Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hoosiers escape Chaminade with a Win

Granted, it's just over D-II Chaminade, but since we're not going to be in the NCAA at-large bid conversation, this win counts, lifting us to 3-2. The silver lining of the narrow win is that Chaminade is also currently built on transfers and actually had more D-I experience than the Hoosiers.

Tom Pritchard continues to be the surprise of the season for a raw freshman. His performance against Notre Dame was eye-opening. But still, there's obviously a lot of work left to do for Pritch. Verdell Jones has a nice combo of size & athleticism, but doesn't have a good feel for the team game yet. VJ could be a good point guard, but Moore clearly has the better court vision. And a lot of folks were praising Daniel Moore as a better version of Erreck Suhr, but Suhr was a basically an undersized shooting guard who could defend the hell out of the dribble. Nobody got past Suhr, while Moore couldn't stop anyone off the bounce in Maui. I like what I've seen from Malik Story, but he'll be playing out of position most of the year. Nick Williams can rebound and has a nice mid-range jumper, but the turnovers have been a serious problem. Devan Dumes is a natural scorer, but his stroke was off in Maui. I don't know if it was fatigue or lack of confidence, but the Hoosiers need him to get it back when Cornell comes in town. Matt Roth has a beautiful stroke, but has shown little else. Kyle Taber & Tijan Jobe are needed inside, but Crean's clearly not confident in those guys yet. It's a shame, because Taber actually has the complete skill set to really make our offense work. It's been noted that he's not been boxing out sometimes, so that's probably enough to earn him a seat on the bench.

I saw some Hoosier fans guessing that IU gets between 3-6 wins in the Big Ten this season. One win is the reasonable expectation, and anything above 2 conference wins means Crean did an amazing coaching job.

Next up, Cornell will be a tough game. IU needs to hold the turnovers & rebounds even and our wings have got to start hitting threes. A win is definitely possible.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good day for Indiana fans

What? Indiana gets *killed* by St. Joseph's (most likely a NIT -or even a CBI- team) after getting really walloped by Notre Dame, and it's a good day for Indiana? Indiana's future and reputation might be able to live through the 1990's Knight-Mike Davis-Kelvin Sampson 10 year debacle and recover. IU's future is now (relatively) clear for improvements minus the baggage of the recent past.

The NCAA sanctions came down, and they came down on Sampson & Senderoff, and just gave IU three years of probation with no additional scholarship limits or postseason bans. This gives Crean a (nearly) free hand in recruiting after he's already landed a solid group this fall. Just a good blue-chipper or two in the next couple of years and the Hoosiers could be back in the National Elite in three years. I still think that the NIT is a good goal for next season.*

Also, IU Men's Soccer beat SLU 2-0 last night! IU needed to generate multiple goals and did. If they can do the same to Michigan on Saturday, then the Hoosiers will be playing (probably St. John's) for another Final Four berth. Michigan & the Hoosiers swapped 1-0 victories this season.
The teams are ranked similarly, while Michigan has a better goals/goals allowed average, the Hoosiers have record a better shots, corner kicks, and saves differential and possess a slightly better RPI. After a season of seeing the Hoosiers dominate on shots but coming up short on goals, it was strange to see IU upend Michigan in the conference tourney by being winning despite being outshot. However, this may have been due to IU getting a goal 8 minutes into a game played in lousy conditions, and just sitting on the lead. In any case, this Hoosier fan hopes that the IU soccer team's hard work and talent pays off now.

*Addendum: I don't think next year's class of recruits will be like Purdue's- Robbie Hummel was criminally underrated in the rankings- behind classmates Moore, Johnson & Martin and concurrent generally with IU's Brandon McGee. it's possible but unlikely we have that sort of diamond in the rough. Moore & Johnson were fine recruits but a couple of things made PU's season last year besides the freshmen and it was 1) the improvement of Kramer & considerable improvement of Keaton Grant and 2) the late snag of top-rated juco center Nemanja Calasan, the banger and back-the-basket guy the Boilers' needed. Pritchard and maybe Dumes, Story, and/or Jones will be solid pieces next season, but I think we either need Jones & Pritchard to take a quantum leaps forward or one of our recruits needs to fall into that "criminally-under-rated" category to make a leap to Big ten title contention in that first year. Just not likely.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

IU Soccer vs. St. Louis tonight!

Back in the late 80's-early 90's, when I was just getting into the whole IU soccer scene (I actually got to get coached by/play against Sean Shapert a few years later when I was in high school), Saint Louis *was* IU's rival. The Billikens were usually the other half of our September challenge, we had an annual game with them, and they were usually a Final four threat as well (especially in the Brian McBride years). SLU still leads IU in the total number of college soccer championships, in fact.

So, needless to say, I wish I was in Bloomington tonight to cheer on the Hoosiers against SLU. Even if it will be a little chilly, I'd love to be there tonight sucking down some hot cider and hollerin' my heart out for the Hoosiers. Go Hoosiers!

As for the IU-Notre Dame basketball game, well, at least they didn't lose as bad as IU football just did. Again, this probably is not a fair look at what the Hoosiers will be this season, but it's probably a good counterweight against the Northwestern State game. Today's game vs. St. Joseph's will probably be a fairer look (if we get to watch it), but I still wouldn't put money on the Hoosiers to win.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why it's hard to be a Hoosier Fan & Football Fan

See Indiana-Purdue this afternoon. Um, a couple of thoughts.
It was a bad season for the Hoosiers in terms of injuries, sure. But growing up in Southern Indiana, it was a lot easier to go into Bloomington to watch the men's basketball & soccer teams than the football team. I appreciated Bill Mallory's mid-90's squads full of gutsiness and defense, but IU football is almost always outmanned.

Michigan lost to Duke, and it was just a case of bad-match-up between a zone team and shooters. But Duke also handled the pressure and created a lot of their own. Michigan has a shot at the postseason, but I still wonder about their post play and their point guard (altho' Stu Douglass is providing some unexpected solid guard play). But it was a great win over UCLA, wherever they go from here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

IU Bball 2-0, look out world!

Well, others have given better run-downs, but the Hoosiers are at least 2-0 after a verynarrow home victory over IUPUI. There's both reasons for optimism (Daniel Moore's playing better than expected, Tom Pritchard got his second double-double in two games) and reasons for worry (turnovers, rebounding, uhmm shooting, depth, general inconsistency) if you're looking for them. However it falls out, IU's in for a tough three games in Maui. Outside of host Chaminade, IU looks like the weakest team in the group... by a lot. Maybe we could upset St. Joe's 1 or 2 times if we played ten games with them... maybe. At least the team will be in Maui. Go Hoosiers!

IU Soccer got a bye and an overall good draw in the NCAA field. They'll play the winner of Drake or St. Louis at home, and then possibly get a re-match with Michigan before having to face a higher seed: St. John's- if both teams get that far. But really, that's quite an achievable path to the final four, as long as the Hoosiers can just start generating multiple goals. It's now or never.

Michigan beat UCLA last night. I am, well, I'm shocked. I know it's early, and looking over the box score it looks like UCLA senior star Josh Shipp had a terrible night (2-9 shooting, 6 TO's), but it's hard been to beat UCLA. Michigan State couldn't get over the hump to do it last November, and UCLA was without Darren Collison for that game. But, whether this means that UCLA is not a Final Four team or whether it means that Michigan is a NCAA team now, I don't know. It's way too early. But go Big Ten!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Crean starts out with, well, with a win.

It was sloppy, ugly, and contains a lot for IU fans to be concerned about. But you gotta like that the Hoosiers scrapped their way to an 18-point win over Northwestern State to open the Crean era. Whether it was taking four charges in the first half or Daniel Moore becoming a much-needed reincarnation of Erreck Suhr (altho to be fair, Suhr was probably a better shooter while Moore is quicker on the drive), or walk-on Finkelmeier (the forgotten "veteran") snagging 4 rebounds and 3 steals in 10 minutes, or freshmen starters Pritchard, Jones, and Williams competing hard in their very first game, or the sweet scoring touch of Devan Dumes, there was a lot to appreciate.

However, a few red flags came up, turnovers- which everyone knew was going to be a problem this year, were bad enough at 23 for the game, but some of them were astonishingly ugly. Nick Williams did a good job rebounding, but coughed up the ball a lot, and Verdell Jones had some ugly possessions where he just got the taken out of his hands, and Pritchard fired that one from under the basket clear to the cheerleaders at the other end of the floor, but Kipp Schutz in garbage time got the per-possession prize with 4 in 3 minutes. The other red-flag was outside of Dumes, the Hoosiers were 1-8 from behind the arc (and there were some really good looks sprinkled in there) and shot only 68% from the FT line. On the upside, you'd rather they missed these shots in this game, but it doesn't instill confidence in this squad's outside shooting. Another major concern for me is that IU gave up 27 offensive rebounds. I don't see how we compete in the Big Ten, at all, without addressing that somewhat. Pritchard's got potential, and Taber's getting healthy, but Jobe's no help at all inside and you can see most the Hoosiers are still getting the process of boxing-out AND going to get the ball.

But, all in all, it was nice to enjoy a win. I also liked that Malik Story looked to take advantage of the mismatches on offense (the killer instinct!). He showed some good athleticism and and ability to create offense, which is going to be valuable. You can tell that Crean wants him to get a little more disciplined, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Story getting starter's minutes by January or February. Also, Matt Roth is really good shooter who should get plenty of minutes, but I suspect he's not a guy who's going to be able to create his own offense. Next up, IUPUI who should be a little tougher of test.

IU Soccer went down this afternoon to Michigan State, 1-0, in the Conference Tourney championship game, but they got nice wins over Ohio State & Michigan to secure their NCAA bid. However, same as last year, this club seems to have real trouble manufacturing multiple goals in a game, and that will not get you to the Final Four. On the upside, Will Bruin's starting to get a little looser and more comfortable now, so maybe having a good lead striker will "lead" to more goals. Hope you lads have been saving them up.

Go Hoosiers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Predicted 2009 NCAA tourney teams (top 50)

1. North Carolina*: (ACC)
2. UCLA*: (Pac 10)
3. Michigan State*: (Big Ten)
4. Louisville:*:(Big East)
5. Connecticut: (Big East)
6. Duke: (ACC)
7. Tennessee*: (SEC)
8. Oklahoma*: (Big XII)
9. Purdue: (Big Ten)
10. Memphis *: (Conference USA)
11. Notre Dame: (Big East)
12. Arizona State: (Pac 10)
13. Pittsburgh : (Big East)
14. Texas: (Big XII)
15. Wake Forest: (ACC)
16. Villanova: (Big East)
17. Davidson*: (Southern)
18. Gonzaga*: (WCC)
19. Wisconsin: (Big Ten)
20. Baylor: (Big XII)
21. St. Mary's: (WCC)
22. Marquette: (Big East)
23. Xavier*: (Atlantic 10)
24. West Virginia: (Big East)
25. Florida: (SEC)
26. Kansas: (Big XII)
27. Drake*: (MVC)
28. Virginia Tech: (ACC)
29. Southern California: (Pac 10)
30. San Diego State*: (MWC)
31. Charlotte: (Atlantic 10)
32. Clemson: (ACC)
33. South Carolina: (SEC)
34. Virginia Commonwealth*: (CAA)
35. Auburn: (SEC)
36. Miami (OH): (MAC)
37. Washington: (Pac 10)
38. UNLV: (MWC)
39. Miami-Florida: (ACC)
40. Providence: (Big East)
41. Texas A&M: (Big XII)
42. Old Dominion: (CAA)
43. Cleveland State*: (Horizon)
44. UAB: (Conference USA)
45. Temple: (Atlantic Ten)
46. Siena*: (MAAC)
47. Kentucky: (SEC)
48. Creighton: (MVC)
49. Washington State: (Pac 10)
50. South Alabama*: (Sun Belt)
51. Ohio State: (Big Ten)

Most likely to move up into this group would Syracuse of the Big East.
Most likely to drop up out of this group (to the NIT) would be Ohio State. OSU will probably be deadlocked for 4th place in the Big 10, and really shouldn't get in, but after making a lot of noise after being left out of the NCAA's and then winning the NIT last spring, the Buckeyes have a trump card other teams don't.

Additional thought:
I know that it's a bit boring to pick North Carolina, but they've been really excellent as long as they've had Lawson & Hansbrough, and that should continue. With a healthy Bobby Frasor and a couple of big freshmen, they'll have the depth to push through obstacles they couldn't last season. Also, with Lawson and maybe a freshmen shot-blocker to help shore up the inside defense, they could be at another level entirely than the rest of the country. If Hansbrough or Lawson fall to an injury, I could see UCLA's combination of talent and experience finally breaking through to get a championship after being a regular presence at the Final Four these last few years.

Predicted 2009 NCAA Tourney Auto-bids

Here's the fourteen teams I think that will get into the NCAA tournament entirely on the strength of winning their conference tourney.

Nevada (WAC):
Belmont (Atlantic Sun):
Cornell (Ivy):
North Dakota State (Summitt):
Montana (Big Sky):
Hartford (America East):
Morgan State (MEAC):
American (Patriot):
Central Connecticut St. (NEC):
Murray State (OVC):
UNC-Asheville (Big South):
Pacific (Big West ):
Stephen F. Austin (Southland):
Alabama State (SWAC):

Additional thought:
I've ordered these in a list of relative strength, from those at the bottom who will land #16 seeds to those at the top who just might snag a #13 seed. Also, I think this is going to be a rough year for the WAC, not that they won't get multiple teams in the postseason tournaments, but I think it's a pretty sure bet that only the Western Athletic Conference-tourney winner is going to the Big Dance.

Predicted 2009 NIT

Here's 16 teams who I think will be worthy of a CBI invite next spring

Alabama: (SEC)
Arizona: (Pac 10)
Brigham Young (MWC)
Butler (Horizon)
Cincinnati: (Big East)
Dayton: (Atlantic 10)
Florida State: (ACC)
Georgia: (SEC)
Georgetown: (Big East)
Illinois: (Big Ten)
Illinois State: (MVC)
Kansas State: (Big XII)
Kent State: (MAC)
Massachusetts: (Atlantic 10)
Minnesota: (Big Ten)
Mississippi: (SEC)
New Mexico: (MWC)
New Mexico State: (WAC)
North Carolina State: (ACC)
Oklahoma State: (Big XII)
Oregon: (Pac 10)
Rhode Island: (Atlantic 10)
San Diego: (WCC)
Southern Mississippi: (C-USA)
St. Joseph's: (Atlantic 10)
Syracuse: (Big East)
Tennessee-Chattanooga: (Southern)
UALR: (Sun Belt)
Utah State: (WAC)
Valparaiso: (Horizon)
Western Michigan: (MAC)
Wright State: (Horizon)

Most likely to move up into this group would Southern Illinois of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Most likely to move up out of this group (to the NCAA tourney) would be Syracuse.

Additional thought:
I've almost certainly over-favored two conferences here, the Horizon and the Atlantic-Ten. But I'm a mid-major sympathizer, and I rather see these guys -who I honestly think deserve a postseason- here than the bigger schools from bigger conferences who bring in more ticket revenue but are generally also bring far more lackluster squads. So, yeah, there's probably a bit of a bias in these picks, but I'd rather err on the side of the small guy.

Predicted 2009 CBI

Here's 16 teams who I think will be worthy of a CBI invite next spring.

Charleston: (Southern)
George Mason: (CAA)
Georgia Tech: (ACC)
Jacksonville: (Atlantic Sun)
Louisiana State: (SEC)
Louisiana Tech: (WAC)
Marshall: (C-USA)
Ohio: (MAC)
Penn State: (Big Ten)
Richmond: (Atlantic 10)
Rutgers: (Big East)
Southern Illinois: (MVC)
Stanford: (PAC 10)
Texas Tech:(Big XII)
Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
Wisconsin-Green Bay: (Horizon)

Most likely to move up into this group would LaSalle of the Atlantic Ten.
Most likely to move up out of this group (to the NIT) would be Southern Illinois.

Additional thought:
I'm pretty shocked that some folks are picking Louisiana State for Top 25 success. Yeah, there's a lot of scorers returning, but between the chemistry and the defense, I see a lot of room for improvement for a team that only won 6 games last season in a not-that-tough SEC.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Major BS

It's not good to see IU men's basketball team struggling *with itself* playing against far inferior competition (really, Bemdji...Bemidiji...Benjy State was not gonna win this game). But, it's something we've got to get used to this year, I guess. Taber, Williams, Story, Jones, and Dumes will probably be the top five in terms of minutes played, but Tom Pritchard could be tops (minutes, scoring, rebounding, blocked shots... heck, everything) if he can stay out of foul trouble and hit his layups. Daniel Moore may be turning out to be a pleasant surprise, which is what I'd hoped for when his walk-on status was announced, and maybe IU'll get some rebounding help for conference play when undersized but gutty forward Steven Gambles becomes eligible. Also, watch for Matt Roth to maybe benefit from conference play when the tempo slows down and he can find his spots a little better. Tijan Jobe... well, he's looking like he can play 10-15 minutes a game, no problem, but I think the best case for Jobe is be one of those guys who doesn't "do anything" but doesn't look out of place "not doing it."

I'll be rooting for IU all season long, but it'd be hard to see favoring the Hoosiers in very many games this season.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

IU Basketball exhibition

Although it was a glorified practice against a small D-III team, at least the Hoosiers took care of business and themselves a decent blowout. Tom Pritchard had a nice game, but until he faces a D-I frontcourt, let's not expect him to be Big Ten FOY. But he's got the makings of very good player down the road. Verdell Jones is doing better than expected and looks like a solid starter, and Devan Dumes will likely be our leading scorer for the year. But Matt Roth is a great shooter who needs to find his spots, which might be hard this year unless a great-low-post threat develops or someone turns into a very good point guard. It looks like Nick Williams will be a nice scrapper, and Malik Story ought to split some time with him at the four-spot, but unless Kyle Taber comes back really raring to go, I can really see some tough rebounding nights for the Hoosiers. Don't expect much help inside from Tijan Jobe this season other than spot-rest and foul trouble minutes.
I still expect the Hoosiers to be solidly last in the conference, with 1-3 wins, but it's nice to see that Crean's got some talent he can develop.

IU Men's Soccer probably sealed an at-large NCAA bid with its 2-0 win over Northwestern, wrapping up not only a 3rd place conference finish (it's not great, but looking at the Hoosiers were faring in conference play, it's the best they could've asked for) but also the top RPI spot. The Hoosiers will be a team noone wants to face in the NCAA's, but on the other hand, they've not been reliable enough to engender much confidence in their ability to get back to the Final Four. And coach Frietag's starting to get to a point where he could really use some postseason success.

IU Football's season is effectively now over as the postseason is now officially out of reach, and injuries have thrown the team into chaos. Only the possibility of a moral victory of a triumph over Purdue is left.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Basketball Season almost upon us

Well, I was going to try to recreate last year's full-blown preview, but I may have to defer and just throw out my predictions without any real exposition. I'll still do the standard Top 50, Auto-bids, NIT, & CBI calls. My Big Ten picks will wait until the Power Polls start back up, as I'll have plenty to say then.

I've got nothing really to say about IU Football, other than the win they shouldn't have gotten against Northwestern was quickly balanced out by losing to Central Michigan, which should never happen. Is that the second MAC team the Hoosiers have lost to this year?

Indiana Men's Soccer has been wildly inconsistent, and was just humiliated at Penn State after looking like they were starting to put it together. On the up side (?) they'll be playing top-10 Northwestern. On the down side, they've done very poorly against Big 10 foes, which makes it unlikely that they'll be able to rescue the season with a Big 10 tournament championship. If they beat Northwestern, they'll have a strong case for making the NCAA tourney as an at-large. If not.... it's looking pretty shaky.