Smile Politely

Illini played great and lost: Part 6

Indiana University’s School of Music is tops in the world. They know it.

Music is a big deal in Bloomington. The Hoosiers feel content to enjoy their arts and let Purdue teach the states’s engineers and scientists.

Every time I’ve attended a basketball game here, the music school supplied a world-class opera star to ululate parodies of Francis Scott Key’s fairly simple tone poem about a flag that was still there.

Good for them. Ostentation beguiles. It demands attention.
Sure, ridicule follows ostentation. But Hoosiers know how to deal with it.

Indiana is the pea-hen of NCAA basketball.*  Hoosiers resist fancy uniforms, and redesign of any kind. But they are absolutely smitten by a showy performance.

Thursday night’s performance provided just the show to excite the female bird. It’s sad to speculate, especially after mingling with those people, the number of leathery old vaginas left unfulfilled by flaccid Indyanners whose wads shot prematurely to the thrill of Meyers Leonard’s fifth fowl foul.

Watching Cody Zeller hold, push and even punch Meyers Leonard, I assumed the zebras were “letting ’em play.”  It turns out they were letting them play. Illinois shot 12-of-15 from charity. Indiana was 35-of-42.


If anything, Indiana’s thugs pounded on us. Maybe Illinois committed ticky tack hand-check fouls, but the stripes allowed Zeller, Thug-in-Chief Derek Elston and side-of-beef Tom Pritchard to hammer Illini bigs and Illini smalls with impunity. (Hoosier Hobbit Jordy Hulls hacked the shit out of Illini guards, but he’s allowed special dispensation on account of being a Little Person.)

Illinois played great.

As I wrote after the Minnesota loss, Bruce Weber’s best coaching performances (or at least the team’s best execution) continue to surface in losses. The offense looked great at Penn State and Illinois lost. The Illini moved the ball against Wisconsin and lost.

The Minnesota game was a clinic on Illinois’ offense weaponry. And they lost.

The wins are hard to watch. They generate, if I’m not mistaken, a disproportionate percentage of the Fire Weber! ammunition. This seeming oddity  —  that bad wins make people angrier than good losses  —  is not the psychological conundrum that it might, at first glance, appear to be.

We like to be entertained. We like a show. We want bold colors and an aggressive attack.
The peacock is a stupid bird, even as birds go. But it knows its audience.

The reason that Illinois looked so bad in its boring wins is that Bruce Weber got the game that he wanted. Dismiss from your mind the notion, much perpetrated circa 2005, that Weber’s “motion offense” asserts a purpose.

Do not mistake The Deron Years with a systemic approach to Offensive Dynamism. What we’ve seen 2007–12  is that Weber likes winning with defense. He’d be happy with a 2–0 win.
It’s nothing like spectator sport. Consequently, spectators no longer patronize Illinois basketball.

But wow, they sure do in Indiana.

Two years ago, as the Hoosiers suffered through another sub-Kelvin season, there were more people at Assembly Hall East than there are these days at Original Assembly Hall.

Our mojo will likely return someday too.

Bruce Weber proved at Indiana that he hears his critics.

He got Myke Henry involved. He played Nnanna Egwu and Meyers Leonard simultaneously. He played the two point line-up with Sam Maniscalco and Tracy Abrams. Each of those guys made plays that literally bowled them over, and figuratively bowled me too.

Sam’s save, flying out of bounds backwards and upside down, found Meyers Leonard who found Myke Henry for a dunk. It will likely remain among the most impressive series of events in my basketball experience. I was four feet away, and could hear (and almost feel) each of Sam’s organs, bones and ligaments as they hit the floor. He ran back to the defensive end, as he always does.

*North Carolina is the peacock. Duke is simply the cock.

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