Thursday, November 30, 2006

Big Ten Power Poll

The ACC wins another challenge, this one convincingly (8-3), but the Big Ten posted enough late rallies (Iowa, Michigan) and gutty losing efforts (Indiana, Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State) that there was only one blowout on each side (Wisconsin over Florida State, Clemson over Minnesota). Bottom line, the Big Ten lost the challenge again as expected, but didn't look at all outclassed. Especially when one considers that Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Purdue were all without one of their starters, and Penn State had just gotten their star back and was still without their best-off-the-bench big man. The ACC is a better conference this year, and will deserve more NCAA bids than the Big Ten, but the Big Ten doesn't have to hang its head, just get healthy, smarter, and back to winning.

Stays numero uno for now, but Ohio State, even in losing, is creeping up. But the only loss this Badger team has suffered is a two-pointer to Missouri State, who then lost the next day to 8-0 Oklahoma State. Bottom line, it's a pretty forgivable loss, especially when the Badgers were the only conference team to win in the challenge by more than two.

2.Ohio State (6-1)
Much better than I thought they'd be without Oden, I gotta say. But once again I am reminded to not doubt the expert. (Although the point of my grumpy rant about OSU's #1 ranking is still about whether the Pollsters should be ranking on where they think teams are going to finish the year or where they think they are right now. Should we rank teams based on the anticipation of mid-season transfers that will become eligible? But I digress.) Coach Matta needs Oden and that legit interior presence he's sure to supply. The Buckeyes have loads of perimeter and transition threats, but even just a good rebounder and an average interior presence will make this squad a real Final Four contender.

3.Michigan State (6-2)
Working hard, but I just think that Izzo doesn't have the horses. So far MSU has earned this spot, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish 7th in the Big Ten Standings. They're being carried by a 44.6% 3-pt shooting clip, and I just don't see that continuing, especially after last night's 2-13 performance against Boston College.

4.Illinois (7-1)
We've not seen the real Illinois any more than we've seen the real Ohio State. Once Bruce Weber has everyone healthy, especialy Brian Randle--that guy is a game-changer--
they should be a lock for top 3. However, for right now, I'm not sure they are even a NCAA team.

5.Indiana (3-2)
Tough loss at Duke, but there were plenty of things to like in the loss, notably the defense.
Now Sampson has to figure out how to blend the hustle 'n' tough guys (Mike White, Suhr) with the skill guys (Calloway, Stemler). Actually getting Lance Stemler (does anyone else think of Lucas Scott every time he's on the floor?) back from a concussion will help.

6.Purdue (5-1)
They're coming along. Not a NCAA squad, but looking like a team with some postseason life after all. Carl Landry's an amazing player, but he needs help, and unless David Teague is having a good game, there's not a lot of overwhelming talent here. Frosh Chris Kramer's knee healing up would help with depth, tho.

7.Penn State (4-2)
Much better with Claxton playing. With Brandon Hassell supplying something resembling a defensive presence inside, maybe they can take a step forward. Of course, if Hassell keeps fouling out in 20 minutes, maybe not. But if they do take real step up the conference ladder, it'll be due to defense.

8.Michigan (7-1)
I've already written about this, but these guys are ridiculously bad for all of the collected talent. Maybe they'll wake up and turn it around, but the smart money isn't on it. Here's a question:
I wonder what Dan Monson would do with this club?

9.Northwestern (3-2)
Carmody's doing a good job with a bunch of recruits that nobody else wanted. This is not his most talented team, but this may be the deepest NU team I've seen. Tim Doyle's stuffing the stat sheet, but I just can't shake the feeling the guy is not a winner. Good win over Miami, tho.

10.Iowa (2-4)
The return of Mike Henderson may not supply the interior offensive presence they need, but it should help to stop the bleeding on backcourt turnovers. Also, it'll give Alford someone to play when Haluska needs a breather or Freeman is out of control.

11. Minnesota (2-5)
This is looking more and more like Dan Monson's last year, and not that he ever really had a fair chance (this is only his 2nd season without sanctions), but you can't like where this club has gone. He'll be the sacrificial lamb when they bring a bright new name in to revitalize this program.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ACC-Big Ten Challenge thoughts

Everyone knew that the emphasis was going to be on the "Challenge" part of this contest for the Big Ten this year. The ACC just flat-out has more talent, as do a number of conferences, actually. This will probably be a 3-4 NCAA bid year for the Big Ten, unfortunately (I still think 4, but my loyalties are clear).

That said, after Michigan failed to wake up until it was far too late in their Monday night loss to NCSU, the Big Ten actually had an okay outing last night. If Indiana had hit their free throws and Penn State had gotten a couple of stops, the Big Ten would've had an amazing night.

As it was, it was good that Northwestern (over Miami) and Wisconsin (over Florida State) won, because that may be the last victories that the Big Ten gets in this year's Challenge. But let's talk about the losses. Penn State is clearly a much better team with Geary Claxton playing (even if he's still rounding into shape after his injury) than without. Having Mooch Jackson back and shooting decently also was a big boost. Once they get frosh forward DJ Jackson healthy and in the rotation, Claxton will actually have some rebounding help inside (as Hassell and Cornley are both playing decently inside). Who knows, maybe the Nittany Lions' defense will tighten up a bit? Still, I originally forecast Georgia Tech as a NIT squad, before upgrading them to leading the bubble-pack. Point being, I see these teams as roughly equal, maybe PSU just a step behind, but if a rematch was played at Happy Valley, I think GT would come out a loser.

On to the Indiana game.
I was checking in from time-to-time in the first half (no Lance Stemler--ouch, ugly turnovers--ouch, Duke's Nelson heating up--oh well), turned back to catch the last couple of minutes of first half, with Calloway's clutch runner at the buzzer giving me some hope all was not lost. Then the second half began, and IU came out with intensity like I've not seen in some time. Good rebounding, hustle for the ball, and a careful and methodical exploration of the defense. If DJ White had been hitting, Duke would've been toast. But McRoberts and DJ seemed to be canceling each other out.
Still, it was a good, gutty effort that left me mad at the end of the game. I came away feeling like this Duke squad really wasn't better than Indiana's. Bassett not instantly launching the three at the end of the game didn't help.

And not that Kelvin Sampson, Erreck Suhr, and Armon Bassett didn't all do a hell of a job, but maybe Calloway could've played a bit more in the second half? It seemed like Suhr & Bassett were pretty beat at the end, and Calloway has a propensity to hit big shot.

Joey Shaw was also aggressive offensively (beautiful floating jumpers in the lane), which was nice to see, and both Mike White and Ben Allen had trouble shooting (White shoulda had ten points, easy) and not committing fouls, but they were aggressive on the boards. That'll be handy come conference play.

All in all, this is a very teachable game for Indiana. Sampson should walk into practice today and say "I don't like losing. I'm mad about this loss, and so you should be too!" Not to fault the effort, but just the execution. Sampson can show DJ where he should've passed out of the double-teams, Mike White where his silly foul 30 feet from the basket isn't needed and oh yeah, how about hitting some free throws?, show Bassett appropriate shot selection, Suhr how over-dribbling can kill your offense, and all of the starters the sort of effort that needs to be shown in-game if they expect to stay the starters.

I feel like IU may be on the right track this year after all. They just need to get some actual victories now.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Grumpy Rants

2 things that irk me involving Big Ten teams:

1) How bad Michigan is.

Yeah, I know I've been saying that Michigan is not a '07 NCAA tourney team forever, but seriously, they shouldn't be this bad. How bad is Tommy Amaker as a coach? Last night it was on full display against a North Carolina State team that probably won't make the NIT.

The Wolverines had a big lead early, and couldn't hold on it (or anything really, coughing up the ball *only* 13 times--seemed like twice that, giving up countless offensive rebounds by merely not holding on to the ball) and launching a series of bad shots on offensive that would've made Daniel Horton think "they learned so well... why they didn't need me at all!"

But Tommy, you've got a bench full of long, lean athletes, and their point guard goes down with an injury 6 minutes in, why on earth aren't you pressing the entire game? Even a marginal amount of pressure came up with a ten-second count. And yeah, their five ended up playing an average of 37 minutes each, that doesn't mean you have to try and match them. Play the game to your team's strengths, not in reaction to what the other coach is doing!

But yeah, this is yet another Michigan basketball team with lots of raw ability, and not much Basketball IQ.

On to the second irritation:

2) Ohio State's #1 ranking (in basketball!)

Yeah, I might be a little more doubting of freshmen than I should be. Each year, I think less of the freshmen class than I should, and OSU could well be a Final Four team... with Greg Oden.
Ohio State's schedule has been fine, but seriously folks, #1? The ESPMSM narrative is "Think how good Ohio State is going to be once they get Oden!" when that's pretty far off base. OSU is #1 based on the fact that everyone is counting on Oden showing up in the not-too-distant future. And I'm sure he'll be very good, but the fact that OSU is #1 right now is ridiculous.

Ohio State has destroyed their opponents, but the toughest game has probably been when they hosted Loyola (Chi) and won 87-75. Doesn't strike me as a statement game, let alone anything proving they're worthy of a #1 ranking. Even though I'm not a huge fan of Pittsburgh or UCLA's chances to get the Final Four, it seems to me they've demonstrated more this season to earn
that top ranking than the Buckeyes (Pitt demolished UMass and Florida State, UCLA beat kentucky and Georgia Tech).

The narrative here should be "why is the ranking system broken?" Let me ask this, if these three teams each win 90% of their remaining, and yet news comes out that Oden will end up missing the entire year, who do you think will be ranked #1?

Monday, November 27, 2006

What it all means, and especially against Duke

Tomorrow night, IU plays Duke at Cameron Indoor, and the Dukies will be pumped to attack.

Duke is not the Final Four contender that beat IU last year, and should not be ranked in the top ten. However, they are a solid top-25 team, which is better than Indiana.

This said, Indiana has a shot, even if Wilmont and Stemler aren't on fire from beyond the arc. If they're totally cold, it could get ugly, tho.

Personnel notes on Duke:

The Dukies are shooting very well from 3, but only Okay from the free-throw line. That's good news for IU, as Duke will probably be shooting a lot of FTs tomorrow night. Not to implicate the Refs, but Duke's strategy is always to shoot more FT's than their opponents attempt, and this Hoosier squad is a little foul-prone so far.

The Devils' inside attack isn't particularly scary, as Josh McRoberts and Lance Thomas tend to get a lot of their points in transition, but 7-1 frosh Brian Zoubek is not only scoring efficiently (57.6% shooting, 79.2% FTs), but rebounding very well in only 12.5 minutes/game at 4.7 rpg.

For the Defensive strategy, I think DJ shouldn't be going after shots nor should IU's guards be doubling down given the hot outside shooting of Duke thus far. Just prevent the penetration of Paulus and Nelson (foul Nelson if needed, who only shoots 55% on FTs), and let our frontline just stand tall without fouling, and then go get the boards. Our guards have to come back to get the ball, tho.

Offensively, I think Calloway and Bassett ought to go at the Duke defense and pass out for jumpers (particularly to Stemler on high pick-n-rolls). DJ should get touches early to see if he can get McRoberts in foul trouble, as that's Duke's only real shot-blocker. But I wouldn't be surprised to see DJ (and/or Wilmont and Calloway for that matter) get whistled for two fouls during the lay-up drill. So, I hope Sampson has prepared to surprise the Devils with Mike White, who can score very effectively inside, and is probably the only other player outside of DJ who has that capability. Ben Allen might be able to exploit McRoberts' shot-blocking proclivities on high pick-n-rolls as well.

For IU's line-up, I would probably go with DJ White in the center of course, Stemler and Wilmont at the forward spots (if they get hot early, great!), and I would start Calloway at point (extremely efficient scoring, good outside shooting hasn't even been showcased yet, and he's never been afraid of anyone--see the UConn game last season) and Joey Shaw at the other guard.
I know Shaw is only a freshman and likely to get rattled, but he can shoot from outside and Duke might leave him open. Also, Shaw (IH .586/AH .234) is probably the player, besides Calloway (IH .620/AH .372), who the HPER rating system shows a definite need for more PT. And in addition to rebounding, Shaw can definitely help on Duke's bigger guards. On the flip side, the big loser in the HPER system is AJ Ratliff (IH .221/AH .144), who gets a lot of minutes and shots but just doesn't produce. It might also be good to be able to bring AJ off the bench as he might be able to calm down the Hoosiers if Wilmont or Shaw are getting whistled for PFs and/or TOs, or just aren't showing good shot selection.

If in a crunch, Sampson might be well advised to utilize a two point-guard backcourt with Calloway playing the off-guard, who as I said, hasn't shown his outside shooting this year (0 for 1 n threes), but last season hit 13 of 35 treys (37.1%). Armon Bassett's HPER rating (IH .403/AH .181) certainly surpasses AJ's.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Modest Proposal

There's always some wonk who wants to crunch numbers to find out who's the best player on the court. Today, that happens to be me.

Introducing the Hoosierfunball Player Efficiency Rating (HPER):

Pts+Total Rebs+Off.Rebs.+[2x(Assists+Steals+Blocks)]-[Missed FGs+(2xTurnovers)+(Missed FTs/2)]
all divided by Minutes Per Game=Individual HPER
all divided by Minutes Per Game Possible=Adjusted HPER

Some of this is obvious, but offensive rebounds equal another possession taken away from an opponent, so I want to reward that. Also assists reflect good passing, and passes that lead to free-throws are never recorded, so I double them as well. Steals are also a possession gained (double 'em), and while Blocks certainly are not an indication of gaining a possession, intimidations are rarely counted at the college level. The additional deflections that might show
good defense cannot really be reflected in steals & blocks due to the bad defense that often comes from gambling. For example, at Indiana, Earl Calloway allowed guys like Drew Nietzel to blow by him for lay-ups when he was gambling for the steal. And everyone should remember George Leach's refusal to get defensive rebounds in his pursuit of blocked shots.
Since turnovers are a possession lost, that should penalized above missed shots (double 'em),
while missed free throws only reflect the loss of one point, not a whole possession (halve 'em).

Dividing by minutes played is the standard way to assess the value of the individual productivity (at least, in NBA rating systems). However, one also needs to consider the value to the team, and this is often overlooked in assessing player effectiveness. If someone gets in foul trouble, suspended, injured, technical fouls, all that obviously hurts their ability to produce and help the team.

DJ White: (14ppg/7.5rpg/1apg/1spg/1.8bpg)
{56pts+30total rebs +9off.rebs +[2x(4assists+4steals+7blocks)]
-(18missed fgs+(2x8 turnovers)+(7missed Free throws/2)]}/98minutes played

So, DJ has a .893 Individual HPER (IH).
But here's the important rating for me, Indiana played 4 games, or 160 minutes total that DJ could've played in. While it's never a good idea to play anyone for 40 minutes, it gives a better idea of the per-game productivity and importance of the player to the team:

87.5 divided 160 total possible minutes gives DJ White a .547 Adjusted HPER (AH)

Compare Spencer Tollackson with Courtney Sims, and then Northwestern's Vince Scott, just for fun.
Spencer Tollackson, Minn. (13.3ppg/9rpg/1.7apg/1.7bpg)

101-33=68/74=.919 IH

68/160=.425 AH

Courtney Sims, Mich. (16.6ppg/6.4rpg/1.2bpg)

120/158=.759 IH

120/240=.500 AH


Vince Scott, NU (7.3ppg/2.3rpg/3.8apg/1.5spg/1bpg)

92-36.5=55.5/121=.459 IH
55.5/160=.347 AH

Due to the the difference in competition, I don't think this will be all that meaningful pre-conference, but once we get some conference numbers in play, I'm really looking forward to seeing how this theory shakes out.

Just for fun, here's how Big Ten Opponent's records stack up at this VERY EARLY stage.

OSU Opp.:15-7
UMinn. Opp.: 10-5
Pur. Opp.:12-11
MSU Opp.:16-15
Iowa Opp.:9-8
IU Opp.: 8-8
NU Opp.:9-10
UIUC Opp.:8-13
UMich Opp.:10-18
PSU Opp.:5-12
UW Opp.:3-12

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Some Big 10 B-Ball thoughts for the Holiday

Announcing the first HFB Big 10 Power Poll!

1. Wisconsin (4-0)
No real games yet, but they've handled the competition they've been faced with as they're supposed to. 6-7 Joe Krabbenhaft is starting to look like the top-20 recruit the Badgers thought they were getting last year. I think Bo Ryan's team is in a class of its own at the top right now, despite OSU's way-too-high #3 national ranking.

2. Ohio State (5-0)
No Greg Oden, but they're playing well enough. Not much for inside scoring, but they haven't needed it. Othello Hunter is holding down the middle capably, and Ivan Harris is rebounding surprisingly well. Big upside, but not terribly intimidating without Oden.

3. Illinois (5-0)
Lots of injuries/suspensions early, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad news for Bruce Weber. Defense still looks pretty good, but the Illini are not rebounding as well as in the past. But they've basically played an exhibition schedule up to this point. Once they 1) start getting guys back and 2) start playing some real games, we'll see if they're actually this good, or even better.

4. Michigan (5-0)
Not a totally creampuff schedule, but pretty close as Davidson and Wisconsin-Milwaukee aren't the teams they were 2 years ago. Courtney Sims is doing well against inferior competition, but currently owns 1:8 Assist-to-turnover ratio. Ick. Sleeper frosh Ekpe Udoh is showing a nice upside.

5. Michigan State (5-1)
Don't underestimate Izzo! Altho, as I warned in the preseason, don't overestimate Texas. But this aside, this is a relatively thin squad with not much to improve upon from here. Goran Suton showing a touch inside would be welcome, but on the other hand, I wouldn't expect the Sparties' 3-pt. shooting to stay at 45.2% (especially given their shooting performance against Vermont last night). A light pre-conference schedule might ensure a NIT bid, but I'm not sold on this being a NCAA team.

6. Indiana (3-1)
Mixed results against less-than-solid opponents. Butler gunned down both Notre Dame and IU with last-minute threes (the one against IU banked in from 23 feet at the shot clock buzzer), but IU managed to outlast Indiana State (at home) for the first time in a while. The game at Duke, win or lose, should really demonstrate these Hoosiers' true character.

7. Penn State (3-1)
PSU can't be judged fairly until they get star forward Geary Claxton back. But without him, they don't look too great. Bright side in Brandon Hassell finally giving Coach DeChellis some quality minutes inside, even if he fouled out in 22, like against Bucknell yesterday.

8. Purdue (3-1)
Transfer Gordon Watt is giving Carl Landry some help inside, but they're what, a 6-6 front line? That'll be trouble come conference play. Frosh Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer are going to be good, but they're still freshmen. Purdue was just torched by Georgia Tech's pressure, showing almost no ability get rebounds or shoot threes (4-24). They bounced back decently against Oklahoma, 'tho, primarily on the back of Landry, but OU is not expected even to make the NIT.

9. Iowa (2-2)
F/C Kurt Looby has been an eye-opening performer. However, they just aren't very good without Mike Henderson so far, and even his return won't bring them the interior scoring they so desperately need.

10. Minnesota (2-1)
The exhibition loss aside, the Gophers are looking a little better, but still not really looking tough or showing any ability to shoot, for that matter. Not really sure what to make of this team yet, but outside of Lawrence McKenzie, there's not a lot to fear here. The loss last night against Iowa State could fall into the fluke category, but on the other hand, I don't really think that either team will make the NIT.

11. Northwestern (2-2)
How about Tim Doyle? TD leads the Wildcats in every single statistical category (Pts, Rebs, Assts, Blocks, Steals, Fouls, & Turnovers). But shooting is a problem for him (37% overall, 16.7% on 3s) & the whole team (41.1% overall & 31.6% on 3s). If NU can adjust its shooting, it could escape the cellar spot it seems destined for.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Yikes! So much to write about.

Boy, you just get busy for a week or so, and the news just stacks up!

Well, let's break 'em down into bite-sized categories:

IU Soccer
The kickers won their NCAA tourney opener then lost in the round of 16 on PKs. They could've won it with their final Penalty kick, but Sophomore striker Brian Ackley hit the left post. Inches away from the round of eight, but as I said earlier, I think that would've been as far as these Hoosiers could go. Tough defense, but just not a goal-scoring squad. And if you can't score at least one goal in 120 minutes of playing time, then you don't deserve to move ahead.
The good news is next year looks pretty good. The seniors Julian Dieterle, John Michael Hayden, Kevin Robson, and Josh Tudela will be missed, but there's a solid crew returning (8 of 11 top scorers/3 of top 4) next year with:

Promising young Goalkeeper Chay Cain,
Defenders Greg Stevning, and Ofori Sarkodie, and Charley Traylor,
Midfielders Kevin Alston, Brad Ring, Eric Alexander, & Jon Mellencamp,
Strikers Brian Ackley, Kevin Noschang, and Darren Yeagle

and redshirted frosh phehom Daniel Kelly will join the rotation next year, to boot.

IU's tradition of excellence should continue, but we'll have to wait to see if they'll be a real title threat.

IU football
went on to break hearts as usual, but it was the best year for the sport since Bill Mallory was coaching. Next year looks pretty good tho'. Coach Hep is turning things around.

IU Basketball
Since the win over Lafayette, they've gone 2-1, but played themselves out of the preseason NIT. It's hard to take too many lessons from this early in the season, especially a NIT loss to Butler where the NCAA is evidently continuing their early season experiments. This one appears to be: "What if we had the Referees whistle on every possession?"
I gotta say, I don't like it.

But that aside, IU has both potential and problems. Frosh Joey Shaw and Armon Bassett are showing some really exciting upside, and even Xavier Keeling might be able to help out the team this season too.

But let's break down IU player-by player thus far:

DJ White: (14ppg/7.5rpg/1apg/1.8bpg/1spg/2topg)
Looking good, when he's not in foul trouble. Or limping. Jeez, we'll be watching those feet this entire year. All we really need from DJ is a little better passing, and to just stay healthy.

Rod Wilmont:(14.3ppg/5.3rpg/0.5apg/2spg/1topg)
So dangerous. Both to opponents and to Indiana. I love his confidence, but he can take us out of game as quick as putting us into it. But he does rebound, and that's valuable on this squad.

Lance Stemler: (12.3ppg/4rpg/1.3apg/1.3topg)
Good scoring and hustle, but passing, rebounding, defense are not really strong points. Would probably make a better 3-forward than the 4-forward he's playing now.

Earl Calloway: (11ppg/3.8apg/2.8rpg/1.3spg/3.5topg)
Amazing first game, less impressive since then. Still, should be the starter all season long, but needs to show more of a killer instinct.

AJ Ratliff: (8ppg/2.3rpg/1.3apg/3topg)
AJ has some nice plays, but still just not playing at potential. Maybe he'll make a Dane Fife-like turnaround this or next year, but he also needs to 1) stop turning the ball over & 2) hit the glass.

Armon Bassett: (3.5ppg/2.5rpg/4.3apg/2topg)
Great offensive instincts. But defense? That needs to improve.

Joey Shaw: (6ppg/3.5rpg/1apg/1bpg/.8spg/2topg)
Great upside showing here, but also too many turnovers. Classic freshmen mistakes being made, but this kid looks like a future starter.

Ben Allen:(1.3ppg/3rpg/1.3topg)
Much better rebounding instincts, and the shots will fall, but he also needs to work on catching the ball in traffic.

Mike White:(3.5ppg/1rpg/1.3topg)
Nice scoring touch, but where's the rebounding? May be the most disappointing so far, but maybe Sampson wants to get more effort and recognition of offensive & defensive schemes before he starts giving him more opportunities.

Erreck Suhr:(1.5ppg/1.3rpg)
Good job drawing charges, and his shots will fall, but Zero assists?

Xavier Keeling:(3ppg/1rpg)
Only played in two games, but showing a nice scoring touch and good athleticism.

Too many turnovers, too little rebounding. Those need to tighten up big time if IU's going to have a shot against Duke. More about that later.

Also, IU landed two more recruits. 6-4 combo guard Jordan Crawford will probably back up Bassett at the point next season. And Top 100 SG 6-4 Eshaunte Jones will spend a year in prep school and rejoin the Hoosiers in Fall 2008. Just after AJ Ratliff and (probably) Eric Gordon have moved on.

Bears and Colts continue on, Colts suffer first loss. Still hoping to see them both in the Superbowl!

Chicago is underachieving right now, but Scott Skiles' clubs often get off to slow starts.
Indiana has a star in Al Harrington, which is good given the mediocre nature of the rest of the team. Sigh.
San Antonio doing well, but as with IU, everything rests on the health of the big man (Timmy).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Spent precious minutes typing about IU's win over Lafayette, only to have my browser crash!
Come on!

Basically, I said that the play of the game was Erreck Suhr's taking a backcourt charge right after Wilmont had missed a couple of threes, with IU clinging to a 63-60 lead. The charge gave the ball back to IU, whereupon Suhr and Calloway patiently moved the defense until a spot opened up, and then Suhr doubled IU's lead. Another turnover, and Wilmont drains a three, and the rout began. The play of the game, and it didn't even show up in the box score.

Game ball to Earl Calloway, with 22 pts and 9 assists, and the Gang of .500* is abuzz with how quick Calloway is. But it was less his quickness than his size that got him the open 13-16 footers that carried IU just above the Lafayette tide. He's 6-3 being guarded by 6-footers (at best) and while that may sound not that significant, ask any 6-9 post player about guarding a 7-footer. But Calloway was in control tonight, which is a great sign for IU.

Also special mention goes to Wilmont. Every team needs a guy (and sometimes every team needs to bench a guy) who believes that his next shot is going in, even if he's missed two from the exact same spot just a minute ago. And Wilmont did get 5 steals to boot.

Allen showed a nice drop-step to the hoop, but the dude needs to work on catching passes. He could've had 10 points if he just had some hands.

Noone except Calloway had a real great night, but everyone showed both promise and areas of concern. Turnovers are a definite concern, and rebounding will be too any time that DJ's out with foul trouble again.

*my name for the sports newspress, as opposed to the Washington Insider Political media; "Gang of 500"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Quick notes:

Ben posts a good guide for what to do online if you've missed the big IU basketball game and want to catch up online. This anonymous blogger gets a nod there, and happily returns it to Ben himself. My only criticisms of Hoosierball is that he was first to the name, and that he doesn't post often enough. He did point out an IU blog I've not been following, the Bloomington newspaper's official IU blog, run by Chris Korman.

Over at ESPN, Mark Schlabach goes looking for the new Florida and finds... Georgia Tech?


Last year, Florida was coming off of a 24-8 season, an SEC Championship, and had lost 3 stars (David Lee, Matt Walsh, and Anthony Roberson). They were going to need multiple breakout seasons just to make the NCAA tourney (and got them, obviously). The situation just couldn't be more different. Georgia Tech, who went 11-17 last season, returns 6 of 7 top players and picked up a great recruiting class, headlined by probable starters 6-8 Thaddeus Young and 6-4 point guard Jarvis Crittendon. The Hornets have a good chance of making the Big Dance, but probably just as good of a chance of making the NIT. In any case, it's all well and good to herald the new Hornets, but tying a parallel to '06 Florida? Ree-diculous.

I will point a good and informative article on ESPN, tho, by Kyle Whelliston, "Nine Mid-Major Stars to Watch"
Great stuff as always.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Big 10 Exhibition game box-score notes & "Just Saying"


Chester Frazier played capably for 31 minutes, but his shootingjust okay, and then went 1-6 from the FT line. Ouch. Meachem wasn't really impressive either, shooting 2-6 overall (2-5 threes) and 2 assists and 2 turnovers.

Returning big men Pruitt, Carter, and Arnold (& frosh Brian Carlwell) scored but didn't rebound (38 pts, only 9 rebounds), newbies Charles Jackson & Richard Semraurebounded but didn't really score (8 pts, 10 rebounds). The Illini have lots of big bodies,but I'm not certain there's any difference makers here.

Cause for alarm! With Rich McBride & Brian Randle sitting out, the Illini went 3-21 outside the arc, with ace Jamar Smith going 0-8. If the threat of Dee Brown is no longer moving defenses around, the shooters may not be able to get open or even hit the open shots that would enable the bigs to produce down low.

Nonetheless, I have faith that Weber will have these guys playing enough D to ensure
an NCAA bid. But that may be about it.


So many athletes, so much potential. Too bad Michigan didn't drop Amaker a year earlier, 'cause someone else could probably make this team a sweet 16 contender. I think Izzo or Ryan had the reins, we'd be talking about a top 25 team.

The starting five should be Brent Petway, Lester Abram, Courtney Sims, Dion Harris, and Jerret Smith, but there are a couple of problems here. Sims' lost-post presence makes the
offense go, but he tends to disappear against tough foes.
That leaves Dion Harris free-lancing, but he needs someone playing point, which right now is Jerret Smith, who perhaps has even less offensive game than Chester Frazier. Who-dat frosh Reed Baker can hit 3's, but can he against real competition? Can he play point, rebound or pass? Baker will probably come off the bench along with K'Len Morris, Ron Coleman, DeShawn Sims, and Ekpe Udoh. If Frosh Kendric Price could show any productivity, he would probably force Coleman to a permanent spot on the pine, and create a fab (bench) freshmen five.
But the formerly touted recruit Price has unimpressive, and may be the odd man out of the rotation. Also out (probably) are PF Anthony Wright and wing Jevohn Sheppard.

Michigan St.:

Freshman Raymar Morgan may be leading scorer for Izzo. He also may be the key to keeping alive the Izzo tradition of dominant rebounding. But he needs to be able to hit the jumper consistently. The starting lineup of Travis Walton, Drew Nietzel (at off guard), Goran Suton, Marquise Gray, and Morgan seems pretty well set.

Drew Naymick, Idok Ibong, and Tom Herzog will all get some minutes up front, and Maurice Joseph and Isaiah Dahlman should get the backcourt minutes.

They'll probably play hard, and make a bid for the NIT, but that may be as far as they can reach, and honestly, I'm not sure that the Sparties will even earn an NIT spot. They've been far from dominant in their exhibition games, and that's never a good sign.


This may be the most interesting club to watch, as they could range anywhere from a top-four finish to battling Northwestern for last place. Losing do-everything star Vincent Grier will help
nothing, and also losing "mister intangible" Zach Puchtel, whoseinsertion into the starting line-up helped save last season from total chaos.

So, this year, the exhibition box score was as puzzling as could be, even given the resting of probable starting backcourt Lawrence McKenzie and Limar Wilson.

In their first exhibition game, Frosh 6-0 Lawrence Westbrook (who?) scored 21 points, and frosh Engen Nurumbi grabbed 13 rebounds! Nurumbi may be an answer for the loss of J'Son Stamper, but maybe it was the competition, as formerly rebound-averse Dan Coleman
also flirted with a double-double, grabbing 9. Redshirt freshman Kevin Payton had 11 assists, to go along with 10 points and 2 steals. Jamal Abu-Shamala had better watch his butt
or Payton could well send him to the bench.

There's really no telling from this Gopher squad until Wilson & McKenzie play, tho.

Ohio State:

With Greg Oden out for a while, everyone else is getting plenty of PT and shots. Granted, OSU's paper-thin roster will have everyone getting an honest chance anyway.

The dangers of relying on (albeit very talented) freshmen were demonstrated in the night & day play of Daequan Cook in the two exbition games:

13 pts, 8 rbs, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, in 21 minutes
4 pts, 1 rb, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 5 fouls in 16 minutes.

The 3-guard line-up of Jamar Butler, Mike Conley, Jr., & Ron Lewis should be pretty potent, 'though. Cook and Lighty will probably come off the bench, but they need Oden back to
be a special club. Othello Hunter seems capable inside, but Ivan Harris & Matt Terwiliger will produce very little in the paint for Matta's club.

Penn State:

The big news, as far as I can discern, is that the Nittany Lions have decided to solve their 2 David Jacksons' problem by designating sophomore wing as "Mooch" Jackson and
frosh power forward as "DJ" Jackson. With this out of the way, it appears that Mooch will be moving to the 3-spot until star Geary Claxton's finger heals, with red-shirt Brian Morrissey taking over Mooch's spot. Jamelle Cornelly will now be the focal point of the offense.
Also, Ed DeChellis needs soph center Milos Bogetic to hold down the middle, but frosh DJ and Andrew Jones both look like they may be able to handle some minutes in the paint, which would be depth that just didn't exist last year. DJ especially has exhibited anose for the ball, which could only improve their terrible, terrible defense.

Of course, they just went out and lost to Shippensburg (D-II) in their final exhibition game, and granted they were without Mooch and Claxton, but they shot 38% in the second half, and allowed a Division-II team to shoot 10 points higher against them in that same half. Not good. Also not good was the inside play, as Cornelly was off, and Bogetic and Brandon Hassell could score some points, but noone could rebound, the freshmen were terrible, and the post players combined for 12 of PSU's 20 turnovers (and also 15 of their 22 fouls). Penn State, just tumbling down the preseason picks.


Small-ball approach, eh? Get used to it, Boiler watchers. There's only four players 6-6 or taller on this squad, and one of them is a guard (transfer Gordon Watt). Watt will probably back up undersized post-monster Carl Landry, who is a slender 6-7, but plays like Karl Malone.
The other two are freshman, Jonathan Uchendu & DavidVandervieren. In the exhibition game Watt & Vandervieren did not play (I didn't find any notes about it) and Uchendu played 23 minutes, but only got 6 pts and 2 rebounds, and shot 4-10 on FTs. Carl Landry started with four guards, which may have been why North Dakota State outrebounded them 35-29.

David Teague shot badly (3-12, 1-7 on 3s), but Landry destroyed the opposition. Freshmen guards Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant started, and while Kramer played well (check out this line: 12 pts, 6 rbs, 4 assists, 4 steals, 1 TO, no fouls in 23 minutes), Grant didn't show anything that Painter didn't have last year. Hyped newbie point Tarrance Crump scored 10 points, but showed neither outside shooting or ability to notch assists.

Starting Guard Chris Lutz fouled out in 17 scoreless minutes, but by all accounts, the whistles were tight (41 fouls in the first half alone!). I gotta say, this looks like a NIT squad to me.


Wisconsin played everyone they could against D-3 UW-Stout, noone more than 20 minutes, and in fact, only two players got as many 19 or 20 minutes.
This is a game to take nothing from, except that everyone's healthy and that maybe Ryan feels comfortable with his depth. Still the front-runner.

Not mentioned:
Indiana: see previous post
Iowa: One thing to note in going over the Stats (I'm trying to put together my own semi-scientific projection, which will be basically bullshit, but scientific bullshit) is that Iowa has had a really great defense of the last couple of years. But with Erik Hansen's intimidation gone and Greg Brunner's rebounding also out, where do the stops come from? I would venture that Iowa will probably have at least an average, if not slightly above average defense again, but I don't think it will be enough to carry them to the NCAA's like last year, and unless the offense is outstanding (and there's no reason to think it will be), I truly doubt they'll even get that far.

Northwestern: not yet played; but there's a couple of notes. NU will be the Big Ten's worst team, but they may not be the game off they would first appear to be. First of all, Carmody's a fine coach, not genius, but comes out with some really solid gameplans. And second, they've filled out their roster nicely this summer after having a couple of devastating offseasons.

Ivan Tolic returns to back up Vince Scott at Center, as someone once said about another center, it's not like he does anything while he's out there, but he plays like he belongs out there, and you wouldn't be surprised to see him produce. Also Rice transfer Jason Okrzesik will take the back-up minutes at point when Craig Moore needs a rest, and should be capable in that regard. He averaged over an assist per game for Rice two years ago. Bigger things are expected of Luxembourgian athlete Jean-Marc Melchior, who probably has more physical ability than anyone else on the team.

An interesting freshmen class comes into town, Croatian sleepers are 6-7 center Nikola Baran and 6-8 guard Ivan Peljusic. 6-8 Kevin Coble, 6-8 Jeff Ryan, and 6-3 Jeremy Nash should be able to provide some support as well, but may need a year of seasoning mentally and physically before really being able to help Carmody out.

Real-time rankings from ESPN fans leave the bottom six teams (of 30 available) at the time of writing as follows:

My rankings of these teams are in [brackets]

#25 Wichita State [34]
#26 Gonzaga [10]
#27 Illinois [19]
#28 Creighton [NIT]
#29 SIU [12]
#30 Nevada [23]

To me, Southern Illinois and Gonzaga seem criminally underrated. Just saying.
Also, I still think Missouri State is getting a raw deal. I think they'll be good. Also getting a raw deal in my eyes are:

Air Force
Virginia Tech
Saint Louis

Keep an eye on these teams as the season goes on. Just saying.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hoosiers Big Ten Champs!

IU Men's Soccer again asserts their dominance, clinching their automatic ticket to the NCAA tourney with a pair of 1-0 wins over the weekend, but the question of seeding now arises. Indiana looks probable for a #2 seed, but could slip into a #1 if enough top seeds lost. IU beat OSU 1-0 for the championship, but the bigger win was finally getting the Penn State monkey off their backs a game earlier.
However, the bad news is that with the two wins (g00d), the Hoosiers Goals Per Game average has dropped to a ridiculously bad 1.55 average. Here's hoping they've stored them all up for a stretch run, but scoring that few goals a game leaves waaaay too much to chance in the beautiful game. I don't think, unless they get homefield advantage, that these Hoosiers can make it past the round of eight, and maybe not even that far. Not to be a hater, and they've got good defense (as always) on their side, but this is not one of the great teams of the Indiana tradition. Nonetheless, it's been a gritty bunch that have won when it counted, and Congratulations to this squad on winning the regular and tournament Conference Championship!

IU football took that heart-breaking nosedive at Minnesota that I warned about earlier, saying "But those of you whispering about a bowl bid are reaching a little far, I think... 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 could still get to a bowl with a win against Purdue, but they'll have to play even better than they did against Michigan State & Iowa. Here's hoping!

On to Basketball!

The Indiana Men's team opened up their season with an exhibition win over North Dakota State, 95-50. There wasn't much to find fault with in the box score, and reports of the game from intrepid bloggers Steve, Ben, and Terry say pretty much the same thing. IU defended well, played hard, and shot pretty well too.

Surprises from the Box score:

Ben Allen getting 3 blocks and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes, all on the offensive end. Last year's version would've gotten 1 offensive rebound in that time, maybe. It looks like Sampson is making Big Ben use his height.

Bad surprise: the Whites' (DJ & Mike) lack of domination inside. Maybe because of the blowout nature and the hot outside shooting they chose not to abuse NDSU, but 14 total points in 40 combined minutes isn't anything to write home about. They should be fine, but we need both of those guys punishing dudes inside, like Marco did early last season (granted, before getting lazy).

Good surprise: the freshmen backcourt of Shaw & Bassett tearing it up for 27 points and 7 assists. While Calloway should be the starter from beginning to end, Bassett looks like he's going to make real contributions, and may earn 15-20 minutes a game off the bench with his sweet shooting and nice passing. As long as he plays defense, that is. Shaw also is a good slasher/scorer, but he's going to have to show an ability to do other things (Stemler, for example, shot really well but also added 6 rebounds; 5 offensive, and a steal) for the Hoosiers to get quality PT from Sampson.

This isn't going to be the deepest IU team ever, but it certainly looks like it 'll be deep enough, and can give DJ enough offensive support to allow him the all-Big-Ten season he deserves. And IU's defense should carry this club to a top-3 conference finish and even into the top 25. Should.

Next up, I'll be looking at other box scores from around the Big Ten, and recording my as-yet-unrecorded thoughts:

Friday, November 03, 2006

Rambling while I've got the time

Very much enjoying the return of the Big Ten Wonk, from his previews (here is IU's) to his call to arms on Defensive Attention Deficit, complete with the above nifty graphic.

Cribbing BTW's notes, what do the Hoosiers have to look forward to this year? Well, probably pretty decent perimeter defense, as Wilmont & Calloway's contributions were overlooked on occasion, and if DJ White stays healthy for a whole year, improved interior defense to boot. There is the potential for committing less turnovers this year, which would obviously help the offense, but IU's best outside shooters are gone, so the balance of the attack could suffer.

Best line in Wonk's Preview:

"BONUS unsolicited advice for Coach Sampson! Do not play Stemler and Wilmont at the same time. It could cause a rupture in the space-time-shot-selection continuum. "

Yoni Cohen also previews the Big Ten as a whole, likes IU to get to the NCAA, but one of only 3 teams along with OSU and Wisconsin. The disbelief in Illinois I find pretty incredible, but Weber certainly doesn't have the horses he did last season in Dee Brown and James Augustine. Sure, Brown wasn't all that effective, but he did scare the other team, leaving opportunities for McBride and Jamar Smith to knock open shots, or for Augustine and Pruitt to have time to go to work in the post. And his slated replacement, Chester Frazier currently scares nobody. Illinois could be the surprise loser this year for sure. I wouldn't put money on it, but perhaps Cohen will be proved right.

A couple of important developments for possible NCAA teams:

Texas Tech dismissed offensive ace Jarrius Jackson for academics. Here's betting he's back on the team and getting heavy minutes in February and March.

Ty Nelson has been reinstated at New Mexico State, but is being indicted on Felony charges. I'm betting if Coach Theus thought he was guilty of robbing a Pizza delivery guy, he wouldn't be reinstated, but the DA must think he's guilty. Stay tuned.

A bit more expounding on the Penn State problem I mentioned last post. If Penn State has the worst in-conference defense, it becomes easy to look at the return of most of their scorers, including red-shirted sharpshooter Danny Morrissey, and think that they are bound to get better, especially with stud forwards Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley. However, losing hard-nosed, yet undersized, center Travis Parker and replacing his starting spot with soft Euro Milos Bogetic is unlikely to improve said Defense. I do believe Penn State will be better than last year (15-14, 6-10), but they are only two years removed from being really awful (7-23, 1-15).
They'll sure pick up a win or two, but getting above .500 in conference play may be too much to ask. And given the weak nature of the Big Ten last year and (probably) this year, even going 9-7 in conference play may not cut it. The only hope is that true freshmen 6-8 Andrew Jones and 6-7 DJ Jackson are able to play defense and rebound down low to provide some improvement on that end.

The same need to at least go 9-7 is not great news for Michigan or Purdue, the other possible contenders for a NCAA bid. Michigan seemed to have a NCAA bid sewn up last season, and seized the chance to blow it by bailing out Indiana in a season-ending home game by needlessly fouling and giving IU the win on a silver platter. Michigan has a lot of talent on hand this season, but without Graham Brown getting amazing rebounds and Daniel Horton playing point, conference road play looks grim. Dion Harris will be forced to play a lot of point, and while he may do a fine job, it'll certainly take away his effectiveness on the wing. Big men DeShawn Sims and Ekpe Udoh are fine recruits, but it's doubtful they'll be able to replace the production of Brown and Chris Hunter. One thing that may lead to an improved conference record is frosh guard Reed Baker's outside shooting, who went 4-4 on threes in the first exhibition game. But as long as Tommy Amaker's coaching, I imagine the Wolverines will find ways to lose the close ones.
And Purdue has just been awful in the last two years, and then they lost not only the so-so senior class (which did contain their #1, #2, and #3 centers), but also promising power forward Marcus White, and then top rookie Nate Minnoy. Given the other washouts during the 2005-2006 season (such as point Korey Spates), Purdue's regaining of Carl Landry and David Teague is not a mere adding-on of what they had last year. While Landry will probably recoup the production of White and starting center Matt Kiefer all by himself, someone has to *play* center, and Matt Painter only has two freshman (neither of whom are exactly blue-chippers) on hand. Not the way to go into any Big Ten season.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

November, the cruelest month

And yet, also the month when America's very best sport, Men's College Basketball, returns. Ah, antinomy!

Had a brief debate with Ryan G. which he cleared up by expounding that it was because the rivalry hoopla surrounding a Hoosier Gordon vs. a Illini Rose would create higher NBA draft positions for the both of them. I'll still argue that Rose should come to IU for the following reasons:

1) Instant PT and exposure. IU's #1 and #2/3 PG graduate this year. Only Armon Bassett returns to play point, and Indiana needs a starter bad. Illinois will have returning starter(s) Chester Frazier and/or Trent Meachem at the positions, and Memphis will have returning senior starter Andre Allen.

2) Nothing feeds a draft position like NCAA tournament success. Sampson, Weber, and Calipari all have exactly one Final Four under their belt, and actually Calipari had his taken away due to cheating at UMass. But coming in next year to IU with perhaps the top recruit in the nation, and possible senior starters Mike White/Lance Stemler, AJ Ratliff, and junior Ben Allen, throw good depth from this and next year's new faces and IU will have a squad capable of making some noise in the tourney. I know recruits would love to be able to be one-and-done, and in today's college game, they'll need to work together.

3) Bargaining position. Sampson needs Rose more than Weber and Calipari right now. Weber and Calipari can recruit whoever they want, and their jobs are safe. Sampson is hogtied for next year's recruits, and is at a new school needing to prove that he can get top recruits. If he gets both local boy Eric Gordon and top PG Derrick Rose, Sampson will have an instant reputation set for him of being able to get the blue-chippers. Rose will be able to get more leeway from Sampson than at the other schools, which if he wants to be in the NBA in the next three years, he'll need.

Other news: the Big Ten Wonk is back and there was much rejoicing! Links to exhibition box scores deserve some perusal, as do Wonk's ever-revealing stats. One thing is for certain, I feel pretty safe about Michigan State sucking this year. No malice intended, but Izzo just doesn't have the horses. Also, Illinois should be fine and return to the NCAA's, but there's a weak perimeter crew that will be punished in Big Ten road games. Weber probably needs Dayton transfer Meachem to be able to play starting minutes.

Also, Wonk gave me some statistical proof to rethink my summer prediction of Penn State making the Big Dance. In conference games, PSU was the worst defensive unit, per possession, of the Power conferences. Ouch. PSU will be improved, but maybe that leap to NCAA Tournament is a bit too much. NIT seems like a better bet.
The question then becomes, who moves up? Does Michigan grab that 5th spot and Dance? Well, yes, and no. Michigan probably moves up a spot, but they were still just awful any time that they played without Horton, and I don't see that changing. Criticize Horton all you want (and it is deserved) but the Wolverines could never approach winning without him. Amaker holds firmly on to the top worst coach award for another year, and while they'll score some points, they just won't win enough games to deserve an at-large bid.

So, I think just four bids for the Big Ten this year, unless Purdue is able to be an entirely different team than the last two seasons. Many are excited about the return of David Teague and Carl Landry, but I saw a Purdue team with both of those players healthy getting skunked (by 20) by a sub-.500 Northwestern squad. They're on the right path, but don't count me as a believer yet.