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.


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