I write to you as a (partially) broken man. The Northwestern Wildcats could have punched their ticket to the schools' FIRST EVER NCAA Tournament today by beating Minnesota. Granted, Minnesota had the advantage of missing Ralph Sampson III (secretly, that dude is terrible), and getting Julian Welch back from injury (secretly, that dude is good). But this was the game for John Shurna to make himself a legend. This was the goddamned game for Northwestern to make The Leap.
Of course, it didn't happen. To quote some of my own text messages, being a Wildcats basketball fan is like being in an abusive relationship; every time the thing goes wrong, you know it's coming, you expect it, and yet you keep coming back for one more shot. You think this time, the f'ing thing will go right, everything will be okay, you'll get over the hump...
Northwestern made ONE field goal in the last NINE minutes of this game, including overtime. I don't blame Dave Sobelewski for missing his runner at the buzzer that would have won the game. It was a decent shot. I can't even really blame John Shurna for looking absolutely exhausted for the last twelve to fifteen minutes, because the whole game was on his shoulders and Rodney Williams is an extremely athletic defender who did a great job on the Big Ten's leading scorer today.
I don't even know what to do or say with this team. The NU part of my heart is broken tonight. Lucky for me, I'm a duplicitous bastard, and there are several other heart-parts to report on. So, enough Cat angst for the moment. To quote another text message: "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck."
How 'bout them Hoosiers? I think the first and most important thing is Verdell Jones. VJ3 has been a touchy subject for a lot of IU fans, including myself. His tendency to turn it over has been well documented. But then again, so has his ability to be a calming influence on this young team. So has his tendency, down the stretch, to hit huge shots and salt away big games.
Tom Crean in tears says a lot. This is a big loss for Indiana and we all wish the best for Verdell. He deserves to experience the tournament. He's been a huge part of the rebuilding process.
That being said, Indiana played really well today. Huge games from Christian Watford and Cody Zeller, who combined for twenty rebounds and over thirty points. If they can do that with regularity, IU is going to go deep in both this conference tournament and the NCAA's.
Jordan Hulls absolutely carried IU through a bad dry spell in the first and matched Tim Frazier, who is first team All Big Ten, shot for shot. That's also awesome. Oh, and Vic played fine. And the bench played well.
Tomorrow's slate of games is looking good. We start out with Michigan State vs. Iowa at noon. I'm a huge Draymond Green fan, but I've also been impressed with Iowa's improvement over the course of the season. They lost to Campbell in November. Uh, who? Campbell? Northern Iowa beat Iowa by twenty in December. They're not even making the NIT.
Yet Iowa pulled themselves together down the stretch and beat Indiana and Wisconsin at home, adding to a win over Michigan. 8-10 isn't bad at all in the Big Ten. Ask Northwestern how hard it is to have that kind of record this year. I think MSU is going to win tomorrow, but I would not be shocked if Matt Gatens, Aaron White, and the Hawkeyes made things extremely interesting.
Indiana-Wisconsin is a matter of pacing. If Wisconsin dictates the pace, expect a boring game with Cody Zeller contained. If Indiana can do their thing, they absolutely outclass the Badgers at this point in the season. Better offense, better depth, almost a wash on D, and Indiana is way hotter. I'm obviously hoping for an Indiana win and will be doing my best to be just a small part of The Sixth Man. Go Hoosiers. This game will kind of make or break our Big Tens experience this year as fans.
Michigan-Minnesota shoulda been Michigan-NU Round III. Damn it. I don't even want to talk about this. I'll watch the game. These teams are well coached and have good players. Yeah.
Ohio State-Purdue will draw almost as big of a crowd as IU-Wisco. I expect Conseco to be rowdy for this one, with OSU also adding the advantage of a loud and possibly drunken IU fanbase rooting for them for once. We tried to will Nebraska to victory today. It was like adopting a crippled puppy. Bo Spencer made things cute, for a little bit. Ultimately it was hopeless.
I rather expect that Purdue will be in the hopeless puppy role tomorrow against a motivated Ohio State team. William Buford needs to act like a senior, because he IS a senior. Sullinger doesn't have a lot of challenges in the post against the Boilers.
Revised picks? MSU over Iowa in OT, Indiana over Wisconsin, Minnesota over Michigan (hell, why not?), and Ohio State over Purdue. Sorry for no pictures, thanks for reading. I love you all.
Signing off from Indianapolis,