Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Good sports week:

1) The World Series is over, so I can finally stop suffering through baseball highlights on ESPN.

2) IU Men's Soccer bounced back from a loss at PSU to clinch the Big Ten Regular Season title with a win over Wisconsin, 1-0. This probably also clinches an at-large bid for the NCAA's, but it's probably best that IU just goes ahead and wins the title to make sure.

3) IU Football is riding high, and wallops a surprised MSU team. James Hardy and Kellen Lewis are finally on the same page, and that's big trouble for IU opponents. IU can get to a bowl, that's right, an actual bowl, with a win over Minnesota. Do it now, Hoosiers, don't make Purdue the game on which the season rests!

4) The Colts and Bears are both 7-0, my two favorite NFL teams. The Bears are more complete, but Peyton Manning is playing at a crazy level. You can see the flames coming off of his helmet. But as much as I'm a fan, the Colts can just not stop the run, and Bears need Grossman to not have an off game in the playoffs to win it all, which seems to be asking maybe too much.

Got to back to my grad schooling, so that's it for now...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wow, not even time to comment on the Poll

The coaches rankings came out.

Can't comment too much, but here's a couple of thoughts:

Waaay overrated:

Pittsburgh at #5
Georgia Tech, Tennessee, and Kentucky for being ranked at all.

And where the hell is Missouri State? They should be getting some love.

Gonzaga at #26? Puh-lease. They're easily in the top 16, and should be top 10.

Duke & Ohio State are too high, LSU is too low.

Ahh, whatever. More thoughts forthcoming

Monday, October 23, 2006

Balancing time

Well, if last weekend was a everything-goes-right, this was certainly somewhat of a comeuppance. I don't know who ever seriously expected IU Football to win that Columbus game. As I said last week, " I'd love to see it happen, but years of watching better programs have made me skeptical." I think it's clear to everyone what a "better program" looks like.

IU Men's Soccer also went down to Penn State, 1-0, despite outshooting them 9-5, 5-1 in the second half. These Hoosiers are still pretty young, so maybe they just haven't figured out how to come out the gates strong.

IU Basketball got its first recruit for 2008, a 6-4 rising guard from Kentucky. Nothing spectacular, but it's always good to get a good recruit earlier rather than later.

There's a few player-rankings floating out there right now, and I will say this about them. College, unlike the NBA, is not about upside. An experienced Senior will usually have a freshman's lunch because they generally get the respect from the refs and know how to get more athletic (& less experienced) opponents into trouble. So ranking Greg Oden over say, Nick Fazekas seems pretty silly to me, as this year, if they meet, Fazekas will probably play a lot more minutes and have fewer turnovers than Oden. Who will probably make more NBA money? That's Oden.

Now, there is a limit on this logic. Just because OSU forward Ivan Harris is a senior does not mean he will kick Texas frosh Kevin Durant's butt. Far from it. But as long as the talent is not obviously off, go with experience.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Can't let this weekend pass without comment

As Ryan G. and then Rick Bozich have both noted, this was just a killer weekend for Indiana University. They both failed to mention that IU Soccer also got a tough win (6th straight) over Ohio State. If they just split their last two games, currently having 10 wins and a top-10 ranking, the Hoosiers should be set for an at-large bid even if they don't win the Big Ten Tourney.

But it was a great weekend with IU Football making a nice comeback over a ranked opponent, and positioning itself to matter in the coming weeks. But those of you whispering about a bowl bid are reaching a little far, I think. Both Illinois and Iowa lost the games as much as IU won them. Don't expect the same from Ohio State or Michigan. IU's season will turn on the ability to beat both Michigan State or Purdue. I'd love to see it happen, but years of watching better programs have made me skeptical. Don't get me wrong, I think Hep is the best thing to happen to IU football since Bill Mallory, but it's the future that's bright, not so much this season.

IU basketball opened it's Midnight Madness, and while AJ Ratliff won the dunk contest (which is good, we need that kid having as much confidence as possible), the real news was the recruiting coup of getting Eric Gordon. Gordon's one of the best guards IU's ever recruited, up there with Damon Bailey, Steve Alford, and Isaiah Thomas in terms of potential. Some weeks ago, I said about the whole recruiting saga "There's been a lot brouhaha over the (un)ethics of recruiting of Eric Gordon, and I frankly just don't care. I think Sampson knows he's not going to get the kid, but wants to show the state he's willing to push the envelope to get Indiana kids."
Well, Sampson landed the big fish, and may get another one with top point guard Derrick Rose. If Rose and Gordon both come to IU next year, the Hoosiers may have a Freshmen backcourt.

But for an IU fan living in the Chicago area, last night's Bears game was a nice cherry on top. The best comment was by one of commentators (imagine!) when describing Brian Urlacher's impact and seeming ability to involved in every play; "No, what you don't understand is that there's two of him out there. One's playing middle-linebacker, and the other is wherever the ball is."
It really did seem like that. Who would've thought you could win a game down 20, and never have your QB touch the ball?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Just outside the top 25 (2006-2007)

Here's commentary on those teams that (should) find themselves just outside the top 25. There's one team here that you might see covered on this blog a little (hint: it rhymes with zindiana).

Also receiving Votes:


Lots of free-wheeling fun on the attack, but how much defense does the Tide have in it? Ron Steele and Jermareo Davidson are a great inside-outside team, but I’m always wary of teams whose point guard is also their leading scorer. Look for Richard Hendrix on lots of highlight dunk plays this season, and maybe newcomer Juco Mikal Riley can open the offense from the wing.


Coach Stan Heath has done a fine job since he took over, but the question is going to be whether he can take the Razorbacks further than the second round of the NCAA’s. This season will probably be a question of even getting to the first round, so don’t expect an answer there. Juco wing Sonny Weems will provide plenty of highlights in taking over Ronnie Brewer’s starting spot, but guard depth is a huge concern.

George Mason:

George Mason lost some key contributors to graduation after their Final Four appearance, but Folarain Campbell and Will Thomas also had a lot to do with that. So don’t expect this team to disappear from the landscape, especially after getting quality Juco recruits in 6-7 Darryl Monroe and 6-0 Andre Smith. Interior size and depth is a concern, but it was last season, too.


A new coach is town, and hopefully a new era begins for the Hoosiers. I think Kelvin Sampson will not only get a fair shake, but he won’t put any more pressure on himself and his team than what is necessary. If DJ White stays healthy, he’s got enough support with top Juco Mike White, returnees Rod Wilmont and AJ Ratliff, and late-blooming point Earl Calloway for this team to be a Sweet 16 contender.


Great perimeter game, but the loss of Steve Novak may be too much to overcome this year. But there’s still good balance, and overall the Eagles’ future is bright. If Marquette is smart, they’ll lock Tom Crean down ASAP. Watch the perimeter crew, especially Dominic James who is just a player, but 6-9 Dan Fitzgerald might be more crucial to this team's success this season.

New Mexico State:

This will be an interesting squad to watch. They didn’t win a lot of games, but they did have some good pieces in place for the future. Now, Reggie Theus has brought in a mix of quality transfers and recruits that should have the Aggies dancing in March. 6-9 Juco Hatila DeSouza Passos, transfers 6-4 Fred Peete, 6-5 Justin Hawkins, and 6-10 Martin Iti are all capable of starting alongside star Tyrone Nelson. But there is still the question of Nelson’s burgarly charge yet to be settled.

Saint Louis:

6-10 Ian Vouyoukas returned from the NBA draft camp to revitalize the Bilikens’ NCAA hopes. He’s pretty much the only returning SLU player with any size, but there’s a veteran contingent of guards and swingmen on hand. 6-4 Tommy Liddell is especially versatile, and seems to play four positions at different times.

San Diego State:

Brandon Heath returns for his final season, and with Mohammed Abukar creates a powerful offensive punch. With Marcus Slaughter gone in the middle, there are questions concerning defense, however. But 6-10 Jerome Habel may be the top Juco prospect in the country, and should be starting in the middle from day one. Louisville transfer Lorenzo Wade should be a star in his own right, but maybe not until next year.

Texas Tech:

Bobby Knight has a squad worthy of the attention it will get as he captures the all-time record for wins. I don’t really expect this club to get past the NCAA first round, but last year’s inconsistencies should be ironed out by a year of experience and some Juco help. 7-0 Esmer Rizvic & 6-1 Charles Burgess should get some time right away, but still look for Jarrius Jackson and Martin Zeno to get the bulk of the shots.

Wichita State

This is the final MVC team in the national college basketball scene. They basically only lose one guy from last season’s sweet 16 squad, but that guy was Paul Miller. Good things happened when he touched the ball, and I think he’s going to be harder to replace than most folks realize. That said, there’s still a lot of talent here, and the balance shouldn’t be too far off with the addition of Colorado transfer 6-7 Phillip Thomasson. Third place in the MVC still should get this club into the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Top 25 Preview

Top 25 preview and explanations, just so I can "call it" reasonably early:

1. Florida:
Nice top six returning and good recruits, but depth is something of an issue. Will they repeat? Probably not, but they deserve the respect to start the season. With five starters, they ought to be able to keep the dynamic going through most of the season, but getting through the NCAA tournament again without a single loss is going to be really hard.

2. Kansas:
Everyone (almost) returns, loads of young talent, but can Coach Bill Self fashion his first Final Four squad? There’s a lot of depth, but make no mistake, there are special players here as well. Brandon Rush & Julian Wright have bought into the team game, but we should see some explosions from them this year.

3. North Carolina:
A team that sure to have more talent than last season, but still very young and may not handle playing time issues easily. Will be very, very good at times and suffer head-scratching losses at others. But you’ll probably see more of this team on the ESPMSM than any other.

4. Louisiana State:
One of the best bets to return to the Final Four because of the big shoulders of Glen Davis, and Marquette transfer Dameon Mason and Texas Tech transfer Terry Martin, Jr. Also, Tack Minor should be consistent at point after one-year layoff.

5. Wisconsin:
Why are the Badgers a better bet than Ohio State for the Final Four? Two reasons: a rotation that can go 13 deep and the best coach in the Big Ten conference, Bo Ryan. Also, the return of Greg Stiesma and Marcus Landry give UW some inside strength that they were missing in the second half of last season.

6. Georgetown:
Do-everything forward Jeff Green will probably see a lot of time at the 3-spot with super-frosh Vernon Macklin and Hoosier transfer Patrick Ewing, Jr. taking up time at the 4. Guards Jesse Sapp and Jonathan Wallace are solid, but there is a need for more perimeter scoring to balance the forwards and 7-2 Roy Hibbert inside, ‘though.

7. Boston College:
How can the Eagles be as good (if not better) after losing mainstay Craig Smith? Well, coach Al Skinner has depth like he’s never had before, and Jared Dudley should be the new star. Tyrese Rice and Sean Marshall should be fine in the backcourt, but there's a lot of options up front from a healthy Sean Williams to 6-11 transfer Tyrone Blair.

8. Arizona:
So much talent, but can it co-exist and create a winning squad? Lack of low-post scorer a concern, but watch for the excitement created by Marcus Williams and freshmen Chase Budinger & Nic Wise. Senior point Mustafa Shakur should be able to direct traffic well enough to keep the Wildcats contending throughout the season.

9. Ohio State:
Didn’t the Buckeyes get a good freshman or two this year? Seriously, the newcomers are awesome, and returning point guard Jamar Butler should get the offense running well, but look for some let-downs. Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, and Mike Conley, Jr. could all be starting by the start of the season.

10. Gonzaga:
Losing Adam Morrison hurts, but not as much as you might think. Others will step up to take his shots, and look for Kansas transfer Micah Downs to have a break-out year. The late snag of top Juco Center 6-9 Abdulliah Kuso has assured top-ten status again for Mark Fox's club.

11. Xavier:
The Musketeers had a nice run at the end of the season to get into the NCAA’s and will return almost everyone from that group. Throw in pint-sized point guard Drew Lavender (transfer from Oklahoma) and you’ve got an Atlantic-10 squad worthy of the tourney’s second weekend.

12. Southern Illinois:
The Missouri Valley, while briefly eclipsed by George Mason’s run last year, has gotten to the level of the Power Conferences. The Salukis should be the best of the MVC this year, and although their depth isn’t stellar, a good recruiting classs (led by Juco Wing Tyrone Green) should help ease that concern.

13. Texas A&M:
The Aggies have turned it around. Once one of the consistent cellar-dwellers of the Big 12, now they may be the only club capable of beating out Kansas this season for the conference crown. Joseph Jones and Acie Law are a fantastic 1-2, inside-outside punch.

14. Virginia Tech:
The Hokies are going to be good this year. Or are they going to suffer the same mysterious let-down as Miami-Florida did last season in the ACC? I suspect that they won’t as their talent is more balanced than last year’s guard-heavy Miami squad. Look for the ESPMSM to be shocked, *shocked* by the guards Jamon Gordon & Zabian Dowdell, the inside play of Coleman Collins, and by the versatility of Deron Washington.

15. Syracuse:
The Orange have had some thrilling runs due to the stellar shooting of Gerry McNamara. Now that he’s gone, the question becomes, what now? Jimmy Boeheim shouldn’t have to worry to much with the talent he’s got on hand, but he will need hyped-frosh Paul Harris to live up to the a starting position that he’s expected to take.

16. Missouri State:
The second MVC team to get to the NCAA second weekend should be the Bears. They return that special combination of size, shooters, strength, and experience that often finds itself winning against teams with more highlight plays. 6-7 Juco Dextroy Manswell also should help with the interior depth.

17. Air Force:
Air Force was going to be good this year, but throw in a rare talent like center Nick Welch whose marvelous passing made the Falcon offense sparkle in 2004-2005, and you’ve got possibly the best Air Force basketball team ever assembled. The Mountain West is going to be a relevant conference again this season.

18. Pittsburgh:
Aaron Gray returns from a flirtation with the NBA, and that’s the difference between a top-25 ranking and the NIT for this club. Forwards Sam Young and Gilbert Brown may be stars next year, but this year they may not get off the bench. Carl Krauser will be missed, but for burly guard play, transfer Mike Cook should help.

19. Illinois:
One reason these guys are ranked at all: Defense. Smothering D, keyed by 6-8 Brian Randle, was pretty much the only reason the Illini won at all last year. The offense was anemic at best, and the depth was questionable. There’s more depth, and hopefully Dayton transfer Trent Meachem can help run a more potent attack.

20. Duke:
Duke has earned the respect as a program to be ranked every year. I hate them, but I respect them. The Devils are pretty thin inside, but late signing 6-8 Lance Thomas will hopefully help with that. Also, defenses should have an easier time against the Dukies now that they won’t be terrified of J.J. Redick. But keep an eye on freshman Jon Scheyer, who should take a lot of Redick’s minutes.

21. Louisville:
Louisville is an accomplished program and Rick Pitino is an accomplished coach. He’s brought in plenty of talent and gotten to a Final Four, but last year was a big disappointment. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t have made the Big Dance, but I think Pitino will have the depth this year to motivate his troops. There’s no real star here, though, unless Juan Tello Palacios’ scoring starts resembling Jamal Mashburn’s.

22. UCLA:
The early entry of Jordan Farmar into the NBA meant that the Bruins drop out of the preseason top-25. There’s still lots to like, including redshirted star wing Josh Shipp, high scoring wing Aaron Afflalo, and rising star forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Depth is a question, especially at point.

23. Nevada:
The return of Nick Fazekas assures the Wolfpack another year of Western Athletic Conference dominance. Marcellus Kemp made the impact I expected last year (although other writers seemed to forget about his return), and will be an integral part of the solid perimeter attack this season. Interior depth will be a major concern until 6-9 DeMarshay Johnson gets himself eligible.

24. Memphis:
Once again, Coach Calipari will have loads of talent on hand, but how far will they go with it? The return of Jeremy Hunt after a year off gives the Tigers the sort of do-everything presence that any team could use, and a solid recruiting class shores up the bench. For a sleeper, watch Robert Dozier, who will get his chance to shine.

25. Villanova:
Why does ‘Nova get the nod for a top 25 over a more seemingly talented team like Alabama? Well, Villanova was tough last year, and would’ve been ranked in the top 10 if Kris Lowe hadn’t left for the pros. But the real reason is the return of Curtis Sumpter and the late grab of freshman Scott Reynolds. They’ll both start, and Reynolds was needed to fill the gaps in the backcourt, but Sumpter was a monster in 2004-2005, and should be this season as well.