The easy thing to do would be to celebrate. To anoint. To christen.
It'd also, maybe, be easy to cast an underdog role. The plucky upstarts. That sort of thing.
Neither, of course, would be true or accurate. After outplaying, outtoughing, and out-defensing a Kentucky team loaded with NBA last night in Des Moines, you'll hear it a lot this week. Indiana's a team of destiny.
No. They're not. They're just really good. As they have been since, well, about January.
Through the early parts of Saturday afternoon's contest, it looked as if, once again, this would not be Tom Crean's year to end bad twitter hashtags and the nonsensical internet pitchforks of certain fans and mediatypes. Indiana couldn't make a shot. Rob Johnson's ankle gave out. Kentucky's defensive length was creating turnovers en masse. Troy Williams was doing the '93-Ford-Fiesta-with-the-accelerator-stuck-through-a-crowded-farmers-market thing again. Thomas Bryant picked up two quick -- possibly phantom -- early fouls. Things were bad, and poised to get worse.
Poised to get worse, of course, because outcomes for Indiana as a basketball team are viewed by most across college basketball formulaically. If they shoot it well, look out! If not, it'll be a long night. Indiana was, for those that haven't followed closely -- and plenty that have -- a dang excel spreadsheet.
INPUT, CELL A2: 6-of-21 three point shooting, 28% from distance
OUTPUT, CELL D7: uhhh wait no shit shit shit what this isn't supposed to happen
Indiana, with such inputs into the three-point-shooting-to-win column, wasn't supposed to hang around. The other factors should have only contributed to make the situation more grave. But then the spreadsheet broke. Indiana hung around in the first half. And lead at halftime. And then began to pull away in the second half. And then held on for the win, and sent a bunch of future NBA stars off to begin cashing checks a few weeks earlier than expected.
The easiest way to explain this is with empty, vague lipspeak terms that for somehow or some reason whatever God you worship has preordained this Indiana team for Very Great Things, or at least moreso than others. Team of Destiny! Yeah, yeah. The kinda stuff oft reserved for Jim Nantz to lifelessly orate as confetti falls from some mega-stadium's sky on an early April Monday night. You can do this if you'd like, you can play the team of destiny card. You'll have company -- team of destiny stuff makes for great column & talk radio fodder. It makes everybody feel good and it becomes some sort of rallying cry. If this is your prerogative, please, go forth.
But subscribing to the team of destiny thought requires you to buy into the formulaic thinking about this Indiana basketball team. Well, we shot it terrible, so, uh, destiny! No, no. You don't have to do that. They're just a really good team with really talented players and a really good coach that can win games in a multitude of ways.
Now headed to the Sweet 16 to face an even tougher test than the one behind them, Indiana has checked all the boxes on the checklist of Things You Need To Win Games In March. Of course there's shooting. They've developed defense. Point guard leader. Complimentary stars. Emerging, young, athletic freak defender. A coach who took John Calipari out behind the woodshed for two hours Saturday evening. And now they're winning in grind-it-out, tournament-life-on-the-line rockfights and huge moments -- because they've got a moxie and poise that hasn't been seen at Indiana since maybe...
okay fine i'll say it