Everything has to mean something.
Our biggest Thing in sports culture is the need to extrapolate something meaningful out of every result, to look for some seminal or tide-changing moment at every possible interchange. This is oft blamed on the Social Media Era or Millenials or Some Other New Thing as if this reactionary culture is new, but it's hardly the case. Sunday sports columns existed well before Twitter was conceived for such a purpose. This isn't a Good or Bad Thing, but just a Thing. And it's certainly a Thing this morning.
After Indiana's vibrant victory over Purdue Saturday night, there's a compelling urge to write a column that features such extrapolation, to talk about the shift that occurred in Bloomington over two hours in Assembly Hall. Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams looked like bona fide stars when the lights were brightest. Tom Crean's use of Max Bielfeldt and Thomas Bryant on the perimeter made him look more of the part of a chess grandmaster than Weird Face Guy. The atmosphere was vintage & raucous -- all for the primetime cameras on ESPN's national Saturday night stage.
It, certainly, felt like something.
But maybe it isn't. Maybe it doesn't need to be.
On a night that felt like so much, the tangible takeaways and results from Indiana's win should be enough to carry the narrative for Hoosier fans. The win meant the Hoosiers are a short three wins -- possibly even two -- from an outright Big Ten title. The win was another quality victory that marches the Tom Crean's team closer to a top-4 protected seed that seemed farfetched in December. The win showed Indiana can not only compete, but thrive, when faced with a contrasting style of play and talented big dudes on the inside. The win should lead Indiana fans to realize Troy Williams' unquestionable value to this basketball team, and in turn placing the online 'BENCH TROY' movement on a rocketship destined for the center of the sun.
These are good and fantastic things to be excited about -- and there are plenty of reasons to optimistic about this Indiana team as the calendar turns to March. But there's no reason to treat Saturday's performance as some sort of tide-turning coronation.
It's only such if you hadn't watched Indiana's dominating performances against the Big Ten's middle-of-the-pack at home in January. Or if you hadn't watched the Hoosiers run Michigan off their own court. Or if you hadn't watch them stretch out a 16-point lead over a possible 1 seed in Iowa. Or if you'd been hollerin' AIN'T PLAYED NOBODY at the top of your lungs for weeks on end. Or if you'd been living in a fallout bunker without modern communicative technologies since the first week of December.
Indiana's been here. They've been good, for awhile. This result was not unexpected.
The same columnists and talk hosts singing Tom Crean's praises, painting a picture of perfection, and raising expectations for this Indiana team this morning are the same ones that have left Crean for dead time and time again. It's the end of February -- there's no need to rush to label or extrapolate anything extra from any college basketball result. Indiana is a very good basketball team with the talent to go deep into March that could now clinch an outright Big Ten title within the next two games. They could also still lose to Illinois. Fin.
So, chill. There's no reason to rush to any conclusion or storyline about Tom Crean and his relationship with Indiana fans or anything of that sort. Last night's home win over Purdue wasn't anything more than what it was: an incredibly impressive performance from players & coach in a game against a ranked opponent during the heat of a conference title race.
That one result won't shut any of the haters up, or fix any wounds, or change any narratives.
But it's one giant step toward a 2016 Big Ten championship -- something that just might do all of the above.