Monday, December 31, 2007

Gameday!

Here's a nice preview from Pete Fiutak of Fox Sports, even if he does pick the Cowboys. OSU remains approximately a 4.5 point favorite, which, given OSU's high-production offense and the tougher schedule, is fair.
It looks like a nice day in the Valley of the Sun. Sunny, with the high of 65 occurring around kickoff time.
Some last minute, trivial odds and ends:
  • Technically, this is IU's first game against the Big 12 Conference. Although the Big 12 is the obvious successor to the Big 8, technically (and much to the chagrin of the Big 8 holdovers) the Big 12 is a new conference that began play in 1996. IU's last game against a current Big 12 member was in 1992, a 20-10 win over Missouri in Bloomington. That was the last game of an eight year series against the Tigers, and the Hoosiers were 6-0-2 against Mizzou during that stretch. IU's last loss to a current Big 12 member was a loss to Colorado in 1979. IU has a modest 2 game winning streak against the Big 12 members (the 1992 Missouri game and the 1991 Copper Bowl against Baylor) and a ten game unbeaten streak.
  • IU has a respectable 25-17-6 record against current Big 12 members. IU has never played Iowa State, Texas A&M, or Texas Tech.
  • Believe it or not, IU's 9 wins against Nebraska are the most wins IU has against any major non-conference opponent other than Kentucky.
  • IU's only previous game against Oklahoma State was in 1930, a 7-7 tie in Bloomington against what then was known as Oklahoma A&M.
  • Oklahoma State is 1-8-1 against Big Ten opponents. The Cowboys have never played Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, or Wisconsin. The only OSU win over a Big Ten school was a 6-0 win over Iowa in 1930, the same year that the Hoosiers and the Cowboys tied.
  • Two of OSU's 17 bowl appearances have been against Big Ten schools: the Cowboys lost 33-20 to Purdue in the 1997 Alamo Bowl and 33-7 to Ohio State in the 2004 Alamo Bowl.
  • The 1991 Copper Bowl against Baylor (then of the Southwest Conference) is IU's only postseason appearance against a current Big 12 team.

Meet the Cowboys.

Just about 24 hours until the Insight Bowl kicks off. I've discussed OSU's team stats, but here are the individuals worth watching tomorrow.
Zac Robinson, sophomore quarterback. Robinson emerged as OSU's starter early in the season and has become a reliable dual threat for the Cowboys. Robinson completed 59.2 percent of his passes and threw for 20 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Robinson ran for seven touchdowns and was OSU's second leading rusher with 77 yards (6.2 yards per attempt). Quite remarkably, Robinson was sacked only seven times. For reference, Kellen Lewis, whose numbers are comparable otherwise, was sacked 29 times.
Dantrell Savage, senior running back. Savage came to OSU as a juco transfer and has a solid 1992 rushing yards in his two year career. This season, Savage played in only 10 games, but ran for 1172 yards and 5.9 yards per carry. He scored 8 touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 258 yards. Other than a respectable 10/55 performance in the opener against Georgia, Savage has broken the 100 yard barrier in every game he has played, and never did worse than 4.4 yards per carry. The OSU rushing game is formidable.
Kendall Hunter, freshman running back. Hunter is a true freshman, and while his playing time has been sporadic, he has 663 yards rushing and 6.7 yards per carry. All of Hunter's good games were in September and October, so perhaps he hit the freshman wall, but he, Robinson, and Savage present a challenge for IU's less than stellar run defense.
Adarius Bowman, senior receiver. Bowman missed the Cowboys' last two games with an injury, but will play in the Insight Bowl. In ten games, Bowman caught 61 balls for 932 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was even better as a junior, with 1161 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bowman is 6-4 and so the media has been all over the James Hardy comparison.
Jacob Lacey, junior cornerback. Lacey leads the Cowboys with five interceptions.
Nathan Peterson, senior defensive end. Peterson leads OSU with six sacks and 14 tackles for loss.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Indiana 97, Chicago State 59.

I'm busy, so just a few thoughts on this laugher. First, let me note that IU is ranked 51 in the RPI this morning despite an 11-1 record. Sagarin has IU at #23, which is a bit better, but both rating systems agree that IU's schedule strength is horrible. IU's loss to Xavier is the Hoosiers' only game against a top 50 opponent. IU's best wins are against Illinois State (#65), Georgia Tech (#72), and at Southern Illinois (#80). Kentucky's RPI is sub-200, and based on the current developments, it seems likely that Connecticut, which IU plays in January, will be the Hoosiers' only NCAA-bound non-conference opponent.
The problem with scheduling as many foreseeable sub-200 pushovers as IU has scheduled is that there is no margin for error. Before the season, Kentucky, Southern Illinois, and Connecticut looked like IU's resume-building non-conference games. Kentucky is historically awful, and Southern Illinois has been a tad disappointing (while most Hoosier fans root for Butler and other local mid-majors, we really needed SIU to hold onto that game Friday). If IU had scheduled some low-level major conference teams or some mid-level CUSA or WAC or Missouri Valley teams, our RPI would be a bit better. As it stands, with the exception of the games I mentioned (plus GT, Xavier, and Illinois State), IU consciously scheduled the worst teams from the worst conferences in the country.
I understand that as talented as this IU team is, it's an inexperienced team with a bunch of guys who have never played together before this year. Still, what concerns me for the future is that Sampson hasn't scheduled a single tough game on his own. The Kentucky series is a traditional game. The Big Ten-ACC Challenge is a given. The Xavier and Illinois State games were part of a pre-conference tournament. The Connecticut and SIU series predate Sampson's arrival. It's going to be interesting to see how our schedules develop in the future.
As for Chicago State (box score):
  • DJ White continues to be excellent. Who would have guess after the first couple games of the season that there might be some debate concerning the identity of IU's best player. 21 points, 8-11 from the field, 5-7 from the line, 15 rebounds, 23 minutes. That's good, even against CSU.
  • Eric Gordon struggled again from the field (3-12) but was 14-14 from the line so ended up with an efficient 22 points. Let's hope Gordon can continue to get to the line when we are playing on the road in the Big Ten with Ed Hightower on the court.
  • The turnover numbers were better (only 10 in an 80 possession game), although Jamarcus Ellis provided five on his own.
  • 17 assists on 34 field goals. Better.
  • Armon Bassett rediscovered his stroke, with 13 points on 8 shots.
  • Jordan Crawford shoots a lot, as I have noted before. Crawford scored 15 on 13 shots. Crawford also added 5 steals.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

December 31, 1993: Virginia Tech 45, Indiana 20.

Because of how badly the 1993 season ended, it's easy to forget that the Hoosiers flirted with a really special season. After a 3-0 start, including a comfortable win over a bowl-bound Kentucky team, IU lost 27-15 to eventual Rose Bowl team Wisconsin. The Hoosiers then won four in a row and entered November 7-1 with road trips to Penn State and Ohio State (plus a hme game against Purdue) remaining. IU erased two 14 point deficits but fell at Penn State 38-31. In Columbus, Chris Dittoe threw what would have been the game winning touchdown pass just beyond the fingertips of Thomas Lewis, and IU lost 23-17. Had the Hoosiers won just one of those games, a trip to the Holiday Bowl or Citrus Bowl would have been in the works. As it stood, the Big Ten's four automatic bids went to Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan, and the Hoosiers were on the open market, and received a bid to what then was known as the Poulan-Weedeater Independence Bowl. Had we known what the next 14 years would hold, we would have been more grateful, I suppose.
I was a member of the Marching Hundred, so my interest in the Hoosiers season was two-fold. Of course, I wanted the Hoosiers to do as well as possible, but I also had some interest in the nature of our free vacation. I still recall picking up the Indiana Daily Student and reading that IU would play Virginia Tech in Shreveport, Louisiana. My first reaction, which says something about what VT has accomplished in the last 15 years, was "who the hell is Virginia Tech?" The Big East was only in its second year of existence, so even though I had grown up as a big football fan, this long-time eastern independent just wasn't in my bank of knowledge. The 1993 Independence Bowl was Frank Beamer's first bowl game at VT. The other thing that I noticed, of course, was "Shreveport." I figured a city in Louisiana with "port" in its name must be on the Gulf of Mexico, right? Nah. As soon as I looked at a map, I realized that essentially, we were going to a bowl game in Arkansas.


I could say a lot about Shreveport, but read this column by Orson Swindle of EDSBS, who says all that needs to be said. Read the whole thing, but this is the key:

The GMAC, the Motor City, the Meineke Car Care Bowl ... they all owe a debt of gratitude to the Independence Bowl, which came along in 1976 and innovated the bowl scene by removing the requirement of being "a destination city" from the criteria.
If there was a nice part of Shreveport, we didn't see it. We were warehoused in a Super 8 out near the interstate within walking distance of a Denny's and not much else. I remember practicing on a 35 degree day on a field of dead yellow grass and thinking, "yes, this is exactly how I pictured a bowl game."


Oh, and the game! Well, here's the box score (click for full size):




IU struck first, with a 77 yard touchdown pass to Thomas Lewis. VT scored two TDs to pull ahead 14-7, but Bill Manolopoulos kicked two field goals in the second quarter to pull the Hoosiers to within a point, at 14-13. IU had the ball late in the second quarter, looking for a halftime lead. If you remember this game and can't stomach the highlights, I don't blame you, but some VT fans has created Youtube videos of the game with all but the action edited out. Here's the first half:



And the second half.


IU had the ball with around 30 seconds left and was at the VT 49 when quarterback John Paci fumbled under pressure. The box score reflects a 20 yard fumble return, but that's because the ball bounced around for a while before the VT player scooped and scored. 20-13. Not good, but not the end of the world. IU returned VT's kickoff to inside the 45 yard line, competed a pass, and called timeout with one second on the clock, just in time to kick a half-ending field goal. Again, at the time no one outside of Blacksburg knew what "Beamerball" was, but as has become VT's trademark, the Hokies blocked the kick and returned it for a touchdown as the half ended. With 35 seconds left in the second quarter, IU trailed 14-13 with the ball in VT territory. At halftime, IU trailed 28-13. One could argue that it has taken IU's program 14 years to recover from that sequence. In any event, in 48 hours, whatever happens against Oklahoma State, the Independence Bowl will no longer be IU's last bowl appearance. That's a good thing.

The Chicago State game: last of the non-con pushovers.

Chicago State Cougars
Current Record
: 4-11
Conference record: n/a
Current RPI: 263
Current Sagarin: 269
2006-07 record: 7-20
2006-07 RPI: 213
2006-07 Sagarin: 197
Series: IU leads 1-0 (90-69 in Bloomington last season)

Chicago State is in an odd predicament. A couple of years ago, the Cougars left the Mid-Contintent Conference, now known as the Summit, for reasons that aren't exactly clear, and so the Cougars are one of the few Division I independents. They have played one major conference team, Michigan State, and lost 86-53. After IU, the Cougars will play Alabama and then Northwestern. CSU has defeated only two Division I teams, Jackson State and Binghamton. As for the Hoosiers, Big Ten play begins Wednesday night at Iowa.
The Cougars are led by David Holston, a guard who shoots 43 percent from behind the arc, where he takes 2/3 of his shots, but only 43 percent overall. He also gets to the line 5 times a game and averages nearly five assists a game. Guard John Cantrell is the Cougars' only other double digit scorer, averaging 16.5 points on 50 percent shooting.
CSU plays fairly fast, at 72.5 possessions per game (#51 nationally, above the national average of 68.4 and ahead of IU's 70.5). The Cougars' offensive and defensive efficiency are pretty weak, as would be expected of a 4-11 team. They are near the bottom of D-I in offensive efficiency (.902 points per offensive possession, #292) and defensive efficiency (1.107 points per possession, #312 nationally). CSU turns the ball over on 25 percent of its offensive possessions and doesn't rebound well offensively or get to the line. The same numbers for CSU defensively are uniformly bad. As with too many non-conference opponents this year, Chicago State won't be much of a test.

Friday, December 28, 2007

December 31, 1991: Indiana 24, Baylor 0.

The Hoosiers last won a bowl game nearly 16 years ago, in the predecessor to the Insight Bowl, the Copper Bowl. Unlike the All-American Bowl, the Copper Bowl still exists in some form. Unlike Fulton County Stadium, Arizona Stadium still stands and still hosts the Arizona Wildcats:



although the stadium no longer hosts a bowl game. In 1997, the Copper Bowl became the Insight.com Bowl and became just the Insight Bowl in 2002. In 2000, the game moved from Tucson to Bank One Ballpark, now known as Chase Field, which was designed as the baseball-only home of the Arizona Diamondbacks:



In any event, the 1991 Copper Bowl is IU's only shutout bowl win. Trent Green picked up where he left off in the Peach Bowl, running for two touchdowns, and in his last game as a Hoosier, Vaughn Dunbar added 106 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Although IU gained only 323 yards to Baylor's 269, IU led 17-0 at halftime and the Bears approached the endzone only once, but fumbled on the 2 yard line. Here's the box score:


Now that the Hoosiers have ended their long bowl appearance drought, hopefully IU can end the one-game postseason losing streak at the site of the last win, more or less.

December 30, 1990: Auburn 27, Indiana 23.

For the second time in four years, the Hoosiers lost a heartbreaker in Atlanta. As against Tennessee in 1987, IU overcame a deficit to take a fourth quarter lead, only to lose in dramatic fashion. Here's the box score (click for full size):




In 1990, Auburn's Stan White led a 72 yard drive and scored the winning touchdown with 39 seconds remaining. The Tigers led 20-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter but Trent Green ran for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give IU the lead. It would have been hard to foresee that Green would eventually become a proficient, all-Pro passer in the NFL. Consistent with many of his IU performances, Green did his best work on the ground (although Green netted only 7 yards on 14 carries). Green passed for 99 yards on 10-19 and Vaughn Dunbar added 81 yards on the ground.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Motor City Bowl: why, Jim Delany?

Last night, Purdue, the Big Ten's eighth bowl team, blew a big lead but kicked a field goal as time expired to beat MAC Champion Central Michigan. I realize it's politically correct to claim to root for fellow Big Ten schools during bowl season, but I have to confess that I wasn't in the Boilers' corner last night. Still, I suppose Purdue's last-second win did save the Big Ten a black eye, even though a MAC champion defeating the #8 team in the Big Ten shouldn't be considered an earth-shattering upset. What I didn't get when this deal was announced years ago, and what I still don't get, is why the Big Ten agreed to this ridiculous arrangement in the first place. Let's run down the problems:
  • The location. I don't want to run down Detroit. I was born there and have many relatives in the area. I know it's not all bad and that downtown has improved in recent years. Still, a bowl game is supposed to be a reward, and a trip to Detroit, an unexciting city with bad weather, is a fairly lame reward. Of all of the cities that host bowls, Detroit is the coldest in the United States. Toronto is colder, but is a world class, destination city. Further, forcing a Big Ten team a bowl game right in the middle of Big Ten country doesn't make sense. Again, I live in the midwest and like many things about this place, but not December/January weather. Nearly every Big Ten team plays a game in Michigan every year. Where is the novelty?
  • The opponent. The MAC is a solid conference, and while the league lacks top-to-bottom strength, the MAC champion often is a legitimately good team. Nearly every Big Ten school plays one or more nonconference games against MAC schools each season, and the MAC occasionally gets a scalp. The MAC's footprint is similar to that of the Big Ten. The typical MAC school is a public university from a state with a more prestigious Big Ten school (indeed, every MAC school except Buffalo fits that description) and the typical MAC football roster is populated by players who wanted, but didn't get, recruiting attention from Big Ten schools. Combine the undesirable venue with a ho-hum opponent with a chip on its shoulder, and the powers-that-be have set up a mediocre Big Ten team for failure. A Big Ten team playing a MAC team at a midwestern venue isn't a bowl game; it's called "September."
  • The coverage. Joe Tiller has done a fine job at Purdue, but this wasn't one of his better teams. Purdue beat a I-AA team, two MAC teams, the worst Notre Dame team ever, and the Big Ten's three bowl-less teams (I know IU's resume wasn't any better--that's not the point). Yet, we are treated to breathless hysteria like this from the Detroit Free Press's Drew Sharp:
    They could have removed the schools' names and just put the score "Big Ten 41, Mid-American Conference 41" up there because that's what everybody really saw.
    He's probably right, but people shouldn't see that. They should see "MAC Champion playing its biggest game of the season and possibly ever 41, mediocre Big Ten team whose players would rather be playing XBox 41." I'm sure there is more of this all over the country. Because this game was close, everyone is talking about it. If Purdue had won 55-20, no one would care.

So, Commissioner Delany, why? There are minor bowls all over the country. Las Vegas, Birmingham, Toronto, San Francisco, Nashville...hell, Boise. I don't think it's beneath the Big Ten to play a non-BCS conference team. But why not the WAC, the Mountain West, or Conference USA instead of the conference that dominates the Big Ten's nonconference schedule? Not every bowl location is going to match Pasadena, but at the very least, a bowl game should involve a trip to another part of the country to play a team from another part of the country. The Big Ten school sentenced to the Motor City Bowl gets nothing out of it but a few extra weeks of practice and the opportunity to become a Sportscenter punchline. In the era of 12 game schedules and soft non-conference schedules, the Big Ten likely will send someone to Detroit most every year unless the Big Ten wisely gets out of this arrangement as soon as possible. It can't happen soon enough.

December 28, 1988: Indiana 34, South Carolina 10.

Indiana, in what probably was Bill Mallory's second finest season, defeated South Carolina 34-10 in the Liberty Bowl. Here's the box score (click for full size):

The Hoosiers completely dominated the game. IU led 17-0 at halftime and allowed only one touchdown, on a blocked punt. IU outgained the Gamecocks 575-153 and allowed only 23 rushing yards. Dave Schnell threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns and Anthony Thompson in what sadly was his last bowl appearance, scored two touchdowns and rushed for 140 yards on 26 carries. The Hoosier defense also did its part, picking off South Carolina quarterback Todd Ellis three times.
Here is the recap from the New York Times:
FOOTBALL Indiana Wins in Liberty Bowl: Dave Schnell passed for 378 yards and 2 touchdowns, including an 88-yard game-breaking toss to Rob Turner, leading Indiana to a Liberty Bowl victory over South Carolina last night. The victory capped an 8-3-1 season for Indiana. South Carolina ended the year 8-4. The Gamecocks never have won a bowl game, dropping to 0-8 with the loss. Collin Mackie had kicked a 43-yard field goal for South Carolina, making it 20-10. But Schnell then put the game away on the first play of the fourth quarter. He spotted Turner behind the secondary and Turner pulled in the pass at the Gamecocks' 40. He never was touched on the longest scoring pass in Liberty Bowl history.

Oklahoma State by the numbers.

The Insight Bowl is just five days away, and with tonight's Motor City Bowl between Purdue and Central Michigan, the Big Ten's bowl season is underway. The bowl retrospectives will continue tomorrow, but it's time to take a look at the Cowboys statistically. As the look back at the Cowboys' season indicated, Oklahoma State has a pretty potent offense:
GENERAL
Record: IU 7-5; OSU 6-6
Conference record: IU 3-5; OSU 4-4
Sagarin: IU 61; OSU 43
Sagarin schedule strength: IU 83; OSU 20
Scoring margin: IU 379-321 (+58); OSU 401-351 (+50)
OFFENSE
Total offense: IU: 393.3; OSU 484.1
Rushing yards per game: IU 155.6; OSU 245.8
Rushing yards per carry: IU 4.2; OSU 5.4
Passing yards per game: IU 237.8; OSU 238.2
Passing yards per attempt: IU: 7.1; OSU 8.1
Scoring offense: IU 31.6; OSU 33.2
Rushing touchdowns: IU 16; OSU 26
Passing touchdowns: IU 26; OSU 23
Interceptions: IU 11; OSU 9
Fumbles/lost: IU 38/18; OSU 21/11
DEFENSE
Total defense: IU 394.2; OSU 446.7
Rushing yards per game: IU 155.4; OSU 154.7
Rushing yards per carry: IU 3.7; OSU 4.1
Passing yards per game: IU 238.8; OSU 292
Passing yards per attempt: IU 6.6; OSU 8.0
Scoring defense: IU 26.8; OSU 29.2
Rushing touchdowns: IU 20; OSU 20
Passing touchdowns: IU 18; OSU 25
Interceptions: IU 18; OSU 12
Fumbles recovered: IU 11; OSU 7
SPECIAL TEAMS
Field goals: IU 19/21; OSU 10/18
Punting (gross/net): IU: 37.8/35.1; OSU 42.5/34.9
Oklahoma State's offense is significantly better in nearly every offensive category, other than touchdown passes. On the other hand, IU's less-than-outstanding defense is consistently better than OSU's. OSU's defensive weakness (pass defense) is IU's strength. IU's defensive weakness, while a bit skewed by IU's strength of schedule, tended to be rushing defense, at least against strong, physical teams like Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Rushing offense is OSU's strength. Like IU, a decent chunk of OSU produced a significant percentage of rushing yards from the QB position. Zac Robinson was second on the team with 125 attempts, 777 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Unlike IU, OSU had more success with a traditional running game: Dantrell Savage led the team with 1172 yards and 5.9 yards per carry. More on the individuals tomorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

January 2, 1988: Tennessee 27, Indiana 22.

1987 was the Hoosiers' finest season in the 40 years since 1967. IU whipped Ohio State 31-10 in Columbus and beat Michigan in Bloomington. The Hoosiers lost to Michigan State in November in a game that decided the Big Ten championship and headed to Atlanta to play Tennnessee, a 9-2-1 team with only one SEC loss. Here's the box score (click for full size version):







Tennessee jumped out to a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter, but IU then scored 21 unanswered points to take the lead. Tennessee scored in the last two minutes to secure the win. While the Vols held Anthony Thompson in check (18 carries, 67 yards), but Dave Schnell passed for 218 yards, including 150 and one touchdown to Ernie Jones. Per the Peach Bowl website, the 58,000+ crowd was then the largest in Peach Bowl history.


While the Hoosiers have played in a defunct bowl (the All-American) and a bowl now played in a different city (Copper/Insight), the Peach Bowl (where IU played twice) is the only bowl that IU has played in a now-demolished stadium. Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, one of the unlamented circular cookie cutters of the 1960s and 1970s:

The stadium hosted football only until 1991. The Falcons and the Peach Bowl moved to the Georgia Dome in 1992. The stadium was demolished after the Atlanta Olympics.

Indiana 73, Coppin State 46.

Coppin State, in Bloomington only five hours before tipoff, took advantage of horrendous Hoosier shooting and was within two points, 28-26, at halftime. Box score. The Hoosiers awakened in the second half, making nearly 70 percent of their shots, and won the second half 45-20. Eric Gordon's value as a player was abundantly clear in this game, his worst shooting performance as a Hoosier. Gordon was only 2-13 from the field but still managed to score 15 points thanks to 10-10 from the free throw line. DJ White scored 21 points on nine shots, and Mike White managed 10 points on 4 shots. Jamarcus Ellis continued his everything-but-points excellence, with nine rebounds and 6 assists (although with four turnovers). Although Eli Holman seems to be out indefinitely with a wrist injury, if Ratliff is healthy and Bassett's suspension ends, the Hoosier backcourt could be at full strength next weekend against Chicago State. After that final pushover, the Big Ten season begins at Iowa on January 2.

Friday, December 21, 2007

December 31, 1986: Florida State 27, Indiana 13.

The Hoosiers' first of six bowl appearances under Bill Mallory took the team to Birmingham, Alabama for the All-American Bowl, now defunct. Unimpeachable Wikipedia reports that the All-American Bowl originated as the "Hall of Fame Classic" and was played in Birmingham from 1977-1985. When the Hall of Fame decided to move its bowl to Tampa (now the Outback Bowl), the All-American Bowl was born. After the 1990 season, Birmingham dropped the bowl in favor of hosting the newly created SEC championship game, which remained in Birmingham for only two years.



By 1986, Bobby Bowden had dramatically improved FSU's program, and the A-A was Bowden's eighth bowl bid in eleven seasons at FSU. The 1986 team, however, was fairly ordinary compared to most of FSU's teams from the late 1980s and 1990s. The Seminoles finished 7-4-1 in 1986, but after that, did not win fewer than 10 games in a season until 2001. Still, the Hoosiers couldn't break through.

Click on the box score for a full size view.
While IU outgained the Seminoles 383-342 and won the turnover battle 2-1, and despite a solid performance by freshman Anthony Thompson (28-127), IU settled for field goals and managed only one touchdown. FSU's Sammie Smith led the way with 205 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns.

The Coppin State game.

Coppin State Eagles
Overall record: 3-8
MEAC Record: 0-1
RPI: 189
Sagarin: 299
2006-07 record: 12-20
2006-07 RPI: 248
2006-07 Sagarin: 292
TV: Noon Saturday, Big Ten Network.
Here's an odd detail. Coppin State plays Marquette in Milwaukee tonight at 8:30. The Eagles play in Bloomington at noon tomorrow. This struck me as an obvious error, but the Coppin State official site and other sources support this idea. The Eagles likely will not have been in Bloomington for more than ten hours when they tip-off against the Hoosiers tomorrow. (Also, it looks like Hoosier Scoop mentioned this yesterday).
As the RPI and Sagarin numbers indicate, this opponent should be another pushover. Coppin is 1-8 against Division I opponents this season. Other than Southeast Missouri, only Ohio State among Division I opponents has allowed Coppin within single digits. In his weekly press conference, Sampson raved about Coppin's ability to dictate the pace, and indeed, Coppin's 62 possessions per game ranks 317 our of 340. Still, Coppin is something of a Northwestern of the MEAC. While Coppin doesn't allow many points, they allow lots of points per possession (1.17 points per possession, #336 nationally) and don't score many (.82 offensively). In short, Coppin is one of the least efficient teams in the country, and while IU may not break 100, the Hoosiers should win easily. Xavier, the only team that has defeated IU, scored 98 on Coppin. Xavier shot extremely well, 60 percent for the game, but was able to speed things up to 71 possessions. Coppin slowed Ohio State down to less than 60 possession in that game. This year's Hoosiers like to play fast. A young but talented Big Ten team couldn't do that against Coppin, but the only team that has bettered IU did so. That's the one thing to watch for in what should be a snooze otherwise.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good news for my employer: Bob Kravitz to drive time.

It is highly unlikely that I will ever again leave my office before 6 p.m. Former Indianapolis Star writer Ruth Holladay reports that Bob Kravitz, the Indianapolis Star's only general sports columnist and hair-puller-in-chief, will host the new drive time sports talk show on 1070-AM in Indianapolis. For those who aren't aware, currently Indianapolis has two sports talk stations, WXLW 950 (ESPN Radio) and WNDE 1260 (Fox Sports Radio). Currently, 1070 WIBC is Indy's leading news talk station. Sometime soon, that format (and the WIBC name) will move to 93.1 FM. The 1070 AM station will become the new ESPN affiliate, which will leave 950 without national programming at the moment. Both existing sports stations have local drive time shows and weekend shows. Kravitz will be the third.
Why will this be good for my employer? This news makes it quite unlikely that I will ever again leave my office before 6 p.m. While I usually listen to XM Radio, I just can’t risk accidentally hearing part of Kravitz’s show. While I have made clear that I just don’t care for the content or tone of Kravitz’s writing, my objection is halfway serious. For years, the Star had two sports columnists, Bill Benner and Robin Miller. Those guys weren’t perfect, but at least there were two of them. After the Star forced out Miller on some trumped up rules violation, Kravitz shared the stage with Benner. After Benner left, we were blessed with C. Jemal Horton, who was, well, not well-regarded. After Horton left, about four years ago, the Star hired a guy named Mike Freeman from the New York Times. Freeman, unfortunately, had a George O’Leary problem: his resume claimed that he had earned a degree that he didn’t earn. Freeman quit in January 2004, before he ever started. That means that for the last four years, Kravitz has been the only general sports columnist for the Star. Now, with a third sports station coming to town, instead of providing a forum to a new voice, we will hear from a guy who already gets a disproportionate amount of attention.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oklahoma State's 2007 season.

Before I get into this post, if you couldn't read the box score in the Rose Bowl post below, I have edited the post. You can view the full size version by clicking on the image.

Here's a quick overview of the Cowboys' 6-6 season, with game recaps linked:

  • September 1: L 14-35, at Georgia. This was one of OSU's few poor offensive performances. The Cowboys were within a touchdown at the half, but managed only 266 net yards and only 2.1 yards per rush.
  • September 8: W 42-6, Florida Atlantic. FAU beat Minnesota this season, but couldn't win in Stillwater. This game appears to be what ultimately lead to Mike Gundy's outburst against the columnist. Longtime QB Bobby Reid was benched in favor of Zac Robinson, who threw for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. OSU dominated, outgaining FAU 488-203 and averaging over 7 yards per offensive play.
  • September 14: L 23-41, at Troy. Obviously, this was the Cowboys' low point of the season. Troy, which finished 8-4 and won the Sun Belt, jumped out to a 34-10 lead early in the third quarter. OSU moved the ball reasonably well but turned the ball over five times and allowed 562 offensive yards.
  • September 22: W 49-45, Texas Tech. Not much defense in this one. The two teams traded scores all day, and Robinson threw a 54 yard TD pass to Brandon Pettigrew late in the fourth quarter. Tech's Graham Harrell threw for 646 yards, but OSU ran for 366 yards on 61 attempts and added 244 yards in the air. Believe it nor not, the teams somehow found the time to punt twice each.
  • September 29: W 39-3, Sam Houston State. OSU allowed 355 yards but generated over 500 of its own in this rout.
  • October 6: L 23-24, at Texas A&M. Other than Troy, this looks like the other what-if game for OSU. The Cowboys led 17-0 at halftime in College Station before A&M's Javorskie Lane took over. Lane scored two rushing TDs and caught another, and even managed a 49 yard pass completion on a halfback option. In this game, OSU's Bobby Reid played well after Robvinson was injured late in the game.
  • October 13: W 45-14, at Nebraska. OSU won in Lincoln for the first time since 1960. OSU won with a balanced attack and averaged nearly six yards per carry. Robinson returned from injury was was 12-19 for 244 yards and no interceptions.
  • October 20: W 41-39, Kansas State. This was another shootout, much like the Texas Tech game. Both teams gained over 500 yards each. Zac Robinson didn't pass well (11-25) but rushed for over 100 yards. OSU won with a field goal with two seconds remaining.
  • November 3: L 35-38, Texas. As in the A&M game, OSU blew a big lead. The Cowboys led 21-0 early in the fourth quarter and led 35-14 at the beginning of the fourth, but the Longhorns rallied to win. Again, both teams gained over 500 yards. Texas broke a 35-35 tie with a 40 yard field goal as time expired.
  • November 10: L 28-43, Kansas. OSU stayed competitive, but the Jayhawks controlled this one for most of the way. Kansas outgained OSU 529-471, but Zac Robinson again had an excellent game passing and running.
  • November 17: W 45-14, at Baylor. This one was 28-14 at halftime but the Cowboys pulled away in the second half. OSU had another 500+ day and rushed for 343 yards (6.7 per).
  • November 24: L 49-17, at Oklahoma. The Sooners led 14-0 and OSU never really challenged. OSU's offensive performance was less than stellar, with only 299 yards. OSU still rushed for five yards per carry but the passing game was awful.

I'll take a look at OSU by the numbers something soon. The Cowboys seem fairly similar to IU. Unquestionably, the offense is OSU's strength. Like Kellen Lewis, Zac Robinson is a duel threat, a respectable passer who is his team's second leading rusher. My biggest concern is OSU's rushing game. More later.

December 21, 1979: Indiana 38, BYU 37.

Twelve years after IU's first bowl appearance, the Hoosiers won a bowl game for the first time, a 38-37 thriller against undefeated Brigham Young in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Cougars were ranked ninth in the AP poll at 11-0, and according to this Deseret News article, BYU was an 8 point favorite. The legendary LaVell Edwards was in his eighth season in Provo, and had steadily improved the Cougars. Before Edwards arrived, BYU had had only six winning seasons in the previous 20 and had never played in a bowl game. In 1979, BYU was 11-0 in the regular season, the Cougars' fourth straight with at least nine wins. Still, BYU had fallen short in its three previous bowl appearances. BYU lost to current IU opponent Oklahoma State in 1974 and 1976, and in 1978 lost the inaugural Holiday Bowl to Navy.
BYU fans must have been confident about their chances against a middling IU team that finished 5-3 in the Big Ten. Certainly, 1979 was a step up for the Hoosiers and seventh year coach Lee Corso, who hadn't had a winning season since 1968. Still, I'm not sure that the headline in the Deseret News ("Whoosiers? surprise Cougars, as BYU's bowl jinx still alive") was warranted, as if this upstart WAC team were invincible:

They were deemed an unworthy bowl opponent for BYU by many. The announcement of their selection to the bowl was booed by BYU fans. "I hope people wonder about inviting Indiana now," said Corso. "Don't forget that a certain amount of humor is not a sign of weakness. We came here to win." So did the Cougars, who after losing two straight must think this bowl isn't such a holiday after all.

I'll let the Deseret News tell the story of the game:

BYU gave the Hoosiers several golden opportunities, and luck gave them the right
bounces and the clock. The Hoosiers didn't return the favor.

Marc Wilson threw a bullet so hard and accurately at Indiana's Steve Mitchell that he had no choice but to catch it out of sheer self-defense. Wilson apparently misread the pattern or receiver Lloyd Jones. "He thought I'd cut underneath," said Jones. "But I kept going upfield. I had six if he had put it up."

Corso also can be thankful that time ran out in the first half just as Jones was catching a 39-yard pass at the two-yard line, where he was forced out of bounds.
When Corso counts his blessings, he'll want to include the third-quarter fumble of a punt by Doug Francis at the 10-yard line. The ball rolled to the one-yard line, where it was recovered, appropriately enough, by Lucky Wallace. That led to a touchdown and a 28-24 lead.
Moments later Tim Wilbur intercepted another Wilson pass and the Hoosiers drove 22 yards for a field goal. Even then not without the aid of BYU's only penalty of the night, a 15-yard personal
foul.
But what Corso can be most thankful for is a fluke punt. Johnson's third field goal and Indiana's lone turnover — an interception by Tim Halverson that led to a 15-yard TD pass to Eric Lane — gave BYU a 37-31 lead. The Cougars seemed very much in control, but with eight minutes left were forced to punt. The ball sailed upfield and hit Indiana's Craig Walls on the back on the first bounce. The second bounce landed in the hands of Wilbur, who happened to be running by at the time and kept on running 62 yards for a touchdown. "It was like someone said, 'here,' and gave him the ball," said Corso.
So despite gaining 520 yards, compared to Indiana's 354, the Cougars trailed by one point and it was left once more for Wilson to drive the Cougars upfield.
Despite the interceptions, Wilson played well, completing 28 of 43 passes for 380 yards, and the offense was never stopped except by its own mistakes. Trouble was, the Hoosiers kept the ball away from Wilson as was their plan.
Before the game Corso said, "If it goes into a shootout, we'll get killed. We might come out into a basketball stall." The Hoosiers did just that, keeping the ball 10 minutes more than BYU.

As the box score makes clear, BYU did outgain the Hoosiers significantly, particularly in the air, as has been BYU's tradition. And BYU had a chance to win with a 27 yard field goal, but missed. Overall, a fortuitous day for a football program that hasn't tended to have much luck over the years.

Be sure to check out the video of Tim Wilbur's punt return on the official Holiday Bowl site.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The strange saga of Eli Holman continues.

Eli Holman's story is interesting and compelling. He overcame a tough upbringing and was suspended for a year of high school basketball for bumping an official. Despite all that, Eli comes across as mature and with a great perspective on where he has been and what he needs to do. Nevertheless, controversy and confusion seem to follow him. It is undisputed that Holman injured his wrist during practice last week, and he was on the bench in streetclothes (or a "prom suit," as Kelvin Sampson described it) alongside Armon Bassett and AJ Ratliff. What's unclear is whether Holman will play again this season. Here's what the Hoosier Scoop says:
Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game that he didn’t know the long-term outlook for Holman, who didn’t dress Saturday and had his wrist in a brace. Sampson said team doctors won’t be able to accurately diagnose Holman until the swelling goes down. They don’t think Holman has any broken bones but they fear ligament damage.
Holman, however, told fans after the game that he will have surgery Wednesday on his ligaments and will miss the rest of the season. Confronted with what Eli was saying to fans, an IU spokesman said that the team’s medical staff did not expect Holman to have surgery Wednesday.
Who knows?

January 1, 1968: USC 14, Indiana 3.

I wish the list were so long as to make this project impractical, but this post is the first in a series looking back at IU's eight previous bowl appearances. While IU has won three of its eight bowl appearances, certainly none of IU's subsequent bowl bids has eclipsed the significance of the Hoosiers' out-of-nowhere appearance in the Rose Bowl after the 1967 season. IU entered the game ranked fourth, tied for its highest-ever AP ranking, and lost to eventual national champion USC. The box score (click for a readable version), courtesy of the IU media guide, is below:



USC won comfortably on the scoreboard and statistically. The Trojans outgained IU 317-189, and the Trojans, let by future Heisman winner/Pro Football Hall of Famer/murderer OJ Simpson, rushed for 248 yards, including 25-128 and two touchdowns by Simpson himself. USC so dominated on the ground that the Trojans had no incentive to do anything else, attempting only nine passes. Regular season hero Harry Gonso was 9-25 passing for 110 yards for IU, and running back John Isenbarger managed only 38 yards on 12 carries. To this date, kicker Dave Kornowa, who kicked a field goal in the second quarter, remains the only IU player to score in the Rose Bowl.

While the game may have been a letdown, it was and remains a highlight of IU's athletic history. IU was then the last Big Ten school to make its first Rose Bowl appearance, and so it would have been significant even if it were not IU's only appearance. The Hoosiers were 1-8-1 in 1966 and had not won more than three games in a season since going 4-4-1 in 1959, and had posted only one winning season (5-3-1 in 1958) since the departure of the legendary Bo McMillin after the 1947 season. IU's 1967 Rose Bowl appearance was as improbable as Northwestern's 1995 appearance.

Here are some photos I stumbled across in IU's Hoagy Carmichael collection some time ago while looking for something else. Whoever catalogued these images did not grasp their significance, describing them as "Hoagy Carmichael in a crowd of spectators" and "Crowd at an Indiana University football game" and such things.






While IU seems far from a return to Pasadena, there were times that a mere return to any postseason competition seemed improbable. Let's hope that everyone reading this is still around when it happens again.

Indiana 100, Western Carolina 52.

Not much to say about this one. A thorough trashing of an overmatched opponent. It will be interesting to see how the non-conference schedule proceeds as the Sampson era continues. Every challenging non-conference game Sampson has played is because of some pre-existing arrangement (preseason tournament, long-term series with Kentucky, four year UConn deal, Big Ten/ACC, etc.). I would hate to see the sub-200 RPI teams permanently dominate IU's nonconference schedule. In any event:
  • DJ White, after a sluggish start, continues to play really well. White scored 21 points on 9 shots, including 7-9 from the field and 7-10 from the line. He added 11 rebounds.
  • Jordan Crawford played well again. As I noted earlier in the week, Crawford shoots quite a bit, but he managed 19 points on 14 shots and, most impressively for a freshman, five assists and no turnovers.
  • Jamarcus Ellis continued solid play in all areas: 9 points on 7 shots, 7 rebounds, 6 assists/2 turnovers, 3 steals.
  • It's amazing that after only ten games, this performance is so routine as to be the fourth bullet points. Eric Gordon scored 26 points on 13 shots, 6-11 from three point range, 4-6 from the line.
  • Deandre Thomas scored eight points on six shots, but managed no rebounds and three fouls in 19 minutes.
  • After appearing to regain his shot a bit, Lance Stemler now is 1-9 from three point range in his last two games. Stemler, in his first six games as a Hoosier last season, shot 18-36 from three point range. He has made only 30 three point shots since then. Hard to explain.
  • Kyle Taber scored only one point, but managed 6 rebounds in 12 minutes.

The Hoosiers take another week off, and then play 1-8 Coppin State on December 22. Wake me when the season starts.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Western Carolina game.

Western Carolina Catamounts
Current Record: 3-5
Southern Conference record: 0-2
Current RPI: 313
Current Sagarin: 279
2006-07 record: 9-20
2006-07 RPI: 244
2006-07 Sagarin: 253
Series: First meeting

If IU fans have any memory of Western Carolina, it's because in 1996, the Catamounts came painfully close to pulling off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament, losing 73-61 as a #16 seed to top seed Purdue. I found an interesting New York Times article about that game that was written during last season's NCAA Tournament. WCU's head coach in that game is not a junior high coach. His top assistant that day? Current Ohio State coach Thad Matta. It's worth a read.
WCU hasn't sniffed the NCAA since then, certainly not last year, when the Catamounts finished 9-20. This season, WCU has been more competitive that the record would suggest, never losing by more than 10. WCU lost by only two to Cincinnati and beat Bowling Green. Still, this is another low-major patsy for the Hoosiers, and hopefully will go better than the game against IU's last such opponent, Tennessee State.
WCU looks to be a fairly inefficient offensive team. Of its four leading scorers, all shoot less than 47 percent from the field and two less than 40. Nick Aldridge leads the way with 18.8 points per game and Blake Galagher (who shoots 70 percent from the field on about 4 attempts per game) is the leading rebounder. WCU scored only .982 points per possession (#202 nationally) and allows one point per possession defensively. The Catamounts take care of the ball well (they turn the ball over 20 percent of the time, #80 nationally) and rebound well offensively (37.9 percent, #55 nationally). They also rebound well defensively, ranking #60 nationally. If only the Catamounts could shoot or get to the free throw line, they would have something.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Football odds and ends.

Not much is going athletically during finals week, but here are a few tidbits:
  • Franklin Central running back Darius Willis committed to IU earlier in the week. Willis was considering Purdue, Kentucky, and Boston College. That seems better than the profile of our typical recruits.
  • Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora is the new coach at Southern Mississippi, and the Tulsa World confirms that Fedora will not coach in the Insight Bowl. Like IU, OSU's strength is its offense, so this departure certainly will not hurt the Hoosiers' chances.
  • The Hoosiers are well-represented on the All-American teams recently named by the AP and Sports Illustrated. Austin Starr: first team SI, second team AP. James Hardy: third team AP, honorable mention SI. Greg Middleton: second team SI, third team AP.
  • Per Hoosier Scoop, and as is now noted in the sidebar, WXIN-59 of Indianapolis, the local Fox affiliate for Bloomington and most of central Indiana, will carry the Insight Bowl, including in high definition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Big Ten extends the football season a week. Why not two?

As reported in many sources, the Big Ten has elected to extend the football season to 13 weeks. Beginning in 2009, the last Saturday of Big Ten games will be two days after Thanksgiving. Although I certainly support extending the season so that Big Ten teams are not forced to play 12 weeks in a row, I would have preferred that the Big Ten extend the season two weeks and schedule the Big Ten finales for the first weekend of December, the weekend when the ACC/Big 12/SEC play their championship games and the Big East and Pac-10 end their regular seasons.
I don't like this move for a couple of reasons. First, it puts students (including but not limited to football players) in a bad position. Most college students welcome the opportunity to get away from campus for a few days before the crush of final exams. Now, students will have to decide whether to cut Thanksgiving break two days short or whether to skip what for many Big Ten schools is the biggest game of the year. As some of the articles on this topic note, playing the rivalry games after Thanksgiving is not unprecedented (it happened most recently in 1995 and 2001), but under this new plan, it will happen every year. I'm not a fan of playing marquee home games, in football or basketball, when school is not in session. Essentially, school is out of session during Thanksgiving break.
The second reason, an issue that many Big Ten schools do not face, is attendance. The 1995 and 2001 Bucket games, both played in Bloomington, were poorly attended. Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1960, has hosted 24 Bucket games. Only four of those Bucket games drew fewer than 40,000 and all four were played after Thanksgiving: 1961, 1963 (delayed a week because of the assassination of President Kennedy), 1995, and 2001. I hope that IU's football fortunes continue to improve, but even if this isn't IU's problem it will be someone's problem. Schools like Michigan and Ohio State will have no problem selling unused season tickets. Other schools won't have much luck.
I realize that the conference's "broadcast partners" may not have liked this, but the Big Ten should have extended the season by two weeks, giving Big Ten schools 14 weeks to play 12 games. The nine week Big Ten season would start one week late, with the eighth week of the Big Ten season falling the Saturday before Thanksgiving. No conference games would be scheduled on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but schools would be free either to give their players a few days off or to play a nonconference game that weekend. Then, with students back in town but before exams begin, play the Big Ten rivalry games. I agree that something had to be done, but I think the conference is making a mistake.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tempo free at the moment.

Ken Pomeroy's website, which I rely on heavily for team tempo-free stats, also maintains individual stats. Here's IU's page. The players' national rank in a particular category, if applicable, is noted in red. To get an idea of percentile, Pomeroy ranks 340 teams, which amounts to approximately 1700 players who are Division I starters. For reference, the Pomeroy's glossary page explains the terms better that I could. Here are some of the highlights for IU:
  • Eric Gordon (#81) and DJ White (#130) both rank highly in "effective field goal percentage," which essentially counts a two point shot as 1 and a three point shot as 1.5 (for the purposes of makes and total attempts). Ken notes: "It’s mostly players that shoot a lot of threes and shoot them well, but there are some post players that sneak in also." So, this ranking is a bigger deal for DJ than it is for Gordon. While IU has played a fairly weak schedule to date, consider that Andrew Bogut had an eFG% of 63 when he won player of the year.
  • DJ White ranks #76 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. White is converting 23.6 of all defensive rebound opportunities when he is on the court.
  • Eric Gordon is #65 nationally with .71 free throw attempts per field goal attempt. Gordon makes over 83 percent of his freethrows, so clearly, he is on his way to a very efficient season if trends continue.
  • Jordan Crawford and Deandre Thomas both take lots of shots. Not surprisingly, Gordon leads the way, with 29 percent of IU's shots when he is on the court, but Thomas takes 28.4 and Crawford 27.1 (which may be skewed by his reduced number of games and his go-to role against UK in Gordon's absence).
  • The Pomeroy site contains an offensive rating system that is described as "complicated but accurate." According to that rating, Lance Stemler is the most efficient Hoosier with a rating of 123 (Gordon is at 121.8). Really, while Stemler still hasn't recovered his form of last year from behind the arc, his 8-24 from three point range isn't as bad as I would have guessed, and he is 10-16 from two point range and 7-8 from the line. Pomeroy notes that a rating of over 120 is excellent for a workhorse type player, and Gordon certainly fits the bill.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A quick look at Oklahoma State' history.

Before delving into the 2007 OSU Cowboys, I thought I would take a quick look at the program's history--the 2007 Insight Bowl is still three weeks away, after all.
Academically, Oklahoma State, which is the state's land grant school, bears more resemblance to Purdue than to IU. The school was known as Oklahoma A&M until 1957. Athletically, OSU is more similar to IU. OSU's basketball program, both recently and historically, is more accomplished than the football program. While many readers will recall the Cowboys' recent Final Four appearances under Eddie Sutton, OSU was a mid-century powerhouse under the legendary Henry Iba, who led the Cowboys to consecutive NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946. Here's the tale of the tape (with credit to Stassen and College Football Data Warehouse):
First year of football: IU: 1887; OSU: 1901
Wins (through 2006): IU: 430 (#88); OSU: 484 (#63)
Winning Percentage (through 2006): IU: .42601 (#101); OSU: .49035 (#84)
Previous bowl appearances: IU: 8; OSU: 17
Last Bowl appearance: IU: 1993 (Independence Bowl); OSU: 2006 (Independence Bowl)
Bowl wins: IU: 3; OSU: 11
Last bowl win: IU: 1991 (24-0 over Baylor in Copper Bowl); OSU: 2006 (34-31 over Alabama in the Independence Bowl)
Conference titles: IU: 2; OSU: 9
Last conference title: IU: 1967; OSU: 1976

Cam Cameron to Michigan? Please, God.

Via Michigan Sports Center, the "Rumor Mill" at Pro Football Talk is reporting that U-M AD Bill Martin wants to pursue Cam if the Dolphins fire him. I suppose I shouldn't wish an IU alum ill. Cam worked hard at IU and couldn't get the Hoosiers over the hump. I'm sure his failure at IU bothers him more than it bothers me. But I didn't like the spin from some in the Cameron camp. Here's an example, some comments by Cameron's stepfather, former Indiana State coach Tom Harp:
"I had some reservations," Harp said of his stepson taking the Indiana job. "But Cam is one of those guys, if he's going down the street and sees a pile of horse manure, he'll go digging in it because he thought there was a pony in there. He aggravates me sometimes, he's so positive. He won't let anybody get him down."
Nice. While this was the only quote I could find online, I do recall other comments by Cameron supporters after the firing about how IU is a no win situation. Certainly, I understand that objectively, IU is, at best, the tenth-best job in the Big Ten and probably is 11th, depending on whether one considers Northwestern's last 13 years a trend or an aberration. Still, no one was demanding that Cam go to the Rose Bowl in year one. Cameron had a full five years at IU, including the last four quarterbacked by one of the most productive players in the history of college football, and couldn't land so much as one Music City Bowl bid.
Cameron started at IU in 1997, the same year that three other Big Ten programs hired coaches: Ron Turner at Illinois, Glen Mason at Minnesota, and Joe Tiller at Purdue. While Illinois had been to a bowl game as recently as 1994, the other two programs that hired new coaches that year had been down for a while. Purdue had not had a bowl bid or a winning season since 1984. Minnesota had not had a winning season since 1990 or a bowl bid since 1986. IU? The Hoosiers had last had a winning season in 1994 and a bowl bid in 1993, the last of six bowl bids in eight years. Cam Cameron's first IU roster included players who had been part of winning teams. Again, I realize that IU is not a plum job, but neither are the expectations sky-high. Cam could have bought himself a couple of more years with a minor bowl bid with an extremely talented team in 2001. By the time Cam was fired in 2001 after five losing seasons, the other three Big Ten schools that hired coaches in 1997 had received a combined 10 bowl bids, including BCS appearances by Illinois and Purdue. In the age of 85 scholarships and 25+ bowl games, an occasional bowl appearance is not too much to ask, regardless of a program's history.
Despite Cam's failure at IU, it has been my impression over the years that many Michigan folks hold Cam in fairly high esteem. I believe he is given some credit for Michigan's late 1980s transition from a traditional Big Ten offense into a modern-day cradle of quarterbacks. That's all fine and good, but I think Cam's skills are best suited to being an assistant coach. Perhaps he's like Mike Martz, a good offensive mind who is better off without the responsibility of making all of the HC decisions (and with someone looking over his shoulder). Perhaps he would prove me wrong, but I think Michigan would regret hiring Cam Cameron.

Indiana 70, Kentucky 51.

Kentucky isn't a good team. Between the recruiting failures of the late-Tubby era, injuries, and transfer issues, this UK team is not reminiscent of the Tony Delk-Ron Mercer era. All that said, IU for all the expectations placed on this talented team, is young and inexperienced. The Hoosiers took the court without their best player and without any guard who played for IU last year. Despite the absence of Eric Gordon and Armon Bassett (plus AJ Ratliff, who will be back next week), IU beat Kentucky comfortably. IU never trailed, led by 12 at halftime, extended the lead to 20 within the first five minutes of the second half, and the score hovered around that margin for the rest of the way. Here is the box.
Before the game, I mentioned Kentucky's impressive defensive stats. The Hoosiers shot 46 percent for the game and shot 32 free throws. IU's defense stifled UK's expectedly anemic offense. UK shot only 38 percent and turned the ball over 19 times. The Cats grabbed only 9 of 35 misses, while allowing IU to rebound 11 of its 32 misses. IU still isn't generating many shots off of assists (10/22), but that is to be expected with a depleted backcourt. Of more concern are the turnovers, 15 for IU in a 66 possession game, including 5 by DJ White.
On the individual side, the Hoosiers did have some nice individual performances, most notably by Jordan Crawford, brother of Kentucky's Joe Crawford, who had a terrible game. Jordan managed 20 points on 10 shots, including 3-5 from three point range and 7-10 from the line. DJ White scored 16 points on 11 shots and 13 rebounds. Deandre Thomas scored 11 points on 10 shots. He was 5-10 from the field but hurt his efficiency by going only 1-5 from the line. Thomas committed only two fouls in 22 minutes, which is progress. Jamarcus Ellis continued his all around excellent play and added some outside shooting to the mix, 12 points on 8 shots. Mike White managed 7 points on 4 shots, thanks to 5-6 from the line.
Overall, a good win. Kentucky isn't good this year, but they count their wins against IU from 1994 to present, so we'll take them however we get them. Now, the Hoosiers enter a fairly light portion of the schedule. IU plays only four games in the next 30 days: three consecutive Saturday nonconference games and then the conference opener at Iowa on January 2. After that, IU takes the weekend off and plays at Michigan on January 8. IU's next meaningful home game is against Illinois on January 13. So, we will have some downtime here in terms of basketball. I'll try to take a wide look at the team and the conference, and of course will have lots of Insight Bowl coverage.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Nice win.

More on the Kentucky game later this afternoon. Because of another commitment, I didn't watch it, but listened to the first half. I'll check it out this afternoon and post more later. Considering how short-handed the Hoosiers were, this is a nice win. Kentucky isn't very good at all, and the Wildcats didn't respond well to their first trip on the road. So, a short-handed 20 point win against UK isn't what it would be in most seasons, but it still feels good.
In other news relating to the series, IU and Kentucky have re-upped for another two year series. As for the last two matchups, the games will be played on campus instead of in Louisville/Indianapolis. I suppose I am at peace with this. This may be an Indy-centric point of view, but I am a bit disappointed in the scheduling trend away from playing any pre-conference games in Indianapolis. For years, the Hoosier Classic at MSA and then Conseco Fieldhouse and the marquee games at the Hoosier Dome provided non-alumni with an opportunity to see the Hoosiers during holiday season, and provided an alternative for scheduling when students are away from Bloomington for the holidays. This season, for the first time in eons (I'll look it up and edit) since Market Square Arena opened in 1974, IU will not play in Indianapolis at all during the pre-conference (the Big Ten Tournament is here this year).
Next season, like this season, IU and Purdue will play only once during the Big Ten season. I have previously discussed the idiocy of the Big Ten's failure to protect the IU-Purdue rivalry, particularly when both programs are rebounding and the Big Ten has reverted to the 18 game schedule. This year, the only matchup will be in Assembly Hall. Next year, it will be at Mackey. While Purdue has elected not to do this when it loses a home game, in 2002-03, when the only Big Ten matchup was at Mackey, IU and Purdue played a non-conference game at the RCA Dome. I hope that the two schools will consider doing the same next December at Lucas Oil Stadium. It would be nice for IU to revive the tradition of a non-conference game in Indianapolis and would be a great first-ever basketball game at the new facility.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gordon probably out and Bassett definitely out.

Per the Hoosier Scoop, Armon Bassett apparently has been suspended. I suppose it's possible that he is hurt, but in any event, they report from Assembly Hall that Bassett is there in a tie. Also, Seth Davis, at halftime of the Duke-Michigan game, just reported (citing Sampson) that Gordon will dress, but that he is doubtful, and is far from 100 percent. This game just got much tougher.

Helmet change, again.

Per Ken Bikoff of Inside Indiana, IU will be sporting a third helmet design in the Insight Bowl. Because of positive feedback about the design of the throwback helmet:



IU will keep the stripes, but will switch to the interlock IU logo (seen in the header at the top of this blog) instead of the block I. This will be the sixth helmet variation for IU in the last eight seasons. It will be the third variation of the interlock IU helmet (which previously has been worn with a white facemask and a crimson facemask).

Nice article on Coach Lynch.

There was a nice profile of Bill Lynch in the Criterion, the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Not surprisingly, the article has a religious focus, but also includes some interesting biographical background on a coach who doesn't talk about himself very often. It's worth a look.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What is Mike DeCourcy talking about?

I mean that in two ways, both the "huh?" way and as a sincere question. Has there been some incident that escaped my attention and the attention of the local media?
DeCourcy wrote a column untitled "Winning is always a group effort." No controversy there, and the substance is what you would expect: team=good, excess individualism=bad. DeCourcy then says this:

Indiana has wrestled with this issue. Before meeting Georgia Tech, the Hoosiers collapsed against Xavier, losing, 80-65, in a game in which signs of discomfort with the publicity and attention gained by freshman star Eric Gordon began to leak from the Big Red machine.
"I'm sure if you put Kelvin (Sampson) under some truth serum, he'd say they're not playing well together," [Georgia Tech coach Paul] Hewitt says. "Once they figure out they all can have their individual glory when the team does well, Indiana will be one of the best teams in the country."

Actually, no truth serum is required. Sampson said as much, nearly verbatim, after the Xavier game. That a team isn't playing well together isn't necessary a sign of dissension, but could be related to having a bunch of first year Hoosiers in significant roles. So, what "signs" were there? Was there some sort of altercation, some post game quote, something else? Later, DeCourcy continues:
What makes the minor dysfunction at Indiana curious is how rarely Gordon is shooting, relative to his 26.6-point scoring average. Star big man D.J. White doesn't have a problem. He wants to win something that counts before he leaves Indiana, preferably after this, his redshirt junior season, and he understands that a teammate with Gordon's immense talent makes achievement plausible.
It apparently just comes down to Gordon getting his pictures in magazines and his highlights on ESPN. That hasn't worked for everybody. Eventually, it must because Gordon is going to produce the kind of numbers that generate headlines and, almost invariably, benefit his teammates.
Sampson says coaches can preach sacrifice and commitment to the team throughout the year, with signs and slogans tacked to locker room walls. But, he says, "When they hear that stuff in September, you're spitting into the wind. The best time is after a loss, when you can plant those seeds. And then, after a win, you can talk about the team because now they've all had a little success."
There are two direct quotes in that article, one from GT coach Hewitt, another fairly generic comment from Sampson. DeCourcy doesn't support this notion of dissension and Indiana with a direct quote, an anonymous quote, a "people close to the program" citation, or anything. He paints a picture of turmoil in IU's program without providing any way for us to consider the validity of his conclusion. The Sporting News allows comments at the end of its articles. When called on this article by an IU fan, DeCourcy gets cute:
This piece is not about Eric Gordon not being a team player. It's not declared. It's not implied. I would even suggest it's impossible to infer that. It's about how a few of his teammates (as stated in the article, not fellow star D.J. White) reacted to his early success. I'm not skewing anything. Please, read the article again and explain how you can come to the conclusion you did.
Maybe not. But the article did suggest that there is dissension at IU. I get the sense that DeCoursy thinks he is doing someone a favor by not naming names. But now all of IU's players are tarred with the "bad teammate" brush. And on what evidence? If there is actual disharmony in the locker room, then prove it, Mike. What were these amorphous "signs of discomfort," and more importantly, how do you know about those signs? Do you have a source? Did you see something on television? Or, faced with a deadline, did you decide to traffic in unsourced innuendo? The more I read the Sporting News, the more I think that the magazine will print nearly anything. What a terrible article. Sampson ought to think twice about giving any more interviews to this guy.

The Kentucky game.

Kentucky Wildcats
Record: 4-2
SEC record: 0-0
2006-07 record: 21-11
2006-07 RPI: 12
2006-07 Sagarin: 14
Series: Kentucky leads, 28-22

It's difficult to draw many conclusions about the Wildcats to date. Kentucky has played only one major opponent, top ranked North Carolina, and lost by nine at home, and managed to lose to Gardner-Webb as well. Kentucky plays at a national average pace of 68.8 possessions per game, behind IU's 72. UK's overall efficiency numbers are good: 1.06 points per possession offensively and .83 defensively. IU's offensive numbers are better (1.15) but defensive numbers are worse (.93). IU's numbers still are good, but Kentucky's defensive numbers are outstanding, #12 in Division I. Kentucky is a pretty good offensive rebounding team (36 percent of its own misses) but doesn't get to the line very well and turns the ball over on 23.6 percent of its possessions. For all of IU's turnover issues, IU turns the ball over on 20.8 percent of its possessions. Defensively, the Pomeroy numbers show UK's excellence. Kentucky is #2 in effective field goal percentage defensively. While not a great rebounding team, Kentucky forces turnovers on 25 percent of possessions and its opponents do not get to the line often.

Joe Crawford, brother of IU's Jordan Crawford, leads the way for Kentucky. He averages 18 points on 14 shots and shoots 89 percent from the line. Also watch for Ramel Bradley, who averages 14 points on 8 shots, thanks to 46 percent shooting from behind the arc. Freshman Patrick Patterson is UK's leading rebounder and averages 16 points on 10 shots. He is shooting 63 percent from the field. Freshman Alex Legion has left the team and seems likely to transfer.
I think this game will be tougher than many Hoosier fans believe. UK's defense has been outstanding, and while I expect an IU win, I don't think it will be easy.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Broadcast issues.

IU enjoyed its best football season in 14 years, but because of the ongoing dispute between the Big Ten and various cable outlets, only one of IU's 12 games was widely available to most Indiana cable subscribers. Now that the Hoosiers have been rewarded with a bowl bid, the game is again on a cable network that isn't universally available, the NFL Network. Jason points out an article in the Indianapolis Star indicating that WXIN 59, the Indianapolis Fox affiliate, may be allowed to pick up the game. Nothing is certain yet, and the article suggests that WTTV 4 is to widely distributed to be an acceptable alternative. That is unfortunate. Although IU is within the Fox 59 viewing area, the game is of interest to the entire state. Hopefully they will work something out. In the meantime, Fox 59's phone number is 317-632-5900.

Kentucky: through the years.

Tomorrow I'll take a look at this year's Wildcats, but first, let's take a look at the history of this rivalry. While talking heads often argue about a top 5, top 3, top 20 of historically elite basketball programs, the consensus usually emerges that these programs are the top six, in no particular order: Duke, North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, and UCLA. Other than Duke and UNC, none of these schools are closer together than IU and UK, and other than Duke and UNC, none other than IU and UK can be described as rivals.

Although IU-Kentucky seems like a natural rivalry based on geography and prestige, IU and Kentucky haven't played each other all that often, much like Notre Dame and Michigan in football. Before 1971-72, Bob Knight's first year at IU, the two schools played only ten times. In the 37 season seasons since, IU and Kentucky have played once in each regular season and three times in the NCAA Tournament. Last year's game in Lexington was the 50th IU-Kentucky game, and UK now leads the series 28-22, thanks to a 13-3 advantage from 1991 to present.
This rivalry has transpired mostly on neutral courts. Only 23 of the 50 meetings have been in Bloomington or Lexington: the other 27 games have been at sites other than the home court of either school. Last year's game in Lexington was the first at Rupp since December 1988, and Saturday's game in Bloomington will be the first at Assembly Hall since December 1990. Some sort of scheduling mixup with Freedom Hall resulted in moving last year's game to Rupp, and IU justifiably moved this year's game to Bloomington. It is unclear where next year's game will be, per the Louisville Courier-Journal:
Next week UK plays Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., the completion of a two-year home-and-home series that broke from the traditional Louisville-Indianapolis rotation. That series was moved to home-court settings because UK couldn't get a date at Freedom Hall last season. It's uncertain where the games will be played the next two years, Mullens said. UK and IU are weighing the pros and cons of neutral and campus sites. The difficulty in making a long-term decision, Mullens said, is that Freedom Hall won't guarantee a date more than a year in advance, making it hard for UK to plan for future games there. "People loved (the UK-IU series) in Louisville and Indianapolis, but people have loved the idea of playing it at two traditional basketball schools," Mullens said. "The downside is, they get about 150 tickets when they play (in Lexington) and we get about 150 tickets when we play (in Bloomington), so it's not quite the same atmosphere."
I hope that schools do return to the neutral site arrangement. The 50/50 ticket split between the schools creates a NCAA Tournament-like atmosphere early in the season, and when the game is played in Indianapolis (at the RCA Dome in the past, but at Lucas Oil Stadium if the neutral site arrangement resumes in the future) the size of the facility allows rank-and-file fans of both schools to buy tickets for a game against a top-tier opponent.
In any event, here are some of the more memorable games in the series in recent years, good and bad:
  • December 10, 2005, RCA Dome: Indiana 79, Kentucky 53. IU won by 26, IU's largest margin of victory in the series, and beat the Wildcats for the first time in six years. Mike Davis, the Kentucky-hating former Alabama player, got his first win over UK. Another SEC grudge-holder, Auburn transfer Marco Killingsworth, let the way for IU with 23 points (7-8 from the field) and 11 rebounds.
  • December 21, 2002, Freedom Hall: Kentucky 70, Indiana 64: It's not an exaggeration to say that the Mike Davis era never was the same after this game. IU, which had advanced to the NCAA title game the previous season, entered the game 8-0 and ranked #6 nationally. Davis had edged his career record up to 54-25 (.683). With IU trailing by one late in the game, IU's Bracey Wright missed a layup in traffic, and Davis lost it. He ran onto the court slapping his head, was assessed two technical fouls and ejected from the game, and IU limped home, going 13-13 after the 8-0 start.
  • December 4, 1999, RCA Dome: Indiana 83, Kentucky 75. IU's first win over Kentucky in six years. AJ Guyton led the way with 21 points on 4-6 three point shooting.
  • December 7, 1996, Freedom Hall: Kentucky 99, Indiana 65. The defending NCAA Champions administered the worst beatdown by either team in the history of the series [EDIT: second worst. I somehow managed to block the memory of the 80-41 loss in December 2003]. This season began with great promise for the Hoosiers after two down years, and IU entered this game 6-0 and ranked #8. In the final of the Preseason NIT, IU beat Duke 85-69 and Andrae Patterson scored 39 points. Patterson would never do anything of the sort again, and this inconsistent team finished 21-11 (9-9). This season really began the decline of IU fans' support of Knight, and the UK game, other than the blowout loss to Colorado in the NCAA Tournament, probably was the worst moment.
  • December 4, 1993, Hoosier Dome: Indiana 96, Kentucky 84. IU lost the opener to Butler, but rebounded nicely by upsetting #1 ranked Kentucky. Damon Bailey played his finest game has a Hoosier, scoring 29 points, including 16-19 from the line.
  • March 22, 1975, Dayton: Kentucky 92, Indiana 90. This one doesn't qualify as recent, but is infamous enough to warrant mention. While this game was before my time, nearly every Hoosier fan old enough to remember this game seems to consider it the most gut-punchingly awful loss in IU history. IU was undefeated and ranked #1, but was without an effective Scott May, who broke his arm in the regular season finale against Purdue. May played seven minutes against Kentucky (scoring two points on 1-4 shooting), but the Wildcats edged the Hoosiers in the regional final.