iowa has been playing at home (combined with the fact that we never play well at Carver-Hawkeye), well, that road game might scare me more than the other two right now.
Bottom line: our last two home games are against the worst two teams in the league – Penn State and Nebraska. So there’s 8 wins (and an absolute lock for the tournament). But in addition to that, right now, I have to say that 1-2 in our three road games is the probable outcome. With 2-1 being in the realm of possibility.
Looking back at our last four road games (at Nebraska, at Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Northwestern), don’t you have to say that we’re playing really, really well on the road right now? If Michigan State doesn’t shoot 88% from the field in the second half, we’re talking about a four game Big Ten road winning streak.
I really like where this is going.
A few thoughts on the game:
+ DJ is maybe third team All Big Ten at this point, right? He has to be. On New Years Day, it looked like Brandon Paul was headed for First Team All Big Ten and possibly second team All American. And now I’m pretty sure that DJ might finish ahead of him on the All Big Ten teams.
Which raises an interesting point which will probably become an entire post come tourney time (TOURNEY TIME!!): DJ started the season OK, but then fell back a bit around the first of the year, and has now surged to what we all expected after his freshman year. Tyler started out red hot and then went ice cold, but in the last two weeks has cranked up everything from his shooting to his offensive rebounding. Brandon started out scalding hot (he was probably a first team All American after the Gonzaga game) but has cooled considerably.
The post I’ll probably write in a few weeks: If Brandon climbs all the way back, we’re a team that nobody wants to play in the tournament. Come at us, America.
+ How long ago does “live by the three, die by the three” seem? Was that even this season? We shot 30% from deep at Northwestern but won the game in other ways (namely, shutting down their putrid offense and DJ and Tracy finding creative ways to score). What was the last game where the three-ball won it for us (like it won the USC, Butler, Georgia Tech, and Gonzaga games)? The threes stopped falling, we started losing, so we found other ways to win.
+ A friend sent me a text after the game:
Ho-hum whatever Big Ten road win. How long has it been since we could say that??
Good question. My first thought was Nebraska this year, but the Huskers cut it to six in the second half, so that one wasn’t very ho-hum. Last year we had exactly one Big Ten road win (at Northwestern, where Meyers Leonard blocked a shot from Drew Crawford that would have won it).
We won at Iowa by 10 in December 2010, but that was a 6 point game with seven minutes to go. We beat 6-18 Indiana by 13 in February 2009, but the way I remember that game, we had a big halftime lead that they cut to five or so with five minutes left before we pulled away.
So I think the answer is February 12, 2008 at Minnesota. We were 11-13, Minnesota was 15-7, but somehow we strolled into The Barn and came away with an inexplicable 24 point win. And then we finished 5-13 in the conference.
Yes, more than five YEARS since our last “ho-hum, whatever” Big Ten road win.
+ OK, so 8-10 is certain and 9-9 is possible if not probable, with 10-8 still on the table as well. Given with the media mock selection committee came up with this week (Illini = 18th best rating from the committee and a solid 5-seed), I’d say an 8-10 Big Ten finish (plus a loss in the Big Ten Tournament) is probably an eight-seed or so, with 10-8 Big Ten finish (plus a few wins in the Big Ten Tournament) maybe climbing us as high as a… four seed?
If I’m completely honest, I have my eyes set on a six seed. Because I hate the top of the bracket. I’m so sick of the top of the bracket. We’re on this crazy streak of 11 straight top-of-the-bracket seeds: Since 1998, when we make the tournament, we’re either a one, four, five, nine, or twelve seed.
So give me a six-seed, across from three-seed New Mexico. Throw in Gonzaga as the two as well.
IT IS SO FUN TO SAY THAT AGAIN.