Quick Thoughts: Virginia gets turned over, while Indiana plays every game the same
Plus: Memphis is good, Florida wins a rare December Bubble Watch tilt, Providence sets the Big East tone, Wednesday night is going to be awesome
Mike Woodson’s greatest quality might be his chill. This a working theory of this newsletter, anyway: that Woodson’s relative self-awareness and general level of relaxation — the implied way in which he takes basketball seriously but not himself — is why the vibes around Indiana have been so good.
Woodson wears his goatee and chomps cigars and does goofy locker room dances; he swears a lot in press conferences; his guard is permanently down. When Kentucky wants to schedule a lopsided return to a rivalry every Indiana fan misses dearly, the status anxiety that led to predecessors rejecting it simply doesn’t come into the equation. Woodson wants to play Kentucky, so he agrees to play Kentucky. Why make it more complicated than that?
And yet — after another narrow buy game home win — you wonder whether Indiana could maybe stand to be a little less relaxed right now.
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Call it another working theory. Woodson’s years in the NBA seem to have conditioned him not to sweat the small stuff that obsesses so many college basketball coaches, things like what your schedule says about the state of your program, or whether it is perfectly optimized to produce a high NET ranking, or whether your team is producing performances — not just wins, but performances — that will help you get there in the end. In the NBA, seasons are long, spikes fade into the mean, and things tend to work themselves out. You’re either a title contender or you’re not.
Life in college is not so sanguine! You can’t rely on figuring it out as the season goes along. Coaches are already urgent this time of year for good reason. Indiana’s chance to prove itself as a possible NCAA Tournament team in nonconference play — or at least to give itself some leeway in the Big Ten, which does not look like it will have its most robust men’s hoops season — has largely passed it by.
(Welcome to Quick Thoughts, in which I putatively limit myself to a few big takeaways on a game or game[s]. Below find takes on what caught my eye on an interesting Tuesday night, from Indiana’s middling nonconference to Virginia’s turnover mess at Memphis, and more — including a look ahead to a massive Wednesday.)