and they read, “Matt Roth’s a pimp.”
Watching Matt Roth’s shooting performance against Ohio State taught me a really important lesson. Namely, If I have an opinion about something, I need to say it here, otherwise I can’t say “I’ve been saying this for months” cause there’s no proof.
Here’s where I have been on Matt Roth for well over a month now and it’s going to seem like hindsight. He needs to play more and here’s why. If you’ve watched us play over this 11 game losing streak, and even before that I think you’d have to agree that all too often our offense gets down to the final seconds of the shot clock and needs someone to chuck up a shot. Matt Roth, if nothing else, is a tremendous release valve as he can shoot from anywhere.
I couldn’t realy find a place to insert that thought, largely because I knew he wasn’t getting more minutes because there are holes in his game in other areas, but I still thought he gave us more than he would cost us.
I’m not sure he should start, but he should be in the game a lot more. It’s very early in his career but where do you think he ranks as a pure shooter with the likes of Kyle Hornsby, Todd Leary, Brian Evans, Steve Alford and anyone else I’m not thinking of right now.
Now, let’s backtrack to the Northwestern game.
Do you remember Dakich’s debut last year in Evanston? I know I’m going to hear cries of extenuating circumstances here, but our game against NU in Bloomington last year wasn’t much better than the trip there, so I discount that claim. We played better on Wednesday that we did when we won there last year. Last year we got our ass handed to us by backdoor cuts and lay ups. We couldn’t slow them down, much less stop them. This year, we bumped their cutters, played much better defense, and gave up fewer lay ups. We don’t have the talent or experience that we had last year, but the preparation for this game showed more this year than any prep we did to play NU last year.
Tom Crean is the right man for this job. Want proof? Go back and watch the way he handled our players and that game in Evanston. He was calm when everyone else was getting wound up. He got worked up when they got quiet. His demeanor really guides this team and he’s almost always giving them exactly what they need. Remember when Verdell dribbled the ball off his knee and it went out of bounds in the second half? Verdell started to get all worked up and was complaining about the call. They took a shot of Crean and he was telling Verdell to let it go and go play defense. He said it twice, did not get the repsonse he needed and immediately pulled Verdell. He didn’t sit him because of the mistake. He sat him because he wasn’t putting it behind him. That was a great move.
More proof? This team believes they can win. Despite being in the midst of a tough losing streak, the guys on the bench, with 4:00 left in the game were excited, involved and into this game like it was the final possession. It wasn’t the body language of a group of kids who are just waiting to see how they were going to lose this game. That is 100% the coach.
OK, Ohio State.
I’ve turned the corner on this team. For the last three games I’ve felt pretty good about our chances going into the games and I haven’t been wrong. This is no longer a group of kids trying to find reverse on a soviet tank. These guys are now worthy adversaries.
Go back and watch our ball movement during the first five minutes of the Ohio State game. It was crisp. It had direction and intent. They knew where they wanted to go with the ball. They expected their teammates to be there, and they were. It was like watching an entirely different team. These guys finally have some idea of what it takes to compete at this level and they are.
Now, we clearly have issues. Allowing 78% shooting in the second half can only lead to defeat, but against a team that took us out of the game in the first three minutes in Columbus we were winning at the half and were within two with 8 miutes to go. It’s not a win, but it’s a HUGE improvement.
We’re going to beat Iowa on Wednesday. And it won’t be out last win of the season. I think we’re very close to being the team that people should be uncomfortable playing. We’re going to win a couple game we aren’t supposed to win this month.
The last point I’d like to make about the Ohio State game is once again in regards to Tom Crean. At times against Ohio State, he got worked up about the officiating (rightfully so), but as he well knows, he can’t do that. When he got all riled up, so did the players. They got chippy about calls, got distracted from what they were supposed to be doing by what the refs were doing. During our sloppiest periods, if you go back and look, you’ll find Tom Crean’s most emotional moments. The goal tending that wasn’t called. The foul on the three-point shot that wasn’t called against Ohio State and one after the blocked three-pointer that WAS called against us all got Crean worked up past the point that was helpful to his team.
I also recommend that you go back and listen to his post-game press conference. He was asked about the officiating on three separate occassions. In the silence that followed each of those questions you can replay every single coaching rant against bad officiating in your head. He was PISSED OFF! And he should have been, though, and I’m sure he’d be the first to agree with this statement, the refs didn’t cost us this game. They were uneven and missed a number of calls, but Ted Valentine wasn’t out there Saturday.
So, see me after we beat Iowa. Like I said, I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t want to come off as Mr. Hindsight, so I’m putting my expectations out there in advance. We’ve turned the corner. The Big Ten has stepped to us in the middle of the street and danced at us. We have put down the boom box and line danced right back at them.
It’s on, Randy. It’s On!