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I used to be one of those "with college football, you can bury your opponent with line play, but for college basketball, hot shooting means anyone can beat anyone" guys. I'm no longer that guy. Drexel could not beat us today. This is how you completely dismantle an opponent:
- Points in the paint: Illinois 58, Drexel 16
- Turnovers: Drexel 11, Illinois 5; Points off turnovers: Illinois 13, Drexel 0
- Fast break points: Illinois 19, Drexel 4
- Rebounds: Illinois 40, Drexel 32
- Jump shots taken: Drexel 44, Illinois 25
That last one is the number. If Drexel is shooting 44 jumpers - some of them threes, some of them pivoting, fadeaway, rainbow-so-you-can't-block-it prayers - the game is over. There is no "hot shooting" night that can make up for giving up dunks and layups on one end and shooting 44 jumpers on the other end, maybe only 12 of the 44 qualifying as "quality shots". The game is over. You cannot win.
If there was a "high percentage shot" chart (open threes, layups, dunks, open jumpers - wait, is this a thing?), I feel like the statistic would be something like this today:
Drexel: 23 of 62 shots were high percentage shots
Illinois: 47 of 63 shots were high percentage shots
I mean, we had 8 dunks and they had zero. That's 16 absolutely free points and zero free points for them. We had 34 points from layups, they had 12. Getting my point yet? When you get fifty points from layups and dunks, the game is over. As long as you're not giving up the same at the other end (we gave up zero dunks and six layups), the game is totally and completely over.
Yes, it's a 1 vs. 16, and this is how it's supposed to go. I'm not saying "wow, we're really good to handle Drexel like this". There's a reason they finished 6th in the CAA regular season (they won their tourney to get in).
I'm saying that this is why I've changed my view towards basketball games. Yes, you can win a college football game with superior line play. If your defensive line cannot hold up against a powerful OL (and if your offensive line keeps getting driven backwards by a powerful DL), the game is over. I don't care if there's 8 turnovers and the opponent kicks 9 field goals once they get to the redzone. If the game is dominated on both sides of the line, the game is over.
And if you get 50 points on dunks and layups while your opponent gets 12, the game is over.
+ Stay with me on this.
I don't think the environment was all that great?
Let me explain that. The arena normally seats 6,500, so at 25% capacity it sat 1,700. Going in, I thought it would be high school gym-like. 1,700 people, sweaty gym, very loud.
It was fun, and it was loud, and I was sweating, but it wasn't what I expected. The main reason: I'd say 80% of the crowd was seated behind the baseline. They left the center section empty on both sides, both lower deck and upper deck (like some soccer stadium in England where they leave an entire section empty between fans). So on each side you had four sections, facing the basket, with maybe 300 people in those four sections. And then everyone else (the other 1,400 people in the building) were in the sections that wrapped around behind the baskets.
That's fine, and we had a better view than we'll have at any game the next few weeks, but it's still kind of odd crowd-wise. As I'm typing this I thought of a good comp: it's like the horseshoe at Memorial Stadium. You know how the front row of the horseshoe directly behind the goalposts is maybe 40 yards from the goalposts when most college football stadiums are four yards from the goalposts? That's how this arena was. It's a very,VERY long oval, so the distance from the court to the seats behind the baseline is massive.
Here's a quick video I took as Ayo was leaving the court after his postgame interview.
First, there's the distance from the basket to the seats behind the hockey boards. Then there's the seats behind the hockey boards (which weren't being used because they were too close to the court). And then there's more space (for the cows), and then there's the seats.
Because of this, and because 80% of the fans were at the end of the ovals behind the seats, it... wasn't the best environment. It was fun, and it was loud, and it was unique... it just wasn't the high school gym feel I was expecting.
+ That said, it was a ton of fun. I wore my One Of The Seventeen shirt (because, as someone pointed out on Twitter, I was One Of The Seventeen(hundred) fans in the building). Carmen wore his OOTS shirt as well.
The woman in the top row behind me? Had her OOTS shirt on. The guy down to my left? Wearing his OOTS shirt. The guy in the front row to the right? OK he was wearing a the We Love No Other podcast shirt.
I was just One Of The Seventeen people wearing the shirt in the building.
+ Know how I know Ayo is good? That was the quietest 17-11-6 in college basketball history. I can think of two passes - the Kofi travel and a missed three - where he could have gotten to 8 assists. Had that happened, yes, he would have been in the game with four minutes to go in order to get another triple-double.
+ There's not much more to write about this game. OK, that's not true. There's a lot to write about this game. But the hotel room is booked through Sunday, there's basketball on, there's a sports bar next door, I'm hungry, Carmen is thirsty, and we need to go eat and drink and talk about Loyola.
And look for Sunday tickets once the gametime is announced.