Okay. I have had a few hours to calm down. A tasty beverage is on my desk, and I am ready to put this loss in perspective.
In what little I was able to listen to of the first half it seems like our substitution patterns were really off. We were never able to get into any kind of a rhythm. My signal kept cutting out as I was driving back from Kokomo and it seemed like we had a chance to really put it away in the first half, but the Hawkeyes responded to keep us from running away and dragged us into their fight.
Really, you have to give Iowa credit for this win. They aren't playing for 2011. They are playing for the future and this win is a major step toward it. They knew they could give this kind of effort. Michigan State got drilled there. Wisconsin won in overtime. Ohio State won by five. Unlike some teams, they haven't whined about their plight and they have looked forward. They have tried to get better with their current assortment of players. Credit to Fran McCaffery for earning this win.
As for us, we have to hope this was an aberration. It is troubling that after a solid month of excellent play, we came out flat and failed to adjust. We weren't hitting threes, so our solution was to jack up more threes. That is never the solution, especially when attacking the basket aggressively obviously is the solution. E`Twaun Moore, Ryne Smith, and D.J. Byrd each had several quality looks, but they didn't fall. We failed to attack he basket and get to the line, though even our free throw shooting was poor.
I think the day was summed up in the final minute. Down two, we had time for a stop and a score. We played solid defense, only to have Bryce Cartwright essentially throw something toward the basket that dropped. He had a challenged, off balanced shot fall that all but clinched the game, while many of our well earned looks would not fall. honestly, I just don't think it was our day.
The only thing we can do is move forward. The only thing that this loss cost us was a shot at the Big Ten Tile and a number 1 seed. As long as we recover and win a game or two in Indianapolis we can still get a #2 seed. We're not going to drop below a 3, which is what I wanted all along. We can still play in Chicago. The goals have not changed.
I would much rather have this poor effort happen now than in two weeks. As much as it feels like tonight's loss erased months of hard work, it did not eliminate us from the NCAA Tournament. That has been the goal all season long. We will be ultimately judged by what we do there. We could have lost this game by 70 and it would have not knocked us out. We could have won by 70, and it may not have changed our seed if Ohio State wins tomorrow and both Duke and Pittsburgh claim the other two #1 seeds anyway. At the very worst, this knocks us from a two to a three, and I think intelligent people will see this is an aberration for us as long as we respond with solid play in the Big Ten Tournament.
So have faith, Boiler fans. This sucks, believe me, but the sun will rise tomorrow. We're still going to the NCAA Tournament as a favored seed in at least two rounds, probably three. We still have a chance to show this was a gross aberration. The real season we have been aiming for begins right now. This is just a setback. What we do with it (and the fact we can do something with it) will define us. I have come too far to quit on this team right now, and if you're ready to quit you have no business being here.