Tuesday, December 20, 2005

IU thumps Charlotte: Big Ten notes

Well done, Indiana. Beating Charlotte 71-54 isn't as big of a feat as it would've been in any of the last few seasons, but still the Hoosiers looked good while doing it. While I was sure that IU had the better team, I was worried about playing at a hostile arena and Charlotte's inside strength getting Killingsworth in foul trouble.

But they came through behind some phenomenal long-distance shooting in the first half(hitting 10 of 14 3pt attempts), and then Killingsworth and White exerted some strength inside in the second half. The end of the game looked like the end of the Kentucky game, with IU getting enough points in transition to ice the game. Props to Calloway, who's attacking style gave him 4 points and 3 assists in just 8 minutes, but really kept the 'Niners on their heels.

With White back, IU doesn't have to play Killingsworth so much (only 26 minutes) and I saw Davis giving Marco more normal rest breaks. White's shotblocking and finishing on the break ought to give this squad even more teeth in their transition atack.

Salutes to Vaden (14 pts, 5 rbs, 3 assists) and Strickland (12 pts, 9 rbs, 3 assists, and NO turnovers). Vaden did turn it over 4 times, but I love the way he looks for his teammates. And that pass-fake right before drilling the 3 in the first half? Brilliant.
Strickland also should get props for late in the 2nd half when he tore away an offensive rebound out of the hands of Charlotte big man, but he didn't credited with a steal. I guess maybe they counted it as a rebound?

AJ Ratliff is a terror on the defensive end, blocking two (one a 3-pt. shot). That sort of ability gives you much more power on the perimeter than in the paint as a defender. Thinking about guys coming to block your shot will really affect a jumper more than a post-move or lay-up, when you're generally expecting a challenge. As expected Erreck Suhr is starting to see less and less time.

Unfortunately, Ben Allen is also seeing less time. Davis needs to find this kid some minutes, 'cause he is way to good to be sitting on the bench all season. And Davis needs to get these guys shooting free throws, 'cause 2 for 7 isn't gonna help on the road in the Big Ten. And also, now that he's got some depth inside, can Davis please get Killer to stop playing the Matador D? It just don't work.
And speaking of the conference:

Big Ten Preview/Notes so far
in preseason predicted order:

1. Michigan St.#11 (9-2)
Still totally a reasonable pick. They've not been impressive as a group, but they are deeper up front than they've been in years, and Paul Davis is playing better than ever, and wings Ager and Brown are getting scary good. But I bet that defense and consistency are two questions that Izzo does not ever want be raised for a team of his, but these are the questions.
2. Indiana #17 (6-2)
Sometimes, you watch this team and your jaw just drops with the guard corp's unconscious outside shooting and the marvellous hands of Marco Killingsworth, and the spacing, the passing, and then there's the shotblocking of DJ White and AJ Ratliff coming back to the rotation, and then you find yourself yelling "Why the hell did you just foul a guy 90 feet from the basket, jackass?"
Good times.
3. Iowa (8-3)
Steve Alford's seat, one of the three hottest in the Big Ten, may be cooling off a bit, but I seem to say that every year around this time, and every year his clubs go on to some unspectacular melt-down in conference play. Horner being injured won't help things, but tonight's game against Drake ought to give some answers either way.
4. Illinois #6 (11-0)
Amazing defense, and Jamar Smith gives them the outside shooting they need with every defense terrified of Dee Brown. But the offense is still the weak point of this team. The depth and defense should carry them to a lot of wins, but any team that struggles to get shots off is not to be taken seriously as title contender.
5. Ohio State #22 (7-0)
Have some decent wins, but they're just looking rather one-dimensional in their attack. If they aren't hitting the 3's on the road in the Big Ten, what are they gonna do? Their defense looks especially vulnerable, as they get steals, but don't have any interior defensive presence and don't rebound all that well. This said, they are winning and will should be good enough to make the top half of the Big Ten standings.
6. Wisconsin #23 (9-1)
Yeah, they haven't got much talent, but coach Bo Ryan doesn't need much. While I don't think they should be ranked, and have been disappointed in the Big Ten's top-rated recruit (Joe Krabbenhaft), fellow frosh Marcus Landry is making real contributions. Kamron Taylor and Brian Butch are actually playing up to their potential, and Jason Chappell and Michael Flowers are overachieving, if anything. Bo Ryan just wins.
7. Michigan (7-1)
The UCLA game is not the be-all end-all for this Wolverine squad, but it just reinforces my feeling that Amaker's team is going to be the odd one out come NCAA Selection day, and that probably spells the end for Tommy. Loads of talent, it's just wildly unpredictable, and I don't see them winning the big games against conference foes when they absolutely must.
8. Northwestern (5-4)
Still breaking hearts. Vedran Vukusic could probably start for any team in the country, but has to do everything for this team, and it's just not enough. A horrorshow against Seton Hall ended with a last-second backdoor lay-up for the win, after scoring 44 points. Ugh. I picked these guys too high again this season. D'oh!
9. Minnesota (6-2)
Having their difficulties right now with injuries, etc., but I don't see the Gophers matching last season's success. The defense of Brent Lawson and Aaron Robinson and the interior presence of Jeff Hagen has already been missed. Outside of the Maryland loss, their schedule has been All-creampuff. Losing at home to Gardner-Webb seems as damning as anything, but combine that with the fact that they were very, very lucky to get by UAB at home as well.
10. Purdue (4-4)
I picked Purdue low, because 1) I'm a Hoosier fan, but 2) I saw last year's Boilermaker club get wiped out by Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan arena. Indiana wasn't good last year, but Purdue was really bad. I figured that Purdue would take a year to mix its old and new talent, but I never guessed that they'd lose Tarrance Crump, Carl Landry, and David Teague for the year. But look out next year, as with those starters back and the freshmen having got some good playing time in, the Boilermakers could be a title contender again.
11. Penn State (5-3)
The Nittany Lions sure haven't shocked the world. While Ed DeChellis has more freshmen contributing than I thought possible, this is not a good team. Maybe next year, they can start working towards the NIT.


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