Sunday, December 30, 2007


No, not IU's 97-59 thwacking of Chicago State that was a foregone conclusion before the tip. I'm talking about Wisconsin's 67-66 upset AT Texas without their leading scorer, Trevon Hughes, who was sidelined for the game. Right now, Wisconsin could be a spoiler in the Big Ten race, but still the toughest team is most likely Michigan State, who has the talent, depth, experience as well as a proven winner in coach Tom Izzo. In other Big Ten news, not only did Purdue did take two losses on the chin right after I said "If this team were a stock I'd say to sell now, while it's high" but one of them was to Wofford- the Boilers' first bad loss. And a couple of question-mark-clubs got negative answers today as Illinois lost to Tennessee State (I knew they'd get someone- too bad it was a Big Ten team), and Minnesota got crushed by UNLV.

In power poll terms, I can't slide IU down from the #2 spot, but Wisconsin is in a virtual tie with the Hoosiers now behind MSU. Ohio State is alone in 4th, I'm still going with Illinois as the number 5 despite the latest loss, I think their slow-go strategy will pay off better in conference play. Minnesota is in 6th, and Penn State has now passed Purdue for the 7th spot. NU, Iowa, and Michigan bring up the final three spots.

The Big Ten Men's College Basketball 2008 season: about to start, and I can't wait!

Also, I'm still picking the Hoosiers over the Cowboys to polish off the best Football season the Hoosier Nation has seen in years! Go Hoosiers!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thoughts going into the Big Ten Season

The IU Men's team crushed another inferior opponent, this time it was Coppin State who came into Assembly Hall and got a 73-46 thrashing. It was a slow game (62 possessions, I believe), and IU played again without guards Armon Bassett and AJ Ratliff (and Eli Holman). Bassett and Ratliff appear to be ready to come back to play Chicago State, so this should give them a good warm-up before beginning conference play.

Looking quickly through the Big Ten Stats, Indiana's defense looks alright and offense looks to be the top of the conference, but IU's pre-conference schedule was probably the weakest of any Big Ten teams. I know Sampson is defending it, and honestly, the ACC challenge team turned out to be pretty weak (IU should've gotten Duke or UNC at Assembly Hall) and Kentucky and Southern Illinois turned out to be pretty uneven teams after all, but IU got rocked against Xavier. So, the question is, are the Hoosiers prepared for road games in the Big Ten? Atmosphere-wise, I don't think they'll be daunted, SIU had a pretty good welcome, and it didn't seem to rattle the Hoosiers at all. Being prepared for key guys to get into foul trouble and the opponents' reserves to play unusually well is much harder to prepare for. Perhaps the injuries and suspensions have given the Hoosiers a chance to look at all of their options, and know how to execute even in uncertain circumstances. The Hoosiers' thumping of Kentucky in the key stretch when Gordon, Bassett, and DJ White were all on the bench gives reason to suspect they'll be alright, especially with their new-found depth.

It's the defense that worries me. The rebounding is certainly more aesthetically pleasing than last year, and the Hoosiers aren't bad at forcing turnovers and getting into transition, but so far they haven't run up against a team that can really execute offensively, except Xavier. I guess we'll find out soon enough. 3 of the first four Big Ten games are on the road.

Go Hoosiers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Big Ten Power Poll

So, the Indiana Men's team slaughtered West Carolina, 100-52, despite still not having Armon Bassett or AJ Ratliff, and now Eli Holman's looking at a possible medical redshirt. On the upside, the Hoosiers are rolling, but on the downside, Southern Illinois and Kentucky are taking nosedives, so it's looking more like there's only been one tough test (Xavier) that the non-conference schedule has provided. And we know how that turned out. Not to downplay this Hoosier team, it's clearly a club on the rise, and the guards are looking for DJ early now, Mike White's return has given the frontcourt some depth and versatility, and when Ratliff & Bassett come back this club will finally have backcourt depth as well. Offensively, this club is a juggernaut. Defensively... I'm not sure. So, right now, I'd place the smart money on Michigan State, but just barely. Looking at the records, strength of schedule, and my own tempo-free stat crunching, here's my Pre-Conference Power Poll:

1. Michigan State (9-1)
I think this is the more senior, tested team, but I really haven't seen good things from them when Raymar Morgan gets in foul trouble.

2. Indiana (9-1)
Strength of schedule is a concern, but really, all the pieces are here for a Big Ten Championship. But will the talented newcomers be tough enough to win the big conference road games? That's still the question.

3. Wisconsin (8-2)
This may be the most awkward squad that Bo Ryan has coached since he came in, but there's still a lot to like here. Trevon Hughes is having a bust-out year, and the front-line is formidable, even if they did get out-rebounded by Marquette.

4. Ohio State (7-3)
Kosta Koufos is amazing, much better than I thought he'd be, and if Othello Hunter scored just a little bit more, people would be making a lot of noise about him, too. However, the perimeter's a concern as the rest of the frosh class has been a little disappointing and Jamar Butler is being asked to do too much.

5. Minnesota (7-1)
Honestly, in tempo-free terms, I should rank the Gophers third, but they flunked the only real test they've had (at Florida State) and the win at Iowa State doesn't look that impressive now. They'll be good enough for a postseason, but the NCAA's? I don't know.

6. Purdue (7-2)
The Boilers got a big win over Louisville, and that (to me) puts them back in the hunt for an at-large bid. Losses at Clemson and Missouri are nothing to be ashamed of, but I think overall the freshmen are going to have problems in conference road games. If this team were a stock I'd say to sell now, while it's high.

7. Illinois (6-3)
So, the Illini are not a top 25 squad, but the defense should keep them hanging in the at-large picture for a NCAA bid. The next two games, at home vs. Miami-OH and at Missouri, will tell us a lot about what we should expect in conference play.

8. Penn State (6-4)
The non-conference schedule hasn't been a disaster, and certainly this Nittany Lion club has more depth and is more dangerous than last year's, but I've yet to see them make a stop when they really, really needed it. I think PSU is locked into a tier all of its own, between the NCAA contenders and really bad teams.

9. Northwestern (4-4)
I would've put them last, as I think what they've shown against a pretty soft schedule hasn't been great. But the Wildcats went and won a road game against Western Michigan, who isn't as bad a club as their record might indicate. And they haven't even gotten Kevin Coble back yet. This club could be the "best of the worst."

10. Michigan (4-7)
It's not like Michigan will go defeated in conference play, but John Beilien has his hands full this year. It'd probably help if last year's starting point guard (Jerret Smith) could get his life on track, and get out of the coach's doghouse.

11. Iowa (6-6)
To be fair to Iowa, they've been without their best player (Tony Freeman) for almost the entire non-conference schedule, and he's the point guard so he should be making the other players better. But in tempo-free and hppg/hpps efficiency terms, this is the worst team in the conference. You have to go all the way down to Cyrus Tate (the #9 scorer) to find a player who shoots above .400 in FG%, AND above .500 in FT%. They also are averaging about 5 more turnovers a game than assists, the worst ratio in the conference. I don't see them winning many games, even at home.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The old Per-possession Stats home cooking

Ran my hper ratings just for kicks. I'll say this: it's not too meaningful when the level of competition has varied so wildly, from Michigan State's good-maybe-even-pretty tough slate to Northwestern's, which nabbed three of wins against Savannah State, Arkansas State, and d-II Benedictine. A lot of the 130 players in the Big Ten conference haven't played enough or in meaningful enough competition to make this tempo-free measuring mechanism reliable.

But here's some interesting stuff I found.

MSU's Goran Suton right now is the most effective player in the Big 10 conference. He's always had upside, and shown flashes of amazing potential, but he seems to put together the whole package this year: Scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and passing without turning it over (usually). His rebounding especially has been impressive, but he's shooting 51.5% from the field as well. Advice for MSU opponents- go right at this guy and get him in foul trouble.

Goran Suton: 45.5 possessions per game (pspg), 25.5 hppg (t-#1), .5604 hpps (#1)

Some of the Big Ten freshmen are being overlooked, and are going to surprise people in 2008. No doubt, Eric Gordon and Kosta Koufos are awesome, but there are some other new names to know:

1. Michael 'Juice' Thompson, NU: This 5-11 point guard is tied with Suton for the hppg lead, and has made teammate Craig Moore better by letting him shift to the wing.

58.8 pspg, 25.5 hppg (t-#1), .4338 hpps (#17)

2. Robbie Hummel, Purdue: This battler has been the best of Purdue's frosh class to this point, and the most effective Power Forward the Big Ten has at this point.

46.9 pspg, 21.6 hppg (#11), .4598 hpps (#12)

3. Al Nolen, Minnesota: This undervalued freshman (if any Minnesota freshman was mentioned in the preseason, it was Blake Hoffarber) has done nothing but immediately take over the reins at point guard and make the Gophers a better team, while posting a per-possession efficiency rating similar to Mike Conley's. And to think that this guy was nowhere on recruiting lists.

39.5 pspg, 20.4 hppg (#14), .5168 hpps (#4)

I'll post the full Indiana run-down a little later, but overall, Gordon and DJ White look like top-5 guys in the conference in per-game production, but in per-possession efficiency the whole Hoosier team seems surprisingly mediocre.

IU takes on WCU with Gordon returning, but not Bassett and possibly not Ratliff back yet. Seriously, it *should* not be a problem.

Go Hoosiers!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Time to get out of the Prediction Business

It seems that in order to punish me for my insolence, the basketball gods decreed that not only would Eric Gordon not play against Kentucky, but Armon Bassett would have to sit out as well. This left Indiana without its first and second option at point, and to top it all off, DJ White spent 10 minutes of the first half on the bench in foul trouble.
However, there was nothing to worry about as IU cruised past a Wildcats team that I thought would prepped and focused, but came in wide-eyed and unable to hit shots from anywhere on the floor. IU rolled 70-51, and it really wasn't that close. Indiana was clearly the superior team, and sure, there were a couple of calls and banked shots that went the Hoosiers' way, but overall you have to feel pretty good about Indiana the better team.
Gordon and Bassett may or may not sit out more, but the re-addition of Mike White seems to have solidified the Hoosier frontcourt, and allowed the newcomers (Thomas, Holman, and McGee) to play the back-up roles they seem better accustomed to. I'm very interested to see how AJ Ratliff plays when he returns. He could provide a perimeter presence that allows Eric Gordon to get a little more rest, and maybe strenghens the Hoosier defense as well.
I wouldn't say that they've come together, but there's definitely been progress. Either that, or Kentucky's a whole lot worse of a team than even I expected.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fearless Predictions for Saturday!

My thoughts on Indiana hosting Kentucky:

Eric Gordon's gonna play. Bracey Wright tried to insert himself against Purdue when his back was wrenched. Gordon's just got a "soft tissue bruise" which is a bruise. It's probably making him wince a bit this week, but I can't imagine by Saturday he's not gonna want to suit up. Already, Sampson said "he's fine." He's gonna play, maybe not start, but I'd be surprised for him not to see significant minutes.

That said, IU still is facing a very tough defensive squad, and one that's had a week to prep for the big game. IU looks better in the very early rpi numbers, and my own breakdown of UK's opponents, even after giving UNC a tough game, look similar. IU's played competition that's overall a little better (IU's opponents' average 3.5 wins & 2.8 losses vs. D-I opposition, while UK's foes average 3.3 wins & 3.0 losses), which would account for UK's slight per-possession point margin advantage.

Kentucky: 1.05 pppg- 0.84opppg= +0.21
Indiana: 1.12pppg-0.92 opppg= +0.20

This margin is insignificant anyway, and IU's home-court advantage, even with Gordon probably not 100% the scoring machine he's been, means a Hoosier victory. I can't imagine the Hoosiers not getting up for this one.

IU beats Kentucky (finally): 74-70

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

IU over TSU 84-72, Gordon injured

So, the Hoosiers beat Tennessee State, and it could've been a real blowout, but some things fell TSU's way, and Eric Gordon only played 8 minutes. It looks like Gordon's going to be fine, just a little sore for a couple of days. Hopefully he uses the time to watch tape of Kentucky. What I found impressive about the IU-TSU box score wasn't so much DJ White's dominance (altho' it is nice to see DJ rounding into form), or even Mike White 11 pts & 8 rebs., but Jamarcus Ellis stat line: 10 pts, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, and 7 turnovers! Without Gordon in the line-up, it's obvious that Ellis will be handling the ball a lot, as he shifts to the 2-spot, Stemler shifts to the 3, and Mike White takes over power forward. In that line-up, Stemler needs to be hitting threes as foes aren't going to leave Bassett open, but will probably be otherwise trying to clog the lane. It was good also to see Brandon McGee back and producing. Call me crazy, but I think McGee could be a starter next year.

Anyway, I expected TSU to be a semi-decent team coming into Assembly Hall as I projected them to finish 3rd in the mediocre OVC. But they've not beaten a D-I team yet, even though Bruce Price is a player that any team could use. Would you tell me that UCLA and UNC have no room in their rotation for this guy? C'mon. At any rate, the Tigers have 5 more road games awaiting them, so they could be looking pretty bad before their conference play starts.

While I'm confident in our backcourt as I think Gordon will be fine for Kentucky and IU will be welcoming back Jordan Crawford, the facts are that Gordon is our back-up point when Bassett sits. Ellis is a nice all-around player, and Crawford is a smooth scorer, but to break UK's pressure we're going to need Bassett and Gordon in a "composed attack" state-of-mind. IU needs to beat UK's press (and if I were UK I would certainly test a team that doesn't necessarily have a true point guard) and then needs to work the ball deliberately into DJ. UK doesn't have anyone that can handle DJ White inside, and DJ will draw fouls and move the defense so Stemler, Bassett, Crawford, and Bassett can get good perimeter shots. Hopefully, the Hoosiers won't turn the ball over 18 times and will shoot better than 25% on threes - as they did against TSU.
Prepare, Eric. We'll need you on Saturday.

Monday, December 03, 2007


The 64-51 win at Southern Illinois was big for IU, make no mistake. Even though SIU doesn't look as strong as last season right now (failing to score against Indiana or Southern Cal with any efficiency), they still had all week to prepare for IU and had a pumped crowd to greet the Hoosiers. Indiana took the wind out of their sails right away, and patiently executed while thumping SIU on the boards.

After the Xavier loss, I worried about the Hoosier's ability to win games on the road. After this game, Indiana definitely showed it has that ability. Conference games are going to be a little tougher, of course, but there's signs of hope. Of course, there'd better be, as this was to be IU's only non-conference road test this season.

Tennessee State is up on Tuesday, followed by Kentucky. UK has a week to prep for Indiana, but the Hoosiers should have enough time off to prepare for the 'Cats pressure defense. Both the Hoosiers and the Wildcats look to be a bit shorthanded, as IU will still be without AJ Ratliff, but should have Jordan Crawford and Brandon McGee back, while Kentucky will still be missing shooter Jodie Meeks and do-it-all forward Derrick Jasper. Turnovers are still an issue, as against SIU Ellis was the worst offender with 5. Hopefully, Sampson can do what he did last year and slowly minimize Hoosier give-aways.

IU Football is heading to the Insight Bowl to face Oklahoma State. Congrats Hoosiers!
OSU is a surprisingly mediocre big XII team, and is vulnerable. It looks like Sagarin rates OSU as the better team, but it's not out of reach. Normally, I'd pick the Hoosier opponent by 12 in a bowl, but with this season dedicated to Hep, I'll pick the Hoosiers to win, by a Starr field goal.