Okay, we've all had a chance to calm down, myself included. It has come to my attention that a post such as yesterday's does nothing in the long run. As someone on the GBI forums said, let Painter do the ripping. My original comments were probably a little too harsh, so I made an effort to soften them in order to get my original point across. In that, I don't think I am wrong though. This team did play soft and did shrink from the moment yesterday. It is something that cannot be denied, but fortunately it can be fixed.
Ultimately, I think what we saw was an aberration. We missed shots that have been falling all year. After being so hot for so long we were probably due for an off game. I just never thought I would see an off game in terms of our toughness. Again though, this is something that can be fixed. We have plenty of time to fix that and adjust to life without Robbie. We also get the gift of what should be two relatively easy games before the Big Ten Tournament to get our affairs in order so to speak. We will also likely be favored in that first game in Indianapolis, so that is a third game to get our feet wet.
One thing I kept muttering yesterday was that we have come too far to lose it now. That remains true, but it is also true that we have lost nothing yet. The goal of a regular season Big Ten title is still very much in play. When you think about it, that is amazing because we had two key players (LewJack and Robbie) missing for critical stretches of play but we're still in the position we wanted to be in. The #1 seed chances are likely done without a lot of help, but we are still going to get a fairly high seed. With no truly dominant teams out there we still have the chance to play in Indianapolis. It's not impossible, it's just a little harder.
So what should we expect against Indiana? I asked John of the Crimson Quarry last week what he expected even after Hummel's injury. Here was his response:
I expect you guys to win by about 40, particularly if you lose to MSU. I think it will be a Senior Night alley-oop fest/group therapy. - John M., Crimson Quarry
Clearly, confidence is not a factor for the Hoosiers. We still cannot take them lightly, however. This team played us to a three point game less than a month ago with the same personnel. If we put forth another effort like yesterday we are in deep trouble. Penn State also may not be as easy as originally expected because they are playing much better basketball right now. They are a dangerous team with nothing to lose. Should we lose to Indiana, I really fear playing Penn State when we would have nothing to play for.
Finally, I don't think I gave enough credit to Michigan State yesterday. They played a very sloppy game as well, but Draymond Green and Raymar Morgan played bigger than themselves. On a day when few players looked good, they were the best players on the court and played like they wanted it more. Instead of waiting for rebounds to come to them as we did, they relentlessly attacked the glass. The evidence came on the offensive end for both sides. If we would shoot a jumper there would be four green shirts, often unopposed, waiting for the rebound. If Michigan State would shoot there would be two or three green shirts (often Morgan and Green) crashing to the basket. Michigan State acted like every shot would miss and were rewarded accordingly. We acted like every shot we took was going in, and were summarily punished for it.
So now we find ourselves in a three-way split for the championship. We should be thankful that Ohio State dropped a pair of games early when Evan Turner was out. We should also be thankful that Michigan State dropped three straight with a hobbled Kalin Lucas. Of course, they are thankful four our three game losing streak. All three teams have battled injuries to stars. All three teams are deserving of their ranking and placement within the conference. They got their stars back and we won't. That doesn't mean we can't be right there with them. All we can do is keep playing and handle what is in front of us. Everything else will take care of itself.
Also, it is not as bad as it seems. Let's look at the latest Bracketology. We're still a 2 seed. I don't see us moving unless we lose any or all of the next three games. A 2 seed is still a mighty nice road to run.