Tuesday, February 1, 2011
IU Basketball -- No Watford, Five Guards And Lourdes
So what do you do when you’re Tom Crean and the body blows keep coming?
How about book a trip to Lourdes? At this point, it couldn’t hurt anything but the travel budget.
Lourdes, in case you don't know, is a place in France to go for miracles.
Christian Watford is out with a broken bone in his hand. He joins Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones on the injury list, right next to ineligible center Guy-Marc Michel. If you're keeping count, that's four starters out.
Do you ever wonder what the Hoosiers would look like right now if they had everybody on the roster?
In an alternate universe, they might know. Those Hoosiers might be pushing for NCAA tourney opportunity. In this universe, well, it’s looking grim.
Crean can’t say that, of course. This isn’t the time to give in to frustration and disappointment and moan about the unfairness of it all.
We’ll do it for him. This is #@!&%!#%&*!!!!!
Anyway, Crean is trying to rebuild a program from scatch and bad luck rivals bad performance for the biggest road blocks. First he didn't have any players, then when he starts getting them, they keep going down for a variety of reasons.
Maybe it’s time to buy a box full of rabbits feet and four-leaf clovers and lucky charms, or even Lucky Charms.
But here’s the deal. The Hoosiers finally seemed to be getting this 40-minutes-of-effort-and-defense stuff down. You could see the growth. You could feel the improvement. Upset No. 20 Illinois. Nearly take down Michigan State at the Breslin Center. You can build a pretty good run off of performances like that.
Now, well, somebody has to replace Watford and his team-leading scoring (17.0 points) and rebounding (5.8) and 80-percent-plus free throw shooting.
This is taking the next-man-up approach to extreme levels.
Perhaps a hypnotist could convince Derek Elston that he’s really Watford or Bobby Capobianco that he’s really Alan Henderson or, heck, maybe the NCAA to realize that, hey, Guy-Marc Michel is eligible after all.
That ain’t gonna happen, so Crean turns to the only option he has:
The Assembly Hall crowd.
“We have got to have the energy of this fan base at a very high level,” he said. “We’re going to need it more than we’ve had all year.
“We are a team that doesn’t have everybody at full strength. Need our crowd at full strength.”
If IU can get a sellout crowd rocking and rolling like it did in last week’s upset of Illinois, anything is possible. At least, that's the message.
“We’re really learning how to battle,” Crean said. “When you build toward something and a big part goes out, you have to have something to make up for it. I think our fans can do that.”
But in another twist of bad luck, the winter storm rocking much of the country has turned Indiana roads into an ice rink. IU might be lucky to draw 8,000. The game might be postponed if Monroe County is declared in a state of emergency. However, with the Minnesota team already in Bloomington, you’re probably talking playing the game on Thursday night, which won’t give Watford time to heal from Tuesday’s surgery.
Did we mention an emergency trip to Lourdes?
Anyway, Minnesota brings college basketball’s biggest front court with Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson and Mr. Double Double Trevor Mbwakwe. They average like 6-10 and 250 pounds.
“We know what we’re dealing with,” Crean said. “That’s a pro front line. I’d be shocked if all three don’t end up in the NBA.”
How do you beat that?
How about playing a five-guard lineup and try to out-quick the too-big-anyway Gophers to exhaustion? Go full-court pressure, and bomb away from three-point land, when you’re not driving to the rim hoping to draw fouls.
What’s the NCAA record for three-point attempts in a game –- 50, 60? Take a shot. Take a whole lot of them. Pretend, for just one game, you’re Loyola Marymount back in the 1990s. Defense is just something to do -- briefly -- until you launch your next shot.
In fact, Crean said he didn’t think a small approach would work with FOUR guards. He mentioned FOUR a couple of times. He never said FIVE guards. So we, using our best X-Files logic, read between the lines. Actually, we heard between the lines, but you get the point.
Regardless of approach, there are a couple of big keys.
“If we don’t block out and rebound,” Crean said, “we don’t win the game. They are relentless on the glass. That’s the way that it is. Trevor is the best of them, but he’s far from the only guy. We know what they’re capble of. We’ve got to show what we’re capable of.”
Maybe this is the last season IU will have to endure with stuff like this. Perhaps by next year the Hoosiers will be talented enough, experienced enough, tough-minded enough and lucky enough to do some damage in the Big Ten and on a national scale.
For now, well, did we mention a trip to Lourdes?