Monday, November 29, 2010

Basketball W's, Soccer L, ACC-B10 Challenge

The Men's Soccer team had a rough season-ending loss at Akron, 2-1. The Zips had the better run of the play, but a miscue on the back line was IU's undoing. Right after the Zips scored the first goal, a bad clearance led to a 1v1 with the keeper, and Akron made IU pay. IU bounced back with a late goal from Adlard, but these miscues on the back line is really something that Yeags has to work on during the offseason. The losses of Daniel Kelly, Andy Adlard, Rich Balchan, and Cameron Jordan will be felt, and their hard work for the Hoosiers is appreciated. Thanks guys! Still, some great offensive weapons and a good defensive core returns, and Soffner seems to be improving (he evidently had 6 saves and broke a bunch of dangerous chances), so the outlook is good for next season. How good comes down to whether Will Bruin goes pro or not. He clearly has the talent to do so, and he suffered an ankle injury before the game at Akron, so who knows? If he returns, IU could make the jump to title contender again next season.

The Men's basketball team took out North Carolina Central and Northwestern State. The notable developments here were that Oladipo seems to be taking a step forward (maybe his confidence has been lifted with that great 3/4 court halftime buzzer shot vs. NC-Central), Matt Roth has returned to the line-up (in spot minutes), and the team as a whole seems to be slightly reducing its egregious turnover rate. However, the next two weeks will give IU fans a much better idea about the true progress of the team. A road game at Boston College awaits, and BC appears to be on the road to being the bubble team that I thought they would be. The Eagles don't shoot well from outside but do give up some threes to their opponents, and they don't cause a ton of turnovers (despite getting a lot of steals) or hit the offensive boards. However, they do score well from inside the arc and they don't turn the ball over themselves. IU should be able to hang with BC, even on the road, especially as the Hoosiers appear to be a much deeper team. Still, as this is IU's first real road game and Jones still rounding back into shape and Maurice Creek nowhere near 100%, I think BC wins this game by about 10 points. Here's hoping I'm wrong!

Overall, I think KenPom has the best take on ACC-B10 challenge, and I think the key games are indeed tonight's Virginia at Minnesota game (2 starters for Minny are out) and Maryland at PSU. As long as the Big 10 wins those home games, they should be fine. Maryland at PSU will be a tough one, tho, as Maryland will be a bubble team and PSU is a NIT team at best. PSU could really use a re-emergence of Andrew Jones' defensive prowess to lock this one up, as Maryland has had a hard time not turning the ball over or shooting well from outside, and I really doubt the Terps have any answer for Talor Battle. Go Big Ten!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Indiana Player Efficiencies & other notes

Before I get to the IU men's Basketball efficiencies, let me first congratulate the Big Ten for going 5-0 in the NCAA Men's Soccer tournament so far. And specifically, I'd like to congratulate the Hoosiers for pasting Tulsa 5-1. Now, the Hoosiers have a really steep challenge to go on the road to face a very good Akron team. If I were young Yeags, I'd really lay it on thick this week about how a lot of folks wanted Akron coach Caleb Porter instead of him as IU coach, and how he wants to show everyone that IU made the right call, after all. Go Hoosiers!

Watching the first half of the Evansville game, I was disappointed in the way the Hoosiers let themselves be taken out of their offense by mere physicality. Not surpisingly, the players who responded the best were the veterans Pritchard, Jones, and Rivers. Pritch & Rivers, btw, look like they're adapting to being role-players rather well, but that also means sum total of their first-half contributions were two reserve-lay-ups and a dunk. So, the game looked like it was portending really bad things for the Hoosiers in conference play, and specifically for Christian Watford. However, like earlier games, Watford adapted in the second half. Watford might get a lot of good mileage out of his mid-range game this season, and although he's still IU's best option on offense so far, he clearly needs someone else to hit some threes to free up space in the paint.

I ran my player efficiency ratings for the first four games, and there's not a lot to be gleaned from the findings - especially when you consider the relatively weak competition. It's basically statistical confirmation that Watford is playing well, Verdell Jones is struggling, and Maurice Creek is only running at about 65% efficiency from last year (which really, is generous. Zero steals so far? C'mon). Tom Pritchard is playing well again - efficiency-wise, but he's still fouling out half of time and isn't able to stay on the floor for even half of the possessions in a game. One really bright spot in per-possession terms is Will Sheehey, who at less than 7 minutes/game (or 11.6 possessions) is leading the team in efficiency. Furthermore, Sheehey has a brash confidence and enthusiasm for the game that we haven't seen from a Hoosier reserve since perhaps AJ Moye (And speaking of, best wishes to AJ for a full and speedy recovery). Anyway, here's the numbers:

name (poss. per game) eff. points per game / eff. rating per poss.

Christian Watford (48.6) 24.1 /.4965
Jordan Hulls (50.7) 14.9 / .2932
Tom Pritchard (31.4) 14.5 / .4619
Verdell Jones (46.9) 11.5 / .2454
Jeremiah Rivers (37.4) 11.0 / .2941
Maurice Creek (35.7) 10.9 / .3047
Derek Elston (21.2) 8.2 / .3849
Victor Olapdipo (26.2) 7.0 / .2669
Will Sheehey (11.6) 6.0 / .5168
Bobby Capobianco (16.3) 5.4 / .3289
Daniel Moore~ (14.2) 4.5 / .3171
Jeff Howard~ (5.7) 1.8 / .3198

Friday, November 19, 2010

College Basketball general thoughts

1) Indiana- I had forecast IU as a NIT team, primarily on the strength of their easy non-conference schedule. However, after the first few games (which were against mediocre-at-best clubs, to be fair) and the exhibition games I think the Hoosiers could actually hang in the Big Ten as well. I really doubt that this at a point where Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern should be scared of getting swept by IU, but this team really should be the "best of rest" in the Big 10 and I could see them drumming up 8 wins pretty easily. What's the difference? A) Christian Watford- the guy has put in some time this summer, and looks much more confident finishing at the rim or on the wing. I don't think he'll ever be a totally dominant player, but the Big Ten Geeks are starting to look pretty smart for picking him as the conference's most-improved player. B) The freshmen- Frankly, the Hoosiers haven't had any lengthy perimeter athletes since Crean came on, and both Oladipo and Sheehey have shown some real athleticism as well as a desire to play defense. Oladipo in particular has shown the ability to penetrate, pass, rebound, block, steal, and hit big shots. He has to put it all together, but he & Sheehey give the Hoosiers a dimension they just did not have last season. C) Shooting- Creek & Roth (hopefully) return, giving the Hoosier offense some bite from outside. If you combine this with Watford's ability to score inside and the frosh wings' ability to slash to the basket, suddenly the Hoosier offense has options. We really could see a fundamental leap forward in per-possession terms from the Hoosiers on offense, and we should see a significant (if smaller) improvement on defense as well.

2) Over-rated! I do not understand this lovefest for North Carolina, and to a lesser extent Syracuse, Ohio State, and Villanova. Ohio State should be pretty good, but I just don't see how losing Evan Turner means OSU goes from a top-16 team to a top-5 team, even with JJ Sullinger. Granted, OSU did a pretty good job on Florida, but still. Syracuse also loses their best player, along with their center and best perimeter player. I just see the 'Cuse losing too much rebounding for their defense to stay top-notch. The most egregious case of over-rating is UNC, tho. Look at it this way: A last-place ACC team loses a couple of starters, welcomes a few highly talented freshmen, and is not considered a conference front-runner, but a marginal bubble team. I'm actually talking about North Carolina State here, as North Carolina fits that exact description except for the fact that they lost four starters, as well as two rotation players off the bench. That's a lot of new faces. Yes, Harrison Barnes will be very good, and having frosh point Kendahl Marshall around should charge up the point guard spot. But John Henson will have to improve a lot and Tyler Zeller will have to stay healthy in order to replace both Deon Thompson and Ed Davis, and transfer Justin Knox is going to have to replace the minutes of both Wear twins. I won't say that UNC won't be better, I just have a hard time seeing how, essentially, Harrison Barnes turns this club into a title contender all by himself.

3) I gotta take Gasaway, et al's side on the Purdue-as-not-a-top-ten-team-without-Hummel. Boiled Sports is pretty mad about it, but I think their argument is that without Hummel, the Boilers were a sweet 16 team, so with some new faces and a couple of possible All-Americans they should be considered a Final Four threat. This doesn't really take into consideration that last year's Boiler team lost Chris Kramer (who was probably the biggest reason PU got past Texas A&M) and Keaton Grant - the two best perimeter defenders the Boilers have had for the last couple of years. Sure, the loss of those guys could be overcome with some newbies and the return of the big three. But with Hummel out... long story short, yes- one guy can make that much of a difference. This isn't quite the old LSU teams without Shaq or the old Memphis teams without Penny Hardaway, 'cause there weren't a lot of other good players on those teams. However, Purdue's looking at holding steady as a best-case scenario without Hummel, and I think the Final Four -barring a series of miracles- is probably out of reach again for PU.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

IU Soccer: Sweet 16?

I suspect that IU is actually a better team than even the RPI and NCAA tourney seed ranking it has received (12 & 14, respectively). IU had nothing to play for in the final game at Ohio State, and the match that they dropped in the tourney was against a good team (Penn State) who was also playing at home. Although the Hoosiers showed some effort, PSU essentially just out-hustled them for the win. I do want to mention that Jacob Bushue's poor passing essentially crippled the IU attack for much of the game. There's no doubting that kid's fire and future potential, but if he continues to shank the ball so miserably, I'd suggest Cam Jordan actually see some minutes?

My prediction for the Hoosiers in the NCAA's is that they will go out in the round of sixteen, but just because their low seed means they'll be playing at Akron that round. I simply don't think these Hoosiers will be win at Akron. Can they? Of course! But it ain't likely.

Individual Player Grades

(derived strictly from the season box score & watching the BTN games)

Will Bruin (A) A man among boys, just amazingly fast for being so big and strong. He could be a little better finishing with his head, and the fact that only three of his goals have been game-winners is a bit of a head-scratcher, but this guy is good. I hope IU doesn't lose him to the pros, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Andy Adlard
(B+) Adlard is the set-piece master, and has been a solid presence as an attacking midfielder for the Hoosiers. Not the quickest player or a real ball-winner, but an integral part of the Hoosier offense.

Alec Purdie
(B+) He has really grown into a solid striker, but still has a bit of a quick trigger, both on shots (reflected in his low sog%) and emotionally. Good scrapper, tho.

Harrison Petts
(A-) The real deal as a freshman. Good attacking instincts, and tracks back well on defense, too. Tends to get a little passive on occasion, he should be demanding the ball more.

Nikita Kotlov
(B+) Great at throw-ins, and a dangerous attacker. I don't think I've ever seen Nikita be passive, but he does rather like to try to dribble through four defenders.

Chris Estridge (B+) Has great touch dribbling the ball and is a good two-way player, but I do wonder if he shouldn't be starting in the backfield. His shot-on-goal percentage is the lowest of any non-back.

Jacob Bushue (B) A truly impressive competitor for being a freshman. Reminds me a lot of Caleb Porter as a sophomore, really just getting the heads of the competition and pissing them off. Similarly, his passing is sometimes just lousy, and he's no threat to score. But he's obviously the future at defensive-midfielder for IU.

Daniel Kelly (B+) Has there been a game where Kelly didn't go down with an apparent season-ending injury, only to show back up in the starting line-up the next game? 'Cause I do think I've seen it. Kelly's been a good two-way player, and serves some sweet bendy-balls into the box. He also has boomed a few well over the goal as well.

Rich Balchan
(B+) When Balchan is healthy and going at speed, he ignites some electrifying runs out of the back. However, I've never seen them amount to anything in the final third of the field. Also, Balchan more than anyone else seems to have some deadly miscues in the backfield. If I were coaching (and thankfully Todd is) I'd be interested in switching Balchan & Estridge.

Tommy Meyer (A-) I'm throwing out the botched first goal at PSU here, because Tommy secured his man on the loose ball and the PSU attacker came out of nowhere- and his defender should've warned Meyer. Meyer has touch on the ball and has been a solid defender this year. He's not much of an offensive threat, but that's not his role.

Caleb Konstanski
(A-) Caleb really grew in the offseason to be a lock-down defender, and during the year it seems he grew into an offensive threat as well. He's actually been pretty unlucky not to score several more goals, but NCAA foes would do well to keep track of him or he'll make them pay.

Luis Soffner
(C+) I'm not a fan of Soffner generally, but at least in the PSU game he was coming out and breaking up plays. He's shown some improvement, and has a pro build for goalkeeping, but I just don't see him possessing Keeper's instincts.


Joe Tolen
(A-) Tolen's getting this grade for improvement. He's obviously worked hard, and while may not be the fastest or strongest striker out there, has a great booming shot that made Northwestern pay. Really, Harry Weiss didn't have a lot more athleticism than what Tolen's got, and he did pretty well.

Tyler McCarroll
(B-) He's not done much that's eye-catching in his minutes off the bench, but he's got good speed and touch and is fine as a sub.

Tim Wylie (B-) ibid.

Cameron Jordan (B) Former starter who's a good sub for the backs or mids. He doesn't have a lot of speed or touch, and makes the occasional miscue. Still, he's a veteran presence who should be helpful if IU finds itself in a tough situation in the tournament.

Matt McKain (B) McKain's done well when filling in for injuries or suspensions. A possible starter next year.

Nate Mitchell
(B-) Even though Mitchell has a 2.00 Goals-against-average, he seems to be part of good wins for the Hoosiers and I like his instincts. I don't think he's the answer between the pipes for IU, either, but I'd want him as my goalie rather than Soffner in a PK shootout.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Indiana Player notes from the exhibition games

My player notes from watching the two exhibition games. Although this already seems like Indiana's deepest team in a couple of years, IU's best player for the last two years (Verdell Jones) and biggest recruit (Guy-Marc Michel) are still sitting on the sidelines. Despite being down double-digits late in the second half to a D-II team, there's reason for optimism this year.

Christian Watford- good offense in general (altho maybe ease up on the 3-point trigger) still can't defend guys driving to the basket, but hustled to play some really good transition defense in the second half of the Ferris State game. His handles are much improved and he's really IU's only guy who can score with his back to the basket, altho we'll see how that holds in D-I play. He did develop a nice face-up game and really is driving to the basket this year, trying to draw fouls. He's clearly put in some work into making himself a nice feature of the IU offense.

Tom Pritchard- still fouling out- not good. But he plays good defense otherwise inside, and showed good rebounding against Franklin and decent finishing against FSU. He's not necessarily where he needs to be (and he's clearly recovering from some sort of hand injury), but it's quite possible to imagine him retaining the starting job even if Michel gets cleared. However, with Michel sitting out in both exhibition games, he still couldn't average 20 minutes/game, so that doesn't bode well in the long run.

Maurice Creek- What to say? He's clearly working his way back to playing form, and he's making some bad decisions with the ball, not the least of which is shooting far too quickly and often. He runs the floor well on defense and has good handles, but he can lose his guy on defense too easily, which could be disastrous in conference play.

Victor Oladipo
- Vic is a freshman, but he looks like a freshman who belongs in the Big Ten. He's got a nose for the offensive rebounds, hits big shots, and really wants to be a full-court-press doberman (a la Scottie Pippen). However, he makes some really poor passes and decisions with the ball in general, and savvy ball-handlers are going to make him pay for over-playing them. I could see him as a sixth "energy" man or even part-time starter this year once Verdell Jones is back.

Jordan Hulls- Jordy seems a little calmer and savvier than last year. He played 41 minutes in the Ferris State game, so obviously Crean trusts him. Also, for nabbing 5 offensive rebounds in two games, he seems to always be the first one back on defense, and he's starting to get some charge calls now. On the other hand, he still tends to get used by bigger guards, which could be a major concern in conference play. That's probably that only thing that might limit Hulls' playing as many minutes as anyone else on the team.

Derek Elston- I like Derek a lot better on defense than Watford. Derek just makes things happen- he racks up some blocks and steals, and his rebounding is as good as anyone on the team, but he just seems to cause a lot of deflections and loose balls too. If I had my druthers, I'd like to see Derek start occasionally. Despite a bit of a rough stretch against Ferris State, his shooting is fine, although his free-throws have been horrid (1-6). Also, he's getting chalked with a lot of turnovers, although I could've sworn Oladipo & Creek were turning it over more than him. There was a brief line-up in the Ferris State game that Capobianco, Elston, and Watford all playing at the same time. I'd like to see some more of that, especially as Indiana starts to face some bigger teams.

Bobby Capobianco- Uh, pretty much the same as last year. Which, as a hard-nosed brusier who mixes it up on both ends of the floor, isn't a bad thing. He still makes the occasional nice pass, but we didn't see any of his three-point stroke in the exhibition games. Honestly, if Pritchard doesn't improve soon, I'd start making more time for Capobianco to see he can develop.

Jeremiah Rivers
- Rivers actually played really well in both games. He had one turnover that was totally Olapdipo's fault, and I would credit the win over Ferris State to his excellent defense on the final play of regulation. Watching it frame-by-frame, he was all over the shooter from the inbounds play, causing him to back up and Jeremiah timed his jump almost perfectly, making the shooter fade-fade-fade in order not to get blocked. That slowed the shooter down just enough for time to expire, sending it to OT. Rivers just seems more comfortable coming off the bench as a slasher and rebounder, and although he's maybe not entirely happy about it, it may just be what's best for the team.

Daniel Moore
- While Moore looked great in the scrimmage and simply tore apart Franklin College, his role in the Ferris State game seemed a better gauge of what we'll see this year. Solid point guard relief with ball-handling (with a few turnovers) and laudable tendency to tear back on defense and draw charges. Crean probably enjoyed having the ability to put Moore in with Hulls and Rivers when Ferris State was trapping in the last two minutes of overtime.

Matt Roth- I like Roth because he doesn't beat himself. He doesn't turn the ball over, he doesn't force shots (unless it's 2009 and he's IU's only hope of hitting a three late in the game), and he hustles back on defense. However, should he recover quickly from his latest injury (knock on wood), he seems like he's still going to be a rotation player at best. He just can't get boards and make plays like Creek and Oladipo, but he'll be able to come in and settle things down when those guys are having off-nights.

Will Sheehey
- I like Sheehey's gumption on the boards and his handles, but I've not seen anything to suggest he should get more than spot minutes this year. His passing leaves a lot to be desired, and IU needs a guy on the wing who can hit threes. He may be a good defender, but evidence thereof really remains to be seen.