Thursday, January 24, 2008

Some thoughts on seventeen-and-one

I'm used to Indiana being ranked higher in the computer rankings than they are in the AP... or even higher than seems reasonable... because we've played such a difficult schedule that our SOS is in the single digits and yet we have several losses. In other words, we've played really good teams - and lost to them. This season is a complete role reversal. I can't remember the last time Indiana had a schedule this poor at this point in the season.

Side comment - I'm not complaining about the schedule. We didn't have control over many of the teams we played and we don't have any control over how good our opponents are in a given season. Who would have thought that we'd play in the ACC-B10 Challenge plus play Kentucky and neither of those games would be against a high quality opponent? We've almost always had games against Western Carolina or Coppin State type teams... it's just that this season we had nothing to balance that out. And obviously we've started the B10 with a very favorable schedule too.

Anyway, the point is that this is new territory for Indiana fans. I'm used to arguing why Indiana is the best 8-loss team in the country. I'm used to arguing why Indiana deserves an NCAA bid in spite of our 18-11 record because those other bubble teams didn't play anyone good.

And now I'm looking at our 17-1 schedule and thinking, "The only upset we've been involved in is the game where WE were upset by Xavier. The other seventeen games are a combination of expected victories and closer-games-than-we-thought victories." It's hard to pull off an upset when you're as good as Indiana is, because those opportunities will be rare, but that's the problem - we're trying to judge ourselves against the other top teams in the country, but we haven't played any of them. According to Pomeroy, the best team we've played is #13 Xavier and we lost by 15. The next best team is #36 Minnesota - a five point win on the road. Minnesota is also our best win according to Sagarin, who has them at #46. Think about that for a second. Our best win this season is against Minnesota... an NCAA bubble team that's really happy about being a bubble team.

It's very easy to picture this team being exactly as good as it is today and performing exactly as well as it has this season and being 13-5 against a really tough schedule. We might've already played at Wisconsin and MSU. Kentucky could have been a Top 5 team. We could've been paired against UNC instead of Georgia Tech in the Challenge. And this same team probably wouldn't be ranked in the Top 25.

17-1 isn't completely meaningless. It tells me that this team is good enough to win even when they have an off night, and that is important. We've got multiple weapons and don't need to be firing on all cylinders to beat someone. Remember thinking in years past that Indiana could beat anyone in the country IF everything went just right? We don't need everything to go just right this season. And that's good, because as everyone expected with this team of newcomers, our performance has been variable throughout the season... but with a clear upward trend. I am so happy with DJ and for DJ right now. He's always seemed like a great kid to me, but it's no secret that I have been less enamored with his play than many other IU fans. Well, I'm officially no longer in that camp - he's completely exceeded my expectations this season. This team is still developing and that will continue until the last game, but so far they've won the games they're supposed to win, and that's gotta count for something.

But all that is over now. Forget the gaudy 17-1 record. In spite of their struggles, UConn is the second best team we've played this season. We'll be a clear underdog at Wisconsin. And then after a home game with Northwestern, it's at Illinois, at Ohio State, and home against Wisconsin, MSU, and Purdue. Dang. Now things get fun. We're not going to win all those games. But it's going to be exciting. I can't wait.


The Grands said...

When daddy handed me the sports section this morning, he said "Now don't get excited because they've only played the teams at the bottom of the standings". Does this mean you are getting as pessimistic as he is?

Terry Bleizeffer said...

I wouldn't say I'm pessimistic, I just think that 17-1 isn't as great as it sounds because IU fans aren't used to playing this kind of schedule... and we should be prepared for some losses over the next few weeks without wigging out about the team.

A lot of teams probably could have gone 17-1 against IU's schedule.