Indiana won last night. In 49 other states, that would be enough. But this is Indiana.
Throughout last night’s 89-77 win against #19 Iowa, Indiana fans were thrilled or frustrated by each possession regardless of the score because that’s what we do. For years we were taught that basketball is a possession by possession quest for perfection in execution and effort. Up 30, down 30, or tied, each moment provides a precious opportunity.
People either get that or they don’t.
Here’s a reply to a tweet I posted as IU led by 14 in the second half:
Come on Kent – enjoy the game for once this year. Breathe alittle and enjoy. One of their better games in quite awhile. Hope to build off of this game
— _TheJLaw1963 ❗️ (@OneAndOnlyJLaw) February 14, 2020
That’s not the way Indiana fans do things. We watch the game possession by possession and then celebrate wins when the clock hits zeroes – not a second before. It might be insane to indulge in that level of relentless judgment, but it’s what we do.
Indiana Basketball is not about passively watching and shrugging our shoulders when Devonte Green throws his nightly ill-advised lob pass out of bounds. We don’t jump up and down when the Hoosiers go up 18 in the first half after Green hits a three.
It’s about what is next, not what has been.
People who don’t understand tell us to relax. We talk about poorly set screens, bad block outs, and getting in a stance. As players try to indulge in an opportunity to get on Sportscenter, we yell about the game being about points and winning, not highlights. it’s about we – not me.
Indiana fans are not satisfied with a 12-point win against a ranked opponent. We’re thinking about how to compete on the road against Michigan and Minnesota with a team that doesn’t show itself to be a fundamentally sound very often.
Basketball in Indiana is defined by missed opportunities, not made three-pointers. That is likely very confusing to a player like Devonte Green, who is capable of getting so hot from deep that he lifts Indiana to wins that should have been losses. Fans whine about bad alley oop attempts instead of congratulating great shooting nights.
The rest of the Hoosiers are likely baffled by a fanbase more demanding than the coaching staff, and I don’t blame them. Our behavior is borderline psychotic. Why the hell do we care so much about flaws as a possession unfolds rather than results? I can’t explain it – although I’m trying – but there is no changing it.
Indiana Basketball stands for something in the minds of fans – especially those who remember when they won Big 10 titles every other year and national championships every five years for a while. While talent was certainly part of the equation back then, Indiana won through disciplined and relentless execution by players dedicated to each other and the effort to attain the myth of perfection.
When Indiana teams appear to be unaware of the beauty of that pursuit, fans get salty – win or lose. Tom Crean never understood that, and Archie Miller seems similarly oblivious to how IU fans perceive the game. They seem not to trust fans’ willingness to take the ride with a coach who demands sacrificing the individual to embrace the collective.
Whatever Miller needs to do to drive buy-in for team execution at the expense of individual glory won’t just be tolerated by fans – it will be cheered. Eliminating selfishness works for Indiana fans, if only a coach would bring the consequence necessary to compel compliance.
Indiana fans are crazy, but they don’t apologize for it. This program is different, and it needs to be led differently. It’s not about wins and losses, but about the pursuit of perfection.
As long as Indiana represents that motivation, fans will invest wholeheartedly in it. When sloppy play goes unaddressed and the same mistakes are repeated, fans yell – even if Indiana leads by 18.
That’s Indiana Basketball through the eyes of its fans. We demand collective efforts toward perfect execution, and that will never change.