Excuse Me While I Rant
Although this article is primarily just me feeling the need to get some things off of my chest, I can’t help but feel that some of you also feel frustrated by some of the same things. I mean if you are a fan of Indiana University basketball, how can you not?
Now, let me explain myself. My frustration is as much, if not more, centered towards a small faction of “fans” that seem to have it all figured out while sitting on their couches, as it is with the teams up and down play. I personally don’t have all of the answers, nor do I claim to. Truth be told, maybe I’m not really all that frustrated with the team at all. I know it’s kind of cliche, but it is what it is some cases, and this seems to be one of those cases.
Were the slow starts a point of frustration? Absolutely. Is the inability to play a consistent 40 minutes of basketball on either end of the floor a reason to be frustrated? Without a doubt. I grew up on Bob Knight’s IU teams, starting in the 70’s, when toughness, defense, and limiting mistakes were not only expected, but they were the norm. So even though the game has changed some over the years, and as much as I’ve changed with the times, not seeing those things night in and night out, yeah, it’s a little frustrating.
But when you look at where this program was when Archie Miller took over, and you look at the program as a whole right now, my frustration with the team and the direction the program is heading starts fading pretty fast. But it’s right about this time that my frustration with reading the comments from today’s “win right now” part of the fanbase baffles me. Well quite frankly, it pisses me off.
The Hoosiers sit at 12-4 overall, and 3-2 in the conference, on the season. A season that has had them endure and overcome numerous injuries to players that one would figure would have played fairly significant roles. 12-4, with all four losses coming on the road. If you take a look at scores around the country you’ll see that winning on the road just gets tougher and tougher each year. Aside from the Duke debacle, IU has been in each game. Maybe it’s the glass is half full mentality that I have, but feeling like we have a chance to win each game we play is a helluva lot better feeling than what I’ve felt for quite some time as an IU fan.
It’s often said that IU needs a consistent 3rd scoring option to compliment Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford. Coach Miller is blamed by some for not recruiting to fill that need. Well for those that say that I say this. You must have never seen Jerome Hunter play in high school, or anywhere for that matter. I did see him, and I know that he was that 3rd scoring option. Was he going to get you 20 a night? No, probably not. But he was more than likely going to get you 12 or so every night, with the occasional 20 point game.
To see Race Thompson and the doctors and trainers questioned about how long it’s taking him to return to action from a concussion is infuriating to me. Throw Robert Phinisee into that mix as well, although he did see some action against Maryland on Friday night. It sickens me that there are Indiana “fans” out there that value winning or losing more than they do an 18yr. olds health. With everything doctors have learned in the recent past about the longterm effects of concussions, I personally don’t think you can be too cautious in these situations. I’ve seen it said IU’s being too cautious stems from the issues with the former football coach, and to that I say, “SO!”
Concussions are serious injuries people…period. I’m possibly the most competitive person you’ll meet, but I still don’t believe in winning at all costs. I don’t want certain types of players representing Indiana University. We’ve been there and done that (Kelvin Sampson). And I damn sure don’t to jeopardize a young man’s future health and quality of life to have a little more depth or win another game or two.
It’s becoming obvious to me that Zach McRoberts and De’Ron Davis will not be 100% healthy this year. McRoberts plays his butt off by giving everything he has, but he’s definitely not the same player physically that he was last year. It pains me to watch De’Ron Davis try and move on the floor. Early on some of it was mental. And being a little apprehensive following an injury like a torn Achilles tendon is understandable, but he has physically regressed also. He can barely bend his ankles, and walks and runs gingerly. But yet due to depth issues, he’s out there for a few spot minutes a game trying to do anything to help this team win.
Devonte Green has been asked to play a position he simply does not have the mindset to play. His play is beyond sporadic. For every good play, he makes two head scratching plays. Prior to Phinisee getting hurt there were times when they were on the floor together and Green’s play was elevated to more good plays and less head scratchers. If we are choosing sides at the playground, Devonte is chosen within the first couple of picks, but the sides have already been chosen and while running the point he simply doesn’t understand the value of each possession.
Evan Fitzner is being welcomed to mid-west basketball and he’s finding that it is a little more physical than the west coast basketball he played in high school and at St. Mary’s. I still believe he will get more comfortable and will help IU win some games this year, but right now, he’s simply being pushed around and is not responding by pushing back.
Damezi Anderson, Clifton Moore, and Jake Forrester will all three be able to help IU at some point in their careers, possibly even in a game or two this year. But basketball is a lot about matchups, and style of play in today’s game, and I feel like none of the three gave us a better chance of winning the Maryland game than the guys that played. Game minutes are usually based on practice habits, and I would assume that’s still the case. So win you couple practice play with matchups, I don’t doubt that Coach Miller didn’t see enough positive in any of the three to think they gave us a better option. But I believe they will soon get their chance.
You play the hand you’ve been dealt. Injuries are a part of the game that you have no control over. You recruit to fill needs and you don’t throw scholarships away just because you have one or two that haven’t been used yet. We all should have learned that from the recent past. In reading this you may think that I’m not bothered by the outcome Friday night, or any of the other three losses for that matter. If so, you would be wrong. My frustration about Friday night solely stems from knowing how difficult it is to win on the road and letting one get away.
But when looking at the big picture I see that Indiana is a missed put-back from being 13-3. They started slow against #2 ranked and undefeated Michigan on the road, but kept battling and found themselves in a position to possibly win late in the game prior to a late Michigan burst. After answering the bell early in the game against Maryland, they had a mid game stretch where they looked like it was the way they had been starting games instead of the way they had been playing in the 2nd half. You go on the road and play a team that many consider to be a title contender in Michigan and battle with a depleted roster, and I see the positive in it. You go on the road and lose to a 14-3 team by three, I see the positive in it.
Both of those games had spurts by the opponents, or lapses in our play, that contributed to those two losses. And yes, I DO see the positive in that too. We all saw what this team is capable of win they play 40 minutes of basketball on both ends of the floor when they did so against a 14-3 Marquette team that is ranked #21 in the country.
“Our defense is awful!” That is slowly becoming a common comment on my Twitter feed, Facebook newsfeed, and the IU message boards I am a member of. “Miller is in over his head!” I’ve seen this a little more frequently of late as well. My ability to refrain from useless banter with these armchair coaches and computer tough guys is the fact that you simply can’t argue with ignorance. Indiana is #38 in the country in scoring defense. Go look up what they were ranked in that category prior to Miller taking over. When you do so, remember that a lack of defense was one of the biggest complaints for about 9yrs. prior to Archie Miller becoming the coach at IU.
In closing, I know that this will probably not change anyones mind about anything, and that’s okay. Some people are just basketball geniuses and know so much more than any coach, or any other fan does. But I will add this, sitting in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall every game during the beginning of the past two coaches tenures has taught me at least one thing, if nothing else, and that is that Archie Miller is the right coach for Indiana University basketball. And a if I could sit through the rebuilding efforts of the previous coach and believe that we were at least heading back to respectability, then I can damn sure sit through a three point loss or two on the road in the Big10 as Archie Miller returns us to competing Big10 every year, just like what I grew up on.
I firmly believe that is where we are heading, and as frustrating as it can be to get there, it can also be a beautiful thing to watch if you understand that some circumstances just can’t be helped. I personally am not getting back on the bandwagon because despite any frustration I may have had in my 42yrs. as a fan I’ve never gotten off of it.