Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hoosier Weekend Wins & the Big 10/ACC challenge

It's a good thing I have the recent memory of the Hoosiers playing their best game in the Crean to beat Cornell going into tonight. I know, Cornell didn't have it's starting backcourt, but I was amazed at the way Pritchard took the ball at the 7-footer, Jeff Foote. Our wings did step up for the win, and Nick Williams was impressive, but I hate the way he turns over the ball. Williams is going to be a solid player for the Hoosiers for some time to come, but as long as Tom Pritchard keeps working like he has inside, Williams won't be the best player in this freshman class.
We'll see how Pritchard fares against the very tall and tough line-up of Wake Forest tonight. Indiana really got hosed on this one, but I guess they set up the match-up before everyone transferred out. I think our baseline of expectation should be similar to when the Hoosiers last traipsed over to Wake Forest in the Challenge and got thumped something like 100-65. I suspect we'll give up a 100 points, but I'm hoping we can score around 65. That's right, I am hoping that we lose by less than forty points tonight.

In other challenge notes, the Big Ten let an amazing opportunity slip away to maybe steal their first challenge when Iowa missed the front of a 1-and-1 with a second left to lose by two, and Illinois then also down two, didn't get a shot off with plenty of time remaining. But the Big Ten also caught something of break when senior Jack McClinton of Miami lost his mind and slapped a Buckeye freshman, and got ejected. OSU rallied for a big road win. Wisconsin started off the challenge winning for the first time in I-don't-know-when, usually Bo Ryan's teams play terribly in this contest, and Duke smacked Purdue down hard. Interior depth and offensive rebounding are now major concerns for the Boilermakers. If MSU was playing decent at all, (and they might be if Suton was healthy), they'd be by far my favorites for the conference title. But with all of this, the Big 10 could be up 5-1 and only needing a single win to pull off the challenge upset for the first time ever. Instead it's 3-3 and the only chances for victory over the ACC tonight are Michigan State at home against the UNC squad that has so far looked absolutely invulnerable, and Northwestern at home over Florida State. I would be shocked if Penn State was able to bump off Georgia Tech at home- they'd have to win the turnover & three-point shooting battles by a lot to offset GT's interior advantage- and Michigan winning at Maryland seems like a stretch, but it seems like that (plus NU & MSU victories) may be the best path of ending the ACC's dominance in the challenge. We all know IU's not in a position for even a moral victory- hopefully they get back to Bloomington without any injuries. Really, the Big Ten getting a single win tonight seems the most likely scenario.

IU Men's Soccer is only one game away from the Final Four! Unfortunately, that game will be at St. John's. I watched second half of the game against Michigan (who honestly looks better statistically than St. John's) in which IU was defensively sound and definitely the better team, but the Wolverines were actually a bounce here, and a shot off of the post there- to having a lead late in the game. Things finally broke the Hoosiers' way and as Michigan started pressing, the Hoosiers ran effective counter-attacks and walked off with a 3-0 win. Generally, I've been less-than-great at predicting soccer matches, but I like IU's chances, even on the road. I think the Hoosiers will out-shoot and out-possess St. John's, and as St. John's keeper doesn't seem to be any more gifted than Chay Cain at making saves, I'm betting the Hoosier offense strikes in the first half. I wouldn't bet that the Hoosiers do as well in the second half as they did against Michigan, so I'm thinking St. John's rallies at home to send it to OT, but here's where the Hoosier depth and new-found ability to counter-attack should pay off. IU 2-1 over St. John's in OT.
The only caveat I have is that these Hoosiers have stayed out of red card trouble so far this year, and usually there's at least one that IU gets hit with per season that just seems undeserved. If it happens at St. John's, that's a mighty hard obstacle to overcome.

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