Column | The bad will slip away, these losses will be forgotten

Redshirt+sophomore+Dain+Dainja+tips+off+against+Indiana+on+Thursday.+The+Illini+fell+short+to+the+Hoosiers%2C+with+the+final+score+being+80-65.+

Jacob Slabosz

Redshirt sophomore Dain Dainja tips off against Indiana on Thursday. The Illini fell short to the Hoosiers, with the final score being 80-65.

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

When I woke up on Saturday, Kansas had 13 points. After I brushed my teeth and had some coffee, Kansas still had 13 points. Then, I made breakfast for my friend and I; Kansas had more than 13 points. They had 19.

That’s the reigning national champion playing at home in the venerable Allen Fieldhouse. The game’s on CBS! Bill Raftery is there! And TCU ran them off the floor. What does that mean? 

Not that much, not unless TCU keeps this going till March. Otherwise, it’s just the once a year Kansas home loss. Kentucky beat them by 20 last year; how quickly we forget…

Illinois got kicked in the shins Thursday by Trayce Jackson-Davis and the rest of Indiana, but mostly Jackson-Davis, who had about as insane a game as you can have in college. Dain Dainja, conversely, was about as embarrassingly bad as you can be. It felt like watching a high school freshman play a senior at the park. The gap in footwork alone… it’s not the end of the world, right? Waking up two days later and Kansas is getting run off the court… 

That whole morning is a haze. The only thing I really get from it, in terms of images, is Kansas: the beautiful blue jerseys, the Jayhawk court, their fans who actually know basketball because they got louder as their team fell behind further. During the Sweet 16 last March in Chicago, those fans seemed to celebrate the least and win the most, while Providence, the team Kansas tore to little bits, fans swore and screamed and definitely struggled back to their hotel. They were happy to be there (the older Miami couple next to us slept through their game, left a purse and spilled beer all over the place).

Kansas fans understand the routine of winning. They know what success is, how to find it and, most importantly, how to keep it, meaning that when TCU beats the crap out of them and I see it on the TV, what I internalize is the failure of Kansas and not the success of TCU.

Because at this level, half the game is played in the brain. When you’re Illinois, whose starters all have NBA potential, and you’re playing Indiana, who is starting some guy named Trey Galloway that looks like a character from Hoosiers the movie not Hoosiers the basketball team, you really should lose by less than 15. Indiana has something going right now, they’ve won three games in a row and each by big margins. They attack you with Jackson-Davis, who is playing out of his mind, and the rest of the team sort of hangs around, sometimes cutting but mostly watching. It’s old school stuff, but certainly not better than Illinois’.

You see the results, the inconsistency, the up-and-down. It’s how they’ll be all season, I think. The more I watch this team, the more I enjoy every time they score, and the more I realize that this is because every basket is a major feat of athleticism. A Coleman Hawkins three, a Terrence Shannon Jr. drive, Matthew Meyer’s hair — all works of art: beautiful, complete and perfect. Almost every Illinois point is like that, and when it’s all working, you want to kiss Brad Underwood on the mouth and proclaim your love for basketball. Then when they play someone like Indiana, with their old school stuff, it’s not. And then you remember that old concept of the hammer and the anvil, where Jackson-Davis is the hammer and Dainja is the anvil, Dainja is the weaker of the two. The anvil cracks and what do you have? A weak, immature team full of talent, high on skill and low on experience. Their beautiful points don’t matter when it’s a loss. I don’t care how cool it looks or what the NBA scouts say; winning is everything. Illinois is not one of these teams that just gets it done. They just aren’t.

But I love ‘em anyway. 

Waking up in a haze after a party. Hawkins dunking on Northwestern. Shannon doing that little shimmy step-back. TCU turning turnovers into points. It’s all ephemeral and ethereal, beauty and precious experience. TCU will probably collapse down the stretch, and Illinois is certainly not making the second weekend in March. Kansas will continue to win, and Indiana will continue living in the past. Miami fans will stay absolutely plastered, and Providence fans will never know how to act. We are, all of us, slaves to habit, running in circles, ending always where we began.

Because if you’re like me, maybe your habits aren’t the best, your life is a little unhealthy and you could be a better man, a better friend and a better partner. If you’re like that, then this Indiana loss shouldn’t bother you very much. Because sometimes you wake up in a haze, you’re hungover and there’s a bruise on your forehead and Kansas has 13 points, but you’re closer to your friends and you’ll remember these things for quite a long time. The bad always slips away, doesn’t it?

 

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