Saturday, February 27, 2010

What is it with the Big Ten & injuries this season?

Purdue now joins Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Wisconsin with the unfortunate news that Robbie Hummel is out for the year. All six (SIX!- over half the league) has now gotten the news that their best player will be on the bench for a significant amount of conference play. Of course, Indiana and NU's losses were for the whole conference slate, while Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin now have their players back.

Still, I've never seen anything like this in 20 years of watching league play. Certainly, in the post-PSU era, this has got to be a record. Speaking of expansion, I still think Missouri is the best choice for team #12, but I wouldn't oppose Pitt, I suppose. I just don't think Pitt is going to happen. But, you know, whatever. I'm happy enough with the teams the Big Ten already has. I just wish Indiana was playing better.

John Gasaway tweeted that Wisconsin beat IU with a .47 per-possession Efficiency Margin advantage this season. Bo Ryan has us solved, and did last year too. I suspect the EM in last year's match-ups was pretty brutal too. I do like that Crean got himself tossed, and I hope the Hoosiers respond in their next few games. They've got some opportunities on the schedule to snap out of their funk, let's hope it happens.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time for a rally!

I'm feeling the wheels spinning, and the IU men's basketball team cannot get un-mired from its lack of momentum. It's been a rough stretch, facing three Final Four contenders at home, and facing four NCAA hopefuls on the road. That flat loss to Iowa came at exactly the wrong time, though. I've been contending that IU will snap out of it and split their last four games, but they really need to find a spark to be able to do that and build any momentum going into next season. I gotta say, I've been particularly frustrated with Jones & Watford just displaying some bad defense at times, but staying on the floor. Give 'em the hook if they won't move their feet, coach. We're losing anyway.

It looks like Jordan Hulls may have the inside track to starting at point next year, as Crean's evidently now contending that his lead guards have to be able to hit the three, and Rivers just can't shoot outside of 15 feet. IU is courting late riser 6-9 Moses Abraham, who is every bit the bruiser and shot-blocker that the Hoosiers so desperately need in the middle. A lot of other good programs are recruiting him too, so let's hope the promise of possible instant PT lures him to Bton. Pritch, Elston, and Capobianco are all trying, but right now they look like either overmatched forwards or just better as bench players. Off the bench, I've always like Elston's aggressiveness, but Capo has some good defensive instincts and and can really give the offense a boost with his passing and threes. But for the second straight year, IU is in the top ten of getting their shots swatted. Let that sink in.

On the bright side: USA-USA-USA!
That USA-Canada hockey game was amazing, and was everything I love about sports. The underdog hustling on every play and springing the upset by inches. Well done, Yanks!

Best rejoinder from north of the border: "I can't hear you over my healthcare benefits." As rates jump 30% this year, that one's going to keep stinging.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Endless February Mondays

My wife just asked me "Doesn't it feel like Friday?" and I answered "I don't know what day it feels like." But that's not true. It feels like today is Monday, tomorrow will be Monday, and the day after that will be Monday.... ad infinitum.

You could take this to mean that this long-time Hoosier fan is getting dispirited about the current streak of bad news for Indiana teams. But no, not really- without getting too personal, I just feel like I've got an endless amount of things to think about, prepare for, and accomplish academically, professionally, and personally. And the massive snowstorm making the Midwest a snowy hellscape isn't unusual for February (especially in an El Nino year), it's not like it's putting a spring in my step either. Good news from sports usually cheers me up and bad news brings me down, but I actually haven't even been able to get really bummed by the young Hoosier's losing streak (the last vs. four NCAA-worthy teams) or the Colts' loss in the Superbowl (hey, they made it there)- really, what's to complain about?

I know some of you Indiana loyalists are probably getting down, and unfortunately the remaining schedule suggests that IU basketball games probably will not bring you a lot of cheer, but 1) you're not alone and 2) look to the future. I really think Verdell Jones is a leader in the making and Christian Watford and Maurice Creek will give the Hoosiers a nice 1-2-3 next year. And if any of you care about IU soccer, Todd Yeagley just brought in another good recruiting class. I'm actually pretty interested to see how Todd does with this class and Freitag's starters next fall.

In the meantime, there's plenty else to think about in life. Like... oh crud, Valentine's day is this weekend- I gotta go!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Beat Purdue

Hey, young Hoosiers. You want to know one good way to build national recognition and create a buzz around the program to lure in new recruits?

Beat a Final Four contender* in a nationally televised game in a rocking Assembly Hall.

It's as simple as that. These young Hoosiers have played well at times, but they need to do a very good job of all things that they've either done very well or very poorly: rebounding, not turning the ball over, and just plain ol' shooting the ball.

The Hoosiers are a dangerous team, to themselves as well as others. Let's hope they're really dangerous to Purdue tonight. It'd be a great momentum-builder, and of course, just lovely to see Purdue lose. They won't go down easy, but it'd be great to see.

Go Hoosiers!

*Anyone who doesn't think Purdue isn't a Final Four contender this season didn't see them absolutely dismantle West Virginia. That was impressive.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Won't be watching the Superbowl

or seeing Indiana play at Northwestern next Sunday like I had planned on. I'm not boycotting because of the distasteful Tebow affair, and I won't pretend to do so, but really- the Superbowl should've stayed consistent in its political stance. Anyway, I love sports, but it will always come in second to the rest of my life, which is why I also missed the Illinois-Indiana game, which was evidently a really exciting game that McCamey won with a buzzer-beating drive to the hoop.

It is good to see Indiana competing on the road, and starting to figure some things out. I watched a bit of the Iowa game on the DVR, and the Hoosiers did get off to a slow start, but the crowd didn't get taken out of it by the Colts' game- you could hear the air go out of them when Iowa got offensive rebound after offensive rebound. Indiana just could not get a stop unless the Hawkeyes turned it over, and you could see that just sucking the life out of the crowd. So, Crean's diagnosis of "they wanted it more" was essentially correct. That's something he can work with. This team is probably too young to get called out (at least in the locker room) for not playing better against less-talented competition. I mean no disrespect to Iowa here, they had a nice win at IU, they play hard, but really, I think even BHGP would agree- Indiana has better athletes, and should've had a better showing against the Hawkeyes.

In this game (as in others), Derek Elston did some nice things, and was really the only guy on the floor showing some toughness on the glass and a killer instinct on the attack. He was just unlucky on that lay-up that rolled into a stuck position. He could get more minutes, but he's still kinda careless with ball. I actually don't blame Crean for limiting his minutes this year, but I am curious to see more of this big line-up we've been promised. I think once he gets his turnovers down, we could be looking at a new "Citizen Pain."

And finally, let me join the chorus online that tells the Crean doubters to sit down for a year. You're coming off like a bunch of henny-pennys. Crean just needs some time- no other program since Baylor in 2003 has seen such a blow-up of their program. And Baylor didn't get above 4 conference wins until year 5, when a sleeper freshman named LaceDarius Dunn led the to the NCAA's. Currently, without landing any sleepers or surprise JuCos, I would guess that the Hoosiers are on track to be a NIT squad next season (possible NCAA bubble team) and a solid NCAA team in 2011-2012, year 4, with a strong junior class. One of the reasons I would say IU is a NIT team next year is I do expect to see significant improvement out of Watford, Elston, Capobianco, & Hulls next season, and having Maurice Creek back will help, although he almost certainly won't be 100% until very late next season. Verdell Jones, Jeremiah Rivers, and Matt Roth will all be valuable pieces, and if Tom Pritchard ever gets his confidence back- which will take some work by his teammates- you should see an IU club much closer to .500 in conference and with a winning overall record.