Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DVR notes: McCamey and Coverdale

Finally caught up and watched a few games that've been sitting on my DVR. Notably, I managed to watch the Illinois game in full. And Illinois did truly push their way to victory in the second half, being the far more physically aggressive and yet still managing a 21 free-throw-attempts advantage. I'm not here to criticize the refs in general, as Indiana made a lot of silly errors and just lacked composure down the stretch, But boy, that McCamey kid came off like a real jerk. He & Hulls dive for a ball, looks like a completely clean tussle on the floor before McCamey gets the time-out, and then Hulls extends his hand to help McCamey up and McCamey gives him a really good push while having some choice words for Jordy. Sure, maybe Hulls was a little naive, but if it had been the other way around, with Hulls pushing McCamey- I'm pretty sure Hulls would've gotten a technical. And don't give me that old chestnut about bad blood because of the Gordon situation argument- McCamey wouldn't be at Illinois if it weren't for Gordon's departure. He's got no reason to hate on Hulls and the Hoosiers, other than Weber's petulant poisoning.

Anyway, the game at Illinois is coming up, and I'd be surprised if Indiana pulled off the upset, but I'd also be surprised if they're as flat as they were to open the Iowa game. I suspect that a few key Indiana players will pick up a several fouls when they check-in, and it'll be a scrappy loss for the Hoosiers. But who knows, maybe they get that win back. Maybe.

I watched the Iowa at Indiana game from 2003, and man, I miss Tom Coverdale. Also, Indiana got whistled for a lot of fouls in the Mike Davis era. Crean does a better job of working the refs to this point, but so did Sampson I suppose. Really, I liked Mike Davis and loved rooting for his teams, but the obvious lack of development that his players exhibited over their careers made him the coach of UAB. Where he's doing quite okay at now, and good luck to him. But back to the positive, Coverdale was just a joy to watch- not in the same way I enjoyed the grace of Cal Cheaney or that I currently the acrobatic hustle of Jeremiah Rivers, certainly. But that dogged determined look that Cov would get as the clock ran down, and he'd survey the defense and take something from them. He wouldn't just take what the defense gave him, he'd make them pay for laying off him as he stuck the three, or for stepping on him as he'd get into the lane, or even for playing him straight up while whisking a pass into the post for Jeffries or Newton to finish. Occasionally, he'd even break down the defense with a little ball-handling and a step-back fadeaway. Last I heard, he was an assistant coach for Louisiana-Monroe, but I always remember him as the unlikely assassin who brought fear into the eyes of Big Ten opponents. Good luck, Tom, wherever you are.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Well, I guess that question is answered

Hoosiers stink it up against Hawkeyes, allowing Iowa 17 offensive rebounds while pulling down just 12 defensive. Hoosiers did force 20 turnovers, but couldn't take advantage on the offensive end to keep themselves in the game, shooting 35% overall and 0-for-9 from three-point land.

Ouch. Iowa beats us at home. I'm calling the Hoosiers to get redeem themselves at Iowa, tho. Still, this hurts.

It's a darn good thing the Colts beat the Jets today and are back in the Superbowl. Hoosiers everywhere can concentrate on Pro football for a couple of weeks.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Notes and Individual Player Ratings

John Gasaway notes that five major conferences now have rebounding percentage included in their stats. Not the Big Ten, however! So, c'mon, Big Ten, catch up to your fans already!

Indiana took down Penn State on the road for their conference first road win in the Crean era. Now, they've got a new challenge- playing well against a team they should beat after winning a couple of good games. They didn't fare well against Loyola earlier this season in similar circumstances, and Loyola's a lot worse than Iowa.

As promised, I have the school-by-school reviews of my individual player ratings, along with a top ten & "freshman fifteen" list up at my other blog.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dancing Bear or Hummelin' Rob?

Who's the better player? It's hard to say, but I'd give the early edge to Draymond Green. I ran the early per-possession effectiveness numbers for the Big Ten so far, and while Rob Hummel 32.3 per-game rating is far and away the best, Draymond Green is a level above on the per-possession ratings (.6576 to Hummel's .5529). I'll run down some top tens and school-by-school thoughts shortly, but check out the report here.

Also, some good reading on per-possession efficiency margin in college basketball can be found here.

And I'd like to congratulate John Trask on landing the men's Soccer head coaching job at Wisconsin. It doesn't seem that long ago that he was asking me if I could throw the ball in "like a man?" Actually, scratch that, that was a long time ago.

And finally, I know that Penn State is just having an awful season, but I gotta say: First Big Ten Road Win! It's not much, but it's a hurdle that I wasn't sure these Hoosiers would surpass this season. Good stuff.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reassuring win

The Hoosiers can win the close ones, and have the toughness to come back in overtime. That's actually quite reassuring as we watch the new incarnation start to figure out its identity. Minnesota and Michigan are solid teams (kudos to Michigan for beating UConn) and the Hoosiers notched wins at home over the both of them, doubling their conference win total for last season. Minnesota was a pretty good team, too, ranked #20 in KenPom and #53 in Sagarin, but still, rushing the court probably was not necessary. I understand the sentiment, 'though, when you're there wondering if IU has actually turned a corner or not and they come through against a good team- it's probably just an overwhelming emotional feeling to experience the win like that for maybe the first time in your college career. However, y'all got it out of the way, okay? Let's have no more of that, unless it's a buzzer-beater-over-the-#1-team situation.

Verdell Jones looks like he's having fun in the clutch out there, hitting a couple of huge long jumpers with guys in his face. The interior play is getting better too, as last year Minnesota stuffed the IU players over and over again down low, and last night Watford and Pritchard combined for 23 points and 16 rebounds (& 6 turnovers, tho). Additionally, Elston and Capobianco actually had pretty decent games, efficiency-wise, even if they didn't score very much. Rivers stuffs the stat sheet, but still has problems shooting, while Hulls shot well & Dumes shot okay, but neither added too much else, stat-wise. Hulls did have 4 assists to only one turnover, tho- which is pretty darn good against Minnesota- but he did throw a pass to Al Nolen with the score tied and 8 seconds left. The rotation looks pretty good, but you can tell by Moore's presence that the Hoosiers are one guard short. Next year, they'll have Creek back and a couple of frosh wings, but this year it's still a little thin.

This win is reassuring that Hoosiers are on the way back up, and you can see that KenPom's projections for IU's conference record have been raised to 5-13, from the 2-14 projection after the non-conference schedule ended. However, the two most winnable games remaining on the schedule are coming up, away at Penn State and home vs. Iowa, so the Hoosiers can't lose focus.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Not as terrible as it seemed

As dispiriting as that final five minutes were, IU's loss at Michigan actually showed considerable progress from the road loss at Ohio State. I didn't expect the Hoosiers to win this game, but Michigan's been uneven enough I was hoping to that IU would hang around for the game & make a run, and who knows- maybe get lucky. Well, the first part of that came true- Indiana did work their tails off despite poor shooting and hang around until late in the game, and then a run was made. Unfortunately, it was Manny Harris getting hot and making the run for Michigan.

Indiana played good defense until the very end, with Capobianco & Pritchard mixing it up in the paint, and that helped Verdell Jones, Christian Watford, and Jordan Hulls to track down rebounds and loose balls. Jones had 10 rebounds, but shot a miserable 3 of 14 from the field, with 4 turnovers. One wonders why Dumes isn't getting a few more minutes, as he and Hulls actually seemed to handle the pressure pretty well in the first half, and Jones confirmed to everyone that his game isn't shooting from the corner (0-5 on threes). And Rivers followed up my praise in his abilities with a pretty poor game, I thought. He is credited with one turnover, but that shot-clock violation was his fault, and he bogged down the offense at times. On one occasion, he gave the ball to Pritchard on the block, ran back out to the three-point line and called for the ball back. Pritch was actually scoring in this game, I would've given the kid the green light and let him go to work. Really, the only two IU players to have decent offensive games were Watford & Pritchard, and they still coughed up the ball 6 times. Watford was impressive at times, as the Wolverines really couldn't handle him. Unfortunately, he's still a freshman, so he's still quite a ways from maximizing his effectiveness. And despite the good defense, I could still see some occasionally n00b mistakes on that end, but these Hoosiers are improving, which is odd to say after a 20-point loss.

Kudos to the Wolverines, who look to finally be turning their season around. It may be too late to get the NCAA's, but I wish them the best in their games now that the Hoosiers don't have to play them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Indiana visits Michigan

...and will be a long shot. Even though Indiana won ever so recently, the margin for error was pretty narrow, and the Hoosiers showed at OSU that they're not quite used to the harsh lights of other Big Ten arenas. But we'll get a glimpse of how fast they learn, at least against a team that we all now know they can beat. Michigan has played much better recently, despite a late-game collapse at home against Northwestern which should ensure they'll be pumped to play to the Hoosiers, they knocked off Ohio State (who now looks unstoppable) and beat Penn State on the road. But that's nothing compared to how Pittsburgh has played since the Hoosiers beat the Panthers on a neutral floor. With Dixon back up to speed and Gilbert Brown back on the court, it seems that the Hoosiers might have a hard time replicating that feat. Pitt is undefeated in the Big East, winning at Syracuse, Cincinnati, and most recently at UConn.

Still, the Hoosiers are a dangerous team, if to themselves most of all. They've definitely improved from last year, but the turnover rate has got to come down, significantly.

It looks like center Greg Echenique has chosen Creighton for his next destination. It's too bad, the Hoosiers really need a shot-blocker and glass-eater inside. But maybe the interior play will be addressed if Crean actually starts going big with Elston & Watford in the line-up. It'd be nice to see some variation at least.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Familiar refrain

The Hoosiers have the talent, but the not the maturity to put these kind of games (Illinois) away.

I'm coming around on starting Hulls, as he's getting comfortable and has a really low turnover percentage out there. It's also nice to have three point guards on the floor at the same time. However, with Pritchard and Watford seemingly overmatched inside and unable to finish, the straw that really stirs Indiana's drink is Rivers. Jones has his moments, but has never really been a take-the-game-over kind of guy. Rivers can shake backcourt pressure, get into the paint on any defense, and make nice passes... or turn it over, or get fouled and miss the freebies. He's the make-or-break guy this season. Rivers is getting derided for being a poor point guard, but this is first go-round at this position, in this conference, and he has my sympathy. I saw some improvement in him over the non-conference schedule, and I hope to see some more in conference play as well.

I don't fault Watford for missing the free-throw at the end, I mean, it did probably cost the Hoosiers the game, but I've been watching IU basketball for nearly 20 years and it is the rare player who could step at the end of a physical game and coolly drain the front end of a one-and-one. AJ Moye, Michael Lewis, Brian Evans... and that's about it. I don't expect a freshman to have that sort of poise. This year is just going to be tough, as the Hoosiers have to take some lumps while learning how to win. It doesn't just happen after a couple of games.

The good news is that IU is now a contender for 6-9 center Greg Echenique. Check out his stats from last season, where he was a good rebounder and shot-blocker (as good or better than anyone we have now) and got to the line with regularity, hitting 67% of them in his first college season. If the Hoosiers land him (and he's eligible for next season), with Creek back they could be in the NCAA tourney in March 2011.

Friday, January 08, 2010

What is to be said?

The crushing loss at OSU wasn't necessarily to be expected, but isn't really surprising. It's sort of amazing that this team really is, for all intents and purposes, a freshmen team following good wins (Pitt, Michigan) with really bad losses (Loyola, OSU). It brings to mind a question of "what the heck were the Hoosiers last year, if *this* is a freshman team?" I guess that's easy enough, last year was the year of the walk-on. But turning the ball on every third possession... unbelievable.

Like it or not, we've got a bunch of freshman as the core of this team, and they've got a lot of learning to do. It was a sophomore -Verdell Jones- who seemed to be the only one able to do anything on the road, and another -Daniel Moore- actually did a decent job off the bench. It's going to be a long season on the road for these guys- I think a good goal is just to get their first conference road win.

I'm not sure about starting Hulls, by the way, it seemed like he was better coming off the bench to settle things down if Rivers was off. And maybe Dumes will respond positively to a little trust. But more to the point, I know Dumes isn't that efficient, but he's one of the better defenders on the team (no other guards are really able to come back to the paint and make strips like he does), and it would be better to have that defense out there at the start of games. And if he's not playing well, Hulls can come in for him or Rivers. This is not to denigrate Hulls, he should be getting starting minutes, but he can do that as first guard off the bench.

Elston should be getting up quicker from the bench, too, I think. When Watford is having an off-game, it shows up pretty quickly. Elston isn't better overall than Watford really, but he is more efficient on offense and is a lot better on the offensive glass. He could used a good pick-me-up when after Watford throws the ball away a couple of times.

Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to the Illinois game. It'll be a tough match-up, but I think the Hoosiers can take them at home... if they play smart.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Next up, @OSU!

If the Hoosiers spring an upset on the road against the sinking Buckeyes, expect to see a lot of ink about the IU freshmen maturing early, etc. I don't expect it to happen, and I don't expect Evan Turner to play (although he does, even at half-strength, the Hoosiers are cooked).

I really think Matta will have his crew pumped to beat the Hoosiers, because OSU just got handed a disappointing loss from a disappointing Michigan team after getting stomped at Wisconsin. The next two games following the IU game are at Minnesota and at Purdue, with a home game against Wisconsin following. Lose the home match to Indiana, and an 0-6 start to the Big Ten is a real possibility for Matta's club. Expect Dallas Lauderdale to control the paint and Lighty & Buford to feast in transition on Hoosier turnovers. The Hoosiers are a dangerous team, but so far have often lacked the composure so necessary to win conference road games.

What I would like to see is the Hoosiers compete, not give up easy buckets and hit the defensive glass with some purpose. It'll be an uphill battle, but they can put themselves in a position to get lucky if they can draw even on turnovers and win rebounds and loose balls.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Big Ten Geeks mentioned that the Big Ten has a pretty good all-inactive team, so I thought I'd make fill out the second-team as well:

Kevin Coble (NU)
Evan Turner (OSU)
Royce White (Minn.)
Maurice Creek (Ind)
Lewis Jackson (PU)

Trevor Mbakwe (Minn.)
Jeff Ryan (NU)
Ben Cronin (Mich)
Matt Roth (IU)
Anthony Tucker (Iowa)

Anybody missing?

Alex Legion & Walter Offutt recently transferred, but they'd not really contributed very much to this point for their teams- so, no big. That first five alone should be a lock for the NCAA's all by themselves. Throw in a decent center and this is a ranked team, possibly a final four contender.

Anyway, Tucker, Mbakwe, and Cronin may not be back ever, and while Turner and White are practicing again, the rest are likely out for the year. The Big Ten is still quite good, but there's a few reasons why it's not quite as good as expected. The upside is, the conference should be pretty strong again next season.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Atop the Big Ten

For one game at least. The Michigan game was a precious salve for the missteps since the first half of the Kentucky game. The crushing return to reality of the second half, the step backwards versus Loyola, the loss of Maurice Creek for the year... all washed away by a gutty quality win. Sure, Michigan has had a bad season so far, but if Novak & Douglass have finally snapped out of their funks, it's only a matter of time before they start notching quality wins. Unfortunately, it may be too late for the Wolverines to go dancing again. But I'm concentrating on Indiana here.

Jeremiah Rivers wasn't a threat offensively, but he got the Hoosiers into their offense and played an amazing defensive game, holding Manny Harris in check and helping out in the paint. Verdell Jones did a great job of being the playmaker, scoring from the outside and posting up, and throwing some amazing passes. Jordan Hulls got the start, and showed a nice shooting touch even though the threes weren't falling. But his poise while shooting free-throws were amazing. Hulls and Dumes took over the role of outside shooter nicely, while Jones and Watford stepped up their scoring. Watford did a nice job scoring and drawing fouls, but I'm still concerned about the lack of rebounding- only three boards in 27 minutes? Pritchard and Elston didn't have great stat lines, but they had energy and mixed it up inside, giving Rivers and Jones the opportunity to secure boards. It was also good to see Dumes in his element, adding some instant offense and making plays defensively. He had a couple of strips down low that were just magnificent (and will probably called fouls on the road- clean or not).

Indiana isn't likely to get to .500 in the conference this season, but they'll likely to stay out of the cellar and be well positioned to move forward next season. Progress- good to see on New Year's.

Have a good one, folks!