I guess I have to start by thanking Ohio St. That was a nice win by the normally-hated Buckeyes over the even-more-hated Hoosiers in Bloomington. On Senior Night.
I’m told by Dan Dakich today on the radio that apparently Senior Night is a big deal around IU. I can’t really make a judgement, I really don’t know too much about what they do down south for senior day. I can’t imagine it’s too much different from what most schools do. Recognize the seniors, have them say a few words, give them a jersey or something. It’s nice, I like going to Senior Night at Purdue for that. But, I mean, is it really all that special? If there’s more IU does, I’ve not heard about it.
But, I’m digressing here.* I’m not here to compare how special different school’s senior nights are. I just wanted to make a few points here about last night’s game and what it could mean going forward. For starters, IU is not a tough team. They’re kind of like Butler, who beat the Hoosiers, as you might remember. If you get physical with them, they won’t respond to it well. I’m sure a lot of that goes on the thin back of Cody Zeller. There have been a lot of nice things said about his game, a lot of things I don’t necessarily see. But I haven’t heard too many people comment on how physical a presence he is and how well he bangs with other big guys and the like. Basically, he’s almost the polar opposite of Tyler Hansbrough, who to this day people seem compelled to point out how hard he scraps and what sort of brute strength he has.
*Especially impressive in that I hadn’t really even started yet.
To that end, in a way, it seems to be up to the officials just how far this Hoosiers team gets in the tournament. If games are tightly called and IU gets to shoot free throws every other time down the floor, they will win games. And this is a very real possibility of happening all throughout March. I mean, it’s been widely discussed here about how IU coasted on their 80’s reputation to get a four seed in last year’s tournament. It was outrageous. Literally. Every Purdue fan I knew was outraged by it. Especially when considering that Purdue was handed a 10 when there clearly wasn’t that much difference between the teams. Again, I’m going off the rails a bit here. There is a good chance that Indiana will get the benefit of the doubt, we’ll say.
But, on the other hand, it just takes one game where they don’t. One game like last night, where Ohio St. played hard-nosed, physical defense and the refs let the players play. Indiana is a team you can wear down. And, honestly, even if the refs don’t allow it, with the heavy schedule that the tournament brings, there’s a chance that the Hoosiers will be manhandled for a game they pull out at the free throw line, only to find they’ve got nothing left in the tank for the next night after they’ve been beaten up.
Look, I’ve been on record as saying I don’t think IU will make the final four. Some of that is being a Purdue fan, and I realize that. But it is not all based on that. A lot of it is the fact that this is a heavily flawed team, like every team in college basketball this year. This is maybe the most down season in my lifetime for college basketball. There is clearly no great team in the nation, and I would buy arguments that there really aren’t any good teams. Because of that, it makes it awfully hard to pick who a final four might consist of, just because it’s so easy to envision every team slipping up. Why? Because we’ve seen it happen multiple times to each of the “top” teams.*
*Except maybe Gonzaga, because of that schedule we talked about. But we did see them slip up once at Butler. Just not multiple times. Yet.
Is IU a final four team? It’s very possible. It’s very possible that they aren’t. With the apparent talent level stretched so thin in college this year, this promises to be the most unpredictable tournament in years. I should be excited for it. Hell, I should ecstatic about the parity. But I’m really not. I just feel like I’m watching a bunch of also-rans that all happened to fall into the same bracket.
We need to bring back the college ball of the 90’s. I’m begging here.