SOC – Colorado March 21, 2013
I mean, the tournament is here – why not a Stream Of Consciousness post? It’s gonna be hard to sleep tonight anyway…
This past weekend: “I really don’t care what happens in the tournament – getting a seven-seed, with where this team was a year ago, is a huge accomplishment. Anything we do in the tourney is gravy.”
Tonight: “We just can’t lose to Colorado. Man what a huge disappointment that would be. To come this far, with these seniors, and then lose to a beatable team like Colorado? That would be such an awful way to go out.”
I’ve found that this line of thinking is unavoidable. I can say I’m pleased and that everything else is gravy, but I don’t really ever mean it. I always think one more win is possible. I can easily see a scenario on Sunday where we keep it close against Miami but eventually lose, and I’ll be all “the Sweet Sixteen was RIGHT THERE FOR THE TAKING.”
Look at Ohio last year. Ohio University makes it all the way to the Sweet 16, and late in the game against UNC, Walter Offutt is at the line with six seconds left and a chance to give Ohio the lead. He misses, North Carolina doesn’t score, the game goes to overtime, and Ohio loses. And even Ohio fans – probably won’t be back in the Sweet 16 in the next 25 years Ohio fans – were left with this “man, the Elite Eight was RIGHT THERE” emotion.
So there’s my first point of this SOC – in the tournament, gravy evaporates. Man, that would be a great title for this post. “Gravy Evaporates”. It’s so true. A 10 seed loses in the Elite Eight and their fans are guaranteed to be “man, the Final Four was so close”.
Just like 1997 for us. We weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the tournament that year and suddenly we’re a six seed. And then the three seed paired with us pulls an Alford (14 seeds beating three seeds – you know, like Northwestern State over Iowa or Harvard over New Mexico – shall forever be known as Pulling An Alford) and suddenly Illinois has a clear path to the Sweet 16. Except Chattanooga has a kid who will be chosen in the lottery in a few months, and he goes off, and we lose in the Round of 32. What an empty feeling.
It’s not fair, but those are my emotions once the tournament has started. I can always see a path that takes us just a little further than we’re supposed to go. Win tomorrow, and I’m all over “Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast – I’m telling you they’re beatable.” Win that one and it’s “Butler or Marquette, what is this, Maui 2.0?” It never stops.
OK, I’m stalling again. Right to the game.
First off, my main worry is this Roberson kid. He pulls down 11.3 rebounds per game. Which means he’ll have 14 or 15 against us. Here’s my advice. At some point tomorrow, you’re going to be yelling “GRAB. A. REBOUND!!!” at your television. So why not get it out of the way right at the beginning. During the very first series, if Colorado pulls down the rebound, simply yell “GRAB A REBOUND” at your television. Now it’s out of the way. Now you can enjoy the game.
But you won’t enjoy Roberson. Or Dinwiddie. This kid can get to the lane a lot. And he’s really good at drawing fouls once he’s there. So while you’re in the mood, maybe an early “STOP LETTING HIM GET TO THE HOLE!” as well. Dinwiddie to the lane, Roberson grabbing the rebound. Those are the big two concerns tomorrow.
Shut those things down, and I don’t think they can beat us. But I’m not sure we can shut those down, which means I expect a close game. The good news: we’re really good at close games this year.
Here’s why I think we win. We just completed 20 games in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten. The style of play will be different in the tournament – gone is the 1994 New Jersey Devils neutral zone trap-style defense that most Big Ten teams employ – and I think that’s a big advantage for us. We might not play well against grind-it-down teams like Wisconsin, but in a more open game, I think Brandon and DJ (and even Tyler) can shine.
And that’s really what tomorrow will come down to. With the last game of their careers looming, what will we get from our seniors? Which Brandon will we get? Does DJ have another Nebraska game in him? Once Egwu gets his two quick fouls, what will we get from Sam? Is Tyler ready to hit another dagger three?
I say yes. Colorado has one senior, and he’s sixth on the team in scoring. We have four. And with the thought that this might be their last game in their heads, I think they respond. DJ is the hero this time with five threes, and we get past Colorado and set our sights on Miami.
Illinois 67, Colorado 59