In a day of artificial intelligence, data analytics, and advanced statistics T.J. Otzelberger continues to cut against the grain.
We are drawn to this team because they have come together, bonded, sacrificed, and persevered to outperform what KenPom has to say.
Do not get me wrong, I think data analytics and advanced statistics are great tools but let us not forget they cannot measure this team’s heart.
The season is far from over, but to date, it has been a poetic display of overachievement.
Let us take a moment to appreciate the author, T.J. Otzelberger, who had him as a media darling at the age of 24 destined to become the head coach of a Power 5 school?
How many nights did he sleep on cots, spend time in run-down hotels recruiting, or burn the midnight oil on game plans?
Why did T.J. persevere to earn an opportunity that others did not? How has he led this team to an 8-0 start?
When you watch this team play, they embody the answers to the questions mentioned above.
They too, were no one’s pre-season dark horse as they were picked unanimously to finish last in the Big 12.
Spending time with them in New York, it was easy to pick up on the idea that most in the college basketball universe thought they would do well to keep their losses to less than 10 points.
Winning the NIT Tip-Off was not a thought.
Heading into Saturday night’s road contest against Creighton, they were again not picked to win by experts.
Yet again, this team answered the bell. How?
In my view, they care about each other more than themselves and are willing to do things other teams are not to win. That begins and ends with Coach Otzelberger and speaks to the character of these players.
As we move forward, there will be time to slice and dice offensive execution, defensive rotations, and other elements of games.
Surely, not all of them will end in victory, but what we have watched for eight games has been incredible. Not just because they have won every game, but because of how they are doing it.
Everyone can see a little of their story in this team.
We have all at one point felt doubted, underappreciated, or disrespected.
What makes this team unique is how they respond to it.
They check their egos at the door and outwork everyone.
Fans watch sports for entertainment, but they also look to teams for inspiration.
In that regard, this team is everything we should cherish about college sports.
But, it’s Iowa week, so enough with the feel-good semantics.
It is time to get back to work because college basketball is a “what have you done for me lately” business.
The slightest let-up can become a humbling moment in a hurry.
Iowa is a good team capable of playing with anyone as we saw in their battle with Purdue this past Friday.
Road wins like we witnessed Saturday are special but stay humble and stay hungry because I can assure you that while road wins are fun, there is nothing like kicking Iowa’s ass.