Now Playing: Everything Sucks - Reel Big Fish
Starting with the easier pill to swallow: Hoosier baseball had a rough go at it down in Lubbock this afternoon, getting beat 10-5 and 6-2 in a doubleheader against Texas Tech. The Hoosiers managed to bounce back in the first game after Tech opened a 5-0 lead, cutting the advantage to 1 before the pitching could no longer hold up. In the second game, IU had a lead in the 4th inning (2-1) before Tech would score 5 unanswered runs, 2 of them unearned thanks to a fielding error. Going back to the season primer, I discussed how defense was the lone question mark for the Hoosiers going through the year and today it cost them directly.
I don't have as much analysis as the feed provided by Texas Tech was not working throughout most of the day and I may or may not have shifted attention completely to basketball as it got around 4 PM. Today is not really cause for alarm for the Hoosiers, as these are the kind of early season things that you just have to work through. You're on the road for a month, you're playing your first meaningful baseball in nearly a year, and to some extent, you just chalk it up to the nature of the sport. The length of the season helps balance out bad days and, unfortunately, IU had to play twice on a bad day. In the end, IU had great starting pitching yesterday and that's what was missing in both games today.
They'll be fine, but with many a lonely eye turning to them to salvage the day, it didn't help for them to come up short.
Because over in basketball-land, we just plummeted through whatever you defined as rock bottom.
I'm sure we've all felt the team had bottomed out at different points this year. Some came after the Northwestern game, but that was chalked up (mostly) to a young team unable to handle the success after beating Wisconsin. More came after the defeat in Lincoln, but there was (at least) something to be said for how well Nebraska plays at home. Things went off the rails after the collapse at home against Penn State and while all that had been hard on the fanbase, I don't think a single one of us expected what we saw today in Mackey Arena.
With 6:10 remaining in the first half and nursing a 5-point lead, Noah Vonleh picked up his third foul after biting hard on a Jay Simpson shot fake. After that, Purdue would outscore the Hoosiers 60-37 the rest of the way. That event would seemingly reverberate through the remainder of the half, particularly at the end of the half, as IU found themselves in a tie game with 36 seconds to go before a pair of free throws stretched it to 2. Then an in-and-out Yogi 3 turned into a foul going the other way by Vonleh's rarely-played replacement (Devin Davis), and a failed box-out by the guys up front on a missed free throw pushed Purdue's advantage to 5 at halftime.
That sequence gave Purdue a lot of momentum, which IU should have let halftime put an end to, but, ultimately: the Boilermakers came out for the second half and the Hoosiers did not. A huge run to open up the second half buried the Hoosiers and the Boilers did not bother to look back. At no point in the second half did IU even appear to be in the game. Purdue hit shot after shot and the Hoosiers consistently failed to respond. So for those looking for some second half consistency- there you go. Guh.
Hats off to the Boilermakers, though. This was a team that did not shoot well, and they shot 55.6% from distance. This was a team that did not make free throws, and they were 75.9% from the charity stripe. They took advantage of IU's mistakes and beat them in every phase of the game. Worse yet, Yogi Ferrell did not get to 30 points, meaning we cannot count this as a victory, a la Purdue fans after AJ Hammons put up 30 in last year's beatdown. That's the last jab I'll take at our friends up north, because our basketball team is slightly worse than theirs and now IU probably won't have as good of a seed in the NIT. Or the CBI. Or the Big Ten Tournament. Not sure we end up qualifying for any of those, AT THIS RATE.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea would have helped us out in at least one aspect, Vonleh likely would not have come back in first half with two fouls, leaving him a WHOLE OTHER FOUL to use for whatever he wanted in the second half. That lack of flexibility killed us early and the look on Crean's face when Noah got #3 was priceless. It's about the same look one has when a good friend of yours breaks something valuable. It was a wonderful mix of disappointment and betrayal: "I trusted you to not screw this up and here you are ... screwing this up."
Bottom line: Vonleh racked up fouls early. HMP was not there to replace him. Purdue shot out of their minds and the usual Hoosier offense wasn't gonna get it done. Based off the #iubb hashtag, nearly the entire fanbase places the blame for today and the season on Tom Crean. Like AJ said in his post on Crean: I'm also not ready to give up on the guy but I cannot blame those who are. The team has underachieved this year in most respects but, personally, I'd still like to give this freshmen class another offseason before considering alternatives, whatever those may be. Many, myself included, anticipated this iteration of the Hoosiers to win games they shouldn't while losing games they shouldn't and they have done just that. At this point, though, the bad losses have outnumbered the upsets by a wide margin and the fanbase is getting restless. Bad losses to rivals who are also in the midst of terrible seasons is not a good look.
For Crean, the greatest thing he can do now is some how, some way convince Noah Vonleh that another year in B-Town would be totally rad so he can gallivant about town with his buddies while he's still young. (I imagine him saying those exact words, perhaps while wearing a top hat, and it made me smile. Try it.) Crean's proven to be an excellent recruiter and his most important pitch yet could be keeping one of his own guys around. You can't blame Crean if Vonleh goes, however, as "You can come here and get paid to do what you're currently doing for free!" is a better recruiting pitch than any college can offer. (And I'll let you insert your own jokes here, you're welcome for the set-up.)
But enough about the bleak future; let's focus on the bleak present! The team is in complete free fall and the only thing that can stop them is either: A) themselves or, B) a double-digit loss to someone in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Focusing on the former, the Hoosiers have plenty of opportunities to pick their postseason bid out of the garbage, dust it off, and close the season strong as a way of building towards next year. Look at what Iowa did this season following a championship run in last year's NIT! The season may be lost from a "meaningful postseason" perspective but it doesn't have to be devoid of any purpose. If everyone, from Crean on down, gets that Oladipo-esque work ethic going, this team could really build something positive to go into the offseason with.
Or they mail it in, never win another game, Vonleh goes pro, Yogi transfers to Kentucky, Bloomington burns to the ground and we all die alone. THESE ARE THE OPTIONS IN FRONT OF US.
So get it together, you beautiful basketball monsters that we love too much. Play hard, play smart, and maybe you'll end up doing something really stupid like winning the Big Ten Tournament. The road doesn't get easier, as a really good Hawkeyes team would absolutely love to come in here and beat this already dead horse on Tuesday night, so you might as well put up a fight. For the fans, in the meantime, I'd recommend sipping some good whiskey and watching the new season of House of Cards because HOW GOOD HAS THAT BEEN? WOW.