Let's be honest- there's a lot riding on the next seven days. The Forces of Good have a chance to right some wrongs and place themselves in an enviable position. J and I have a conversation about how we feel about the team every week to seven days. Right now, I feel good. Moore still isn't playing his best possible basketball, yet he's scoring around 20, rebounding well and doing the little things that make him valuable to the team. While the media doesn't think JJ's sexy-enough to be considered a legit contender for Player of the Year, those of us who really watch him find him to be a sexy beast. He's doing it all...and even though he's soft spoken, he's digging deep to try to be a vocal leader. Let's not forget about the fellows surrounding the Big 2.
LewJack is playing with a tempo that's tough to match and is helping turn defensive stops into quick points. It's not by luck or coincidence that the Boilers just scored 54 points...in a half...on the road. That's because Matty has this team playing faster basketball, and The Adorable Midget (ref. BTN's Journey) is executing like a henchman for John Gotti back in the go-go 80s. Let's not forget about his taller counterpart KBar. Barlow sees the court well, but has really been impressing me with his ferocity on the glass. Perhaps yesterday, we saw a glimpse of what's coming in '12- LewJack at the point and Barlow on the wing slicing and dicing defenses as he continues to create difficult match-ups for flat-footed and shorter guards.
Byrd, Smith and TJohn are the next level of defense. All of them quietly await their turn, playing hard-nosed defense, diving for loose balls, guarding guys who think they can beat them and awaiting the defense to make the foolish mistake- discounting or forgetting about them. When that happens, when they're given space, they tend to capitalize and make the opposition pay. When these three aren't forcing things on the offensive end is when they're most dangerous. When they wait, the game almost always comes to them.
Bade, Marcius and Carroll may have quiet roles, but their importance isn't lost on Matty. The time will assuredly come in either the BT tourney or NCAA tournament in which JJ needs a few minutes or Purdue runs into a team like UConn a few years ago...and one or two of these guys will have to play important minutes. Sure, they aren't called to play a ton right now, but I like the fact that both Bade and Carroll have played with confidence and both can play better.
I'm not forgetting about Hart...and I don't think he's forgotten how to shoot in the last few months. But, he's gotta get his eye and his confidence back before he can be expected to do what he was doing back in December. There's still time for it to happen.
I've always said I like Painter's teams when they are playing with a chip on their shoulder...when few believe in them and when they have a score to settle. They've got two to settle in the very near future.
The Composite Computer Ranking is hovering right around 10, and I'd expect the human polls to be similar later today. And speaking of rankings, this is where we see the BT as of today:
1. an Ohio State Institution of Higher Learning
There's no shame in losing to Wisconsin in the Kohl. But, I think we saw some tarnish on their gleaming armor on Saturday. While no one will question a loss at Wisconsin, everyone will question a high-caliber team that loses a 15 point lead in a half...even those in their locker room. Here's to hoping they're doubting everything right about now.
'Sconny is playing good ball. Did any of you doubt Ryan would have them in this position right now? We didn't...and the formula is still magic: Great point guard play + big white goons= Success. Mix in a killer high-top fade, a SideShow Bob mop and the Birdman chewing on the officials, you have a can't miss high seed for the NCAA tourney. They're not going to be here for long though.
3. The Purdue University
A week ago, I'd say the BT regular season title was a pipe dream...and while it's still a dream, it's not the impossible dream. Let's sit back and enjoy the next three weeks...this could be really fun.
The gap between 3 & 4 is a chasm right now.
I like the way the Wolverines are playing. This has been an up and down season...but they have a legit opportunity to make it to the NCAA tourney. An angry Illinois team on the road will show us how seriously we can take UM.
The sizable win over Penn State showed me that Sparty still has a pulse. I put Izzo's squad here mostly because I'm trying to give them confidence.
"You guys are good! Yay MSU! Now go beat Ohio State, damnit."
Losing 6 of 10 is not something a team with that many Seniors and that much talent should ever do. Let's not forget, they lost to IU and Northwestern during this cold spell their under.
Tubby's club has weathered a ton of adversity. But they're in big trouble at this point. It's very possible that they could lose their next three. Like Illinois and MSU, they're fighting for their tournament life.
8. Penn State
If they get hot again, they could seriously damage the teams battling Purdue for the conference lead.
Love ya, Lions. (It's a Valentine's Day note)
So much hope...so many dreams...No tournament, yet again. John Shurna's ankle injury has absolutely killed the Cats. They could win their next two, but that'll be it for them. And that means they won't even be invited to Penn State's Invitational Post-season National Title Tournament.
The battle for 11th will be brutal!! Here's to the Cats thumping the Forehead...and the Hoosiers losing out. Wouldn't that be a shot to the confidence of those who tell me IU's making strides. We'll keep an eye on how it plays out.
If they have the same record, the Hawks get the tie-breaker...Remember, they swept IU. We don't forget.
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