In retrospect, some things are obvious. For one, Coach K wasn't just saying nice things when he told the Indiana team that they were one of the toughest teams he had ever faced.
They'll get Maryland, of course, after Maryland dispatched Kansas with a fair amount of ease, except for a near-disastrous end which saw Kansas cut the lead from 20 to 4. They couldn't quite get over the hump, though. We do see a pattern though, because Kansas, like Kentucky and UConn, could have pushed Maryland harder. Each team made critical mistakes down the stretch, though, and that really killed them.
Can Indiana do it? They've proven everyone wrong so far, but Maryland has proven to be pretty tough. We could see Dane Fife turning in another tremendous defensive performance, and between Jeffries, Leach, and Newton, IU has enough size and talent to challenge Maryland's big guys. Coverdale is still hurting, and who knows how much he'll play, and A.J. Moye went out with an injury, and both of those guys can reasonably be expected to be at less than 100%.
Mike Davis says that God is behind his success, and to be blunt, we always hate hearing that. We're sure in a personal sense that's true, but it's not as if God is in the BarcaLounger and manipulating fate so that Indiana can win games. Every time an athlete or coach says that God favors him, well, it's just too much. To paraphrase Einstein, God isn't playing dice with this game, and He could just as easily favor a kid like Juan Dixon or empathize with Byron Mouton, who could win the game and still be heavy-hearted. If anything, we'd assume God has a tremendous sense of humor, and concordantly a much more sophisticated one, and so the humor of whatever unfolds will likely be beyond us Monday night.
We're not sure what to think, honestly, but as is usually the case, the two strongest teams are left standing. Maryland has been vulnerable, but not so vulnerable that anyone has figured out how to beat them, and Indiana has been what Kentucky wanted to be in 1992, albeit with a bit more talent. Nonetheless, this is the team that wasn't supposed to do this, and that they are doing it, despite Mike Davis' saying that "sometimes I have no idea what's going on on the court. No idea. It's true," pretty clearly this team knows what it's doing.
To beat Maryland, though, they'll have to manage Dixon, Blake, Wilcox, and whoever else pops up on that particular night. We wonder if they wouldn't consider putting Fife on Blake, with the idea being an echo of the McGuire comment on Phil Ford: if you cut off the head, the body dies.
Come to think of it, Al McGuire was a guy who said he didn't understand x's and o's, and wasn't really interested, either. But he understood people, and maybe that's why Mike Davis has managed to do what he has done.
We'll wait to see the injury reports, and wait to see what our gut says, but
right now our feeling is that both teams feel convinced that they will win, and
both have shown immense resilience. While this will be perhaps the biggest
mismatch in the title game since Georgetown-Villanova, it's a compelling
match. When we were thinking about writing this, our first thought was
that it's a good thing that Mike Davis is close to God, because he'll need all
the help he can get. But the more we think about it, who knows. It's
one game, and it's about not making mistakes while also not playing
tentatively. Whoever does that best will win.