Closing the Gap

What a difference a month makes.
Just 29 days after Indiana's conference wake-up call in Columbus, the Hoosiers have covered some serious ground. What appeared to be a hopelessly young team destined to bumble their way through the conference season has morphed into a legitimate conference contender. The magnitude of their metamorphosis is Kafka-esque.

Sure, January saw its share of youthful blunders and execution-ineptitude, but think about what's become at the beginning of February. After taking a giant shat at Value City Arena, IU started the month on a 3-game skid. Then, half-way through the month, the Hoosiers showed us what's to come. With back-to-back wins against Minny and Penn St., the loss of Mo Creek no longer seemed to be the death nail in our conference coffin. And while Iowa proved to be an unlikely trap game (which we leisurely strolled into at our own volition), the past 3 weeks have, for the most part, revealed what inspired basketball looks like again.

No longer must Hoosiers fans loathe tip-time when a ranked opponent rolls into B-town or when the Hoosiers visit a hostile venue. IU somehow found the fortitude to compete these past 3 weeks. Not only is IU competing, they've learned to stop beating themselves in the process. Excluding Iowa, IU has averaged a stingy 12.75 turn-overs a game and a relatively impressive 70.5% from the free throw line. These stats bear witness to the progress Crean has made in teaching his squad the value of ball possession and the essential element of capitalizing on our free throws: our 2 greatest self-inflicted liabilities thus far.

Not surprisingly, this period of improvement has directly corresponded with a marked display of leadership from some of his players. Verdell Jones has shown a visible sense of floor command and situational awareness by timely delivering critical shots at exactly the moment IU needs them. Jeremiah Rivers unfucked his head and moved past his Shaq-tastic free throw hurdles. And dare I say, Tom Pritchard's testicles finally descended and allowed him to play with some nuts for the first time in almost a year (you had to know that one was coming, Chris & Dustin). Jordy is shooting the ball with confidence and no longer hesitating to take the open looks. Add to the mix Capo & Elston's developing roles, and IU is rapidly closing the gap that has kept it from competing on a night-in, night-out basis in the Big 10.

While I'm not ready to bet the farm on a +.500 season, it's growing clear that the resurrection is coming full circle. On any given night, IU can be in the thick of things at the end of the game. And what was previously easier to dismiss as an opponent simply looking past IU to their next game (cough, Pitt, cough, Michigan pt. 1), IU's recent play has erased any chances of being a gimme game going forward. How they respond to the new found attention, however, remains to be seen. But there can be no more arguing that IU is once again relevant in conference play.

I'm increasingly anxious to see if there's not a big upset looming somewhere on the horizon for the young Hoosiers. No matter, the gap between last year's shit-show and this season's promise is growing larger by the minute; the distance today between wins & losses is much, much closer than it was at the close of 2009. Best of all, IU basketball is fun again, and that makes all the difference in the world for this Hoosier.

Game Notes:

-The debut of the Crimson Guard was...uninspiring, to say the least. With the student section less than 1/2 full at tip, it seems clear they've got their work cut out for them. Seriously, Pur-fucking-due for Christ's sakes...on national 7 pm... for the first red-out in school history. If that doesn't get your dick hard, there may be no amount of Viagra to get the students up for a big game. Speaking of the red-out, or "Crimson Vision," let's call a spade a spade and throw in the towel on color themed promotions. The visual effect of the event provided a view no different than the average outing at Assembly Hall. Because "it's Indiana," let's stop trying to be something we're not. And we're apparently far too independent minded to comply with wardrobe requests (though refuckingdiculous costume sightings were marginally down last night). If we've proven to consistently half-ass attire-based promotions, let's punt the whole fucking notion of creating a dramatic visual theme. Once the gym finally filled, I was adequately impressed with the energy and noise it provided. Shit, my entire section was standing at the 13 minute mark of the 2nd half- a rare feat for my neck of the woods. Let's acknowledge who we are and embrace it for what it is: we just don't seem to give a fuck about color coordination (hence, red v. crimson). And before this portion of the rant concludes, let's talk about the costumes. Why must whomever is in charge of selecting the honorary flag bearers only select costumed buffoons?!? If this is going to get any better, stop highlighting these bastards. Pick a couple of students who are crimsoned out and into the game. It's basic child psychology: encourage the behavior you desire your children to display and ignore that which you'd like not to see repeated.

- Todd Leary. Dude. Oh, dude. Really, dude? It's bad enough to get caught up in something like this, but to have a former teammate thrust into the investigation and be hauled off in the Assembly Hall tunnel in front of your family is simply awful. Now that it's happened, just please don't do anything that would make this worse on your family or those who care about you.

-Scoop Talk. I was compelled to stick around after the game and experience the behind-the-scenes magic of Scoop Talk. And though I allegedly cursed Chris' computer (I thought Macs were immune to that shit) (and apparently curse way too much for the HT to risk making a deposit with the FCC), I enjoyed getting the chance to talk shop with the guys. Watching them ad lib Scoop Talk live proved to be far more entertaining than watching their always-entertaining webcasts. With any luck, there may be a road trip in the future. We'll keep our fingers crossed. As for the swearing, I swear because I care, Chris. And let's just say I care a lot. I could tone it down I guess, but I prefer to keeps it real. Besides, isn't fuck the most useful word?

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