I sometimes find it odd that more basketball writers don't talk about the seamy side of Our Game -- but then I realize that nobody wants to talk about it. Why ruin the fun? Nobody likes to think about college hoops in less euphemistic terms: teams are selling themselves like scantily-clad women in a strip joint -- except that it's the worst and cheapest that get the most interest.
How else did Howard and UMBC end up on Indiana's schedule, if not for their coaches saying "We won't ask for much of a guarantee and you'll absolutely blow us out, so let's get it on." It's like some form of perverse courtship, wherein suitors compete to abase themselves in ever-more-degrading fashions to win the approval of (and then destruction by) their mates.
My occasion to think about this is that it's time to write about a game that was one of the most depressing sights I've ever seen on a basketball court. Of all Indiana's preseason blowouts, the guarantee game beatdowns, the paid-up patsies... their game against Stetson was, far and away, the worst of the lot. How bad was it? The homestanding Hoosiers had three, count 'em, three players rack up trillions -- and if it wasn't for a single assist, Matt Roth would have taken home the rare five trillion.
A small contingent of Hatters fans made an appearance behind the Stetson bench, but try as they might, their cheers couldn't keep Stetson in the game for long. Decent gunning from beyond the arc made things interesting early, as Chris Perez and Tyshawn Patterson knocked down a couple deep jumpers each. At the break, Indiana led by just four, 33-29.
Apparently, Indiana coach Tom Crean didn't like that, and told his players as much. By the end of the game, the scoreboard read 84-50.
If you do the math, that means, yes, the Hatters were able to put up only 21 points in the final 20 minutes. Ouch.
How did that happen? Well, Stetson ended up shooting two-point field goals at an absolutely godawful 9-for-33 clip. They might as well have been chucking them from Mars (without the help of Michael Jordan) as attempting a layup. If there is a recipe for beating a B1G team on its home floor, that formula most certainly does not include having your starting five shoot a combined 15-for-42 from the field.
Meanwhile, Indiana's players were showcasing their talent by drilling 3-pointers and attempting to outdo one another for a spot on the Big Ten Network's nightly highlight reel -- while the student section, already bored with the blowout on Branch McCracken Court, started prophetically chanting "BEAT KENTUCKY" long before the final buzzer sounded. (That game was 10,000 times better, but unfortunately does not qualify for 800GP coverage. You read about it in 8 million other places, anyway.)
Mercifully, the refs seemed as eager as anyone to put an end to the proceedings as swiftly as possible, swallowing their whistles almost to the point of choking. Neither team wanted anything to do with prolonging the matter, either, so it became almost comical at times to see players bending over backward to avoid anything remotely connected with a foul call.
The Hatters stoically plodded onward, hitting rim, backboard, shotclock and scorer's table -- anything but the basket -- until, finally, the clock read 00.0. Their contract was fulfilled: 40 minutes of basketball against ridiculously long odds in exchange for a fat check to fuel the Atlantic Sun battles to come.
This, then, is college basketball today: not "One Shining Moment," not a David vs. Goliath upset, not a stunning buzzer-beater or a legendary dynasty. No, college basketball is about money. The Red Line needs no more elegant proof.
at INDIANA 84, STETSON 50 12/04/2011
STETSON 4-4 (1-0) -- C. Perez 4-10 3-4 13; A. Pegg 3-8 1-2 7; J. Naburgs 3-11 0-0 8; A. Graham 3-8 0-0 8; W. Green 2-5 1-2 5; L. McInerney 0-3 2-2 2; T. Patterson 2-4 0-0 6; J. Weston 0-4 1-3 1; J. Paul 0-0 0-0 0; D. Diaz 0-0 0-0 0; D. Morales 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-53 8-13 50. INDIANA 8-0 (0-0) -- C. Zeller 7-11 2-3 16; V. Jones III 3-9 4-4 11; J. Hulls 5-12 0-0 12; C. Watford 4-7 1-2 9; V. Oladipo 6-8 0-0 13; W. Sheehey 3-7 0-0 6; D. Elston 3-6 0-1 7; T. Pritchard 2-4 0-0 4; D. Moore 0-0 0-0 0; R. Abell 0-1 0-0 0; A. Etherington 0-0 4-4 4; M. Roth 0-0 0-0 0; K. Barnett 1-1 0-0 2; J. Howard 0-0 0-0 0; R. Smith 0-0 0-0 0; T. Wayer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-66 11-14 84.
Three-point goals: STET 8-20 (J. Weston 0-1; A. Pegg 0-2; J. Naburgs 2-6; A. Graham 2-5; T. Patterson 2-3; C. Perez 2-3), IND 5-13 (V. Jones 1-2; D. Elston 1-2; J. Hulls 2-5; C. Watford 0-1; V. Oladipo 1-1; W. Sheehey 0-2); Rebounds: STET 33 (L. McInerney 8), IND 33 (C. Zeller 7); Assists: STET 8 (A. Graham 3), IND 20 (V. Jones 4); Total Fouls -- STET 14, IND 10; Fouled Out: STET-None; IND-None.