I was going to go with the following headline:
Time of death: 9:07pm ET on 2/24/2010
I was then going to list the explosion of posts on the open thread last night when Robbie went down.
I won't do it though. We've come to freaking far through four months to quit now, dammit. Maybe it is the Danny Hope attitude carrying over from football to basketball. Yes, this makes getting to the Final Four more difficult, but it is not impossible. If George Mason can make a Final Four by taking out three of college basketball's best teams of the last decade we can do it with a much easier path.
All it takes is one game, at home against Michigan State on Sunday with the crowd lifting them, to all but secure the outright Big Ten crown and gain confidence. Win that, and we should still beat Indiana and Penn State. Going into the Big Ten Tournament I still think we have a chance to get a #1 seed. We have some tough games left with that tournament. I think if we at least make it to the weekend and play well in doing so we can prove to the selection committee that all is not lost. If we can find a away to win these last three regular season games we're still very much alive for a number 1 seed because we then prove we can play without Robbie.
This is a little different from Kenyon Martin's injury 10 years ago. That one happened in the C-USA tournament and Cincinnati had no games to gel together without him. We still have a chance to prove ourselves and we have a deeper team than that Cincinnati team. We're still going to get a high enough seed that we will be favored to make the Sweet 16. Once there, you can't really project anything because upsets always happen.
So what is our projected lineup? Obviously JJ just saw his minutes get extended. Patrick Bade absolutely needs to step up, gain some confidence, and play better because we need him right now. There is the temptation to pull the redshirt off of Sandi Marcius. I am not saying it will happen. No one knows how well he would play if thrown in there, but now that we are desperately short in the frontcourt I would think the temptation is there.
The biggest loss, as I said this morning, comes from all the little things that Robbie does. KG, Kramer, and Hart can help with the scoring. More will be expected of E'Twaun and JJ. Hart has shown some tenacity as far as rebounding on the offensive end. Kramer can take over for the leadership and his tenacity last night showed he can double somewhat as a post presence, but I don't think you can truly replace Robbie. It's going to take a total team effort to do so.
JaJuan Johnson - Please stay out of foul trouble. Rebound like your life depends on it.
E'Twaun Moore - We need you to do even more scoring. I am talking 25 a night if at all possible.
Keaton Grant - Please keep finding your shot and your confidence. We need you as a three-point shooter more than ever.
Patrick Bade and D.J. Byrd - Run, Rebound, and defend. One of you has to take Robbie's scrappy mentality and adapt it to your own game. We don't even need you to score much. We just need the scrappy little things without fouls.
Sandi Marcius - If he does play (and that is a huge if) he needs to just scrap near the basket, avoid fouls, and rebound.
Lewis Jackson - Please keep penetrating and dishing. You saved our ass with this last night. Keep it up.
Chris Kramer - You're the leader of this team. Keep everyone together mentally and don't give up. We're not dead until we have fewer points than the other team and the clock reads 0:00. If anyone can fill the little things role single-handedly, it is Kramer.
Kelsey Barlow - You're a player that can drive and create your own shot. We need you to keep that up. You can be scoring threat if you want to. Keep cutting to the basket and looking for that entry pass.
Last night we learned on the fly how we're going to win games without Robbie. We're going to win by getting even tighter defensively, hitting some big shots, and still wearing opposing teams down. We have to keep moving without the basketball, and that means everyone. What makes Robbie so good is that he does this. He doesn't go to the corner and wait for the ball to come to him like Ryne Smith. It's called a motion offense for a reason. It's not the, "stand here until I get the ball, then pump fake if I don't have an open look" offense. As long as we're moving and getting drives to the basket it prevents teams from clamping down on JJ and making us rely on perimeter jump shots.It doesn't have to be pretty. All we have to do is the same as last night: make sure we have one more point than the other team.
We have, at minimum, four games to play before the NCAA Tournament. In those four games we can decide if we're going to learn and adapt or crawl within ourselves. We cannot quit. We must never quit. There is absolutely no rule that states we cannot continue to win games just because one player is hurt. We need to just find ways to win and not give up. Remember: You won last night without Robbie. You can do it again. The choice is yours, gentlemen.