Friday, March 30, 2007

Stupid Off-the-Cuff Predictions!

UCLA will beat Florida!
Florida's the best team, but Corey Brewer can't guard both Josh Shipp and Aaron Afflalo. One of the two will abuse Lee "Humpty" Humphrey, and Mata & Moute's interior trapping defense will keep Florida shooting deep threes, and this one time I'm betting the shots don't go down.

Ohio State will beat Georgetown!
Because Matta's a sharp coach, he'll do enough to keep Oden safe (zone, maybe) & perhaps he deploys both Oden and the slippery shot-blocker Othello Hunter on the floor together at the same time. While the Hoyas had a great win on spectacular shooting against UNC, Oden will keep Hibbert from scoring with ease in the post during the stretch runs, and Conley should terrorize a solid Hoya backcourt on both sides of the ball.

UCLA will beat Ohio State!
In an ugly game that noone wants to watch ever again, the best defense will carry the day. OSU has been comparing themselves to the Fab Five a lot, who are possibly the NCAA's most famous never-won-a-darn-thing group (No NCAA titles, No Conference titles). Greg Oden & Mike Conley will go pro, Daequan Cook will test the waters but return, and OSU's very good recruiting class for next year will keep the Buckeyes still in the Big Ten's top title competitors for 2008.

Given my recent prognostication skills, look for none of these things to happen.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Well, it's one year later...

And Steve Alford is on his way down (in both the geographical and job-demotion senses) to New Mexico. I recall saying something about wanting to see if all the folks who were outraged that Steve didn't get the IU job would still be whistling the same tune one year hence. Beloved by Knight-first knotheads everywhere (yes, Bobby's a great coach, but you don't hire other people on the basis of his coaching acumen) Alford was the pick of ESPMSM, who couldn't imagine why some Hoosiers wouldn't want him.

To throw in an extra bonus (besides the Hawkeyes not making the NIT this year, while Sampson's Hoosiers finished 3rd in the conference and took UCLA to the final seconds before losing in the NCAA second round), Alford is apparently leaving Iowa in a somewhat unseemly manner, and engaging in possibly illegal activities as well. On behalf of the Big Ten, I say Good Riddance!
Are there any folks still out there carping about phonecalls that would've preferred Alford?

All that said, it's sort of interesting to watch the debate going on about the next Michigan head coach, who is rumored to be John Beilien of West Virginia. I think it would be great for the conference, and while it might make IU's path tougher, ultimately you want to be playing against the best talent and best minds in the game in your conference.

Quick note from a convo in my comments with the Taco from Indiana about Kelvin Sampson:

1) Indiana had the best (tempo-free) offense in the Big Ten this year.
2)IU improved to a 10-6 (3rd place!) finish in a surprisingly tough Big Ten after losing four starters.
3) IU came up just short in the NCAA's to UCLA, who then took down a very tough Kansas team to get to the Final Four.
4) Sampson motivated the IU players, who never quit in any game. The worst loss came at Purdue, which ended up as a 13-point loss after Earl Calloway got injured in the second half.
5) Sampson convinced almost all of Mike Davis' players to stay, landed two quality juco forwards, and then landed one the Nation's best recruiting classes for this next year.

I honestly couldn't've have asked for more from any coach.

Now I do want to see some things improve. What I want to see is IU's much-praised but actually mediocre defense and rebounding reflect the level of its hype, and the players to display some toughness in dealing with double-teams and traps, especially in road games.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bracket madness!

My "vote-your-hopes" bracket is doing okay. Not terrible, not great, but okay.
Indiana's out of course, and shockingly Wisconsin is as well.

I posted the final Hper stats in a sort of readable form on the other blog finally.

The big question for Indiana becomes will DJ White stay or go. Most expect him to stay, and the highest projection I could find for him was 32nd overall, but he could well go undrafted without a rally great camp performance. What he had to say about it certainly wasn't calming, but also made sense, too. Terry Hutchens considers whether DJ 'll go, and Oden and probably Mike Conley look like locks to go this year as well.

I went back and looked what I had to say about the Big Ten teams in October and the Top 25 and outliers in November, and I gotta say I feel pretty good about it all.

Biggest disappointments:
NCAA: Louisiana State, Syracuse, Air Force, Gonzaga, George Mason
Big Ten: Penn State, Illinois

Pleasant Surprises:
NCAA: Tennessee, UNLV, Southern Cal., Butler, Vanderbilt
Big Ten: Michigan State, Purdue

Monday, March 19, 2007

Post-game thoughts

Well, I wasn't happy that IU missed a golden opportunity to upset a good UCLA club, especially due to things as simple as missed free-throws and inbounding the ball. But on the other hand, unlike certain Hoosier teams in the late 90's, this club didn't roll over when things weren't going its way. It fought back, tooth and nail, and almost sprung the big upset.

Final thoughts

*Rod, Earl, and Erreck- we'll miss you. Great job this year.
*Coach Sampson- well done. I'd like to see the defense (& the road-toughness) improve, but I'd give him a "A-" on the year. I don't see any other coaches doing much better in the situation he came into.
*DJ White- Way to be tough in the tourney. Now please just come back for one more year. With you and Eric Gordon, the '08 Final Four is calling.
*Lance Stemler- Where have you been? Nice tourney. Keep it rolling next year.
*Armon & AJ- Don't shake this off. Work this summer on your shooting, and especially on running then offense.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

No quit in these guys!

Congratulations Hoosiers!
Even though you lost to UCLA, it was a Good Job on never quitting, you made a season out of what could've been a rough year.
Too bad you couldn't get over UCLA at the end of the game, but I appreciate your hard work.

Here's to a Good Year, and a new beginning, and here's looking forward to next year.

Friday, March 16, 2007

As I thought

In the first half, IU ran & gunned it with Gonzaga, in the second half they made an effort to go to DJ, and pulled away late. DJ was a wrecking ball inside, getting a lot of deflections and good rebounds. I think a lot of those easy shots that were missed by Gonzaga had something to do with a couple of the vicious blocks that DJ served up.

Wilmont's shooting, helps of course. It's always easier to run your offense with the pressure off and the defense stretched by some hot-shooting wing.

So, IU goes on to face UCLA. I think the Hoosiers match-up pretty well with the Bruins, and maybe Kelvin should even throw some zone in there at times to mess with them. Hopefully, it's some sort of zone that pays attention to shooters, 'cause UCLA is a Perimeter team, but the Bruins don't hit the offensive glass that hard, which has been a weak spot for the Hoosiers. Also, hopefully the sloppy turnovers are out of IU's system after last night, and Sampson will have his guys executing. Of any 1 or 2-seed, this may be one of the best draws for the cream and crimson.

Go Hoosiers!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

First Round: Gonzaga!

The Zags are always dangerous in the tourney, and in fact eliminated the Hoosiers in last years' tourney. I do think IU will beat them this year (altho the Zags could pull it out, fer sure).

A lot of noise is being made about the three-point contest that'll happen tonight, but my guess is Sampson will see how Rod, Armon, & AJ are shooting (and possibly Lance Stemler, who'll match-up well against the Zags' mobile fours) in the first half. At some point, Kelvin's going to point the way to DJ, who should terrorize the Zags in the paint. With Josh Heytvelt out, this is not the same squad who stuffed Psycho T & the flying Heels back in the Preseason NIT. Kuso and Mallon will throw their weight around, but off the bench, Mark Few only has guards (Pendergraph & Downs are good rebounding guards, to be sure). I don't care how much they're talking about playing better basketball without him, you've got to have an inside presence on both ends of the floor, even if you don't use it, to get to the tourney's second weekend. And the Hoosiers are a much better bet to get to the Sweet 16 than Gonzaga. Of course, UCLA will have something to say either way, but that's a conversation for tomorrow.

It should be a good game, but down the last eight minutes, I'd look for IU to pull away to a 7-10 point victory.

Go Hoosiers!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Weekend, Stats, and the Big Dance

Indiana lost to Illinois in Overtime. Count me one of the many who's very happy to see the Big Ten Tourney moving away from the Illini's second home. If nothing else, just so the games won't be called so ugly. It's like watching the '92 Knicks-Pistons series. Don't get me wrong, the Hoosiers got a call or two, but the style of play definitely benefits Bruce Weber's club.

Some folks are angry and/or confused, thinking IU was clearly the better team and should've beat the Illini, but there's a couple of reasons why that didn't happen. The most important is that Illinois had more to play for in this single game than Indiana. This game got Illinois into the NCAA tourney. They lose this one, and Drexel or Syracuse is in. The second reason is IU's outside shots weren't falling. When they were, IU was winning. When they weren't, Illinois was grinding out a tough win. And the final reason was the basketball gods were just smiling on Illinois. The crowd was behind them, the rims were tight as could be, and I counted three crazy plays in the first 25 minutes alone that looked like they were going to be fast-breaks for the Hoosiers, and the ball bounced back into the hands of an Illinois player, resulting in easy looks or lay-ups for the Illini.

All that said (because as a Hoosier fan I would put money on IU in a best-of-7 against Illinois), at the beginning of the season I thought the only clubs who would finish above Indiana were Wisconsin, OSU, and Illinois. When Frazier and Randle are healthy, Illinois is a good defensive club. Pruitt and Carter are no slouches inside, Marcus Arnold is finally providing production off the bench (which is good now that frosh Brian Carlwell is out), and Meachem & Frazier are providing the outside shooting that's been missing for long stretches this year. Randle is a still a defensive terror, and Calvin Brock provides a lot of play-making ability off the bench, and while Rich McBride is having a tough senior year, but still passes well and noone's gonna leave him open. They've got a tough draw with Virginia Tech, but don't be surprised if they make the Hokies sweat.

I posted my Final Hper Stats (regular-season conference games only) on my other blog. I used Google Docs to list a spreadsheet (also viewable here, but I don't like the default view right now, and don't have time to mess with it. Still, the info is there.

It was an unshocking top-five in per-game production, with Oden, Conley, Haluska, Landry, and Tucker. Most surprising top-ten guy had to be Kevin Coble of NU, who is the best Big Ten freshman not in an OSU uniform, edging out Tyler Smith (in production, in per-possession, Coble trounces. Other top ten guys were Claxton, DJ White, and David Teague. Most surprising not-Top Ten is Drew Nietzel, who's on most All-Big Ten first teams. Nietzel's 13th in overall per-game production, and 37th in per-possession effectiveness. Tony Freeman of Iowa is the shocker in per-possession stats, coming in at 3rd, after just a month ago ranking 45th. That one had me re-checking my numbers a couple of times. Greg Stiemsma ranked 8th, but should be 7th if anomaly Kevin Gullikson is thrown out (with only 6.9 possessions per game). That would leave the top of per-possession effectiveness as Oden, Conley, Freeman, Landry, Coble, Othello Hunter, Stiemsma, Tucker, Brent Petway, and DJ White.

In the NCAA tourney news, IU faces Gonzaga in the first round, which is both good and bad. Bad because Gonzaga often plays well in the tourney, good because this isn't last year's Gonzaga team. Heck, this isn't this year's Gonzaga team. A likely second-round draw with UCLA isn't a terrible match-up either, as UCLA likes to play at a Big Ten pace, and is a perimeter oriented squad. IU isn't the "money" team to get to the Sweet 16, but they've got a decent shot, which is all anyone can ask.

Also, the Big Ten got six teams, which I thought was deserved, but on the other hand, will the inclusion of Purdue and Illinois be anything but an 0-2 anchor on the conference's record? We'll see!

Go Hoosiers!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No real time to update

Work and life are getting in the way of my blogging! How ridiculous!

Anyway, the Big Ten tourney begins, hopefully I'll have more to say about it tomorrow. In the meantime, here's the Season-End defensive efficiency stats for conference games only:

1. Ohio State .2341
2. Wisconsin .2467
3. Purdue .3076
4. Michigan State .3115
5. Illinois .3441
6. Michigan .4289
7. Indiana .4336
8. Iowa .4575
9. Minnesota .5351
10. Penn State .6457
11. Northwestern .7224

Purdue surprises here, largely succeeding due to their ability to force turnovers. Indiana slips to 7th, staying squarely in mediocrity. Minnesota drops back to 9th, and Illinois drops back to 5th, perhaps due to losing two players. Also, Wisconsin tuned up its defense.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Badgers get the Big Ten Tourney title. But I've gotta hope...

Go Hoosiers!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

That's how you cap off the regular Season!

Nice win over Penn State, Hoosiers! Good on you!

I'm optimistic about IU's chances in the Big Ten Tournament, but if I had to put money down, I'd say IU is playing for a lot less than the weakened Illinois squad (who's still quite dangerous) and Wisconsin (the Badgers would like to pay back both IU and OSU on their way to the Tourney title, I'm sure). But Indiana's played well away from home, just not enough to get the wins. But having Earl Calloway back at full strength should help a lot, and having Rod, AJ, and Lance all confident in their long-distance strokes certainly couldn't hurt either. Mike White and Ben Allen giving DJ support inside ain't shabby, neither.

Go Hoosiers!

Small gloating aside: this space correctly predicted IU's 10-6 conference record over at Terry's blog. Not that there was any money involved, it's just nice to call something right once in a while.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A win is a win, right? Pt. 2

My strategy worked! Without me sitting in Welsh-Ryan arena, Northwestern lost! I did watch the second half on tv. Couldn't stay away.

The Hoosiers walked away a winner, with a great performance by Rod Wilmont to thank, but they need some capable guard play. Without Calloway's back to form (altho' it was good to see him playing), IU just keeps trying to give games away. But give NU credit, they hustled and scrapped and went down fighting in their last home game. The Wildcats just don't have the defense to shut anyone down, and they had to choose between letting DJ operate inside or letting IU shoot threes. IU shot 32 threes.

Sampson clearly doesn't trust Bassett to bring the ball up late in the game, which is too bad as he was the only one really able to bust NU's traps. Another reason we need Calloway back. Bassett's got the skills to run point, and should do fine next year, but he just needs some offseason perspective to get used to his role (pass first, shoot second).

One more game left in the season. Go Hoosiers!