Monday, March 15, 2010

NCAA tourney madness

1) The Big Ten got kinda hosed with their draws. The two teams that have the best chance of making the final four (MSU & OSU) are Kansas' bracket. Ouch. And even 'though Illinois pretty clearly played themselves out of the Big Dance, having Minnesota in the field instead probably means having another first-round loss. I hope I'm wrong. Wisconsin has a relatively good draw, but they've been such historically poor performers in the tourney, that it's hard to be confident about their chances.

2) I only correctly predicted a little more than half of the NCAA tourney bids (34). Fifteen other teams in the NCAA tournament I had predicted as NIT or sleeper/CBI teams (Georgetown & Wisconsin being my most under-estimated teams), and sixteen teams I totally whiffed on. Most of those were automatic-bid winners, but I really should have known better about Baylor, New Mexico, and Temple. Marquette still surprises me, 'though, I just can't believe that they're this good.

3) I also whiffed on 12 of the 32 NIT teams, and 6 of 16 CBI teams, making for a grand total 34 overlooked teams. Mei Culpas to come later, but I've got brackets to study and get terribly wrong for now. In the meantime, Go Big Ten!

Friday, March 12, 2010

And that's a season in the books

For better or worse, the 2009-2010 Hoosier basketball season is over. And it was pretty painful. And honestly, IU was a mediocre team in a very good conference. Pomeroy has us ranked at #175 for the year, and I'd say that's about correct. I didn't expect us to be worse than Iowa, but also didn't expect us to win at Penn State. There were a couple of nice wins against Pitt & Minnesota to show that the Hoosiers were dangerous, but the losses to George Mason & Boston U., along with an 11-game slide in conference play demonstrate the Hoosiers were mostly dangerous to themselves. But there's hope for next season. Maurice Creek & Matt Roth return from injuries, and the Hoosiers usually had four freshman and a sophomore on the floor at the end of year.

I thought the Hoosiers would at least double their wins from last season, and I guess technically they did as the 2008-2009 squad only had 5 D-I victories. Devan Dumes and Tijan Jobe are out of eligibility, and I appreciate their work and effort for the Hoosiers in a dark time. Good luck to them in the future. But Crean will have seven sophomores next season (Creek, Watford, Elston, Capobianco, Hulls, Muniru, and Roth), three juniors (Jones, Pritchard, and Moore), along with the sole senior Rivers and at least two freshmen (Oladipo & Sheehey, any contributions at all next season will just be gravy). Creek won't be all the way back, but even an 80% presence of his on the wing will help considerably. At least four sophomores should start. Maturation and considerable improvement should be expected- probably not a NCAA-tourney bid, but getting to a winning record should be a minimum.

Point guard may be question, but that's a discussion for the offseason. It was a rough year, but thanks, Hoosiers. Now, go work hard for a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hoosiers finally notch a win, BTT

The Hoosiers actually won a game, snapping a ten-game losing streak by beating Northwestern in OT at home. Sophomore Verdell Jones and four freshman (notably Jordan Hulls with 8 threes and Derek Elston with a double-double) carried the day. Again demonstrating an inability to finish, the Hoosiers turned it over four times and missed the front end of a one-and-one on their last possession, but NU was only able to force OT, where the Hoosiers rallied.

So, what's next for IU's young players? The Big Ten Tourney, and short of winning the whole thing, an offseason of weights and training. There's been some frustration felt by fans that Crean wasn't doing enough and youth wasn't an excuse, but I just looked at the KenPom page on IU and saw a category I hadn't noticed before: experience. Indiana, with an average experience level of 0.88 years, ranks 336 in the country in that category. There are 347 D-I teams total, and several of those are new to the division this year. Given that, and that the Hoosiers also lost their best freshman (heck, player) before the conference season, I think some patience is called for. I'd love to see the Hoosiers get one more banger inside for next year, but I'm optimistic about how the Hoosiers will improve next year, and the year after that.

As for the Big Ten tourney, I'm thinking NU's gonna be ready to get even with the Hoosiers on Thursday. Historically, NU is also 3-1 as a higher seed in the tourney.
Honestly, I think Northwestern is a pretty good sleeper team in the tourney, as they'll then face a Purdue tjavascript:void(0)eam sans Hummel, and possibly a Michigan State team that will be without Chris Allen, who should get by Minnesota just by virtue of their far superior rebounding. If Northwestern should happen to advance to the Big Ten Tourney final, that's as far as they go- I don't see anyone touching Ohio State unless Wisconsin gets lucky in the semifinals. But, I'll throw out my wild prediction for fun: OSU>NU for the tourney crown.