Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oh, Come on now!

Maurice Creek- frontrunner for Big Ten Freshman of the Year is out for the season with a knee injury, suffered in the IU's blowout win over Bryant. I'm sure OSU fans were mad when POY frontrunner Evan Turner went down with an injury, but at least he's coming back this season. IU now enters Big Ten play without their best player.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Pre-Conference Power Poll

1. Purdue (11-0)
They're undefeated, have beaten solid Tennessee and Wake Forest squads, and deserve the respect for the top spot. However, they've only played one true road game (at NIT-likely Alabama) and they don't have what one would call "reliable depth." DJ Byrd and Kesley Barlow are making reasonable contributions for freshmen, but if Hummel & Johnson ever get into foul trouble, the Boilers are in deep trouble. The upcoming West Virginia game should be very interesting, and should offer some clues to what extent the Boilers are Final Four threat.

Predicted conference finish: 14-4

2. Michigan State (9-3)
Don't get me wrong, all respect to Izzo and the gang green, but they're just not the team they were last year. I warned earlier that losing their best two defenders was going to hurt, and it pretty obviously is. Green & Roe are great inside, but they're both power forwards, and Lucas and Morgan are as good as anyone in the conference at their positions, but Lucas needs help defending on the perimeter. Chris Allen also seems to have recovered his touch, but even so, the only really solid win the Sparties have is over Gonzaga, so they have yet to really prove themselves.

Predicted conference finish: 13-5

3. Wisconsin (10-2)
I don't why- I knew better, but I underestimated Bo Ryan. No disrespect to Izzo and the rest of the coaches, but Ryan is simply the best coach in the conference. Still, I don't expect the Badgers to go far in the conference or NCAA tourneys, as I think they're playing at about the best they can right now. But still, being third in the conference and looking like a lock for the NCAA tourney is just amazing considering who they've lost over the last couple of years. And that win over Duke that secured the Challenge is a classic.

Predicted conference finish: 11-7

4. Ohio State (10-2)
With Evan Turner, this team is incredibly dangerous. Without him, they should putter along with falling off the NCAA bubble. Luckily, they'll get him back in time for the stretch run, so they should be a much better team in March than they will be for most of conference play. Look for the Buckeyes to hover around .500 until they get Turner back. And hey, why is Jeremie Simmons playing so little (17min./game)? I don't know what else the young man can do- shooting 51% from three and 58% overall, while recording 18 assists to 8 turnovers and picking up 9 steals. Even Diebler's only shooting 48% beyond the arc.

Predicted conference finish: 11-7

5. Minnesota (9-3)
It's not that they're doing poorly, but they're 1-3 versus NCAA-possible teams. The good news is that Rodney Williams is a solid freshman, Hoffarber is shooting well again, Devron Bostick is back and playing well, and Tubby found a small-ball line-up that seems to be working. The bad news is that this still seems like a team that's solid, but not scary. I would think Ralph Sampson and Paul Carter could be featured a little more in the half-court offense, but what am I going to tell Tubby?

Predicted conference finish: 10-8

6. Northwestern (10-1)
The Wildcats in the NCAA's without Kevin Coble? It could happen. But, even though they're 10-1, the best wins have come against teams which are probably NIT-level. The conference schedule is favorable enough, but their low strength-of-schedule RPI might require a win or two in the Big Ten Tourney to get punch the ticket to the Big Dance. Shurna, Thompson, and Nash have all stepped up nicely, but the big surprise here is how good the freshmen guards (Crawford & Marcotullio) are. I did expect a little more from center Luka Mirkovic this year, but maybe he's just a slow starter.

Predicted conference finish: 10-8

7. Illinois (8-4)
Good wins over Vandy and at Clemson may ensure a NCAA bid as long as the Illini finish over .500 in conference play, but bad losses to Utah, Bradley, Missouri, and at Georgia call into question the Illini's ability to do that. While McCamey has taken over point very well and Tisdale has improved in the post, UIUC still relies very heavily on their frosh wings who have been a little uneven at this point. I wouldn't be surprised to see McCamey's minutes and shots skyrocket in conference play.

Predicted conference finish: 10-8

8. Michigan (6-5)
The Wolverines are suffering through a pretty big let-down, and it's tough to remember that just two seasons ago they were considered a likely last-place team in the Big Ten. And just having things fall out the right way against Northwestern and Indiana ensured that they made into the NCAA tourney last season. So, the expectations have risen pretty high pretty fast, and returning the stars DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris along with last year's freshmen starters and a seemingly good 2009 recruiting class blew the expectations thru the roof. I will say that I expect Michigan to rebound in conference play and be competitive, but I don't think they'll get the bounces they did last season.

Predicted conference finish: 7-11

9. Penn State (8-4)
Tim Frazier appears to be the replacement for Stanley Pringle, and fellow frosh Bill Edwards looks very much like a possible stand-in for Jamelle Cornley. However, neither of these players is completely ready for the load that the Cornley and Pringle carried. Brooks, Babb, and especially David Jackson are pitching in a bit, but Talor Battle is really going to find life rougher in conference play this season. It's not that the Nittany Lions are terribly worse than they were last season, but it's going to be pretty touch-and-go as to whether they finish over .500 overall.

Predicted conference finish: 6-12

10. Indiana (5-6)

The Hoosiers are a whole different team from last year, and I'm pretty certain they'll win more than the Kenpom-predicted 2 conference games. However, while IU had a nice over Pitt, they have had a number of really bad losses (Boston, GMU, Loyola-MD). These are all games that the Hoosiers could have, and should have won, but just didn't have the maturity to see it through. The Hoosiers will have a few games where they put it all together and surprise some teams, but they'll also have some games where they suffer some really ugly losses. If Tom Pritchard starts getting his confidence, and the ball, that will definitely help, but it should be a roller-coaster of a conference season for Hoosier fans.

Predicted conference finish: 5-13

11. Iowa (5-7)
There's a couple of bright spots here, as freshmen Eric May and Brennan Cougill appear to be better than advertised, and Matt Gatens and Jarryd Cole are doing what they can. John Lickliter is finally ready to play at point which should give coach Lickliter another option at point when Cully Payne is overwhelmed. But call it what it is, this is going to be a really rough year for the Hawkeyes.

Predicted conference finish: 1-15

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

IU loses to Loyola

Maybe we all should be getting used to December letdowns with Tom Crean. Perhaps like his mentor Izzo, there's just a period of head-scratching losses in the early winter so that the team can learn and grow. In any case, it's hard to find many silver linings to this loss. The Hoosiers continue to take one step forward and quickly take it right back. The overall statline is horrible from an efficiency perspective, the best players for IU were Rivers and Pritchard, and then Hulls had an okay game, while Creek and Jones at least were mediocre. Watford, Elston, Dumes, and the others contributed nothing or were even negative impacts for the Hoosiers.

It's really a shame, because Rivers almost won the game for the Hoosiers on his own, but like Chris Webber, ended up being the goat instead, missing a lot of free-throws down the stretch and instead of blocking a crucial three, fouled the player giving Loyola its second four-point play of the night.

This is the third game so far where the Hoosiers should have a win and don't. If they had gotten this one and Boston, they'd be sitting at 7-4 and the rebuilding would look like it was on schedule. But they're 5-6, and its looking shaky instead.

In other Big Ten news, it's good to see both UMHoops.com and the tempo-free godfather, TAFKATBTW, calling for more PT for Zack Gibson. My latest efficiency numbers put him as the top non-starter in per-possession production, and #6 overall in the conference, behind only Evan Turner, Manny Harris, Draymond Green, Jon Leuer, and Damian Johnson. Furthermore, last year he stod out as a player who could use more time, and the year before that I had him pegged as one the top ten players in the conference to look out for the 2008-2009 season. The fact that he's seeing less than 20 possessions a game when Beilien is desperately looking for help for Harris & Sims suggests that maybe small-ball ought to take a hiatus. At this point, what's Michigan got to lose?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fun with Stats

I've not commented in a while, but the young Hoosiers are showing promise. If they win tonight against Loyola, they'll have tied last season's win total and surpassed the Division-I win total.

Pre-Conference Efficiency ratings are up and posted here.

Quick note for IU fans- even though you'll notice Maurice Creek is 3rd on the per-possession ranking, he's pretty clearly the top freshman in the conference. His 29 point-performance against UNC-Central isn't included as I only crunched the games through December 13th. And, my ratings system seems to have a slight bias towards reserve big men and a slight bias against shooters- which is the category that Creek obviously falls into- (I think this is a reflection of the nature of the box scores, but I really don't know what else to do about it for now). More good news for IU fans, Elston and Watford are also in the top ten of freshmen, which is great news for the future of the program.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pitt goes down, but Kentucky too much

I see that I was right about Pitt- Good for the Hoosiers! However, a little of the shine has come off after watching a very good game and a half by the young Hoosiers followed by them getting literally man-handled in the second half at home against Kentucky. It's just rough when they can get Cousins and Orton saddled with 9 fouls, and the Wildcats can still have Patterson and Perry Stevenson on the floor. Patterson and Cousins were too much for our guys- I like Pritchard and Capobianco's ability to hit the offensive glass, and Elston & Watford's ability to hit both the defensive and offensive boards- but they were no match. IU really needs Watford to develop or they need another big man if they're going to compete with the elite.

There were some good things that I have to mention, tho:

1) Maurice Creek- following up Verdell Jones' nice performance against Pitt, Creek dropped in 31 against Kentucky, and it honestly could've been more. The Hoosier offense is returning.

2) Jeremiah Rivers- Indiana only coughed up the ball 9 times against UK's pressure, and a lot of that had to do with Rivers. That kid can compete with anybody. He's still a little too loose with the ball and far too unsteady at scoring, but he's good, as evidenced by his 8 assists and no-way-it-was-just-1 turnover stat line.

3)Devan Dumes- yes, that's right. Dumes is obviously starting to get back up to speed, and his ability to bang and play defense in the paint is something the Hoosiers need. He just causes havoc when the other team tries to get the ball inside, and his stroke is starting to come back. And he boxed out and got IU's first put-back at the half-time buzzer to cut the Wildcat lead to one. His shot selection and passing still leave a bit to be desired, but I'm no longer fearful when he's on the floor.

It's disappointing when a team is obviously more talented than you, I mean, the Hoosiers win maybe -maybe- 1 out of 10 ten games they play against UK. But they scrapped, never gave up, and showed they've got some talent. IU is coming back, and it's good to see.

In other news, Akron lost the National Championship to Virginia on PKs. What this means for IU's coaching situation? I have no idea.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tonight, Pitt at the Garden

It's just a few hours away, but I thought I'd throw out a meaningless prognostication that noone will see before the actual game. Even though Pitt probably is the better team (see Alex B's ITH article for details), I think Indiana wins this game tonight.

I won't say too much about it, but I think the freshmen are coming along, starting to get the whole "defense" and "transition offense" ideas. The half-court offense, well, there's still a lot learn there, but Indiana's coming along. And Pitt's been good, but not great against inferior competition. I bet Pitt is a little too cozy, and Indiana pulls one out here.

Why not?

Go Hoosiers!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Fred Glass & IU Soccer: a plea

After posting here and there and seeing the surprisingly vibrant debate that has started around the chatboards, I'm a little disturbed to see how many Hoosier fans think "the fix is in" and the way is being cleared for Todd Yeagley to take over his dad's former position as coach. I'm not sure what it is about the living in the State of Indiana makes people so conspiracy-minded, but I'll actually be saddened if the gloomy gus's turn out to be correct.

So, while I know there's only a couple of folks that read this blog, as twenty-season-plus die-hard IU Soccer fan, I am openly imploring Glass to go get Porter or Trask. Yes, if Porter succeeded, it would mean that Todd Yeagley might never get a shot at succeeding his father, and I think that's perhaps a good thing for him personally and for IU Soccer. It would just be unfair to put Todd into a position where he would be constantly and unfavorably compared to perhaps the greatest coach college soccer has ever seen. Bad for everybody, and it would damage the thus-far-pristine Indiana Soccer brand.

An apology to Freitag for the timing and an open appreciation of his years of service wouldn't cost him anything and might heal some wounds, too.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

At long, long last

A decade of suffering is over. The Big Ten conference has an ACC-Big Ten challenge trophy in hand. The best thing about this is that it should assist in the continuation of a very good idea- the showcase of the two best conferences in college basketball. Occasionally, the Big East or the Pac-10 have a good year, but the ACC and the Big Ten are where the best slate of conference games -from beginning to end- are found every year.

Great Coach Taylor-style speech about fans by Tom Crean. Gotta say, I like what he's bringing to the table. Except the defense- I don't like our defense right now, and Crean doesn't either. Grow up quick, freshmen, we need you.

Look who came back to celebrate the win, if only for just one night. Best comment about it goes to "witless chum" over at The Only Colors, who wrote John Gasaway was now the Artist "Formerly Known As Big Ten Wonk Except When We Win The Big 10/ACC Challenge Wooooo (TAFKABTWEWWWTB10/ACCCWOOOOO!)"

And as long as I'm linking, check out this cool run-down of reasonable expectations of freshmen by Luke Winn. He really does some homework here, and provides some really nice graphs. Short takeaway- your #62-ranked freshmen are just not going to be Robbie Hummel in the first year. It doesn't happen, so don't expect big things of kids ranked outside the top ten. That said, there's an interesting bounce for freshmen point guards and wings ranked in the RSCI 61-80 range. Is there a natural bias towards undeveloped, raw talent with height that's not going to help you very much in your first year or two? Maybe we should ask Bawa.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

One more on the unemployment rolls.

Mike Freitag lost his job as IU Soccer coach. I'll have more to say on it later, but I basically agree with the decision and am also sorry to see him go. He was a good guy, and I will always remember that he was the guy that convinced Yeagley to go to a zone defense and 3-5-2 line-up to open up the offense back in 1994. Strange then, that a faltering offense is what doomed him in the end. Good luck to you, Mike, and thanks for your years of service.

IU hops went down to Maryland, and I don't have a lot to say about it other than the Hoosiers looked like they were every bit as talented as the Terps, but just did not have the composure down the stretch. Indeed, some of the worst shooting displays I've ever seen came late in the second half last night. IU's got a rough schedule coming up, and needs to start figuring things out soon or its going to get ugly.

On the upside, the Big Ten has a real chance at snagging its first challenge win, thanks to surprising road wins by Northwestern and Penn State. It could go either way, but the back half is favorable to the conference for the first time in recent memory. Go Big Ten!