Saturday, April 26, 2008

Big Ten Recruiting thoughts

Spartans weblog has been catching recruiting fever lately and I'm following along a bit. Actually, for Indiana, after an early spring of terrible news, Crean has gotten a decent class put together for the Hoosiers so far. As "super" recruits Matt Roth & Tom Pritchard stayed with IU, JC top 30 player/combo guard Devan Dumes and "super" recruit 6-5 Nick Williams (who has a 7-foot wingspan and is a winner at the High School level) signed on , and 5-10 Daniel Moore gave up a D-I scholarship to walk-on at IU, Crean now has an actual team he can field next year, even if Bassett & Ellis don't make it back. I'm hoping Williams is ready to play, but more than anything the Hoosiers need a true point guard, and I'm not sure there's one on the roster for next year. Although I don't have a lot of hope for next season, I do think Crean is going to revitalize the Hoosier program over the coming years.

Happy Valley Hoops has a good run-down of next year's recruiting classes. I thought I saw that blue-chipper recruit 6-6 Terrell Pryor had committed to OSU, but I guess it's just a football commit. But the Buckeyes still have a pair of five-star recruits in center BJ Mullens and guard William Buford. I think that it might be pretty hard for OSU to replace both Koufos and Hunter inside, to say nothing of losing Jamar Butler, but Thad Matta keeps getting results.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Recruits and 2008-2009 Big Ten questions

Good to see Coach Crean nab a couple of guards for next year, 5-10 Daniel Moore & 6-2 Juco Devon Dumes. Moore had a scholarship offer from Boston University, which isn't a top-tier basketball school, but he still turned it down to walk on at IU. And Dumes already played a year in the MAC, averaging 8 points per game as a freshman. These aren't impact guys, but right now it's good to see IU getting any guards to fill out the backcourt. I still think next season's most likely candidate to pull a Coverdale is combo forward Brandon McGee, but it's really up to Brandon to put the work in. The opportunity will be there, whether Jamarcus Ellis & Armon Bassett return or not.
I think if we don't hear news about Ellis & Bassett returning by the time grades come out this spring, then they're back in. If they flunk themselves out, Crean's decision is easy.

The top Five questions for next seasons, as I see it now:

1. Kosta Koufos: Pro or No?

Will the conference's top big man go pro or come back for another run at the NCAA tourney? Ohio State's 2008-2009 season may hang in the balance.

2. Ekpe Udoh: Stay or go?
I've heard rumors that Udoh might transfer. And while it probably wouldn't sabotage Michigan's long-term rebuilding, it would probably put the kibosh on their post-season hopes next season.

3. Illinois: Head case central station or sudden talent infusion?
Will the addition of malcontent Alex Legion and return of Jamar Smith give the Illini a desperately needed offensive boost or will they combine with Chester "Cheap Shot" Frazier to lead a locker-room meltdown?

4. Who rises to #5 in the conference?
Purdue, Michigan State, and Wisconsin probably have the top three locked up, and Ohio State (with Koufos) seems like a good bet for fourth, but who comes in fifth is a complete mystery to me. Minnesota may be the best bet, but can the vaunted recruiting class replace the contributions of departed seniors Coleman, Tollackson, and McKenzie?

5. Bassett & Ellis' eligibility?
Honestly, if Bassett and Ellis are reinstated probably wouldn't mean the Hoosiers are a NCAA tourney-worthy team. But without them, there's basically no shot at getting there. Whether it's worth it to Crean remains to be seen. I don't want to say these kids can't redeem themselves, but either way, they probably shouldn't play next season.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No internet takes the fun out of wonking

I will say this about the NCAA Championship game: I was happy to see Joey "thug-life" Dorsey's shoving cost Memphis the championship. I've never been a fan of Dorsey, who's certainly athletic but seems to spend more time woofing at point guards and pushing opposing players around than refining his very limited game. And in the final couple of minutes in the Championship game, 25 feet from the basket, for no reason whatsoever, he pushes a Kansas guard, gets justly whistled for it, fouls out, stops the clock, and shaves two points off the Memphis lead, and as we all know, puts the game within reach for Mario Chalmers to eventually tie it up. Without Dorsey in the game, Kansas went right at the basket, got a nice lead early in overtime. The irony is that Dorsey is a senior, and was in the game for defensive purposes, and he still went a long way in costing his team the game.
I've never liked playing with or against guys like Dorsey on the court, and I'm glad to see that style of "playing" the game punished.

I did correctly pick Kansas in my brackets, with got me 70th in Washington Post, which ain't terrible, 5th in the pool at work, and I actually won this non-bracket pool over Spartans Weblog. Do check Spartans Weblog out if you're interested in MSU, they really do a nice job of dissecting and analyzing over there.

I generally leave politics alone in this blog, but I thought this was a pretty good one:

Ms. Clinton stated that Memphis, while losing the game, had actually shown more ability to act like a National Champion on Day One. She argued that Memphis had passed every test during the game, including scoring more points than Kansas for 38 minutes. For 38 minutes they had shown the experience necessary to be National Champion. "Just because some team comes along in the last minute and scores more points than the other guy doesn't mean they're necessarily able to be National Champion on Day One."

Otherwise, I'm looking forward to what Tom Crean does this spring with the Hoosiers. It'll be rough next year, but I think IU'll be back on the right track soon enough.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I screen, you screen, we all screen for

Tom Crean! Welcome, coach Crean.

This was a good hire for IU. Not a rabbit-out-of-the-hat great hire from nowhere, but I think it's better than the expected Scott Skiles/Tony Bennett hire. Why better? Crean is experienced, but still pretty young at 42, a proven recruiter that draws from a good midwest talent base, and has been a solid citizen in the basketball community. He recruits, he gets that talent to play at a high level, and he wins. He's been to a Final Four, which not a lot of coaches on the short list could say. I don't know what more IU fans could ask for, especially given the latest troubles with Dakich, Bassett, & Ellis. I don't know what was going on there, why was Dakich was still holding meetings and doling out punishments? And what the heck are Bassett & Ellis expecting if they think the next coach is going to overlook this sort of stuff?

But back to Crean's positives: he's got a bit of a temper (which I actually like in a coach, while certainly RMK was over-the-top, a little bit of temper lets you know the coach actually cares about the game), and his teams play a more entertaining tempo than many of the Big Ten teams right now. I'm pretty happy with this. I think next season's going to be pretty rough (Iowa's season this year seems like a best-case scenario at the moment), but I'm looking forward to the future, provided the NCAA doesn't kill IU with sanctions, and I don't think they will.

In my bracket, I was doing pretty well, having picked Davidson, West Virginia, and Western Kentucky for the Sweet 16, but I fell off a little from there. I'm betting on Kansas over UCLA, but right now, I'm thinking UCLA over UNC seems more likely. Whatever, it's the best time of the year!