MSF readers, I want you to think about something for a moment.
Three weeks ago, you would have called me crazy if I had said that on December 11th Tiger Woods would be a national punch line because of numerous affairs that had been made public.
You also would have called me crazy, just 24 hours ago, if I had said that on December 11th we’d be living in a world in which Cleveland Browns fans are waking up with rare smiles on their faces the day after a defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Hence the title of this post…it worked so well Thursday, I figured I’d try the same format again.)
So, with all of that in mind, think twice before calling me crazy for what I am about to say: Indiana can beat Kentucky tomorrow afternoon in Assembly Hall.
I can just hear you all now – the choruses of What is wrong with this guy? Is he nuts? Does he think it’s 1993 again? Doesn’t he realize that John Wall is the greatest basketball player…ever?
Look, call me crazy and say that I’m a deranged Hoosier fan living decades in the past, but I always think the Hoosiers have a shot to win any game at home.
I remember the 50-some game winning streak we had in the early 90s; I was at most of those games. So you will most certainly not get to me admit that the Hoosiers are “dead players walking” on Saturday when the ball is tipped.
#4 Kentucky Wildcats (9-0) at Indiana Hoosiers (4-4)
- Indiana-Kentucky Date: Saturday, December 12th
- Indiana-Kentucky Time: 12:00 ET
- Indiana-Kentucky TV: CBS
- Indiana-Kentucky Spread: not yet posted as of Friday morning
Now, allow me to step back for a moment and take an objective look at this game.
I don’t know how the Hoosiers are going to keep John Wall out of the paint. I also don’t know how we are going to defend Patrick Patterson without getting our big guys into foul trouble. And the athleticism of Kentucky’s roster trumps that of the Hoosiers’ roster by a long shot.
However, here are three quick reasons why you should pause before chalking this game up as a 25-point blowout win for Kentucky.
1. The Assembly Hall Factor
John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and DeMarcus Cousins are all terrific talents, but they are also all freshman who will be playing in their first true road game. It’s a little bit easier to do the right things and play with poise at home, and to a lesser extent, on a neutral court. When freshmen are playing in from 17,000+ fans who are all loudly against them, I don’t care how talented they are, it could affect the game.
Update: Matt Anaya of The Hoop Doctors would absolutely not agree with this assessment, specifically as it relates to Wall.
Now, Indiana will have to play out of its mind to keep the fans into it, but if this game is close with five minutes to go, you can bet the Assembly Hall crowd will be a factor. Maybe Wall will be completely unfazed by it, score 30 points, and move himself closer to the Naismith Award. Still, until he has a big performance on the road, I’m holding out hope that he and the other Wildcat freshman struggle in their first hostile environment.
2. Long Range Shooting
The three point shot is always the great equalizer between two teams with mismatched talent, and there are countless of examples of teams coming into Assembly Hall and having poor shooting nights while the Hoosiers go off on the other end.
Could it happen Saturday? Sure, it could.
Kentucky is actually shooting the ball pretty well from downtown this season (36.8%), but again, that’s playing most of their games at home. Indiana is shooting 35.5% from downtown so far this season.
One thing is certain: for Indiana to have any shot of an upset on Saturday, guys like Maurice Creek, Verdell Jones, Devan Dumes, and Jordan Hulls are going to have to hit some outside shots. If Indiana can pull one of those ridiculous shooting days out of its collective rear end, and the Wildcats go cold, it could be enough to keep the Hoosiers in the game and make the crowd a factor.
I’ve never really hid the fact that while I obviously recognize his successful track record of building basketball programs, I don’t like John Calipari and I think he shares a moral and ethical compass with this jackass. Remember folks, he’s the coach in history to have two Final Four appearances vacated.
(So when he delivers Kentucky to the Final Four – perhaps as early as this year – and then something comes up a year later that wipes it from the books, I hope that Kentucky fans everywhere feel like it was worth it.)
Indiana’s basketball program has not been without its own sin. We know all about Jackass’ transgressions and we are still paying for them today. In Tom Crean, we all believe (we hope!) that we not only have a solid coach who is a good recruiter, but one who will rebuild Indiana’s program the right way.
Crean and the players he has brought to Bloomington have had to suffer through constant losing since he took over last season, but finally he and the team were able to get a big win over a legit program. Tuesday night’s victory over Pittsburgh was one of the most satisfying wins I can remember, and yet another building block for Crean and his staff.
So…what do I mean by karma? Well, I think right now that Indiana has more of it. I think we purged our program of its negative influences and are on the path towards building things up the right way. Kentucky, on the other hand, solid its soul to a basketball devil (remember folks: two Final Fours vacated; only coach in history) in the hopes of recapturing its past glory.
And Kentucky may very well recapture its past glory with John Calipari at the helm. I just personally don’t believe that he will do it in a way that would make me proud to be a fan of his program.
Thus, I believe it would be fitting and karmically inspired for the Kentucky Caliparis to come into Assembly Hall and receive their first loss of the season.
In the end, I cannot predict a Hoosier victory. You see, bringing this post full circle, although Tiger’s life has been turned upside down and the Browns beat the Steelers, I never would have predicted either.
So I’ll predict a Kentucky victory, 81-65, and then hope that a great shooting night leads to a raucous Assembly Hall crowd that keeps the Hoosiers in the game until the end, when karma can a ball bounce this way or that to decide the outcome.
Because if that’s the case, I like IU’s chances.