Thursday, January 31, 2008

Indiana at UW tonight

I love Madison. It's one of my favorite towns in the Midwest. And yeah, I'm a little kooky in that 3-foot-snow-drifts make me happy, and despite my decrepitude I still love pawing through used CD stores, perusing weird little bookstores, and befouling beautiful Capitol buildings with my presence.

However, every time the Hoosiers have a trip to Madison scheduled, I wince. At least since the late 90's, when the Badgers stopped being a doormat. Indiana doesn't just lose at Wisconsin, we tend to lose ugly. Mike Davis' final squad had a narrow loss there, but thinking about that season still makes me shake my head.

If you've not seen it already, John Gasaway (aka Big Ten Wonk) over at Basketball Prospectus has a great breakdown of tempo-free stats for the BCS conferences. What does his point-per-possession efficiency margin tell us?

Big Ten
1. Wisconsin +0.17
2. Indiana +0.16

Additionally, Sagarin has UW as #11, and IU as #12. Pomeroy's ratings has UW at #7, and IU at #11, and CBS rpi has UW at #24, and IU at #32.
What's all mean? IU and Wisconsin are pretty close.

Looking at head to head match-ups, Indiana has more raw talent, but as the UConn game showed, if you can't maximize that talent, it doesn't matter. UW will probably keep Indiana off the boards, and get either Eric Gordon and/or DJ in foul trouble. To be able to steal this one on the road, Indiana has to NOT to turn the ball over, run some sort of offense that gets the slower Wisconsin team moving its feet on defense, and IU must keep the Badgers off the offensive glass.

My guess? It's Indiana's second straight loss. But hopefully they'll play smarter than they did on Saturday.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Big Ten Power Poll Week 4

A theme... gotta come up with a theme... in-depth analysis? No, too much. Smacks of effort.
Half-assed analysis and near-arbitrary rankings?
That's just crazy enough to work!

1. Wisconsin (6-1)

How do the Badgers go to Purdue, drop a half-game back from IU in the standings, and still stay on top? Well, this ranking has less to do with UW's road loss to a middling-to-good Big Ten team than with Indiana's home loss to a middling Big East team or Michigan State's loss to a mediocre-at-best Iowa squad. The Badgers were in it right to the end at Purdue, and were nearly the first team to win at Mackey. That said, all of the top three teams are flawed, and I think picking any of three is defensible.

2. Indiana (6-0)
The only undefeated conference team doesn't look to stay that way for long as the Badgers will be coming off a close loss and looking to stay in the conference race. If the Hoosiers win at Wisconsin, it means two things: 1) IU's the best team in Big Ten, and 2) The Big Ten ain't so great this year.

3. Michigan State (6-1)
The Sparties are tough, and I could see making an argument that they're now the best team in the conference. However, they're in the midst of a rather easy stretch of conference games, and until they win all of these games AND beat Wisconsin or Indiana (or win them all and get a road win at Ohio State or Purdue) to redeem that ugly Iowa road loss, I've got real trouble thinking of these guys as a legit #1.

4. Ohio State (5-2)

It might seem unfair that I'm ranking OSU ahead of Purdue here, but this is a ranking of who I think the best teams are, and how they're likely to stand at the end of the season. If it were the Big Ten Regurgitation of Conference Standings Poll, then sure, Purdue should be fourth. But I think Ohio State's better, and if these two are matching up in the 4-5 Big Ten Tourney game, I'd put money on the Buckeyes and game-changer Jamar Butler.

5. Purdue (6-1)
Purdue got a nice win over Wisconsin, in the most fairly-refereed contest I've seen yet at Mackey. The fact that Purdue players were incredulous over the body-checking fouls called on the perimeter should tell you what kind of kid-gloves treatment they've come to expect. But seriously, Matt Painter has given this program a bright future come back in two weeks and see how these two teams look.

6. Minnesota (2-4)
The Gophers are entering a crucial stretch. If they succeed and win the next four games (at Mich., v. Wis., at NU, v. Iowa) they could start to make an argument for an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney. Lose three of the four, and the NIT might be a long-shot. Tubby Smith has this club looking dangerous, but so far the Gophers don't haven't gotten any good wins.

7. Iowa (3-5)
Enjoy it, Hawkeye fans. This may be the high point of your season. The next four games all look like probable losses, except for perhaps the home game against Ohio State. While Iowa should be feeling good about its win over Penn State, it should recognize that Jeff Peterson and Seth Gorney aren't always going to make 7 of 7 from the field and 13 of 13 from the stripe. But this is better than I thought they'd be.

8. Illinois (2-6)
A tune-up against Northwestern will help anyone's confidence, but scoring 70 points and still winning by 33? Yeeowza! The game at Michigan State might bring them down a peg, but then they host Purdue and Indiana. Winning two of the next three could be what's needed to save the season for the Illini.

9. Penn State (2-5)
The Nittany Lions shouldn't have used up all of their threes against Indiana. How is this team going to look without Geary Claxton? Much like it looked with him... last year. That's not pretty.

10. Michigan (1-7)

Losing by 15 at MSU is nothing to hang one's head about, even if the Sparties are your conference rival. There are occasional signs of life here, and Anthony Wright's three-point touch may have come too late for this season, but it's another reason to think that the Wolverines aren't going to reside in the basement forever under John Beilien.

11. Northwestern (0-7)

Oh, man. Why did Kevin Coble even come back this season? He maybe should've just taken a redshirt. Bill Carmody's a stand-up guy by all accounts, but is he the coach for the future of this young-and-not-at-all good team? Show some life, please!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Painful to watch

What was there to take away in the Hoosiers' 68-63 home loss to Connecticut? Not much. IU hit a few threes early, and then DJ was operating well against 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet, and the wheels came off. IU missed a few lay-ups, got rattled, and started making bad decisions on offense. The turnovers don't reflect the extent at which the offense failed them this afternoon, but at one point IU was 5-for-32 inside the arc. The defense was nothing to write home about either, as they couldn't make stops when they needed them. Where's the dribble penetration defense when the Huskies are known dubious perimeter shooters?

It'd be easy to say that it was just an off-game for IU, and a lot went right for the Huskies (a lot of floaters rattle in, they hit 4 of their first 5 threes, and shot pretty well on free-throws as well), but I'm pretty concerned about Indiana's play at home lately. IU won at UConn last season with less talent by playing zone, and running an offense with screens. UConn's big men clearly weren't interested in chasing the guys that they were supposed to be defending, so where was the pick-and-pop? I'm seeing way too much individual play that doesn't lead anywhere, and then the guys get frustrated and don't respond well. Sampson's gotta start reaching these guys with the simple message: the sum is greater than the parts... wake up!

I'll also say this, this was a game the UConn needed more than the Hoosiers for their NCAA resume. Last year, it was the other way around, and the road team won that time too. Oh well. It ain't going to get any easier in the next game, at Wisconsin.

Watching the Purdue-Wisconsin game now, which does seem to be getting called evenly right now. If the Boilers can knock of UW, they start to look like a legit NCAA club.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eric Gordon shaking off rough start, IU over Iowa

Indiana beat Iowa at home last night, 65-43. I guess the Hawkeyes thought 43 points were good enough to beat Michigan State, so it should work against the Hoosiers. It was a little bit of a slow game for the Hoosiers at 65 possessions. However, the Penn State game was a surprisingly low 64 possessions. Obviously the Hoosiers scored a point per possession last night, but they held the Hawkeyes to .662 points per possession. I couldn't watch the game, so I don't know if this was more due to the Hawkeyes' incompetence, the variables of a road game (refs swallowing the whistles) or honest-to-goodness great defense by the home team. Speaking of defense, while I really like the guys over at Hoosier Scoop and what they do, Ben calls Chris Korman out over not using tempo-free stats in assessing (or deriding) the Hoosier defense. As we saw last night, the Hoosier defense ain't bad. It may or may not be championship caliber, but it ain't 8th in the conference. Good catch, Ben!

As I noted above, Eric Gordon has started playing more like the guy we saw at the start of the season, and less like the turnover-and-foul prone freshman that struggled with everything but shooting in the first four conference games. I noted in my early individual player ratings that Jamarcus Ellis & DJ White were heavy-hitters in both per-game & per-possession effectiveness, but Eric Gordon was just above average in per-game, and significantly below average in per-possession. It probably had a lot to do with playing the first three conference games on the road, but in the two non-conference games prior to this, he shot 5-25 (20%) from the field and had 5 turnovers against Coppin State & Chicago State. So we're looking at a six-game funk that maybe now the fab frosh has snapped out of. Here's my numbers:

First four Big 10 games: 11.8 hppg, .2093 hpps

Penn State & Iowa home games: 27.8 hpg, .4848 hpps

These numbers would put him as the top-five player that we all know that he is, but again these were home games against mediocre (at best) competition. If he has started realizing the importance of playing defense without fouling and just hanging on to the [expletive deleted] ball, it may be just the thing to get the Hoosiers clicking in time for Connecticut and Wisconsin.

Oh, and Gopher Nation awarded this blog the post of the week for the Big Ten Bloggers BasketBall Power Poll! Yes, I know it's unseemly to wallow in such a small amount of praise/recognition. But I've never been seemly. Honestly, I do think the BTBBBPP is pretty cool and I'm just happy to be a part of it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Week 3 Big Ten Power Poll

I also listed my player ratings and individual statistical breakdown of the first quarter of the Big Ten Season over here. Jamar Butler's just having a heckuva year.

Since themes are the way to go in the Big Ten Bloggers Poll, I went with CW shows this week:

1) Wisconsin (5-0)

CW Show: Smallville, UW's got a plethora of big, strong dudes. Who's got the kryptonite?

2) Indiana (5-0)

CW Show: One Tree Hill, Lucas Scott & Lance Stemler- separated at birth? That and all the drama, and the phone calls, this one's a lock.

3) Michigan State (4-1)

CW Show: Supernatural, "hunky" brothers' explore x-files-esque events, showing a faux resolve and toughness that has mirrored the Sparties' own bravado that tends to get shaken on the road.

4) Ohio State (3-2)

CW Show: Aliens in America, a show about middle-class America learning to adjust to a talented import. Maybe this show will last longer than Kosta Koufos' stay in Columbus!

5) Minnesota (2-3)

CW Show: Beauty and the Geek, can Tubby run this social experiment to improve the lives of the geeks, and give his basketball beauties some brains?

6) Purdue (4-1)
Aside as to the low rating: They're winning, but two of the home games should've been losses.I don't know how Matt Painter is doing it, but the friendliest home confines in the conference is Mackey arena. I watched in both in the Michigan and the Illinois games, and the calls did not go both ways.

CW Show: Everybody hates Chris [Kramer], except there's not a lot of laughs in West Lafayette. Scowls, sure. late edit To be fair, Purdue obviously has a lot of young talent. But like the tv show, it can be pretty awkward at times.

7) Penn State (2-3)

CW Show: Gilmour Girls, the most east-coast of any Big Ten school, PSU's season is always as full of shallow patter and tragic endings as any season of the Girls.

8) Iowa (2-4)

CW Show: America's Next Top Model, figuring out the Hawkeyes' performances is as hard as figuring out Tyra Banks' crazy decisions.

9) Illinois (1-5)

CW Show: Gossip Girl, Jamar Smith's drunken carwreck and abandonment of Brian Carlwell (Smith thought Carwell dead) could've been on any episode of this vapid show.

10) Michigan (1-5)

CW Show: Reaper, John Beilien's got to feel like the kid who found out his parents sold his soul to the devil, and now has to complete an eternity of awful tasks.

11) Northwestern (0-5)

CW Show: 7th Heaven, this tv show went on and on and on, much like a NU game, or even just a NU possession.

IU over Penn State late

The Hoosiers triumph over a wounded Nittany Lion team, 81-65. Sans the Big Ten network, the only college basketball I could watch while exercising was a pretty good Wazzu-Oregon game. There was also the Green Bay-New York football game on, but once it became apparent that old man Favre wasn't heading back to the Superbowl, it was hard for me to care about the NFL.

I caught up on the PSU game through the usual array of blogs and stats, and it looked to me like Jamarcus Ellis was player of the game. DJ was DJ, and Gordon finally hit some shots without turning it over too much, and Armon Bassett and Lance Stemler looked like the starters they had been. Bassett hit 6 of 8 shots for 17 points, and Stemler hit his only three and didn't turn the ball over once. This is why we need Stemler playing starting minutes, not so much for his clutch threes or scrappy rebounding, but for the calming affect he brings to the floor. But the game ball by all accounts should go to Jamarcus Ellis, who rebounded, scored, defended, and directed the attack that finally broke Penn State. Ellls has 12 pts, 5 rebs, 8 assists, 3 steals and a block. That dude stuffs a stat sheet.

Speaking of that, I've been working on Hoosier Fun Ball Ratings Systems for the first 4-5 Big Ten games, and even with the small sample size, it's evident that Indiana has two of the most efficient per-possession starters in the conference. And no, neither one of them is named Gordon. DJ White is only behind Jamar Butler in both effective per-game and [starters'] per-possession production (and I don't see how Butler's going to keep up his torrid pace). Jamarcus Ellis is squarely in 5th in per-posession and is third behind the DJ & Butler in per-game production. Why not Eric Gordon? Well, it pretty much all comes down to one thing for the talented freshman: turnovers. He hasn't rebounded or gotten enough assists yet to push him into a really elite level of production despite his effective scoring, but his average of five turnovers a game (five a game! That's essentially a ten-point swing in any conference game) cripples his numbers. Gordon certainly did better against PSU, but those numbers weren't included in my early calculations.

Other quick HFBR notes: NU's Kevin Coble and PSU's Jamelle Cornley round out the top five in per-game production, and while Minnesota's Al Nolen and Wisconsin's Brian Butch were the other top five starters in per-possession effectiveness, Kurt Looby's .6089 was tops overall among those who played at least a few minutes. Jamar Butler hpps came in at .5576, and 32.8 hppg and DJ's rated .5229 hpps and 29.8 hppg. Late edit: I ran Zack Gibson's numbers one more time, which were off the map, and found I had calculated his total possessions incorrectly! Cue the Simpsons' line: "math is hard!" Or just "D'oh!"

Friday, January 18, 2008

Weird win... but I'll take it!

I do actually think that the Fox News of city newspapers, the Indianapolis Star, summed up Indiana's 65-60 win at Minnesota pretty well:

Indiana committed a season-high 26 turnovers and made just two of its final 13 shots Thursday night on the road against Minnesota.
And won the game.

How did the Hoosiers pull this victory out? By out-rebounding Minnesota 42-26, by shooting 40.9% on threes, and hitting their free-throws (12-14) when the Gophers were not (11-21). Also, some great play from our bench saved the Hoosiers for the second straight game, as Jordan Crawford scored 16, DeAndre Thomas 5, and Lance Stemler got 8 points including the go-ahead three and the clutch free-throws that sealed the game. But those turnovers... I like Sampson's comment: "I kept telling [Gordon] and Jordan [Crawford] during timeouts that we're wearing red." Gordon had 7 turnovers, Crawford 4, and Armon Bassett surprisingly had 4. What was up with Bassett last night? He drove right into four white jerseys with nowhere to go, and of course lost the ball.

This time, I would say the game ball should go to DJ, who had 17 and 10, but just shut Minnesota center Spencer Tollackson down in the first half. Twice early on Tollackson lowered the shoulder and tried to bully his way to the basket, and twice he got rejected. Also, DJ's tip-out of almost-final Minnesota miss made sure that the Gophers had to foul.

Also, in what looked to be an extremely exciting game, the Hoosier women topped Minnesota in double-overtime, 80-77. With the home win, 11-7/4-2 IU moves into a tie for second place in the conference, and is just one game out from first-place Ohio State.

Go Hoosiers!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Minnesota, Hoop thoughts, and the Colts

There's been some noise around the blogosphere parroting Sampson's line that Indiana's win over Illinois showed that the Hoosiers can win when they're not playing well. I don't think that's an accurate read of last Sunday's game. While I think Indiana has a lot more talent than Illinois and will certainly go further in March, we have to give Illinois some credit, and give the Hoosiers some blame. They made Indiana look pretty shoddy on both ends of the floor, and our guys didn't respond all that well. Particularly ball-handlers Ellis and Crawford got frustrated and were unable to make good decisions on offense, and that seemed to affect their defense as well. When Armon Bassett is clearly our best perimeter defender, somethin's up. I said earlier that I don't know what the Hoosiers would've done if we didn't have BOTH Ratliff and Bassett back last game... well, they would've lost at home to a team that was under .500 for the year. Even so, we needed some breaks to fall our way at the end of the game to pull it out, a deflected pass goes right to our best three-point shooter, a ball-out-of-bounds goes back to us, and when Calvin Brock tries to get fouled in the closing seconds, the whistles stay quiet.

What does this all mean? I think it means IU was more lucky than tough in this game. And going to Minnesota always requires some toughness, but this year Tubby Smith's got a whole new team to try against us. Don't forget that last season Smith had a mediocre team that beat us on their home floor. The situation looks about the same, and the Hoosiers are more turnover-prone this year. I always root for the Hoosiers, but if I had to put money on this game, well.... I wouldn't go with my heart.

Speaking of, my heart goes out to Geary Claxton of Penn State, that perennially forgotten talent mired in the conference cellar. The irony is that this year Penn State actually had a very good chance at the postseason, chances that have now taken a serious hit. Poor Penn State, and poor Nittany Lion fans. Speaking of Nittany Lion fans, check out the tempo-free stats page that Happy Valley Hoops has posted. Nice work, HVH!

I'll never understand Craig Moore of Northwestern. Every year he starts out shooting great, and then at the start of the Big Ten play, Moore goes ice-cold. Last night against Chicago State, he makes 6 of 9 threes. What's up, fella? Now that I've said something, watch him go off for 10 threes against IU.

The Colts lost in tight game to San Diego that I couldn't watch the second half of. Peyton Manning is awesome, but just imagine the game he would've had if guys hadn't fumbled, dropped his passes, or tipped them into interceptions. So much had to go wrong for the Colts not to win that game, and I think they would've beaten New England if they'd won this one. But they didn't, and now I just have to hope someone else beats the Patriots.

Go Hoosiers, and go anyone but the Pats!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Ten Power Poll: Week 2

1. Wisconsin (3-0)
Right now, they get the top spot. They've been on a roll, but they'll face their stiffest test yet at Penn State tomorrow night, where Minn. just won. Hmm. Wisconsin does have the easiest conference schedule.

2. Indiana (3-0)
Narrow home win over Illinois will quickly be followed by a visit to Minnesota. These Hoosiers seem out of sync, and could be ripe for an upset.

3. Michigan State (2-1)
The Sparties lose 36-43 at Iowa? The fears with MSU's offense (turnovers, shooting) are confirmed.

4. Minnesota (2-1)
The freshmen came up big at PSU, with Hoffarber hitting threes and Nolen hitting frees. Al Nolen has been a backcourt defensive terror, and is getting starting minutes. Foes beware.

5. Ohio State (3-1)
They played pretty well at Purdue, but if the Buckeyes can't win there, then they're not contenders.

6. Purdue (2-1)
Good solid home win over Ohio State. The next four games should say a lot about what kind of team Matt Painter has on his hands (@Iowa, Illinois, @PSU, Wis.)

7. Penn State (2-1)
PSU led almost the whole game against Minnesota, but at the end of the game, they still lose.

8. Iowa (1-3)
Huge win over MSU! Indiana can feel a little better about its narrow victory at Iowa, but I don't see the Hawkeyes winning a lot on the road.

9. Illinois (0-4)
The Illini have started putting it together, too bad the last two games were at Wisconsin and at Indiana. Are they better without point guard Chester Frazier? Stay tuned on that one.

10. Michigan (1-3)
A win at NU keeps them out of the cellar. Maybe the Wolverines can build on that win a little.

11. Northwestern (0-4)
Not doing well at all with another home loss (to Michigan). Craig Moore's shooting touch seems to go away with the start of every conference season. But Kevin Coble just dropped 34 points vs. Michigan.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Indiana 62, Illinois 58

Illinois wins! No, that's what happened in 2001 when Illinois and Indiana played in Bloomington: One squad was scrappy on defense, and had a good center but not a lot of other offensive weapons. The other squad was a top 10 team, but played a little over-confidently at times. The top-ten team saw the scrappy squad go 10 minutes in the second half without a field goal, and escaped with a narrow win. That's exactly what happened again today, although this time Indiana was the top 10 team, and Illinois was the team that had a 10-minute stretch without a FG.

Steve S. has a good take on the game, and especially on
Billy Packer's usual performance. Can we please retire this guy? At least Dick Vitale occasionally sees what's going on in front of his nose, and he only has one eye.

When I watched the game (Tivo is awesome), I saw the Illinois team that I thought we'd be facing at the beginning of the season. The Illini played smart, tough defense combined with low-turnover good ball movement on offense. If Illinois were at home, a few calls would've gone their way, and they probably would've won. But if had been played on a neutral court, I still don't know if it would've made a difference. You just can't go 10 minutes in the second half and expect to win. Also, I didn't the calls were that egregiously in IU's favor- there were a lot of charges that if the situation had been reversed, if the road team was coming into Illinois and getting those calls, Chief Illiniwek would've been throwing garbage on the floor. Of course, he's not allowed in NCAA arenas anymore, so that's a moot point. But the call I'm sure that Illini fans are a little angry about -the out-of-bounds call in the last minute- I thought was a just call. It could've been a jump ball, sure, but it looked to me like it was off Randle's leg out of bounds. Even so, I was pretty shocked that Ellis didn't get a foul call as thought Meachem (?) hit him with the body pretty decently on the previous drive and shot. Anyway, the Illini had their chances, and the way they've played, I wouldn't expect them to get the benefit of doubt from refs anywhere except in that other Assembly Hall.

Indiana also bears a lot of blame, and I hope coach Sampson gets in the ears of Jordan Crawford and Jamarcus Ellis for their shot selection and decision-making in this game. It was pretty awful, as off-balance pull-ups were clearly not working, and Ellis and Crawford kept trying 'em. It showed some poor discipline there, as then Ellis started trying to mix it up with the Illini players. As for Eric Gordon, he played nervous. His passes were wide (didja see that first-half post-pass to DJ? Appalling) and his usually steady hands couldn't hang on to the ball. He needs to work this week on handling the ball versus pressure. I don't want to think about having to play this game without our bench guards- thank goodness AJ Ratliff and especially Armon Bassett are back. Obviously Armon Bassett gets the game ball. DJ and EJ did okay, but it was Armon who keyed the defensive intensity and hit the very big threes, as well as sealing the game with two clutch free-throws. But I also want to point out that AJ Ratliff hit a couple of big threes, and had the key stops in the final minute, blocking Demetri McCamey's reverse lay-up and it looked like he blocked Calvin Brock's possible game-tying put-back as well. We need those guys back and playing at full speed. The upside is the Hoosiers didn't play very well and still came with a win, unlike Michigan State, who suffered an outrageous 36-43 loss at Iowa. 36 points!

The next game is at Minnesota on Thursday, and Indiana better execute a hack of lot better than they did today, or the Gophers are going to get a big win.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Next up: Illinois

Man, who in the Big Ten had a rougher 2007 than Bruce Weber? First, one of his players gets in a car crash and leaves another player for dead. Then, he loses Eric Gordon to Indiana. Then, Weber's late snag of Top 100 shooting guard Quinton Watkins to replace Gordon gets ruled ineligible. Now, with Chester Frazier hurting again, the Illini have dropped four straight to fall to 8-8, and 0-3 in the Big Ten. They look weak, but the Hoosiers can't underestimate them.

I think Illinois has a brighter future ahead (especially now that shooter Alex Legion has transferred in), but right now, the Illini are searching for answers, and their offense is having problems moving the ball, and finding shooters to knock down any open shots.

Indiana has to go after the passing lanes, and keep track of Trent Meachem and Calvin Brock. I don't think Randle and Pruitt can do enough damage inside all on their own to beat us at home. It's like when opponents used to play Indiana a couple of years ago, and they'd just leave one guy on Marco Killingsworth, and let him run out of steam. Randle's got such potential, but he's not as quick since he came back from injuries. I think Lance Stemler particularly could match up with Randle pretty well, and Stemler seems to be shooting a little better lately.

I'd also like to come to the defense of AJ Ratliff here. The guy's going to be rusty shooting in both shooting and playing defense without fouling, coming off his layoff, and I suspect we'll see the "microwave" effect off the bench again soon. In any case, I was pretty impressed by Ratliff's passing, and I suspect the other stuff will come soon. Now, if we can just get Gordon and Crawford to quit handing the ball to the other team. These freshmen are great, but they are freshmen.

Today, I watched Kentucky take down Vanderbilt (How was Vandy 13-0? They turn the ball over and couldn't keep UK off the offensive glass), watched UCLA take apart Washington State (Collison makes UCLA a lot better), and Roy Hibbert sink a last-second three to beat UConn at Georgetown. You gotta guard everyone.

Go Hoosiers!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My NCAA Men's Basketball Top 25, why not?

I've updated my template to reflect who's currently blogging on Big Ten Basketball, and tried to weed out some of those who have stopped. Also, I threw together what my top 25 would look like, if I were to vote:

1. Kansas (14-0)
I was wrong, Brandon Rush is back and terrorizing opponents, and these guys look scary good.

2. Memphis (14-0)
There's so much talent here, and this year Calipari has some good depth to utilize, but my guess is they still don't win it all.

3. North Carolina (16-0)
The soft schedule has hidden depth problems, and they needed to pull out a last second three at Clemson to remain unbeaten. But Wayne Ellington's on a tear.

4. UCLA (13-1)
Darren Collison is coming back, and if he restores the balance to this team, look out in March.

5. Tennessee (12-1)
In my mind, this is a true elite team that can win it all, as Tyler Smith has given them a low-post option on offense. If Chris Lofton shakes out of his shooting funk, the Vols will be hard to beat.

6. Washington State (13-0)
Amazing defense here, and Aaron Baynes has bloomed as a post threat. Still, the schedule leaves me uncertain if this is a great team or just a very good one.

7. Georgetown (12-1)
I could say almost the exact same thing about Georgetown as I did about WSU, just replacing Baynes with Roy Hibbert. Conference games should answer the questions.

8. Xavier (13-3)
The Musketeers bounced back into the top ten with a great that saw them blow out three probably postseason teams at different venues.

9. Michigan State (14-1)
The Sparties are faltering a little bit, but they're still winning, so they stay here for now. Goran Suton may be the secret key to this team.

10. Butler (14-1)
AJ Graves beautiful 30-foot runner to win at SIU is probably the last good win that the Bulldogs will get for a while. But frosh Matt Howard is a beast inside.

11. Indiana(13-1)
Nothing has been shown here to prove that this is an elite team, but nothing's happened to prove they aren't, either.

12. Duke (12-1)
Duke's lack of size concerns me, as does a schedule that has kept them out of dangerous hostile arenas. But they did beat Wisconsin and Marquette.

13. Texas (12-2)
A two-game slump against Big Ten teams isn't anything to worry too much about, but they do look like they could go out early in the NCAA tourney.

14. Dayton (13-1)
The Flyers have come from nowhere to be surprisingly good. Who outside of Ohio foresaw this?

15. Texas A&M (13-1)
The Aggies have been okay, but the most shocking thing has been frosh center DeAndre Jordan's Free-throw and Field-Goal percentage discrepancy.

16. Marquette (11-2)
They had a nice win over Wisconsin, but otherwise they've not been that impressive, and the lack of depth inside is always a cause for concern.

17. Wisconsin (12-2)
Before too much gets made of the win at Texas, it should be noted that they literally stole that game. The Badgers'll be good, but I don't see great here.

18. Clemson (11-3)
A tough loss to UNC was followed by a 10-point letdown versus Charlotte, so I was tempted to drop them out of here, but I think they're probably 2nd-best in the ACC.

19. Pittsburgh (12-2)
If they get healthy, than maybe this team will start to look like the one you would expect from looking at the computer rankings. Until then, they're just good.

20. Gonzaga (11-4)
I'm not ready to give up on the Bulldogs, I think they had a strong schedule and are still gelling, and they'll probably get back to surprising tourney teams in March.

21. Arizona State (13-2)
Perhaps the most underrated team to date. Arizona draws a lot of attention with its star-power, but ASU is quietly looking like a conference title contender.

22. Vanderbilt (16-0)
Perhaps the most over-rated team around. Vandy's Aussie freshman Andrew Oglivy is a good center, but I don't see the depth here to get them very far in the NCAA tourney.

23. Drake (11-1)
The Missouri Valley's best team finally breaks through? Don't underestimate this team, and don't underestimate the Valley either.

24. Akron (11-3)
Right now, Akron appears to be the front-runner in the always-overlooked MAC. Kent State could supplant them, but hopefully both will go to the Big Dance.

25. Mississippi (13-1)
The Rebels hung tough against Tennessee. I'm not yet sure if Ole Miss is just riding their confidence from a nice start, or if they're actually a competitor in the SEC.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

IU 2-0, DJ Hulks out

IU got a 78-64 win, which is always nice to start out 2-0 after two road games. DJ White is reminding me so much of Alan Henderson right now. I'd like to see Eric Gordon and Jordan Crawford -such great scorers- handle the ball without turning it over quite so much. But otherwise, there wasn't a lot to worry about as IU coasted, and I thought did a good job of going inside to exploit Michigan's 1-3-1 zone.

I found a whole bunch of new Big Ten Bloggers! (Well, new to me). I'll have to update the template to reflect these new voices, and trim those who have hung up their guns.

Here's a quick list:

Monday, January 07, 2008

Big Ten Power Poll: 1/07/08

After the first week of Big Ten Conference Play, here's my thoughts on these first few games have shown us:

1. Michigan State (1-0)
No reason to think they've slipped, as the 6-point home win over Minnesota says more about the strength of the new Tubby-led Gophers than it does of any weakness of MSU.
2. Wisconsin (2-0)
The Badgers start off with a pair of convincing wins over conference non-contenders.
UW does have the momentum working for them right now.
3. Indiana (1-0)
IU starts off with a road win, barely. They're just getting healthy, but getting AJ Ratliff & Armon Bassett back into playing shape would help a lot.
4. Ohio State (2-0)
Jamar Butler is making a case for conference POY: 32 points at Illinois, and then 10 rebs & 11 assists at NU.
5. Penn State (2-0)
When did you ever think that a PSU club would start off undefeated after 2 road games?
6. Minnesota (0-1)
Going into East Lansing and hanging tough should serve notice to the rest of the league. This is a different team.
7. Purdue (1-0)
Well, they started off with a win, which is more than you can say about the teams below them.
8. Illinois (0-2)
Wow. Two home losess, to Ohio State and Penn State. NCAA tourney hopes are starting to slip away. These guys play like they belong on a Mike Davis squad.
9. Michigan (0-2)
They're off to a bad start, but at least they showed some grit in rallying at Purdue before losing.
10. Iowa (0-2)
Two injuries to starters and two losses. Not the best way to open up conference play,
and if your shooter pours in 6 threes in the last two minutes, and you still can't get win at home... it's gonna be a long season.
11. Northwestern (0-2)
Two home losses, one to Penn State, even with Kevin Coble back. Not that I would've favored the 'Cats in either contest, but they aren't surprising anyone either.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

IU-Michigan preview

Watched the Michigan-Purdue game. I sort of feel sorry for Michigan as they open conference play with three tough games in 7 days. Although Purdue triumphed 65-58, they didn't look really that much better than Michigan, and I think if Purdue plays at Michigan, the win would go to the Wolverines. Michigan has some good young talent (Manny Harris, Ekpe Udoh DeShawn Sims), although Purdue probably has more young talent (Keaton Grant, JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel), I think John Beilien is going to be one of the best coaches in the conference and will get the recognition in a year or two.

So, next Tuesday, when Indiana steps onto Michigan's floor, what should they look to do? I would say IU should probably pack the paint defensively, although they should probably keep Lance Stemler and Mike White on Sims due to his inside-outside ability. But Harris in particular likes off-balance jumpers, and that's a shot the Hoosiers should let him take. On offense, Sampson will have to run a few different looks. Beilien likes to go to his 1-3-1 zone off makes and plays man off misses. Off the misses, especially early, IU should get DJ White on the block. Udoh can block shots, but there's a lot of room for a big man to operate against Michigan. Against the 1-3-1, I'd get the ball into the hands of Jamarcus Ellis and run some draw and kicks, preferably to Gordon, but any of IU's shooters should be able to get quality looks against the zone. However, given that this will create a more perimeter-based offense, DJ White and the other big men should go straight to the glass, as I think there will be a lot of opportunities against the zone.

IU should be the better team, even on the road, but they've got execute and get back to prevent transition opportunities. Play hard, Hoosiers!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just-in Time.... almost

Still waiting to watch another IU basketball game. Instead, I find myself wondering "what the heck is going on" as I watch the gamecast. The last two minutes were just crazy. Six three-pointers by Justin Johnson, including the great highlight of him picking up the loose ball at halfcourt, taking two dribbles to his right, and then throwing up a 30+ footer that banked in, with a hand in his face! Incredible- I didn't want to see it against IU, but I love watching guys get in a zone like that.

Congrats to IU on picking up a road win, and not surrendering despite the amazing last-two-minutes of shooting. Somebody hitting 6 threes over the last two minutes on you is generally a guaranteed loss on the road. Eric Gordon scored, DJ White rebounded, and Jamarcus Ellis had another nice all-around game (15 pts, 7 rebs, 7 assists, 5 steals & a block), but nobody else did too much besides Jordan Crawford. AJ Ratliff fouled out in 15 minutes, which is a little worrisome as that was a bad habit I thought he shed last year. Next up, IU goes to Michigan on Tuesday, on a game that'll actually be on a somewhat normal channel. Wisconsin walked over the Wolverines last night on their own floor last night, so expect a challenge from Michigan. However, this is another road game against an inferior club that IU just has to win.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Big Ten Play starts tonight!

Also, the IU men's football team was overcome by Oklahoma State 49-33. I was hopeful, but football has never really been a Hoosier sport. It was a great year 'though, and it would've made Coach Hep proud to see IU play "13." Well done, Hoosier footballers, congrats on a great year!

Men's basketball starts tonight with a road trip to Iowa, at 9pm ET. Any road game is dangerous, but this is one the Hoosiers have to be able to win if they're gonna be able to take the conference title. On the upside, the Hoosiers should have everyone available, except perhaps reserve center Eli Holman. I think the Hoosiers should play man the whole game, double-team nobody, and really attack the passing lanes. On offense, see if DJ & Eric can draw fouls early, and if not, move the ball to get open looks for DJ's jumper. The threes should be there all game, but it's better to work it inside a little to avoid Iowa getting out in transition.

Go Hoosiers!