Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving weekend: Thoughts and Previews

IU Men's Basketball:
The Hoosiers face Illinois State tonight, and while the Hoosiers are the more talented team, they can't overlook the Redbirds. ISU is a club on the way up, and handled UNC-Wilmington easily enough on their homecourt, and are playing close to home. They probably won't crack the top 4 in the MVC, but they've got an outside shot at qualifying for the NIT. Illinois State ranks 2nd right now in Basketball State's own rankings, and #34 in the early RPI. That said, computer rankings don't mean very much until mid-December, at least. But this should be a much better test of the Men's team.
Speaking of which, looking over the schedule, either Xavier or Kent State is probably going to supply the Hoosiers with their third-toughest non-conference game. At Southern Illinois (12/1) is nearly a guaranteed loss, while hosting Connecticut (1/26) should be the next toughest (non-Big 10) team we'll play. Kentucky and Georgia Tech are not the teams they were last season, even if they do manage to claw their way into the Big Dance. All that is just saying, Indiana's got a pretty easy schedule this year, but Xavier and Kent State are both capable of handing the Hoosiers their first loss.

IU Soccer
You can watch the men & women's games this weekend online! That is, if you're like me & several hundred miles from Bill Armstrong stadium. Were I in B-ton this weekend, I'd be freezing my posterior off this Sunday, sitting in the stands to support the IU Women's Soccer team remarkable NCAA run. They're just two wins away from a Final Four appearance, and hosting Duke at 2pm. Support 'em if you are around!

IU women's basketball
The Hoosiers suffered their first loss, 55-53 to Wake Forest. This despite 9 steals by IU guard Kim Roberson. Last season's leading scorer (Nikki Smith) shot 0-7, tho. Neither side shot very well, but it's always hard to look at a two-point game and then look at a 56% shooting line (9-16) on free-throws. The women's team has a decent core of veterans, but doesn't seem very tall (only one rotation player taller than 6'0") and despite a 3-1 record, doesn't seem to shoot very well (40% Fgs, 28% 3pt.FGs, 63% FTs). If they hope to improve on last season's 19-14 record and make a run for the NCAA tourney, they need to get the team's shooting fixed.

Elsewhere in Big Ten & College Basketball

I've watched a bit of Penn State's playing now, and I'm not sure what Ed DeChellis can do. Certainly getting talented newcomers Stanley Pringle and Talor Battle to run the offense more and shoot less (combined 5-24 FGs in loss to South Carolina) would be the first priority, and get the team to cut on turnovers (20 in same loss). But Penn State seems more impressive than last year's club, looking much more able to rebound and defend the perimeter. But they still can't seem to beat clubs they should be beating. South Carolina might have a shot at the NIT, but they also seem fairly likely to finish 11th or 12th in the SEC. Rider should win the MAAC, but should be 15th seed, at best. If the Nittany Lions can't finish South Carolina or Rider on a Neutral court, how are they going to win any road games in the Big Ten? Maybe it's just early season struggles, and DeChellis will find a way to get Battle & Pringle playing while creating shots for the shooters (Morrissey, Walker, and Claxton) instead of the themselves. Also, maybe some can give Brandon Hassell a tip about post defense, 'cause I'm not sure he knows what it is.

I've been able to watch a bit of college ball, and I was totally unsurprised by Western Michigan's win over Davidson, Rider beating PSU and giving NCSU a scare, Western Kentucky's nearly upsetting Gonzaga, Central Florida's strong challenge of Villanova, and George Mason's beating of Kansas State. All of these "underdog" teams I projected in the NCAA tourney, and Central Florida I predicted would be in the NIT (along with Villanova) at season's end. Today, watch if George Mason doesn't take down Villanova in another "upset."

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