Friday, November 30, 2007

Pomeroy's notes on Indiana.

I was hoping to preview Southern Illinois today but I won't get to it until tomorrow morning. The game isn't until 9:30 p.m. anyway. In other news, Ken Pomeroy at Basketball Prospectus has some brief comments about Indiana and the perception versus reality of Kelvin Sampson's recent teams at IU and OU. This isn't a long article, but this and Basketball Prospectus in general are well done and worth reading regularly. Also, while Pomeroy and co-BPer John (Big Ten Wonk) Gasaway have curtailed their independent blogs, Pomeroy still maintains his excellent tempo-free stat site on a daily basis. I rely on this site heavily and probably should cite it every time I write a preview or postgame post, but if you want to look at the stats yourself, here they are.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bowl developments, including some premature bitterness from a Spartan.

By Sunday evening, the Hoosiers should know the bowl destination. In the meantime:
  • The Outback Bowl, which is third in the selection order (behind the Rose/BCS and Capital One), already has invited Wisconsin. Clearly, this tells us that the Outback coveted Wisconsin over all others and that the Capital One covets two teams (Illinois and Michigan, presumably) over Wisconsin. Wisconsin played in Orlando last year, so I can see why the Capital One took a pass. I'm a bit more surprised that the Outback, which hasn't hosted Michigan in five years and has never invited Illinois, was so quick to pass on the others.
  • Dave Dye of the Detroit News is an angry man, even though IU has not yet actually been selected ahead of Michigan State. He makes some good points: identical record, head to head win by MSU, IU's poor home attendance, etc. I really don't care. If, for once, IU's football program is an interesting, compelling story, then I won't lose a minute of sleep over passing MSU in the hierarchy. And that's if we do. I still think the Insight will take MSU. As a final note, I can't tell if Dave has tongue-in-cheek when he suggests that IU hasn't been to a bowl game since Lee Corso was the coach. Presumably he knows IU went to six bowl games under Bill Mallory, but if so, his delivery was a bit too deadpan.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Indiana 83, Georgia Tech 79.

The box score.
Obviously, there were some big off-the-court stories: Jordan Crawford has been suspended for three games for violating some unspecified team rule and Mike White will not redshirt. Crawford was in the bench in streetclothes, so it wouldn't seem to be a highly serious violation, whatever it is. Perhaps the foul trouble against Xavier convinced Sampson that the Hoosiers need more depth up front this year. Given the number of newcomers on the team, I suppose it makes sense to have an experienced player to rely upon instead of just Deandre Thomas and Eli Holman.
As has become common this season, the Hoosiers started the first half slowly. After erasing GT's big lead, IU allowed the exact same thing to happen during the second half, but despite the four point margin, IU really did lock this game up with a few minutes remaining. This was a fairly quick game, at about 73 possessions.
The good:
  • Lance Stemler finally showed signs of shaking his year-long shooting slump. Stemler scored 15 points on shots, including 3-6 from three point range.
  • Eric Gordon, highlighting the difference between himself and the 2006-07 super-efficient version of Rod Wilmont, managed 13-16 from the line and therefore scored 29 points despite a ho-hum 7-14 night shooting.
  • DJ White continues his renaissance. White scored 18 points on 6-9 from the field, and could have scored many more with a better performance at the line (see below). White single-handedly grabbed 12 of GT's 41 misses.
  • IU's offensive rebounding total (11) looks superficially unimpressive, but thanks to a relatively small number of field goal attempts and high number of free throws, IU had only 28 OR opportunities, so 11 is nearly 40 percent (and thanks to the artist f/k/a/ Big Ten Wonk for gently reminding me that I needed to consider the missed free throws and dead ball rebound totals in arriving at the magic number--nothing wrong the official box score, just my brain. Since I'm too lazy to go back and edit, it's best to disregard anything I said about rebounding after first five games other than my citations of Pomeroy's stats). IU's offensive rebounding totals, which were terrible at first, have climbed into the middle of the pack nationally at 33.5 percent. Of course, the team's performance has been inversely proportional to this statistic.
  • Jamarcus Ellis had a solid night, despite three turnovers. He scored 15 points on 7 shots, thanks to 6-6 from the line.
  • Mike White, in only 20 minutes and despite only two points on four shots, grabbed four of IU's offensive rebounds (although at least a couple were of his own short range misses).

The bad:

  • Eric Gordon turned the ball over eight times. Yes, a couple of them were statement calls early in the game by the increasingly annoying Ed Hightower, but that's an unacceptable number of turnovers for one player, no matter the pace.
  • One of the complaints about the Hoosier offense to date has been the one-on-one play rather than a united effort to find someone a good shot. Last night, IU had only 10 assists on 24 made field goals.
  • DJ White, who otherwise was outstanding, committed four turnovers. White also managed only 6-12 from the freethrow line.
  • Even in such a fast-paced game, IU's turnover percentage was unacceptably bad (23.3 percent). While IU's overall 19.5 average ranks IU in the top quarter of D-I teams, 23.3 percent is a sub-200 average. Our next game is at Southern Illinois. SIU's opponents turn the ball over on 33.5 percent of their possessions, good enough to rank SIU #3 nationally. Gulp.
  • GT was nearly as good as IU on the offensive boards, grabbing 36.5 percent of their misses.
  • Armon Bassett hasn't been able to recapture his early season form. Bassett played 37 minutes but managed only 4 points on 1-6 from the field. He did, however, provide 6 of IU's 10 assists and only one turnover.

So, the Hoosiers now face their only true non-conference road game of the season against a formidable mid-major opponent. If IU doesn't play better in than in the last two games, it could be ugly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Georgia Tech game: Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Overall record: 3-2
ACC record: 0-0
2006-07 record: 20-12 (lost to UNLV in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2006-07 RPI: 52
2006-07 Sagarin: 30
Series: IU leads 1-0 (87-65 in Los Angeles, 12/29/69)
TV: 7 pm tonight, ESPN

If you, like me, couldn't recall IU ever playing Georgia Tech, if you are under the age of 40, your memory did not fail you. IU and GT have played only once, 38 years ago, on a neutral court in Los Angeles (presumably some sort of holiday tournament). So, in the spirit of inter-regional competition, the BT/ACC Challenge is providing an unusual matchup tonight. This is IU's seventh appearance in the BT/ACC. Bob Knight did not favor this made-for-TV event, so 2001-02, Mike Davis's second year, was IU's first appearance in the challenge. This is also, from a preseason perspective, IU's least formidable Challenge opponent. In 2001, IU played and beat an ultimately awful UNC team (at the Dean Dome) that was supposed to be good. In 2002, IU defeated Maryland at Conseco Fieldhouse in a rematch of the NCAA championship game. Since then, IU has lost four in a row: badly at Wake Forest in 2003, at home to Sean May and eventual NCAA champion North Carolina in 2004, at home to Josh McRoberts and Duke in 2005, and a close one against Duke at Cameron in 2006.
In other words, despite not having many good teams during this time period, IU has always faced a formidable Challenge opponent. Now that IU is highly ranked in the preseason for the first time in eons, we are given a home game against a should-win opponent. Go figure.
I'm running out of time and won't get much of a look at GT's personnel, but here's a quick look at the tempo free numbers:
Pace: 73.4 possessions per game (#64 nationally; IU is #59 at 73.6);
Offensive efficiency: 1.08 points per possession (#79 nationally; IU is #19 at 1.16)
Defensive officiency: 1.07 points per possession (#251 nationally; IU is #68 at .913)
Offensive rebounding: 38 percent of OR opportunities (#76 nationally; IU is #185 at 33.1)
Defensive rebounding: 34.7 percent OR allowed (#204 nationally; IU is #152 at 32.6).
GT doesn't appear to bring much to the table defensively, and has a couple of tough losses to UNC-Greensboro and Winthrop. On the other hand, GT has defeated Notre Dame and Charlotte (in addition to Tennessee State), so the Jackets have performed better against legitimate competition than IU has.

Blogpoll ballot, championship week.

Here it is. I surfed between ND-Stanford and Kentucky-Tennessee, caught much of LSU-Arkansas and parts of Texas-Texas A&M.
1Missouri 2
2Ohio State 2
3West Virginia 3
4Kansas 3
5Georgia 2
6LSU 4
7Southern Cal 4
8Oklahoma 1
9Boston College 5
10Virginia Tech 2
11Arizona State 6
12Florida 3
13Illinois 3
14Tennessee 3
15Clemson 3
16Texas 4
17Virginia 4
18Wisconsin 3
20Cincinnati 2
21Brigham Young 2
22South Florida 4
23Auburn 3
24Connecticut 4
25Arkansas 1

Dropped Out: Oregon (#10), Kentucky (#24), Texas Tech (#25).
Most of the interest, of course, is at the top. I began with the premise that until and unless there is a playoff, I don't support the notion of a two loss national champion. So, there was no doubt that the four one-loss teams were going to be 1-4. Had I merely ranked them by gut without considering everything else, this is what I would have done. I had Missouri-OSU-WVU in that order last week, with KU number one and LSU number two. Obviously, the latter two dropped because of losses. Still, I considered a few objective measures, ranking these four teams internally:
BCS computer ranking:
1. Mizzou
2. WVU
3. OSU
4. KU
Sagarin schedule strength:
1. Mizzou
2. WVU
3. OSU
4. KU
BCS computer rank of the team that provided the only loss:
1. KU (1)
2. Mizzou (12)
3. WVU (15)
4. OSU (17)
Number of wins over BCS top 40:
1. OSU (3)
1. Mizzou (3)
3. WVU (2)
4. KU (0)
Doing the math, that would lead to a total ranking of 1. Mizzou (5), 2. WVU (10), 3. OSU (11), 4. KU (13). Going on my previous inclination, and given the close margin between OSU and WVU, the Buckeyes are second. So, yes, the whole objective exercise was mostly for show. I am a traditionalist at heart. I can't fathom the idea of a two loss national champ, and I don't respect the Big East. So there.

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's official: Bill Lynch signs four year contract.

As had been rumored over the weekend, IU has signed Bill Lynch to a long-term contract to serve as coach through the 2011 season. Here's the IU press release (yes, it says through 2012, but the contract expires on July 1, 2012, so essentially its a four season deal). As I have documented before, this isn't a slam dunk. Lynch's previous record as head coach is mixed. Still, he did a solid job this year and can go forward and make this his program, his staff, and so forth. This deal certainly eliminates some near-term heartburn of a coaching search during bowl preparation and the alienation of many prominent football program alumni. As for the long term, who knows?
If you read the whole release, this item might grab your attention:
"Appointing Bill Lynch is a very positive step for Indiana University," Floyd Keith, Black Coaches and Administrators Executive Director, said. "With the difficult circumstances that have transpired at IU in the past year, Bill performed in a very positive and professional way. I don't think there was any other decision that could have been made. He'll be just super - Indiana has made a sound, smart and logical choice in selecting Bill Lynch."
If you are wondering why, exactly, the BCA director is endorsing the hiring of a white guy who got fired by Ball State, consider that Keith worked with Bill Mallory as an IU assistant (Keith was quarterbacks coach, if I recall correctly), although it doesn't appear that the two worked together. This certainly is consistent with the theme emerging: everyone who knows Lynch well or has worked with him seems to think the world of the guy. There was an interesting letter to the editor in yesterday's Indianapolis Star from longtime Ball State tennis coach Bill Richards, who gives a glowing endorsement of Lynch's character and says this about the Ball State job at the time:
He did a good job at Ball State with one arm tied behind his back. Our stadium was arguably the worst in Division I-A; he had restrictions on how many out-of-state players he could recruit; extreme restrictions on salary dollars and recruiting dollars, and was generally given three or four losses a year to the Floridas, Clemsons and Auburns for big paydays. Our program hit the bottom. How he handled the adversity is something I respect so much I really can't put it in words.

The program rebounded with a divisional championship and a 6-6 record in his last two years. He had it moving back in the right direction. Even though I am a few years older, he taught me so much. I am thankful and proud to have been able to be associated with him for several years. It will be a real shame if he isn't given the (IU) job on a permanent basis.

I would love to know more about the information in bold. In any event, congratulations, Coach Lynch. As it stands today, you are the first IU coach since Bo McMillin (1934-1947) with a career winning record at IU. You get a head coaching job without suffering the transition costs normally associated with coaching changes. Make the best of it.
P.S. Is Michigan really going to hire Kirk Ferentz? Really?

The bowl outlook.

The college football season is nearly over, so the bowl picture is becoming a bit more clear, and a week from now the Hoosiers should know where they will be making their first bowl appearance since 1993. I have discussed this in other posts, but here it is in a nutshell:
The Big Ten. Ohio State, of course, has secured the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid. Ohio State is ranked third in the most recent BCS standings, so it is not yet determined whether OSU will play in the Rose Bowl or the BCS Championship game. Illinois, at 9-3, has the required number of wins for BCS eligibility but is currently ranked #15, one spot short of the top 14, which would make Illinois BCS eligible. Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, and Purdue all have seven wins. Iowa and Northwestern are conditionally bowl-eligible at 6-6 but don't matter to us. The Big Ten has seven bowl tie-ins and eight seven win teams. All indications are that unless Illinois gets a BCS bid, it will be MSU, IU, and Purdue fighting it out for the Insight and Motor City bowls, with the loser forced to the open market. Current conventional wisdom has Purdue as the odd team out. I'm not going to take that for granted. Purdue, like IU, has many fans close to Detroit and unlike IU, has a history of traveling reasonably well to bowl games. I think it's possible, even probable, that IU is more attractive than Purdue, but it's at least worth considering what bids might be available.
The hope for teams 2-8 in the Big Ten is that two things will happen: 1) Illinois will move into the top 14 and 2) Ohio State will move into the top 2. Number one is the most important. If number one doesn't happen, number two doesn't matter. If both happen, it's probably good for the Hoosiers and the other bowl eligible Big Ten programs. The Rose Bowl is believed to prefer to preserve the Big Ten-Pac 10 matchup whenever possible, and Illinois, which hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since after the 1983 season, would be attractive.
The national picture:
ACC: eight bids. Eight eligible, four eliminated. If the ACC gets only one BCS bid, then the ACC will fill all of its bids. [EDIT: If BC beats Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, the 10-3 Hokies, with their large fan base and the fresh memory of last spring's tregedy, might be a compelling BCS candidate. The ACC's #8 bowl tie in is the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise. Blue turf, baby!]
Big East: four or five bids. Five eligible, and Louisville still has a chance. And keep in mind that one of the tie-ins is the Gator Bowl, which can select a Big XII school or a Big East school. No BE team other than WVU, the conference champ, ranks in the top 14, so consider the Big East filled out.
Big XII: eight or nine bids. Eight eligible, four eliminated. It seems likely that either Missouri or Kansas will earn a BCS at large bid. At the very least, it seems unlikely that the Big XII will be able to fill its slot in the Texas Bowl in Houston, and possibly not its bid to the Independence Bowl in lovely Shreveport, Louisiana (please God, no).
Pac-10: Six bids. Six eligible. The Vegas Bowl is now off the table, thanks to UCLA's win over Oregon. If the Pac-10 gets a second BCS bid, then the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth will be available.
SEC: Ten eligible teams. forget it.
MAC: Three bids, locked up.
C-USA: Six bids, six eligible, no BCS prospects.
WAC: The WAC has three bids and three eligible teams, but Hawaii could sneak in to the BCS. If so, and if La. Tech and Nevada lose their finales, the New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque) could open up.
So, there it is. For what it's worth, if my quick review is correct, IU or Purdue (MSU will not get past the Motor City Bowl committee) will be the best, perhaps only, seven win team on the market. My quick guess is that Houston is the most likely destination for the Big Ten's odd team out. Here are the weekend's priorities for IU and all Big Ten teams:
  • Root for Oklahoma over Missouri and/or for Pitt over West Virginia, to allow OSU to move into the title game and make Illinois more attractive to the BCS/Rose Bowl.
  • Root for #5 LSU over #14 Tennessee in the SEC Championship so that Illinois can move into the top 14.
  • Root for Arizona over #13 Arizona State for the same reason.
  • Root for Washington against #12 Hawaii for the same reason.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Goodbye, top ten: Xavier 80, Indiana 65.

The delusions of many, including me, that IU is a legitimate top 10 team, came to an end Saturday night against Xavier, which absolutely manhandled the Hoosiers for most of the game. The 15 point margin of defeat is the worst of the Sampson era and only the second double digit defeat since Sampson arrived (the other was at Purdue last year, 81-68). While IU competed in that Purdue game, leading at a couple of points in the second half, Xavier dominated last night's game essentially from wire to wire.
I'm not exactly on suicide watch. I think that game played out about as well as it could have for Xavier. IU suffered its worst shooting of the season, finishing at about 38 percent. Certainly, Xavier deserves credit for that, but IU also had trouble finishing the good shots that were presented. Of the six Hoosiers who played 20 or more minutes, five had four personal fouls. Eric Gordon was out of commission with three fouls for the last seven minutes of the first half, and DJ White had three by the end of the half. I don't mean to detract from Xavier's performance, which was outstanding (and wasn't aided by lights out shooting, either--X shot only 45 percent), or to minimize the concern that this game raises about IU's interior defense and ability to generate shots against a quality opponent.
Perhaps the only good news was that DJ White finally looked like himself. White scored 16 points on 7-9 from the field and managed 10 rebounds. Eric Gordon managed 20 points on 12 shots, but shot only 4-12 from the field and had three turnovers. Other than White's, there simply isn't another pretty stat line in the box score. Perhaps the ugliest belonged to Jordan Crawford, the freshman point guard who had been surprisingly reliable in the first four games. Crawford was 3-13 for six points with 2 assists and 3 turnovers.
Xavier shot only 45.9 percent from the field, and 4-12 for three point range. Drew Lavender performed well against his old coach, scoring 13 points on 9 shots and 6 assists compared to 2 turnovers. BJ Raymond managed 19 points on 12 shots.
Stats: The pace: about 67 possessions, basically on the national average from last season. Points per possession: .97 for IU, 1.19 for Xavier. Rebounding: IU rebounded 17 of its 40 misses, for a nice percentage of 42 percent. That's a pretty major turnaround considering IU's overall offensive rebounding numbers this season. IU entered the game ranked something like 300, while a 42 percent rate is top 20 material. Of course, missing a bunch of bunnies generates offensive rebounding opportunities, but that is something to watch. The IU box score continues to be suspect on this matter, however. Xavier missed 33 shots. The box score credits IU with 25 defensive rebounds and Xavier with 16 offensive rebounds. What gives?
IU is entering a crucial stretch of the non-conference schedule. Tuesday, IU plays Georgia Tech in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Saturday night, IU plays at Southern Illinois. After a gimme against Tennessee State midweek, we then play Kentucky at Assembly Hall a week from Saturday. Two weeks from today, we will have a better read on this team, and hopefully will have seen the Hoosier show more than they showed against their first quality opponent of the season.

Xavier preview.

Xavier Musketeers
Overall record: 3-1
Atlantic 10 record: 0-0
2006-07 record: 25-9 (lost to Ohio State in second round of NCAA Tournament)
2006-07 RPI: 41
2006-07 Sagarin: 32
Series: IU leads 8-0 (last meeting: 2003).
TV: 8:30 tonight, Big Ten Network
The Musketeers have won three easy ones and lost on the road to Miami of Ohio. The Musketeers lost one of last season's most memorable games, a second round NCAA Tournament game against eventual runner-up Ohio State that Xavier led throughout. IU and Xavier last played in 2003-04, IU's only losing season of the last 39, and IU won in overtime in the Wooden Tradition. Before that, the two teams met in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1993, and Xavier put a scare into the top ranked Hoosiers, who won 73-70 at the Hoosier Dome.
Not surprisingly, much of the coverage of this game surrounds Xavier's 5-7 point guard Drew Lavender. Lavender played at Oklahoma for Kelvin Sampson for two years before transferring to Xavier after the 2004-05 season. Lavender has been unremarkable offensively, but is quick and is regarded as an excellent defender. Xavier currently is playing slowly at 65.1 possessions per game, about 9 possessions behind IU. Nevertheless, Xavier averages 1.23 points per possession, ranking #5 nationally, just ahead of IU's 1.21 (#12 nationally). Xavier's defense is a bit less stingy than IU's, at .89 per possession compared to .85 for IU. Xavier rebounds the ball much better than IU on the offensive end and about the same defensively. For the second game in a row (it will be three in a row Tuesday, probably four when we play SIU next Saturday), this will be IU's most significant challenge to date.

Quick Illinois State recap.

Here's the box. The big story, which will have implications for tonight's Xavier game, is the second half absence of Armon Bassett. It's unclear exactly what sort of injury he has, but Bassett has been a force thus far and will be missed.
IU's offense had its first less than stellar game, with 44 percent shooting for the game. IU attempted an unusually low 9 three point shots on the game. The Hoosiers had 14 assists on 26 made shots and 16 turnovers. This was about a 67 possession game, meaning IU turned the ball over on nearly 25 percent of its possessions, and IU scored barely more than a point a possession. Fortunately, the Hoosier defense has been as good as it has been all season. ISU shot only 37 percent for the game and managed way less than a point per possession. IU's rebounding was much improved in this game. IU managed to rebound 18 of its 32 misses, by far the best percentage of the season. The IU box score doesn't seem very reliable on this point: there are way more rebounds than missed shots listed, so let's take this with a grain of salt. Still, IU did substantially outrebound ISU.
Chris Korman of the H-T has some good observations, not the least of which is the less than spectacular play from DJ White. Eric Gordon was very good again, scoring 30 points on 18 shots. White managed only 4 points on 2-6 from the field. White is averaging less than seven attempts a game and is IU's fourth leading scorer (behind Gordon, Bassett, and Jordan Crawford). Not surprisingly, a tougher game than thew first three, and tonight's game will be tougher still.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Illinois State.

Illinois State Redbirds
Overall record: 3-0
Missouri Valley Conference record: 0-0
2006-07 record: 14-16
2006-07 RPI: 138
2006-07 Sagarin: 98
Series: IU leads 3-0 (last meeting: 1988)
TV: 8:30 pm tonight, Big Ten Network
The Redbirds, while they didn't have much of a season last year, would seem to be IU's biggest test to date, since they play in Missouri Valley Conference, probably the best of the non-major conferences. ISU has a guard named Osiris Eldridge leading the way, averaging 21 ppg on 12 shots and 58 percent on nearly 6 three point attempts per game. Forward Anthony Slack is shooting nearly 80 percent on the season. Also, the Redbirds feature a point guard named Doninitrix Johnson. I don't even know what to do with that. He does average 4.7 assists to 1 turnover per game.
As a team, ISU is playing fast this year, at 75.8 possessions per game, within about a possession of IU. While IU ranks 4th nationally in at 1.27 points per possession, ISU is right there at #20 with 1.18. The Redbirds allow .95 points per possession as opposed to IU's .85. Still, one would expect this will be another test for the IU defense, which has allowed a couple of its overmatched opponents to look good for ten to twenty minutes. ISU is a middling defensive rebounding team, so IU may have a chance to show a bit more on the offensive boards. The Redbirds to rebound offensively pretty well, a 38.5 percent clip.
We shall see, and I'll put together a quick review/preview tomorrow for the final game of the CIC.

Indiana 95, UNC Wilmington 71.

For the second time in three games, the Hoosiers started slowly and found themselves facing an early deficit at home, but rebounded to win comfortably and score well into the 90s for the third time in three games. Here's the box. Some thoughts:
  • Pace: This was a fast game: about 79 possessions. IU now ranks 27th in the nation with 76.9 possessions per game. Last season, IU ranked #268 at 64 possessions per game. IU plays four reasonably good teams in the next nine days, and it will be interesting to see whether this holds up.
  • Eric Gordon was exemplary again, with 30 points on 12 shots from the field. He managed 12-13 from the line and 8-12 from the field, including 2-5 from three point range.
  • The only deficiency IU has demonstrated to date is on offensive rebounding. Certainly, given IU's shooting success this season, one would expect the raw numbers to be down. But by the percentages, IU is rebounding only 25 percent of its misses, which ranks 268 in Division I.
  • Armon Bassett continues to be outstanding. 19 points on 5 shots, 4-4 from 3 point range.

Nice start, but we will know more about this team soon, beginning tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Close to resolution on the coach question?

The Hoosier Scoop gets the scoop, as usual. This one is a little amorphous, and the H-T, despite the lessons learned by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, continues to hide its excellent IU content behind a subscriber wall. The headline is "IU president comfortable with Lynch's coaching candidacy." The entry notes that IU president Michael McRobbie is "not cool" to Lynch's candidacy (meaning he is fine with Lynch, not meaning "Lynch? Not cool!"). Further:
“He has sought advice on this from people inside the university and outside the university, as he should,” Sample said Wednesday. “That should not be misinterpreted as being cool to Bill Lynch.”
I'm not sure what this means. I would expect that if the president is involved, it is because the athletic director recommended a candidate or a course of action. If that's the case, it would be highly unusual for a president to reject an AD's recommendation. On the other hand, this is an unusual situation, so who knows?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lynch saga: over or not?

It's unclear what, if anything, is going on regarding Bill Lynch's future as IU's football coach. Earlier in the week, Tom Dienhart and other sources reported along these lines:
I hear Indiana is prepared to offer interim head coach Bill Lynch a contract of 3-5 years. Lynch has done a masterful job in the wake of Terry Hoeppner's death, guiding the Hoosiers to a 7-5 mark and a likely bowl appearance.
Meanwhile, the H-T, through its Hoosier Scoop blog, reports:
Despite some rumors to the contrary, sources close to the situation said today that IU officials have not contacted Bill Lynch this week to talk about a longer-term contract.
I would tend to consider the H-T more reliable than Dienhart on IU matters, but again, what Dienhart said has been flying around quite a bit. And, as I've mentioned on many occasions, Rick Greenspan's coaching searches don't leak much, if at all, so there wouldn't necessarily be any good news to be obtained from university sources (of course, the H-T source is "close to the situation," which could mean close to Lynch rather than close to the administration).
The same H-T blog post contains an interview with former IU coach Bill Mallory, who was Lynch's boss in the mid 1990s. Click through to the story for some Mallory quotes, but this gets to the essence:
Mallory, a two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year who took IU to six bowl games in eight years during the mid-80s through early 90s, was excited by the Bucket win and the crowd Saturday. He said to hire a new coach - after having four head coaches in 11 years - would set the program back again just as it has momentum three years into the tenure of the current staff.
Earlier this week, former IU great Anthony Thompson announced his support of allowing Lynch to finish what Terry Hoeppner started. I discussed the comments of Harold Mauro, an IU Rose bowl alum who is a long-time athletic department official. And as I will discuss below, Terry Hutchens, the Indianapolis Star's IU beat writer, expressed his surprise that Lynch hasn't been hired already and his belief that Lynch definitely should be hired.
Certainly, public opinion should not be Greenspan's primary concern. Yet, it is becoming clear that if Greenspan does not retain Lynch, he will have some fences to mend with the team, the football alumni, Coach Mallory, and the media. Every coaching change has transition costs, and it is becoming clear that a transition away from Lynch might have more costs that the typical coaching change. That shouldn't be decisive, but it is a factor. Greenspan should make a move if he believes he can hire a candidate so clearly superior to Lynch that he can easily withstand the PR disaster and disgruntlement among current and former players. Does that coach exist? I don't know.
As for the Hutchens piece, like most of Terry's articles, there is plenty to criticize. For instance, Ball State's second fiddle status doesn't strike me as all that different from what every MAC school faces. But here' what really got me:
This isn't Mike Davis all over again. Not even close. Mike Davis had never been a college head coach. He wasn't an Indiana guy. He was in the right place at the right time, and he never looked completely comfortable on the IU sideline. All of that is different with Lynch.
Let's review some of the things Hutchens said back when Davis was actually the coach.
To mock IU fans who dared think of IU as an elite program:
Now, I know Indiana fans want to believe that the Hoosiers are still this great, desirable basketball mecca but do you really think that's the case? And more to the point, do you think it's the case to the point where the Hoosiers can beat out top prospects when the other final choice is Kansas, Duke, Connecticut or North Carolina?
Sometime when I have more time, I'll do a retrospective on all of the ridiculous rationalization that Terry Hutchens did for Mike Davis, his tireless efforts to dumb down IU fans' expectations, his twisting of statistics and other evidence. I'm not opposed to hiring Lynch, but being on the same side as Terry Hutchens on a coaching question is not a good place to be.
As I have said over and over, I don't think Bill Lynch is anything like Mike Davis. But it's strange to read Bob Kravitz and Terry Hutchens assuring us that this isn't a "Mike Davis situation." When Mike Davis was the coach, these guys bent over backwards to try to convince us that there was no "Mike Davis situation." Now that Davis is gone and IU has returned to its rightful place in the top 10, they talk about the Davis years as if they were detached observers rather than his chief enablers.

Blogpoll ballot.

2LSU 1
3Missouri 2
4Ohio State 2
5Arizona State 2
6West Virginia 2
7Georgia 2
8Virginia Tech 2
9Oklahoma 5
10Oregon 8
11Southern Cal 1
12Texas 2
14Boston College 4
18Clemson 7
20Connecticut 5
21Wisconsin 1
22Cincinnati 1
23Brigham Young 3
24Kentucky 4
25Texas Tech 1

Dropped Out: Michigan (#23), Penn State (#24).
Not really a draft ballot. The only game I saw was IU-Purdue.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

UNC Wilmington preview.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks
Overall record: 1-1
Colnial Athletic Association record: 0-0
2006-07 record: 7-22
2006-07 RPI: 263
2006-07 Sagarin: 244
Series: Indiana leads, 2-0
TV: Tonight, 7 pm Big Ten Network
Playing Wilmington seems to be a good omen from the Hoosiers. Most IU fans will easily recall the most recent game against the Seahawks: a 76-67 win in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament, which gave IU its only Sweet 16 appearance in the last 13 seasons and led to IU's appearance in the NCAA title game. Perhaps forgotten is a surprisingly close 73-72 IU win in Bloomington on December 12, 1986. IU won the NCAA championship that season, of course. Will this year's Hoosiers play on Monday night as well?
As the numbers above indicated, UNCW has declined last year, but has played in the NCAA tournament twice (losing in the first round of the NCAA in 2003 and 2006) since the departure of current DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright. Wainwright was replaced by highly regarded Brad Brownell, and Indiana native and DePauw grad who left voluntarily to take the Wright State job. Current coach Benny Moss is in his second season.
Wilmington is 1-1 this year, with a win over Charleston and a 16 point loss to Illinois State (IU's next opponent). The Seahawks return their three leading scorers from last season: guard Daniel Fountain, center Vladimir Kuljanin, and forward Todd Hendley. The Seahawks currently average 24 three point attempts per game, with leading scorer Fountain hitting 60 percent. Big man Kuljanin is shooting 72 percent from the field this season and is averaging 14.5 rebounds per game.
Last year, Wilmimington's pace was about average, and as would be expected for a 7-22 team, its offensive and defensive efficiency numbers were terrible. By the Pomeroy numbers, UNCW didn't do much of anything well last year. They didn't shoot well, didn't take care of the ball, didn't rebound well offensively, didn't play good defense, and didn't force turnovers. The only think UNCW did well was rebound about 70 percent of its opponents' missed shots, good enough for #33 nationally. UNCW has continued to rebound well this season, but this game should not be much of a test for the Hoosiers.

More football minutiae.

It's nice to be writing about football during Thanksgiving week and beyond:
  • All Big Ten honors for the Hoosiers: Kellen Lewis (second team QB by the media and coaches); James Hardy (first team WR by the media and coaches); Greg Middleton (first team DL by media and coaches); Austin Starr (first team by media, second team by coaches); Tracy Porter (first team by media, second team by coaches); John Sandberg (honorable mention by both). Josiah Sears was the IU sportsmanship honoree.
  • Austin Starr is one of three finalists for the Lou Groza award, along with Thomas Weber of Arizona State and Jose Martinez of UTEP. Starr finished 19-21 on the season. Interestingly, one of Starr's two misses, a 42 yarder in the fourth quarter that would have given IU a 17 point lead, set up the 49 yard game-winner against the Boilers. That kick, which was splashed all over Sportscenter, probably enhances Starr's chances of winning the award, but never would have happened but for the earlier miss. None of this should be taken as a criticism of Starr, IU's finest kicker since Pete Stoyanovich. Starr's emergence as an automatic kicker has been quite pleasant. I'm now more confident about field goals than I was for extra points for most of the last decade.
  • Even if he thinks we bloggers are a bunch of jobless losers (or at least the Nittany Line is), I'll give some grudging credit to Stewie Mandel: first, unlike many of his national media colleagues, he has read and understands the bowl eligibility rules; second, he makes me believe that Illinois really could snag a BCS at-large bid. If Illinois gets a BCS bid, IU is nearly guaranteed a warm weather bowl (unless the Champs Sports Bowl or Insight Bowl covets Purdue).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Indiana 100, Longwood 49.

I didn't get a chance to see this game, but it is waiting on my Tivo. Given the lopsided outcome and another game tomorrow, I might not get there at all. So, this review is for the sake of completeness and is based entirely on the box score.
As I noted in the preview, Longwood was an overmatched team, 7-22 last season and now in its first season of full-fledged Division I status. Still, even by that standard IU's defense was fairly impressive. Every team has guys who can shoot, so holding any team to 25 percent shooting says something good about the defense. Even with the IU starters on the bench for the last five minutes, Longwood was only 5-29 from the field in the second half. IU shot 58.5 percent for the game and 64 percent from the field in the first half. IU made 61 percent of its 18 three point shots. IU's offensive rebounding numbers were more on par with last season: IU boarded 9 of its 27 misses while Longwood grabbed only 26 percent of its opportunities. The Hoosiers managed 22 assists on 38 field goals. Despite IU's high scoring total, this game was slower than the Chattanooga game, with about 67 possessions per team. That means IU managed a stellar 1.5 points per possession. Again, consider the competition, but still, a nice performance.
Of the guys who played more than ten minutes, only Brandon McGee and Eli Holman averaged less than a point per shot. DJ White was very efficient, scoring 12 points on 4-5 from the field and 4-5 from the line. Eric Gordon, while not as superhuman as against the Mocs, scored 21 points on 14 shots, including 5-8 from three point range. The only red flags in EJ's line are three turnovers and only one free throw attempt. Jamarcus Ellis certainly seems like he will be, if you'll pardon the cliche, IU's glue guy, the guy who holds things together by doing a bit of everything. Ellis scored 9 points on 7 shots, had 5 assists to one turnover, and pulled down 11 of Longwood's misses (nearly as many as the entire Longwood team). Armon Basset may have had the best line of the night: 14 points on six shots, 5 assists/one turnover.
Again, it's tough to take much from a game against such an overmatched opponent, but there certainly can be no complaints after two games. IU's offense has been consistently outstanding and the defense has been stifling for three of four halves. Next up is UNC-Wilmington, with some marginally tougher competition over the weekend and Georgia Tech just a week from tomorrow. By next Wednesday, we will have a better handle on this team.

The coaching situation.

A poster on the Indiana Rivals football board reports that Dave Furst of WRTV in Indianapolis is reporting that Bill Lynch will be signed to a long-term contract this week. I'm a bit skeptical. First, this story, which would be a fairly big scoop, appears nowhere on the WRTV website and per Google News, hasn't shown up anywhere else, either. It wouldn't surprise me, but I haven't seen any other evidence that IU has made the decision yet. So I'm going to consider the question undecided for now.

Bowl odds and ends.

Just a few notes on the current status of bowl bids. First, Terry Hutchens reports that the Insight and other bowls do not expect to issue bids until after the conference championship games, i.e., two weeks from now. As I said below, it's my recollection that in the past, the BCS bowls have released certain at-large teams from consideration early. Illinois is not even in the top 14 right now, so it may well be that the BCS will say "no thanks" to the Illini after next weekend, but the Insight folks don't seem to anticipate that.

Mike Pegram has a nice summary of the Big Ten bowl picture, including links to various media speculation. The Michigan media believes MSU is a lock for the Insight Bowl. The Indiana media believes the same of IU. The national media uniformly is projecting IU to the Insight. As I have noted on many occasions, most of the people doing the projections for the national publications are ignorant of even the most basic of bowl eligibility rules, so I don't place much stock in their projections. What does seem clear is that the Insight likes IU (in a general sense), and the Motor City Bowl, really, really, really covets MSU. I am holding out hope for a backroom deal between the Insight and the Motor City that will send IU to Tempe and MSU to Detroit. Absent that, I have to think MSU, a football school with a huge fan base and no bowl bids since 2003, would be very attractive to the Insight. Damn you, Penn State!

Indiana 27, Purdue 24.

For all of the progress that this year's Hoosiers made, close games brought nothing but heartache. IU lost close games against Penn State and Northwestern because of mistakes. While Marcus Thigpen's late fumble let Purdue tie the game, the offense moved the ball down the field and allowed Austin Starr to kick a 49-yard winner with 30 seconds remaining. Starr missed an earlier 42 yard attempt that likely would have sealed victory. IU led 24-3 in the third quarter. Purdue finally began to move the ball and IU's offense sputtered, but I'm not going to complain too much. The points count the same whenever they come. Purdue has a formidable offense, and it was nearly inevitable that they would begin to produce at some point.
Here's the box score. IU outgained Purdue 435-359 and average 5.4 yards per play to Purdue's 4.7. Consistent with the teams' season stats, IU's offense was balanced (219 rushing, 216 passing) and Purdue's was not (78 rushing, 281 passing). It's unfortunate that the oh-no image of the fourth quarter fumble will be seared into the memories of Hoosier fans, because Marcus Thigpen, who had struggled a bit as a traditional running back, had his best game of the year, gaining 140 yards on 19 carries (that's 7.4 per). Kellen Lewis was 23-39 and IU didn't have to pay for an awful throw in the first half that resulted in an interception. James Hardy, likely playing his last game in Bloomington, wasn't his flashy self but functioned as a possession receiver, especially on the crucial last drive. Hardy caught 10 balls for 87 yards with a TD but with no reception longer than 13 yards. For Purdue, Curtis Painter generated lots of yard and completed well over 50 percent of his passes (28-45), but the Hoosier pass rush generated 4 sacks, and obviously Painter couldn't get Purdue on the board (in terms of touchdowns) until late in the third quarter. By the way, 2.5 of those sacks belonged to sophomore Greg Middleton. On the strength of his Bucket game performance, Middleton is now the nation's sack leader. When Middleton changed his commitment from Purdue to IU, he was blistered by Joe Tiller on Tiller's radio show. Reportedly, Middleton wanted to be a defensive end while Purdue envisioned him as a DT. I guess Greg was right about his national position, but Coach Tiller can take some consolation that his efforts to defame Middleton's character succeeded. The Purdue fans sitting next to me were under the impression that he was at IU because he failed to qualify academically at Purdue. In any event, a great game by the defense. Purdue gained only 117 yards in the first half.
For the first time in eons, IU came up big in an important game. The atmosphere was great, the team played well for most of the game, and didn't give up after allowing Purdue to tie. The team will be rewarded. After watching so many great players and team leaders--Adewale Ogunleye, Antwaan Randle El, Levron Williams, unfortunately too many to name, play four years without a bowl game--it's nice to know that this current team will get a postseason opportunity.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bowl thoughts.

I have lots to say about the Bucket game, of course, but not much time before tonight to say it. A wonderful win, of course, and probably the best atmosphere and best game I have seen at Memorial Stadium. On the radio postgame, someone that Don Fischer was interviewing (I think it was Harold Mauro) suggested that other than the 1967 Bucket win that clinched the Rose Bowl and the 1987 win over Michigan, this might have been IU's biggest win in the stadium (which opened in 1960). Although I hope IU's program will someday improve to the point where a win over a 7-5 team, even Purdue, doesn't qualify for such an honor, given all that IU's program has been through in the last 14 years, and particularly in the last year, it probably fits. But more on that later.
I'm not going to run through the conference-by-conference list for a couple of days, at least. If the Big Ten bowls allocate their bids in the next couple of days, it may be moot. The only fly in the ointment is Illinois. At 9-3, Illinois has enough wins to be BCS eligible. The Illini were ranked #19 in last week's BCS standings, but there is some slim chance that the Illini could move into the top 14 and an even slimmer chance that they could earn an at-large bid. In the past, the BCS has "released" teams who are or might become eligible so that other bowls could issue invitations, but I don't know if that has happened or will happen this year. At the beginning of the week, here is what I said we needed:
  • Win the Bucket;
  • Root for Michigan to upset OSU, which despite a two-game losing streak still would have a chance at a BCS at-large, especially with so many TV-unfriendly teams (Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, etc.) in the mix;
  • Root for WMU (3-7) to pull an upset at Iowa. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
  • Root for Illinois to beat Northwestern, keeping the Wildcats at six wins.
  • Root for Penn State to beat MSU for the same reason.

Well, we got three of the five. The Hoosiers did what they had to do. WMU won at Kinnick (devaluing one of our two sorta quality wins, but whatever). Illinois kept NU out of the party. Penn State blew it at MSU and Michigan didn't come close against OSU.

Setting aside the Illinois issue, it seems overwhelmingly likely that Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Penn State will take the Rose/BCS, the Capital One, the Outback, the Alamo, and the Champs Sports. That leaves two bids (the Insight and the Motor City) for three seven-win teams (IU, Purdue, and Michigan State, all 7-5 and 2-5 in the conference). All of today's chatter, including in the Chicago Tribune, suggests that the Insight Bowl will take IU, the Motor City Bowl will take Michigan State, and Purdue will be on the open market. That would be great. What makes me nervous is that MSU is a historically strong program with a big fan base that hasn't been to a bowl game in four years. Who's to say that the Insight wouldn't prefer MSU? Do bowls ever make side deals? I'm sure the Motor City really would covet MSU, which would guarantee a sellout and local interest, particularly if Central Michigan wins the MAC. I'm just glad we're talking about it.

It's been a while.

But it's ours for now, as is a date in some out-of-state location in December.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Longwood preview.

Longwood Lancers
Overall record: 2-1
Conference record: n/a (Independent)
2006-07 RPI: 308
2006-07 record: 7-22
2006-07 Sagarin: 317
Series: First meeting
TV: November 18, 12 p.m., BTN
The focus of most IU fans is on the Bucket game tomorrow, but IU does have a basketball game this weekend, the beginning of stretch of five games in ten days. IU plays four games as part of the "Chicago Invitational Challenge" and then plays Georgia Tech on Tuesday, November 27. What, you might ask, is the Chicago Invitational Challenge? It is an event, in its second year, held at the Sears Centre, a fairly new arena in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates. It would appear that the first two games, the games that IU will play at Assembly Hall against Longwood and UNC-Wilmington, are pointless. All of the Challenge teams will participate in two early games that have no bearing on the tournament pairings. Then, on November 23 and November 24, there will be two concurrent tournaments at the Sears Centre. The lower-tier tournament features UNC-Wilmington v. Longwood and SE Missouri v. Coppin State. The upper tier tournament features IU v. Illinois State and Xavier v. Kent State. Interesting digression: the event features two of the five teams that IU defeated in the 2002 NCAA Tournament (Wilmington and Kent State).

So, Longwood. The Lancers, who were 7-22 last year, are 2-1, with a loss to Navy and wins over Norfolk State and something called Virginia-Wise. Longwood, located in Farmville, Virginia, is in its first season of full-fledged Division I status. Longwood has surprising height (five players 6-7 or taller). Leading the way so far for Longwood is Kirk Williams, averaging 20 points per game on 156 shots per game. Unlike Chattanooga, Longwood doesn't seem to have a significant three point threat. Last year, Longwood played quickly (71 possessions per game) but poorly (.892 points per possession on offense, 1.04 points per possession on defense). Those raw numbers, both resulting in a sub-300 ranking, are even worse when adjusted for schedule. In short? A bad team that we should handle.

Questions and answers with Off the Tracks.

The author of Off the Tracks, a fine Purdue blog, and I have been exchanging questions and answers this week. My answers to his questions will be posted there in the next day or so, and his answers to my questions are below:
1. Let's keep things light to begin. Of all the Bucket games you have seen, which was your favorite, and which was the most difficult to handle? Just so we know the timeframe you are considering, you might mention how long you have been a Purdue fan.

Well, I was born in 1979 as the son of a 1975 Purdue grad and came home from the hospital in a Purdue outfit, so that should give you an idea. I started going to games in 1987 with my parents, and three bucket games really stand out to me. The first was the 1992 bucket game with the interception of Trent Green at the goal line in the final seconds and a fight breaking out after the return. That was a small bright spot in a dreadful era of Purdue football.

The second is the 2000 bucket game also at Purdue. It was my junior year and everyone was abuzz at the possibility of heading to the Rose Bowl. It was on national TV and we had gotten a reprieve at clinching the Rose Bowl bid the week before. We had lost a bad, bad game to a bad Michigan State team but Iowa bailed us out by beating Northwestern. There was simply no freaking way we were losing the Rose Bowl bid at home to a 3-7 Indiana team, and Montrell Lowe just dominated on the same play over and over again to the tune of 200 plus yards and four TD’s. The site of me running onto the field, roses in the bucket is a sight I will never forget.

The most difficult to handle was the very next year and my first ever trip to Bloomington for the game. It was an absolutely miserable day weather-wise and we ended up blowing chance after chance to win in a 13-7 loss. I remember thinking, “I drove three hours and stood in the rain for THIS?”

2. Not long ago, Brock Spack was one of the names bandied about for various head coaching positions, but in recent years, the Purdue defense has been dreadful. What's the problem, and what can be done about it?

I really don’t know what the problem is. I watch the NFL on Sundays and I see names like Landon Johnson, Shaun Phillips, Akin Ayodele, Stu Schweigert, Jacques Reeves, Roosevelt Colvin, and many more thinking it wasn’t that long ago they were all at Purdue. Many of those guys played on the same defense that started together for years. We thought the dropoff would come in 2004 when most of those guys left, but that year the defense was fine. It really came in 2005 when some on the defense (Ray Edwards and Bernard Pollard) got a bit of a big head and constantly got lit up. A play that stands out is Bernard Pollard body slamming a guy and posing during the 2005 Minnesota game. That’s a great tackle, Bernard, but too bad you’re a safety and he was 15 yards downfield.

Things seem to be improving this year, but last week was an example of not making adjustments. Michigan State kept throwing to the same receiver (Devin Thomas) in one-on-one coverage on third down and he kept making catches. We simply refuse to adjust, double cover, or even play up on him. We gave him ten yards and one-on-one coverage on every 3rd and 6 and Hoyer just kept throwing to him. We need somebody aside from me screaming section 128, row 42 to realize things like this.

3. What's the word on Curtis Painter? He generated a bunch of yards last year, but wasn't terribly accurate and turned the ball over quite a bit. He has been better this year. Are Purdue fans satisfied with his progress? Also, I see that the Purdue website lists him as a senior, but it appears that he has a year of eligibility remaining, so I presume he will be back. If I am wrong about that, how are your QB prospects for next year?

He is a redshirt junior, so he has one year of eligibility remaining. I don’t think he has been as much of a problem this year except in probably the Michigan State game. Even then I felt he played a good game if you take away his two interceptions, but when those two interceptions came on plays that easily could have gone for scores and instead gave 10 points to the other team in a 17 point loss they are big mistakes. In our wins he has been great, but in our losses we lost for bigger reasons than him.

Against Ohio State the coaches abandoned the running game and Ohio State played great defense. Against Michigan he had some bad picks, but the whole team sucked that day. Penn State saw a lot of dumb penalties by our guys, a costly goal line fumble by Jaycen Taylor, and some terrible calls from the officials. Against Michigan State the defense could not get a stop when they needed to, and we easily could have overcome the picks had they been able to. Personally I am satisfied with what he has done, but there are elements within the fan base that will never be happy until Drew Brees returns. Painter could be in for a big year next year, but changes on the O-line, a much tougher schedule since Oregon and MAC champ Central Michigan come to Purdue, and a still questionable defense will be tough to overcome.

4. As for the Bucket game, what concerns you most about IU and why? What concerns should IU have about Purdue?

Kellen Lewis scares the hell out of me because I remember how Randle El ran circles around us in the rain six years ago. After seeing what Devin Thomas did last week to us, and knowing we will never adjust in game to what he’s doing, I fear James Hardy could set NCAA single game records against us. It also concerns me that Indiana has everything to play for at 7-5 trying to reach that bowl game for Hep while our season evaporated last week in the Michigan State loss. Even with three losses we had a good shot at a New Year’s Day bowl if things fell right by winning these last two games. Now even if we beat IU we could possibly get no higher than Detroit for a bowl. It’s hard to get excited for that, and I hope the pride of keeping the bucket is enough. Simply put, Indiana has more motivation for this game.

Indiana should worry if we actually do what I have been screaming about for years and commit to our running game. Kory Sheets has had a field day the last two years, going for 200 yards and four touchdowns in the two games he has played against the Hoosiers. Two years ago was his best game, with a 137 yard 3 TD game in Memorial Stadium. He probably had the best day of anyone last week with a 59 yard TD run and a 41 yard TD catch on a screen pass. With Jaycen Taylor complementing him and IU’s run defense being a little suspect IU fans should be concerned if we commit to pounding the ball with those two. I don’t think our coaching staff is smart enough to do so though.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bob Kravitz: Intellectually dishonest, or just as dumb as he looks?

I hesitate to use a term like "intellectually dishonest" against someone like Bob Kravitz. I think using the word "intellectual" in the same sentence as his name might give him too much credit. Nothing is more emblematic of the dumbing down of the Indianapolis Star than the continued presence of this guy as the only general sports columnist for the paper. Congrats, Bob. You make Robin Miller look good.

What brings this on? Central Indiana's hair-puller-in-chief is at it again, trying to scold IU into giving Bill Lynch the long-term head coaching job. Before I discuss the column, let me make one thing clear. I like Bill Lynch. I'm skeptical about his chances of getting the job and about whether he is the long-term answer for the program, but he will have my support if he gets the job. He's a solid, competent, classy guy who loves IU. He is not Mike Davis. Mike Davis was a self-promoting charlatan who had no business at the helm of any major program, let alone one of the most prestigious in college basketball. Again, whatever happens against Purdue or in 2008, and despite the criticism that will appear below, I'm grateful to Bill Lynch and he has my respect.

About that column:

There will be no campaigning by Bill Lynch. You can ask the question a thousand different ways, and Lynch, the man who stepped into the breach after the tragic loss of Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner, will not make his case for being brought back on a long-term basis. That's for others. Like Harold Mauro, IU's longtime director of football operations, who met with the media Wednesday as part of Saturday's 40th reunion of the 1967 Rose Bowl team, of which he was the starting center. "I've been here for 38 years and gone through nine football coaches, nine athletic directors, plus one interim AD, and 10 presidents -- that's one every four years," Mauro said. "I'm hoping Bill Lynch gets the opportunity because he's done a phenomenal job."
Harold Mauro, by all accounts is a great guy. He's been with the program for a long time and is a great source of institutional knowledge. His opinion should carry weight. But let me say this. First, continuity is important, but it's not the only or even primary concern. If continuity had been the primary concern, Rick Greenspan never would have fired Gerry Dinardo after only three years and Hep probably never would have come to IU. Second, his numbers are off. IU has had only eight athletic directors since 1961, even if you count two interim guys. IU has had six presidents in the last 38 years, and Lynch is the eighth football coach during that time. I don't mean to nitpick, but if instability is to be a justification, then we should have an accurate picture.

Here's the question IU must answer: What would it say about the school, and specifically the athletic department, if it hires a basketball coach with NCAA baggage, and continues to support a basketball coach with added NCAA baggage, then tells a man of honor and integrity to take a walk? If IU fails to stand behind Lynch, we will know all we need to know about the people in charge of IU's administration and athletic department.

What will it say? Winning is a big deal in college athletics. Most of us already knew that. I have said what I have to say about the Sampson affair, but what does that have to do with Lynch? What if IU declines to hire Lynch but hires someone else with an impeccable reputation for integrity and a clean NCAA record? Are the power-that-be still bad guys if they do that? Or are you just being a dick, Kravitz?

After that, Kravitz launches into some nice background on Lynch, he's an Indiana guy through and through. Nothing disagreeable there. Then, this:

There's no question this weekend's Bucket game is the biggest in the recent history of the IU football program. It should not, however, determine Lynch's long-term fate as the coach. Gerry DiNardo got the ax after he got embarrassed by Purdue, but that was simply the last straw for a coach who already was on the ropes. Whether they win 40-3 or lose 40-3 Saturday, Lynch is the right guy at the right time. That's not being sentimental. That's being smart. It would be even smarter if athletic director Rick Greenspan tendered that new contract sometime before Saturday's game.

Let's follow the logic here. This is the most important Bucket game in years. It's also one of the few evenly matched Bucket games in recent years. Yet, the outcome of the most importing Bucket game in years should have no impact on the decision to retain Lynch or not. Right.

This is not a Mike Davis-type deal, where an inexperienced coach falls into the job of a lifetime, then has a magical year and forces the administration to sign him to a long-term deal.

Yep. He's just being a dick. One of the reasons that Davis was able to force IU into hiring him was because of the sophistry of intellectually dishonest (there it is again) goofballs like Kravitz, who manipulated the numbers and tried to convince us that the very ordinary 2000-01 basketball season (21-13) was a magical season. It wasn't. Kravitz and his ilk loved to point out that no IU coach had ever won as many as 21 games in his first season, but wouldn't mention that no IU coach had ever lost 13 games in his first season, or that IU hadn't lost 13 games in any season since 1985. But, after a rough start, including losses to Indiana State and a lousy Missouri team and a woe-is-me press conference meltdown after a loss to Kentucky, IU had some nice moments, including upsets of #1 MSU on a last second shot and an upset of #4 Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Despite his obvious unfitness for the job and despite IU's preseason promise to conduct a national search, the media started clamoring for Davis. Here's what one guy said after the MSU upset in early January:

Let's see them fire Mike Davis now. Let's see them, all of them, especially the ones who just can't let go of Bob Knight, find a reasonable rationale for letting Davis go at season's end. Let's see the fans, who finally showed up Sunday afternoon, continue to stay away. Let's see the racists, the ones who send the vicious e-mails – and yes, Davis has seen them – continue to rip away at a man who has done nothing but make his university and his team proud. Your mind had to be closed, and your heart had to be small, if you could look at that wondrously mad scene in the wake of Indiana University's seismic upset of Michigan State and not believe – not know – that Mike Davis should be the coach of this basketball team.


The pressure to remove the "interim" tag, now and forever, is on. That wasn't just No. 1 Michigan State. That was defending national champion Michigan State. That was 23-victories-in-a-row Michigan State. It's fair to wonder, could any of IU's starters make MSU's starting five? Kirk Haston? Maybe?


Let's see them try to fire him now. Let's see them look Davis in the eye and tell him he's the wrong man for the job. Let's watch them walk into that IU locker room and talk to these kids, every last one of them playing their guts out for this guy, and tell them Davis has no place here. Let's see them try.

IU's record when Kravitz wrote the article? Nine and freaking seven. Yet now Kravitz, in an oddly detached manner, notes that Davis somehow managed to "force" IU into hiring him. Do you think it had anything to do with the hair-trigger allegations of racism directed at anyone who dared question whether an assistant with a thin resume should have the job? As if we could forget, Kravitz, you goddamn clown. But I digress.

Lynch is a solid pick. An unspectacular pick, sure. He doesn't possess an oversized personality, doesn't walk into a room and make the place seem smaller. He's not Hep, not even Ron Zook, and he doesn't try to be. But the last football coach who had success in Bloomington wasn't a charismatic figure, either. Name is Bill Mallory. Who, by the way, had Lynch on his staff.
Bill Mallory wasn't a charismatic figure? Bill Mallory wasn't a charismatic figure?! Mallory may not be the polished public speaker that Hep was, but not charismatic? The guy who stomped the buckeye nut to shreds at the homecoming pep rally? The guy who gave this speech to the MSU after the toughest loss of his career, when IU lost the Big Ten championship to MSU 20 years ago?

Bill Mallory wasn't charismatic. I was leaning toward intellectually dishonest, but maybe Kravitz is as dumb as he looks.

Anyway, who's out there? I've got news: Urban Meyer isn't walking through the door and taking a seat in the Hoosier Room. Neither is Steve Spurrier. Be careful what you wish for. The Notre Dame alums who ran Tyrone Willingham out of South Bend are now wondering how they're going to get Regis Philbin to buy out Charlie Weis. This program doesn't need a big-splash hire, assuming there is even a big-splash hire out there who would consider taking this gig. What this program needs is consistency. Since 2000, the Hoosiers have had four coaches -- Cam Cameron, DiNardo, Hoeppner and Lynch; in the past four years, they've had three. These kids and this program need stability and continuity as much as they require an infusion of talent.

Well, shit. The coach of the defending national champions isn't going to come to IU? Hell, let's just wind up the program. That rationale would prevent IU from ever firing a coach. Of course, it's unlikely that IU is going to get a big name coach. But stability doesn't always breed success. All things equal, stability is good. But again, the stability argument, if employed in 2004, would have given Gerry Dinardo another year. Changing coaches is always a gamble, but failure of the new guy doesn't mean it was a mistake to get rid of the other guy. That Charlie Weis looks likely to fail at Notre Dame doesn't change the fact that Ty Willingham is a bad coach who did a lousy job there. There's not guarantee of success, whether IU retains Lynch or not. Being an athletic director isn't easy. Taking cheap shots is.

Lynch has done what he was supposed to do. The loss to Illinois doesn't look so bad now. And the Hoosiers were less than a minute away from winning last weekend at Northwestern. This is not a quick-fix program. It's going to need time and continuity and a steady hand.

If Kravitz wasn't concerned by what he saw in the Northwestern game, then he probably didn't watch it. IU is 6-5 against one of the easiest schedules in the BCS conferences. Yes, it could have been worse. But has it been so good that IU should pass on a national search? I'm not going to make that judgment now. Greenspan is the man with the Rolodex, and if he's the AD I think he is, he already has an idea of who he can get if IU elects not to retain Lynch.

Also (and this goes back to the intellectual dishonesty thing), how it the world can a journalist with any integrity write an article advocating that Lynch get the job without acknowledging that this is a coach who was fired by Ball State? Sure, failure at one job does not guarantee failure at the next job, but Lynch had a 22 game losing streak at Ball State. Have we seen enough this season to be sure that we won't see that guy again? Have we seen enough to believe that Bill Lynch has a better chance than anyone to turn the corner with IU's program? I realize that it's unlikely that IU will ever be a perennial Rose Bowl contender, but I don't think it's unrealistic to hope for a coach who can do at IU what Joe Tiller has done at Purdue. Is Bill Lynch that guy? If IU hires Lynch and has four losing seasons in a row, will Kravitz still value stability over all else? Nah. Just like the 2001 Davis column, Kravitz will pretend that someone else wrote it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Purdue week.

Purdue Boilermakers
2007 record: 7-4 (3-4)
2007 Sagarin: 42 (IU is #66)
2006 record: 8-6 (5-3) (lost to Maryland in Champs Sports Bowl)
2006 Sagarin: 62
Series: Purdue leads 68-35-6
Last IU win: 2001 (13-7 in Bloomington).
Last Purdue win: 2006 (28-19 in West Lafayette).
Last Purdue win in Bloomington: 2005 (41-14).

As the overall record indicates, Purdue has long had the upper hand in this rivalry, but perhaps never as in the last 11 years. Since Joe Tiller arrived at Purdue, the Boilers have attached 10 P's to the Bucket compared to one I. Even including IU's lone 6-point win in 2001, Purdue's average margin from 1997 to present is +23 points per game. If Purdue wins on Saturday, the six game winning streak will tie the second longest winning streak in series history (Purdue won 10 in a row from 1948-1957 and won the first six games from 1891-1898. IU's longest winning streak in the series is 4 from 1944-1947).

Talking heads often say of rivalry games, "throw out the records in this one." During the Tiller era, that hasn't been true. In 2001, IU probably had the better team, and held on to beat the Boilers in rain-soaked Bloomington. The only competitive games since 1997 have been in 1999 (a terrible IU defense played over its head against Drew Brees, only to lose the game 30-24 on a Vinny Sutherland punt return); 2001 (IU won); 2003 (another overmatched IU team played well, but Matt Lovecchio couldn't hit open receivers when it mattered); and 2006 (more on that below). To compound the frustration, from 1986 to 1994, perhaps the only sustained period in history during which IU always had a better team that Purdue, the Boilers more than held their own. In 1986 (I think this was the famous game in which Rod Woodson played both ways), a Purdue team with wins only against Ball State and Northwestern upset Bill Mallory's first bowl team 17-15. In 1989, a Purdue team with wins over Miami of Ohio and Northwestern won 15-14 in Bloomington, costing IU a bowl bid and likely costing Anthony Thompson the Heisman. In 1992, a somewhat better Purdue team (3-7 entering the game), but still playing out the string, won 13-10 and ended Trent Green's IU career a game earlier than expected. When IU is good, this has been a "throw out the records" rivalry. When Purdue is good? Not so much.

But that doesn't really matter this year, because this seems to be the most evenly matched Bucket game since 2001. IU played respectably in West Lafayette last year, but could not take advantage of an abominable performance by Curtis Painter. I'll simply quote myself to refresh your recollections on that game:

IU outgained the Boilers 505-435. Kellen Lewis was 26-42 for 290 yards and no interceptions. Curtis Painter was 18-32 for 260 yards and 4 interceptions. IU, quite uncharacteristically, outrushed an opponent, 215-175. IU gave the ball back to Purdue a bunch (4 fumbles, all lost, as opposed to 1/1 for Purdue). The Hoosiers managed one of the strangest plays of all time when IU's Tracy Porter recovered a Purdue fumble, returned it nearly for a touchdown, but Purdue forced a fumble that went out the back of the endzone for a Purdue touchback. IU gained 284 yards in the first half and had three points to show for it. Purdue wasn't much better, gaining 190 yards and scoring only one touchdown, but the story of the game was IU's failure to hold onto the ball and thereby capitalize on an absolutely dreadful first half performance by Painter, who threw three interceptions on Purdue's first six possessions.

And so it was. Tiller's boys retained the Bucket for the 10th time in 11 years. During that time, Purdue has defeated the Hoosiers in nearly every way imaginable, but the 2006 version was unlike any game I have ever seen, Bucket game or otherwise.

But back to 2007. Purdue has played a tougher schedule and has a slightly better record than IU (7-4 to 6-5). Purdue didn't play Illinois or Wisconsin and IU didn't play Michigan and OSU, of course. Against common opponents:
  • Iowa: IU won comfortably on the road, Purdue won comfortably at home;

  • Michigan State: IU lost badly on the road, Purdue lost badly at home;

  • Minnesota: IU won comfortably at home, Purdue won comfortably on the road;

  • Penn State: IU lost a close one at home, Purdue lost a close one on the road;

  • Northwestern: IU lost a close one on the road, Purdue won a mostly competitive game at home.

Other than the Northwestern game, the outcomes against common opponents are strikingly similar. Neither team played a formidable non-conference team. Statistically, the teams are fairly even in points per game (33.7 for Purdue to 32.0 for IU). Purdue averages 429 yards per game to IU's 389. Purdue is the second most pass-happy team in the conference, with over 3100 passing yards and 1500 rushing yards. IU has 2637 passing yards and 1648 rushing yards. The Purdue and IU passing attacks have been fairly similar: while Purdue has generated more yards, the completion percentages (61.8 for Purdue, 60.9 for IU) and TD/INT ratios (26/10 for Purdue, 25/10 for IU) are similar. Purdue averages 4.4 yards per carry to IU's 4.1/

Defensively, Purdue has a slight edge in scoring defense (24.1 to 27.0). Both teams allow lots of yards per game: 380 for Purdue, 397 for IU. The Hoosiers do lead the league with 17 interceptions compared to 14 for Purdue. Both allow plenty of passing yards per game: 235 for IU, 237 for Purdue. Purdue allows 57 percent completions compared to 60 for IU. IU allows 162 yards rushing per game compared to 143 for Purdue. Yards per carry allowed is nearly identical: 3.8 for IU, 3.9 for Purdue.

In sum, these two teams are quite similar statistically. Neither team has a signature win. Both teams lost as favorites last week. I am pessimistic about this game, but that's because of history. Considering 2007 only, this is a tough game to call. Gamblers beware.