Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vacation ends, back to winter

I managed a quick vacation in Florida before the Chicago-area winter sets in, but the week's events in Hoosier sports and college hoops have not escaped my attention.

The Hoosiers made it to the Big Ten Championship game, but fell in penalty kicks to Ohio State after (yet again) failing to score. The Hoosiers should have an at-large bid sewn up with a top ten ranking and sitting pretty with a #3 RPI. The women's squad qualified for the NCAA tourney, and faces Toledo in the first round with a possible re-match against Purdue in the second round. Purdue handed them their worst loss of the year a couple of weeks ago, skunking them 7-0. While I bet if these teams meet again, you won't see such a lop-sided score, it's hard to see Indiana women turning in an 8-goal improvement. But Soccer's a funny game.

The Hoosiers got four commitments, highlighted by combo forward Devin Ebanks. As this is a top-15 class, coach Kelvin Sampson shows he can get the recruits. It's frustrating, because Sampson's obviously a hard worker and solid coach, but this foolishness with the phones is giving the formerly clean Hoosiers a shady rep. And really, it's just foolishness that's getting compounded by a nervous athletic department. But if Sampson can't follow the rules, or get his staff to follow the rules, then as a Hoosier fan, I don't want to be in the awkward position of having to defend really dumb choices yet again (Mike Davis and his lack of on-court awareness and Bobby Knight's boorish and bullying behavior). And it all is a big shame, because I see more hard-working talent in the cream-and-crimson than I've seen in nearly 15 years.
IU's blow-out of Pembrooke in the second exhibition game was a nice example of the talent on hand, and Ben Fulton has a nice write up of the impressiveness of the Hoosier win, but as we all know, the exhibition games don't go into the W or L columns. The 3-pt shooting was impressive, but for me it was surprising to see Brandon McGee's 4 threes, and 18 points in 17 minutes. McGee might end up taking time away from Stemler as the season progresses, it's no wonder they red-shirted Mike White.
The game that did count revealed a surprising short bench, even as the Hoosiers pulled away for a 99-79 victory over Chattanooga. Sampson stuck with a 7-man rotation and only put in Holman and McGee in for 3 minutes apiece. I expected the Mocs to finish in the middle of Southern Conference, at best, so this wasn't the stiffest test. However, the Hoosiers don't seem afraid to run this year, posting a 78-possession game (they only averaged 62.7 in conference play). While the game served as a coming-out party for Eric Gordon --and while I just saw the highlights, I still was very impressed-- DeAndre Thomas showed he can play with DJ, and Jamarcus Ellis did a lot of good stuff without scoring. Armon Bassett also shot lights-out and and Jordan Crawford continues to do a great "microwave" impression off the bench. I was hoping for more from Lance Stemler, and I don't know what's going on with him right now. I hope he can shake whatever it is that's got him down right now, because he can bring some stability to this squad, which is going to be necessary in Big Ten road games.
Just like last year, the Hoosiers got a lot of accolades for their defense, but the Mocs averaged 1.01 points per possession for the game. Not terrible, but not great. To be fair, it was the second half effort that got lauded, not the first. But the Hoosier offense yielded an outstanding 1.27 points per possession. We might be looking at another okay year on defense, but possibly an even better offensive squad than last season, which is no mean feat.
The Hoosiers play Longwood (a D-II program not that long ago) on Sunday, but they probably won't be tested until the 24th when they play either Kent State or Xavier.


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