And The Crowd Goes Wild: Enough excuses, bring back Maui fire

I was driving back from the Ohio-Ball State game, and I said to a fellow staffer next to me, "You know, I think I will write my column on how the basketball team doesn't even deserve an at-large bid."

He said to me, "You can't do that. What if the selection committee gets a hold of that?"

I agreed and decided to leave the idea alone. Wrong decision.

The men's basketball team as of late hasn't earned enough respect for me to leave it alone.

Of course they don't deserve an at-large bid.

Here's why: I don't care if they beat Kansas. I don't care if the beat UCLA. I don't care if they held their own against Duke for a half. I don't care if it's normal to lose at IU. I don't care if the officiating was bad against Butler. I don't care that Kent State was an excusable loss because they are best in the in Mid-American Conference. I don't care if we haven't beaten Miami (Ohio) at Oxford in 10 years. I don't care if we lost to Marshall because the teams "heart" - Petie Jackson - was unable to play.

Enough excuses, already.

If Ball State can't currently beat teams less talented than itself, then it doesn't really matter what went wrong each time. The excuses aren't what the selection committee wants to hear.

The Maui Invitational may be the worst thing that ever happened to our basketball program. Defeating those two headlining teams did nothing but, in the words of Ohio head coach Tim O'Shea, "put a big target" on the backs of Ball State.

Every single team has been up for playing Ball State. Every one. That, however, is just another excuse.

Even Eastern Michigan came in and smacked around the Cardinals for a half. The Eagles led Ball State by four points at the half. It was the same Eagle team that now has a 5-19 record. You can't brag about beating Kansas if you can't control Eastern Michigan.

The only quality win we have had since Kansas is Bowling Green. I might say Central Michigan was a good win too, but I'll hold that thought until we play them on the road.

I'm not a big fan of the word "fluke." I don't know if there is such a thing. If one team beats another team, then they were the better team that day. Period.

So, I will not call Maui a fluke. It happened; Ball State is really only one of Kansas' two losses this season.

So, ditch the excuses. If Ball State can beat Kansas,then perhaps the team should play like it.

Quit playing at a MAC level. Step back into the national spotlight. Play on a Pacific-10 Conference level, play on a Big-12 Conference level. Travel to Western Michigan and dominate. Win by 10; win by 15. Prove Ball State is worthy of an at-large bid.

After the team got back from Maui, they whipped Elon 106-65 and the following game they nailed Austin Peay 81-60. I understand both were sub-par teams compared to Kansas and UCLA, but it was that leftover intensity from the Hawaiian Islands that allowed those 41- and 21-point spreads.

The bottom line - forget the logistics, forget the statistics, bring back the fire.

I want to see Robert Owens go up for a rebound with so much intensity I can feel it on the sideline - just like in Maui. I want to see Petie Jackson's quickness and penetration - just like in Maui. I want to see Ball State play like they want to win - just like in Maui.

There is, however, a slim sliver of hope for the Cardinals. They could still win the MAC tournament. The selection committee would have to let us in then. That, in my opinion, may be the only way left to get into the "big dance." The only way Ball State will win that tournament, however, is to play with that fire - just like in Maui.

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