Tuesday, November 20, 2007

C'mon coach!

Evidently Sampson called UNC-Wilmington a "really good team."

I hope this is just positioning so that the players don't take a night off. Yeah, the Seahawks return 4 starters, and got a season-opening win against Charleston, but this is not a good team. Coming off a 7-22 season, my projection for the Seahwaks was mediocre at best (I have a really hard time seeing them finish higher than 7th in the CAA), and I stand by it. Todd Hendley (last seen by IU fans in Assembly Hall adding insult to injury in Wake Forest's 100-67 blowout of the hosting Hoosiers) has nice range for a 6-9 forward, and center Vladimir Kuljanin is a beast on the boards, but they had a bad defense last season and worse offense, and most RPI rankings had them in the 200's. I bet that their offense does improve a little this year, but I have a hard time seeing the interior defense improving much, and a bad turnover situation will keep them from moving too far up the rankings. This team is not anywhere in the same stratum as IU. Against similar competition, IU has a + 0.46 differential in points per possession while UNC-W has a -0.018. The Hoosiers should win by 20.

What I see happening tonight is that the threes probably don't fall as easily for IU (the Seahawks were actually okay at perimeter defense last season) leading to a reasonably close half-time score. But Sampson will use this opportunity to utilize his bigs, and DJ White and DeAndre Thomas will punish UNC-W in the paint. Jamarcus Ellis and Eric Gordon probably also take it to the hoop, and don't be surprised to see Lance Stemler and/or Brandon McGee get some good PT for a defensive match-up with Hendley.

Looks like the NCAA tournament Men's Soccer selection committee uses the RPI pretty closely, as the Hoosiers grabbed a #1 seed despite losing the conference championship. Usually that spells a #2, even for elite teams, and I'm not sure IU soccer is elite this year. Certainly the defense is, but the pub I've seen lately calling the offense "diverse" is just a really generous way of saying that the Hoosiers don't have a proven goal scorer. Kevin Noschang probably has the most talent and ability to get free, but doesn't seem to have a consistency in finishing. Brad Ring has a Scott Merritt-like nose for scrapping and making things happen around the goal, but he'd have a lot more assists if someone had the booming foot of Harry Weiss or the smooth skill of Aleksey Korol. In any case, Indiana needs to ride its defense and this bracket windfall to the Final Four.

In the tourney, a possible rematch with Ohio State looms, but I bet UCSB is the team IU will face in the Elite 8. The team I'm most worried about in all of this is IU. They need someone on the team to get on a hot-scoring streak, 'cause its hard to see anyone getting more than one goal on them in regulation, but its not hard to see the Hoosiers coming up empty in front of opponents' goals.

One the other side of the bracket, I'm hoping to see a Northwestern-UIC match-up in the second round, and not just because I've been a student at both. My first soccer coach, John Trask, got the Flames to the postseason, and Northwestern is part of what I'm pretty sure is a Big Ten conference record of 4 NCAA tourney teams (IU, NU, OSU, and Michigan State).

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