Saturday, March 29, 2008

Big Ten walloped! New Coach at IU?

So, I watched a little of the Wisconsin and Michigan State games, and wow! Two spankings handed out to the Big Ten's last surviving teams. MSU can feel okay about next year, as Memphis has been great all year long, and the Sparties managed to show some gumption in clawing back, although they still lost by 18. Wisconsin getting humiliated by Davidson, tho? I had been looking Wisconsin's season over, and had just been starting to doubt my pick of Kansas over them to the Final Four. Now I'm wondering if I underrated Davidson by only picking them for the Sweet 16! However, I'm not going to deride the Big Ten. The NCAA tourney is capricious, and the Big Ten did okay for itself. Now, if UNC will just lose...

Possibly IU has made an offer, although the rumored candidate (Tony Bennett) appears to be denying it. I think Tony Bennett would be a good hire, but I just don't know. I don't oppose any of the rumored candidates, and I'd love to get excited about Hoosier basketball again, but I think it'll be a little while before the ceiling is as high as it was for this last season.

IU women lost in the NIT, but honestly it was a pretty decent year for the women's team. And the only loss for next year is senior Nikki Smith, who was a good perimeter presence, and will be missed. Nonetheless, the IU women may have a good shot at getting to the NCAA tourney next season as they are returning a good core of talent and playmakers.

As I watch the remaining weekend's games that will determine the men's final four, I've come to root against Memphis (Joey Dorsey is a serious ass-villain), root against UNC, and I'm still rooting for Kansas & UCLA. Which of course, leads me to expect Memphis to triumph over UNC in the championship game.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Notes from the best time of the year

Sure, the Hoosier men went out with, well, certainly less noise than I thought they'd make in March, and they continue to be one of the few blemishes on my bracket. DJ White battled all year, heck, all his career, and never really got the postseason success that a star senior at Indiana used to see. The Hoosier program seems to have been spinning its wheels since 1994, when Alan Henderson's senior year also ended quietly. Next year doesn't seem all that bright, but we'll see who they get for a coach and go from there. But I'm enjoying the heck out of the Big Dance, and I'll save my bragging for after the tourney, as pride goeth before the fall.

Here's a quick note to fellow Big Ten & Hoosier bloggers when talking about our coaching hires: Mike Davis' big tourney run was after he had gotten a contract. Davis' first club ran to the conference tournament title game, where they barely fell to Iowa, and then the second team nearly choked away the regular season-title before catching fire in the NCAA tourney. I've just been seeing a lot of "Davis got hired after a fluke tourney run, and we all saw how that played out" and it's not quite true. Davis' UAB team, btw, just got blown out in the NIT by Virgina Tech, 77-49.

I don't know where I go for the next IU coach. I wouldn't be direly opposed to Skiles, I guess. His coaching manner seems like it may fit the NCAA better than the NBA, and the fact that he was a NBA coach could work for recruiting. I would like someone young who can win, run a honest program, and graduate his students. Tony Bennett and Sean Miller seem to be the best candidates, and I think I like Tony Bennett best. I doubt the fact that his sister coached and jumped ship for a better program will hurt IU, unless the IU administration was awful to her, which is possible.

Here's a final pre-championship call:
Please, please, no more Billy Packer! That guy is just unbelievably bad. It's a torture to hear him call any game, and he's got a monopoly on calling Final Four games and most of the best match-ups throughout the year. For this, he's the #1 announcer that I'm most looking forward to retiring. Like Dick Vitale, he'll start announcing the game with a preconceived story line that he won't deviate from until the closing seconds, no matter the plays happening in front of him ("Eric Gordon is awesome" even tho' he's shooting 2-16) and even moreso than Vitale, he's consistently just wrong about the action happening in front of him. But hey, at least he's curmudgeonly.
For years Big Ten Wonk was on a crusade to get Packer jury duty, but his best line about Packer was this:

If you're a towering intellect and you go into basketball coaching, you're in the wrong field. Please go where you're needed: Billy Packer job-relocation. We need our best minds working on that as a modern-day Manhattan Project.

Also, here's the online petition . There's a donation link after you submit, which you can of course ignore, if you're not feeling generous.

Friday, March 21, 2008

And the season comes to this...

A Friday Night Lights match-up with 9 seed Arkansas.

Looking at the Basketball State preview, it really looks like the Razorbacks defense is as good as the Hoosiers', but their offense leaves something to be desired. And despite the fooferah in the press about the pressure defense, Arkansas doesn't really force that many turnovers. They actually look pretty similar to the Hoosiers, statistically, relying on an athletic perimeter and a shot-blocking center, and just winning rebounds. I don't think Arkansas is as good as UConn, but this game may be pretty similar. IU was doing okay until DJ missed a couple of wide-open jumpers that he usually sticks, and then things unraveled. If DJ can either hit those jumpers or just get the Razorbacks in a bit of foul trouble, the IU offense should be fine. Arkansas, like UConn, is mostly not very good shooting the longball, so stopping dribble penetration will be paramount on defense.

I think the keys for the Hoosiers in this game will be:
*not coughing up unforced turnovers
*DJ White's ability to operate against a big frontline
*stopping dribble penetration.

Honestly, it just depends on the Hoosier players. If they want to execute, they should be in a very good position to win the game and face UNC on Sunday.
C'mon Hoosiers- Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A short entry

I'm looking forward to the best weeks of the year, and all the crazy unexpected, bracket-busting stuff that'll happen to make me think I actually know nothing about this game.

I do like how everyone's picking Arkansas to give UNC a run. Indiana's clearly a superior team, the defenses are similar, but IU's got an offense, and Arkansas... has a mediocre offense. The key for IU will be to not turn the ball over. And then have fun against the Tarheels. It should be a fun weekend, at least I hope it is. I like what John Gasaway said about the poor DJ White: "What more can possibly befall D.J. White in his career at Indiana? White provides that rarest of cases where the NBA actually promises to give a player a newfound sense of structure and stability." It's a deserved indictment of Indiana getting a #8 seed. But a lot of folks over at the ESPMSM think IU's quit, put a fork in 'em. I don't think so.

I watched UAB at VCU tonight, and it was vintage Mike Davis. His team was loose, well-spaced, and played with a confidence that allowed them to make big plays (perhaps ill-advised plays) to seemingly put the game away (up 9 with 1:32 left, I think), and then somehow made it all hang on a last second three-pointer that could've sent it into overtime. I don't know if he just doesn't have a plan for when things get crazy, but it's obvious Davis likes the game and his players like him, but he just can't make in-game adjustments. Mike, I liked you, and while I can't say I miss you, I do hope you're happy at UAB.

Oh, boo to IU for announcing the search committee this week. What, the team didn't have enough distractions that Greenspan had to rub it in? I won't be shedding any tears when the Hoosiers get a new AD.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sure, it's been a disappointing year, but...

a #8 seed? Really? And the lowest #8 seed?
That means the committee thinks that Indiana is the #32 team in the nation.

There's more research, data, and open conversations available for NCAA fans about Selection Sunday than ever before. And looking it over beforehand, I figured even though Indiana hadn't finished strong, the last couple of losses were very close (a Laettner-worthy miracle shot took down IU in the last game) and were from teams fighting for their postseason lives while IU didn't have as much to play for. I figured IU the top #7 seed as the absolute worst case scenario. A #6 seed seemed likely, I thought, but I was crossing my fingers for a "body of work" #5. I gotta believe that this is a punishment against IU for Sampson's violations and for not self-imposing a postseason ban. Which leads me to believe the NCAA is going to be fairly nasty in June. And IU didn't get bumped for the mid-majors, as the only mid-major teams above us were Xavier at #3 (ok), Drake at #5 (ok), and Butler & Gonzaga at #7 (and they got shafted, too), while UNLV and BYU were also #8 seeds. I can see once you place IU as a #8, moving them against UNC so the announcers can talk about Dakich's shut-down of MJ almost 25 years ago. But seriously, how do you drop IU to #8?

Maybe it isn't entirely machiavellian, as I don't recall a worse job done by the NCAA committee. And the explanations really seemed like they were using inconsistent criteria. Villanova over Illinois State? Arizona over Arizona State? Oregon over UMass? Butler as a #7 seed? Maybe it's just incompetence. Maybe it was a deliberate jab at Joey Lunardi, who previously has been spookily prescient about the process. But Lunardi had IU as a #5 seed, which fits with the CBS RPI (#20), Ken Pomeroy's ratings (#19), Pomeroy's RPI #23, Jeff Sagarin (#19), while Kyle Whelliston's Basketball State rated as #9 in the country and at #18 in their RPI. Maybe this was committee chairman Tom O'Connor getting drunk and loudly yelling, "Yoo don' know meee!"

There are two ways this can go. The IU team can get down and think, here's another unfair turn against us (no, I'm not saying I think Kelvin's dismissal was unfair, but the young men writing KS on their shoes certainly do), and come out flat and get spanked by Arkansas. Or, as I hope, the Hoosier team takes this one personally, and plays Arkansas and then UNC as if every single one of them was named Tom O'Connor. It'd be a tough road to get to the Sweet Sixteen now, as I doubt DJ will get many calls against Hansbrough, but I'd like to see this team play scrappy and make other teams go above and beyond to beat them.

It's us against the world, so Go Hoosiers!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Final 2007-2008 Big Ten Bloggers Poll

I'm still working on my term paper, so more thoughts about this season will be forthcoming in the near future, but this'll be fairly quick. After a vacation and a bout of illness, I'd really dropped my Big Ten blogging for the last couple weeks. But I'm making time for one last power poll.

1. Wisconsin (16-2)
Regular-season champs, somehow, again. Should Bo Ryan be coach of the year? Maybe, but it's getting kinda boring seeing the Badgers overachieve year after year. And maybe if their blowouts didn't involve the *winning* team scoring 70 points. But give 'em credit, even if they did get swept by Purdue.

2. Purdue (15-3)
The worst thing about the Baby Boilers is that they're not individually good enough to jump to the NBA. So Purdue will be the odds-on favorite for the conference title next year and probably the year after that, too. Gag. One silver lining is that Keady's crews never did that well when expectations were high, but coach Painter did just a heckuva job this season.

3. Indiana (14-4)
I really should bump the Hoosiers to fourth behind Michigan State, but MSU had to go and lose at Ohio State, so I really can't put the Sparties above the Hoosiers. This really is a season on the brink right now. IU could recover, Jamarcus Ellis could shape up, and we could all be forgiven thinking that the Hoosiers were limping towards the finish, or it could be a quick couple of exits.

4. Michigan State (12-6)
If they could play Indiana at home every game, they'd be favorites for the national championship. However, they don't. I don't know what happened to Izzo, but he couldn't get these guys to play on the road. There's so much talent here, so maybe March will be kind, but it seems unlikely.

5. Ohio State (10-8)
A nice couple of wins at the end of the season, but they'll have to win the conference tourney to get in the NCAA tourney. And next season they lose do-everything Jamar Butler.

6. Minnesota (8-10)
Nothing too dangerous here. I thought they'd probably be 5th or 6th in the final standings, but I thought they'd be a lot better doing it. I don't see a team that's really any better than Penn State, especially given the Lions' bad breaks.

7. Penn State (7-11)
Too bad about Cornley, and Claxton, and really too bad about this season. But starting four freshmen bodes well for the future, if not for the Big Ten tournament.

8. Iowa (6-12)
If there was a more mysterious and unpredictable team, I really don't know who it was. From the season-opening three-point explosion to nearly upset Indiana, to the big win over Michigan State, to the season-ending home loss to Illinois... you just never knew what was going to happen. Here's to you, Hawkeyes, for showing us why the games are played.

9. Michigan (5-13)
A step forward, a couple of steps back. At least coach Beilien has some pieces to build with and an offseason to do it. At least the Amaker era of wasted potential is finally over. If Michigan succeeds in the next year or so, it'll be because of solid coaching and overachievement.

10. Illinois (5-13)
My favorable attitude towards Bruce Weber has finally eroded, and they aren't getting the benefit of the doubt any more. A blowout win over Minnesota aside, this was pretty much a wasted year for the Illini. Can Weber ever turn it around?

11. Northwestern (1-17)
Wow. You knew it was going to be a bad year, but there was real doubt if the Wildcats were even going to win one game. Freshman Juice Thompson and sophomore Kevin Coble belong in the Big Ten, but I'm unsure about the rest of the cast.