Friday, February 29, 2008

Bob Kravitz: Indeed, as dumb as he looks.

A few weeks back, during the football coaching search, I pondered whether Bob Kravitz is intellectually dishonest, or just as dumb as he looks. I am leaning toward the latter.

I will throw a link up, but don't feel obligated to click on it. Such activity only encourages him. Today, Kravitz wrote a smarmy column about IU's coaching search. Again, I don't want to honor this guy's work by pretending that he has anything interesting to say (at least not interesting in the sense of, "wow, what a thoughtful, well-reasoned column, Kravitz!"). I simply want to take issue with two paragraphs of the column:
I would also give a call to Louisville's Rick Pitino, to Michigan State's Tom Izzo, to Memphis' John Calipari and to Texas' Rick Barnes. It's unlikely Pitino, Izzo and Barnes would leave, and with deeper study, Calipari's slickness might not be a fit in Bloomington, but you must go for it. (And while we're working the phones, why not try Ohio State's Thad Matta, just for giggles. What's the worst he can say? No?)
Kravitz was all over Sampson from day one. And ultimately, Kravitz was vindicated on that point (insert your blind pig/stopped clock metaphor here). Sampson's program ended up in much the same predicament it was in at Oklahoma. And while I realize that John Calipari wasn't personally implicated in the Marcus Camby improper pay allegations, I have a hard time reconciling his candidacy with Kravitz's statement that "If he has so much as one impermissible phone call, or if he has any other skeletons in his closet, tell him buh-bye."
But more troubling is this from Kravitz:
Drop a call on Paul Hewitt of Georgia Tech, who once took the Yellow Jackets to the Final Four. The sad reality is, IU is unlikely to hire another man of color -- why, I don't know -- but Hewitt would be an extraordinary candidate.
Wha? IU's last two basketball coaches, Mike Davis (African-American) and Sampson (Native American) were "men of color." IU's women's basketball coach, Felicia Leggette-Jack, is African-American. IU's immediate past president, Adam Herbert, is African-American. There are two possibilities here: 1) someone in a position of authority has told Kravitz that the basketball coaching search will be limited to whites only or 2) Kravitz is talking out of his ass. I'm voting for the latter.
And by the way, Paul Hewitt is in his eighth season at Georgia Tech. In 2004, the year that GT advanced to the championship game, GT was 9-7 in the ACC. That is the only time Hewitt has been above .500 in the conference. Absent a remarkable turnaround, Georgia Tech (11-15/4-8) will end up with an overall losing record for the second time in the four years since the NCAA title game appearance. It appears to be that outside of that one tournament run, Hewitt's performance at GT has been utterly unremarkable. I must be a racist, although if I were a racist, I might not tell you that as far as ACC coaches go, Boston College's Al Skinner, who hasn't been to the Final Four but has had some sustained success outside of one tournament run, would be a much better candidate for IU.
In any event, Kravitz either made a ridiculous, slanderous allegation against IU, or he is sitting on the story of the century. He owes his readers some clarification.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The long, long drought in East Lansing.

The four day break between games should allow the Hoosiers some opportunity to rest and regroup, and also allows me to roll out the preview of the latest version of "IU's biggest game of the year," Sunday's trip to the Breslin Center to take on Michigan State. While I didn't plan the post this way, it turns out that IU's last win at Michigan State was 17 years ago today, a 62-56 win on February 28, 1991. IU's oldest player, Lance Stemler, then was a couple of months past his sixth birthday. IU's youngest player, Eli Holman, was a month short of his second birthday. The only constants are the uniforms, the warmups, and Dan Dakich on the bench.
IU now has lost 13 in a row at the Breslin Center, and has won there only once since the facility opened in November 1989. Since that win, here are IU's Big Ten road records:
Illinois: 6-9
Iowa: 6-9
Michigan: 8-8
Minnesota: 4-9
Northwestern: 11-3
Ohio State: 7-8 (4-3 at St. John Arena, 3-5 at the Schottenstein Center)
Penn State: 10-3 (3-0 at Rec Hall, 7-3 at the Bryce Jordan Center)
Purdue: 5-10
Wisconsin: 6-8 (5-1 at the UW Fieldhouse, 1-7 at the Kohl Center)
This is IU's second-longest road losing streak against any Big Ten opponent. IU lost its first 19 trips to West Lafayette from 1901-1922 before winning there in 1922-23. MSU remains a formidable opponent, but IU certainly should break through at Breslin some time.

Bennett seems to be the talking heads' choice.

I haven't had much luck finding Seth Davis-style prognostication thus far in the coaching search. While not claiming any insight into the process, Andy Katz of ESPN (on TV but also even before Sampson was let go) and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News are promoting Bennett. DeCourcy is downright apocalyptic about it:

Indiana can tap-dance all it wants until its team ends the 2007-08 season (and WSU finishes up, as well). When all that is done, though, if Bennett is not wearing his open collars on the IU sideline next year then the Hoosiers will have committed another costly turnover.

That seems a bit much. The Hoosiers are doomed if Sean Miller of Xavier or Brad Brownell of Wright State is hired?
The Washington State folks are getting defensive about it. Jack Evans of WSU's Scout site says Bennett isn't going anywhere, most because he recruited a kid from Oklahoma with a hardscrabble past. Yep. No coach would ever leave a recruit who placed his trust in the coach. This is college basketball, for goodness sake!

Indiana 72, Ohio State 69.

Here's the box score. Not a pretty game statistically. As has been pointed out elsewhere, IU created a bunch of open shots in the first half but could not make many. IU was 3-16 from behind the arc in the first half and didn't take any memorably bad shots. The pace was fairly fast (68 possessions per), and this wasn't a shooting exhibition for anyone. Eric Gordon had a particularly rough game. Although he scored 17 points, he was 4-16 from the field and had 7 turnovers. IU rebounded 19 of its 42 misses, and forced 16 OSU turnovers.
Not really a memorable game. IU, despite poor shooting in the first half, took advantage of even worse OSU shooting to take a big lead, and held on for the rest of the game. We'll take them however they come these days, I guess, and hope that the Hoosiers can end their long East Lansing losing streak on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ohio State, take 2.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Current record: 17-10
Big Ten record: 8-6
Current RPI: 54
Current Sagarin: 37
2006-07 record: 30-3, 15-1 (NCAA runner-up)
2006-07 RPI: 1
2006-07 Sagarin: 2
Series: IU leads 100-72
Last IU win: 2/10/08 (59-53 in Columbus)
Last Ohio State win: 1/2/07 (74-67 in Columbus)
Last OSU win in Bloomington: 2/21/04 (59-56)
TV: 7 pm tonight, ESPN
Sorry, not much time for analysis today. The Buckeyes have squandered some opportunities. OSU dropped a road game to improving-but-still-bad Michigan the Sunday before last and then squandered an opportunity to knock off Wisconin at home. OSU, while its tournament hopes are in jeopardy, has opportunity, in the form of tonight's game at IU and with home games against MSU and Purdue, but also could end up 9-9 and firmly in the NIT. As noted before the first game, Ohio State excels at field goal defense and shot blocking but not much else. The Buckeyes' three point shooting and overall offensive production (aggravated by some turnover problems) have not been good. Still, IU's only game under interim coach Dan Dakich was a last minute win against 0-14 Northwestern. The Hoosiers, when faced with adversity the last two weeks, played well in a loss to Wisconsin and comfortably beat Michigan State and Purdue. Now that Sampson is gone and Dakich is in charge, can IU recover and beat a team with a pulse? The road game at MSU Sunday will determine IU's fate in the Big Ten race, but only if IU takes care of should-wins against OSU, Minnesota, and at Penn State.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coaching search hilarity.

No, not too much yet, but much to come, I'm sure. Seth Davis, who covered himself in glory during IU's last coaching search (telling an Iowa reporter that Steve Alford to IU was 90 percent likely), suggested on CBS over the weekend that IU officials have significant interest in Notre Dame's Mike Brey. True or not (Brey is a solid-at-minimum coach and is squeaky clean, so the idea isn't crazy), it seems unlikely that Rick Greenspan has targeted anyone, let alone that word would have filtered down to Seth Davis. I'm going to try to keep track of these prognostications as the search transpires, and mock the confidently wrong after IU actually does hire a coach. While I will try to stay on top of it, please feel free to e-mail me or note in comments concerning any particularly interesting projections.

Big Ten Bloggers poll, week 8.

I expect some flak from IU fans for keeping the Hoosiers #3 after the win over Purdue, but I don't see any way around it. I can't exactly put IU ahead of Wisconsin given the Badgers' sweep of IU; I can't exactly put Purdue behind Wisconsin given Purdue's sweep of Wisconsin. Setting aside the head-to-head issues, IU is the only one of the top three with a home loss in conference and the only one of the top three without a road win against another contender. As long as the top three remain tied in the loss column, I don't see any way to sort it out.
For what it's worth, my ranking tracks the Big Ten Tournament tiebreakers. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker, of course, and it's circular: IU hold the tiebreaker over Purdue which holds it over Wisconsin which holds it over IU. In the event of a three-way (or more) tie, the tied teams are ranked by their overall records against each other. Purdue is 2-1 against the group, Wisconsin is 2-2, and IU is 1-2, so the teams will be seeded in that order if there is a three way tie.
1. Purdue (21-6, 12-2). Last week: 1. The Boilers still are in the best shape for the #1 seed, but Wisconsin's win at OSU puts some pressure on the Boilers.
2. Wisconsin (23-4, 13-2). Last week: 2. If the Badgers can defend their homecourt against disappointing MSU, Wisconsin almost certainly will win a share of the Big Ten title.
3. Indiana (23-4, 12-2). Last week: 3. The Hoosiers handled a tough week admirably, with a home win against Purdue and a road win against Northwestern despite little opportunity to practice.
4. Michigan State (22-5, 10-4). Last week: 4. MSU continues to hang in there, but with more chance to act as a spoiler than anything else. MSU goes to Wisconsin and hosts IU this week.
5. Ohio State (17-10, 8-6). Last week: 5. The Buckeyes still can find a way to sneak in to the NCAA with remaining home games against Purdue and MSU, but they probably need to win both.
6. Minnesota (17-9, 7-7). Last week: 6. The Gophers continue to hang it, but probably need to win at Purdue and/or IU to stay in the NCAA hunt.
7. Michigan (9-17, 5-10). Last week: 7. A win over Illinois and the lingering goodwill from the win at Iowa keep the Wolverines in best-of-the-worst position.
8. Iowa (12-16, 5-10). Last week: 9. It shouldn't have been so close against NU, but Iowa looked more lifelike than Penn State this week.
9. Penn State (12-14, 4-10). Last week: 8. Tough week.
10. Illinois (11-17, 3-12). Last week: 10. Heh.
11. Northwestern (7-18, 0-14). Last week: 11. A couple of competitive games for NU this week, but nothing to show for it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Indiana 85, Northwestern 83.

Here's the box score. IU is 12-2 in the Big Ten, now in a three way tie for first place in the Big Ten (by 6 pm or so, either Wisconsin will be alone in first by a half-game or IU and Purdue will be the only co-leaders). Yet, I get the sense that if IU had played Northwestern 14 times IU's record would be worse. NU is 0-14 in the conference, but IU has struggled against NU in both matchups this year. In effective field goal percentage allowed, IU's two games against Northwestern have been the two worst of the season. In offensive efficiency, IU's 1.21 points per possession last night is the worst performance of the Big Ten season, and the game at home against Northwestern, in which IU allowed 1.12 PPP, is the third worst (the home loss to Wisconsin was second-worst). The pace of this game was a little quick for Northwestern, 67 possessions, but the high final score reflects poor defense more than a frenetic pace. IU really has struggled against both the backdoor cuts and NU's three point shooting this year. It sounds stupid to say about an 0-14 team, but I'm glad IU will not see these guys again.
Nevertheless, IU's offense was excellent, with the exception of too many turnovers. The Hoosiers shot 56 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the arc. IU rebounded 9 of its 21 misses and 26 of NU's 32 misses (that's NU's MO, but so be it). IU also excelled at getting to the line, shooting 30-37 to NU's 15-19. Still, for all that excellence on offense, the turnovers allowed Northwestern to stay in the game with its productive offense. Forcing turnovers is one of Northwestern's few fortes, but unfortunately, teams that are good at forcing turnovers (NU, Purdue, Minnesota) have really exploited that this year. IU, as a highly ranked team, should be dropping those teams' turnover percentages, not adding to them.
IU, of course, faced some significant off-the-court issues, to say the least. Dan Dakich, in his must-listen postgame comments, made clear that he never understood the absence of the players from the 6 p.m. practice to be any sort of boycott, and that all players attended the evening walk-through that took place during Rick Greenspan's press conference. Nevertheless, because of some quirks in the NCAA practice rules, IU didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. That means that IU played last night without so much as a "live" practice in which to prepare. Given NU's unorthodox approach, I'm happy with any sort of win.
Now, IU heads down the home stretch. IU plays Ohio State Tuesday night. The Buckeyes will have to deal with a rare 48 hour turnaround (they play Wisconsin at 4 pm today). On Sunday, IU plays at Michigan State, before finishing at home against Minnesota and on the road against Penn State. It seems likely that IU, Purdue, and Wisconsin will all finish either 16-2 or 15-3, but the final details are not yet resolved.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Northwestern, take 2.

Northwestern Wildcats
Current record: 6-17
Big Ten record: 0-13
Current RPI: 221
Current Sagarin: 197
2006-07 record: 11-18 (2-14)
2006-07 RPI: 178
2006-07 Sagarin: 143
Series: IU leads 106-43
Last IU win: 2/3/08 (75-63 in Bloomington)
Last Northwestern win: 1/5/05 (72-53 in Evanston)
Last IU win in Evanston: 2/28/07 (69-65)
TV: 8 pm tonight, BTN
Even by the standards of Northwestern, it's fairly amazing that the Wildcats are poised to go 0-18 in the conference. While the top 4 teams in the conference are fairly good, there isn't a solid NCAA championship contender in the bunch. Yet, 15-3 may not be good enough for even a share of the conference title. That means that the lower tier is pretty bad. Minnesota and Ohio State have been decent but haven't won consistently. Penn State lost its best player to injury. Michigan and Iowa are rebuilding. Illinois has fallen apart. In other words, there are plenty of beatable teams in the conference, and Northwestern hasn't managed to defeat even one of them. The Wildcats' near miss at Iowa this week (a 53-51 loss in which the Wildcats gave up a big lead) was the first time NU has played a Big Ten team within single digits. Thanks to a great three point shooting performance that day and poor shooting by IU, NU's game at IU, a 12 point loss, was NU's next closest conference game. While that is of some concern, as are the current events at IU, the Hoosiers should win this game comfortably.
Events like those experienced by the IU team in the last few days cannot be well-timed, but IU should be able to win this game despite what might euphemistically be called the unorthodox pregame approach. For what it's worth, WTHR's morning newscast reports that all Hoosiers boarded the bus to the airport this morning.

Late update.

Dave Calabro and Henry Wofford of WTHR in Indianapolis reported live from Bloomington during the 11 p.m. newscast. Wofford reported that the entire team, including the six players who did not participate in practice this afternoon, met late tonight with assistant Ray McCallum. According to Wofford, after the meeting ended the players seemed to be in high spirits until they noticed the media, at which point they clammed up. While neither the players nor McCallum would comment, Wofford speculates that IU will have a full roster tomorrow night in Evanston. At this point, Sampson isn't coming back, and any further action by the players only hurts themselves. Long day, long night, but it seems that the team can now begin to move forward.

It's over.

As you all know by now, IU and Kelvin Sampson reached an agreement earlier tonight. IU pays $750,000, Sampson agrees not to sue. Keep in mind that Sampson's buyout, had IU simply elected to fire Sampson without cause, would have been over $2.5 million, so this settlement figure, while not small, is closer to $0 than to what Sampson ultimately would have received after a successful suit. Given the PR nightmare and the legal fees, this seems like a good resolution for IU. I went to dinner, so I'm still trying to catch up, but bear with me.

The plot thickens.

Like NBC's ER, the melodrama gets ever more unrealistic, except this is really happening. Hoosier Scoop (see sidebar and below for the link, I'm rushed) reports that six Hoosiers (DJ White, Armon Bassett, Deandre Thomas, Brandon McGee, and Jordan Crawford) are not at practice. If my math is correct, that means that four active scholarship players (Eric Gordon, Lance Stemler, Mike White, and former walkon Kyle Taber) are practicing, along with walkons Brett Finkelmeier and Adam Ahlfeld and the ostensibly injured Eli Holman. I'm not jumping to any conclusions, and there are any number of innocent explanations, but this is worth following. Per the H-T, Ray McCallum is also absent, and Dan Dakich is leading the practice, and made a statement at the beginning of practice that seemed to confirm that Sampson is out and Dakich is in.

Who knows?

I still believe that at a basic level, we know what is going to happen: the entire IU team will travel to Evanston tomorrow and will play Northwestern under the direction of an interim head coach who will lead IU for the rest of the season. Whether Sampson will be suspended or whether he will resign as part of a settlement/buyout agreement with IU is up in the air, as is the identity of the interim coach (Dan Dakich still seems likely, but there are rumors about Ray McCallum--frankly, if the players are clamoring for McCallum, all the more reason to appoint Dakich). The how and the when seem quite up in the air right now, but thankfully, we should know something by the end of today.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Jay Bilas is pissing me off.

In general, I like Jay Bilas and consider him one of the few rays of sunshine at the increasingly unwatchable ESPN. He's a smart guy, a Duke law grad who worked as an attorney at a large firm and as an assistant coach for Mike Krzyzewski. At his best, he cuts through the crap and offers more insight and intelligence than any other basketball commentator at ESPN. But when it comes to his friends, Jay Bilas is "Jay Bias." And unfortunately, his impressive credentials give him more credibility than he deserves in such circumstances.
Of course, my current annoyance with Jay relates to the Sampson issue, but recall that the last time Bilas weighed in on a Big Ten coaching change, he was excoriating Michigan for firing his laughably incompetent old buddy Tommy Amaker. Amaker, even considering the condition of the program when he took over in Ann Arbor, did an indefensibly awful job there, and didn't do anything at Seton Hall other than recruit. Yet Michigan, a historical top 10 basketball program, should have stuck with him even longer? Silly.
Bilas currently is leading the "due process" idiot brigade in the Sampson debate. I can take this rhetoric from non-attorneys, but Bilas should (and likely does) know better. Let's get this straight: there is no Platonic ideal of “due process” to which Sampson is entitled. In Indiana, employees, even public employees, generally are employed at will and can be fired for any non-discriminatory reason or for no reason at all. That means that the only due process rights that Sampson has arise from his employment contract. IU is following the procedures as outlined in the contract. If IU can review the materials provided by the NCAA, conduct follow-up investigation as needed, and come to the conclusion that the NCAA has Sampson dead to rights, why should IU be obligated to wait for the NCAA process to play out?
People keep raising the specter of Jim O’Brien, and the O’Brien case is a cautionary tale. But O’Brien’s contract specifically limited OSU’s right to terminate him for NCAA violations. OSU could not make that determination, but had to wait for a determination by the NCAA. Sampson’s contract is not crystal clear, but it does allow IU much more flexibility on such issues. The relevant paragraphs of Sampson's contract do not explicitly require a finding by the NCAA before he can be fired for NCAA violations, and Sampson's contract also allows him to be terminated for just cause for "knowingly misleading the University" about matters relating to the basketball program. IU has no legal or contractual obligation to wait for an NCAA finding or wait until IU's response date to take action against Sampson. Anyone who says otherwise is making shit up.
Again, we're all used to idiocy from ESPN. But Bilas isn't an idiot. Viewers trust his informed opinion, particularly on legal and NCAA issues. What most of the audience doesn't realize is that when it comes to his friends, Bilas isn't acting as a legal analyst. He's acting as a legal advocate. Bilas's statements should be given no more weight that the statements of Sampson's attorneys.


Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline reports that several team members have threatened to quit if Sampson is fired, and that the players informed Rick Greenspan of their intent during a meeting yesterday evening. The key paragraph:

According to the sources, after Greenspan informed five selected players -- namely D.J. White, Eric Gordon, Kyle Taber, Lance Stemler and Adam Ahlfeld -- of his decision to replace Sampson he called a meeting with the entire team in an attempt to "prepare" them for Friday's official announcement that Sampson would either be suspended or terminated in time for the Hoosiers' weekend game at Northwestern. But before Greenspan finished his speech, the sources said an unidentified player stood up and insisted "if Sampson ain't coaching, we ain't playing" and that Greenspan responded with what he thought was a rhetorical question.

"Greenspan asked if he should just cancel the whole season," one source said. "And the player told him 'We don't care what you do. But if Sampson ain't coaching, we ain't playing.' And then they just walked out."

I'm skeptical of this report. It's not consistent with what local reporters with good connections are saying. Even if true, while the players' loyalty is admirable, if anything, such statements push IU even further toward firing Sampson. IU certainly cannot ignore the results of a NCAA investigation just because the players are mad.


Well, AD Rick Greenspan met with the team tonight, and per the Hoosier Scoop's sources inside the meeting, Greenspan told them that nothing has been decided yet. At this point, I'm going to side with the speculation that suggests that there are ongoing negotiations. There's really no other good explanation, is there? There are lots of sources out there, lots of different perspectives, lots of people who probably don't know as much as they think they know. I still think the smart money is on Dan Dakich coaching the Hoosiers Saturday night. Also, earlier in the day Hoosier Scoop reported that because of the 8 pm tipoff, IU will not leave for Evanston until Saturday morning, so the logistics aren't quite as nightmarish as they might seem.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More smoke.

The Herald-Times has staked out Michael McRobbie's office and Assembly Hall. Very nice. Also, Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports reports that numerous sources have told him that Sampson was informed early Thursday that he no longer would be IU's coach.
Keep in mind that despite the Fox News headline, Sampson is entitled to something analogous to an appeal before he can be formally terminated for just cause, but if the athletic director recommends termination for just cause and the president accepts the recommendation, Sampson would be suspended without pay during the appeal period.

The soap opera continues.

The Hoosier Scoop reports that WTHR, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, is reporting that Sampson is not expected to coach at Northwestern Saturday and that Dan Dakich will be the interim coach for the remainder of the season. The key paragraph:
[WTHR's Rich] Nye quotes the “source close to the situation” as saying that by Friday afternoon, Sampson and the university will likely reach a financial settlement ending his employment or will be suspended pending termination under the terms of his contract.
Per an amendment at the top of the Hoosier Scoop post linked above, a "source close to the athletic department" says that WTHR's report "is not completely accurate." I don't know what that means. The WTHR report is fully of qualifying language such as "likely" and "is expected." Does IU's sorta-denial mean that Sampson is expected to coach Saturday, or that Dakich isn't likely to be the interim coach? Probably not. IU is just trying to keep the story under control. The Nye report implies that Sampson is in financial negotiations with IU, which is good. Also, a suspension tomorrow wouldn't prevent the parties from continuing to negotiate. As always, stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Indiana 77, Purdue 68.

Yeah, yeah, I shouldn't have mentioned the turnovers. In my preview, I noted that after a rough start, IU had stopped turning the ball over so often. Purdue's defense lived up to its billing in that respect (although a decent number were self-inflicted). This was a fast-paced game, about 74 possessions, so the 23 turnovers aren't quite as bad as they look, but still very, very bad. Fortunately, thanks to solid man defense and just a bad shooting night by Purdue, the Hoosiers were able to overcome their ball-handling woes. Purdue shot only 34 percent from the field and 52 percent from the line. Thanks to its characteristic valuing of the ball (only 5 turnovers), Purdue attempted 30 more shots than IU (72 to 42) but made only five more field goals (25-20). IU won the game at the foul line, make 30-34 free throws. The foul disparity wasn't as significant as the Boilers will claim (26 to 17 in number of fouls called, 34-21 in free throw attempts), but IU certainly was effective at getting to the line in the second half. The Hoosiers rebounded well, grabbing 37 of Purdue's 51 misses (OR% of 27.45) and 9 of 25 opportunities (36%) on the offensive end.
After a 7-1 start in the Big Ten, IU entered a critical stretch: a nasty game at Illinois, a quick turnaround at Ohio State, and then three home games against the three other Big Ten title contenders. Considering all that has surrounded the program in recent weeks, 4-1 with 3 comfortable wins is a pretty solid performance. It probably won't be enough to give IU its first outright Big Ten title in 15 years, but the Hoosiers remain in the hunt, along with Purdue and Wisconsin, for a share of the title. IU's road trip to Michigan State is by far the toughest remaining game for any of the true contenders, but IU should win every other game. Wisconsin hosts Michigan State and has theoretically losable games at Ohio State at Illinois. Purdue has to go to Ohio State and has a road game against Michigan that looks a bit trickier than it did a couple of weeks ago.
The individuals:
  • DJ White was amazing, and Steve Lavin is campaigning for national POY consideration. White scored 19 points on 11 shots and 15 rebounds, including 6 offensive rebounds.
  • All three starting guards handled the ball poorly, but Eric Gordon ended up with 22 points on 14 shots.
  • Armon Bassett is inconsistent but his good games are amazing: 16 points on 5 shots.
  • Kyle Taber had his most productive game: 6 points on 3-3 from the field, 5 rebounds, and no turnovers. Since he began playing meaningful minutes against Northwestern, Taber is 5-6 from the field, 2-2 from the line, nearly 3 rebounds per game, and only two turnovers in approximately 106 minutes played. Who would have guessed it even a month ago?
Of course, IU plays next at Northwestern on Saturday, and it's unclear who will coach the Hoosiers in that game. So, the soap opera stuff seems likely to dominate the next few days, but the team should be proud of its effort and accomplishments over the last few days.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Purdue preview, Part II.

Yesterday, I took a look at the history between these teams. Today, let's look at the 2008 versions. As I said yesterday, the computer rankings probably don't reflect that team that Purdue is right now. IU still has the lead in RPI (23), Sagarin (12), and Pomeroy (13 to Purdue's 23). Pomeroy's statistical model gives Purdue only a 24 percent chance of winning at IU tonight and only a 39 percent chance of winning at Ohio State. Since the Big Ten season began, Purdue's only loss was by 3 at Michigan State, and Purdue became only the third Big Ten team in seven years to win at Wisconsin. The Boilers would be formidable opponents even if the Sampson soap opera were not ongoing.

While much has been made of Purdue's three point shooting, the Boilers have really excelled at the defensive end. Purdue's raw offensive efficiency score of 1.04 points per possession ranks #122 in Division I. Oddly enough, Purdue's five least efficient offensive performances in Big Ten play have been at home. Over the entire season, Purdue's only really noteworthy offensive ranking is #60 in turnover percentage (unfortunately, defensive turnover percentage is IU's least impressive ranking). On the defensive side, Purdue's overall efficiency is outstanding, ranked in the top 20 both raw and adjusted. While Purdue's effective field goal percentage is pedestrian (48.5, #113), Purdue forces turnovers (via steals and otherwise), rebounds well defensively, and blocks a lot of shots. If IU can shoot the ball or get to the line, the Hoosiers will be in good shape. But according to the statistics, Purdue's success can mostly be attributed to taking care of the ball on offense and limiting the opponents number of scoring opportunities on defense. IU has been a good rebounding team all year, so that should be an interesting battle. While IU has struggled at times this season with turnovers, IU really has kept them in check since that awful performance at Minnesota early in the conference season.
Courtesy of Statsheet, here is how IU and Purdue rank within the Big Ten in various categories, counting conference games only:
Points per possession: IU #2 (1.079); Purdue #3 (1.06)
Effective Field Goal percentage (offense): IU #1 (52.4); Purdue #5 (50.8)
Effective Field goal percentage (defense): IU #4 (40.7); Purdue #7 (43.3)
Free throw percentage: IU #1 (76.0); Purdue #2 (74.8)
Free throw rate: IU #7 (34.3); Purdue #5 (35.0)
Three point FG% (offense): IU #5 (34.2); Purdue #2 (39.9)
Three point FG% (defense): IU #7 (34.2); Purdue #2 (31.9)
Offensive Rebound %: IU #8 (32.1); Purdue #10 (31.3)
Defensive Rebound %: IU #1 (73.1); Purdue #9 (67.5)
Turnover percentage (offense): IU #3 (19.4); Purdue #1 (18.9)
Turnover percentage (defense): IU #9 (18.2); Purdue #2 (25.2)
It will be interesting to see whether IU will try the zone defense at all. If DJ is hurt, IU may have no choice, but Purdue is one of the leading three point shooting teams in the conference. Of Purdue's four players who have attempted 60 or more three pointers, three (E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, and Keaton Grant) have made more than 40 percent. Hummel is particularly dangerous, shooting 53 percent from two point range and 46 percent from behind the arc.
Purdue looked vulnerable at time against Northwestern but still managed to win by 15. Overall, the Boilers appear to be a year early and present an important test for IU. With a win, the Hoosiers will remain in the Big Ten title hunt, with a three way tie among IU, Purdue and Wisconsin a realistic possibility and with some slim chance at an outright title. If IU loses, Purdue almost certainly will be the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and likely will win the conference outright. Either way, with all that surrounds this game, it should be one of the more memorable in the series.

Coming in from the ledge, cautiously: DJ to play?

On his Monday radio show, per Hoosier Scoop, Kelvin Sampson said that DJ White should play tomorrow. Who knows?

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Purdue preview, part I.

Purdue Boilermakers
Current record: 21-5
Big Ten record: 12-1
Current RPI: 28
Current Sagarin: 30
2006-07 record: 21-11 (9-7) (lost to Florida in second round of NCAA Tournament)
2006-07 RPI: 44
2006-07 Sagarin: 26
Series: Purdue leads 109-81
Last IU win: 1/10/07 (85-58 in Bloomington)
Last Purdue win: 2/15/07 (81-68 in West Lafayette)
Last Purdue win in Bloomington: 2/9/99 (86-81)
TV: 7 pm Tuesday, ESPN

Purdue's computer rankings still are suffering from non-conference losses to Wofford and Iowa State, but since those pre-Christmas losses, the Boilers have been playing as well as anyone in the country. Purdue's only loss since the Iowa State game was a 3-point loss to Michigan State on the road, a game that Purdue led late and played without Robbie Hummel. When the schedule came out, I was disappointed, of course, at the short-sightedness of the Big Ten leadership's failure to introduce protected rivalries to basketball. Particularly now that the Big Ten has returned to an 18 game conference schedule, there's no excuse for not scheduling two IU-Purdue games. In any event, at the beginning of the season, I wished that the schedule were reversed. I figured that this year's IU team would be good enough to win at Mackey but that next year, when Purdue's youngsters would be a year older and IU would be without DJ White and Eric Gordon, homecourt would be more useful. Who could have predicted that this year's game would have significant Big Ten championship implications for both schools?

As is noted above, Purdue leads the all-time series by a substantial margin. The two schools played their first game on March 3, 1901, and Purdue dominated the early years of the rivalry. IU and Purdue played 60 times before the NCAA Tournament era began in 1938-39, and Purdue then held a 51-9 lead. Since then, the rivalry has been fairly evenly matched, with IU leading 72-58 since then but with Purdue retaining a comfortable lead in the overall series.

Purdue now has lost 7 in a row in Bloomington, which is Purdue's longest losing streak at Assembly Hall. The 1999 win was Purdue's third win at Assembly Hall in four years, and the 1996 and 1997 games (Chad Austin I and Chad Austin II) were particularly memorable. This is the first time since 1994 that both teams have entered this game with designs on the conference title. In the 20 years that Knight and Keady coached against each other, IU or Purdue won a share of the conference title in 11 of 20 seasons. Since Purdue's last title in 1996, IU's four-way tie in 2002 is the only conference title won by either school. I thought this year might be a return to the 1980s in that respect, but I thought IU would be doing the winning.
That's all for now: the nuts and bolts of the upcoming match-up will come later.

Posted from the ledge: DJ White unlikely to play this week.

From Inside the Hall from Fox Sports from Sampson, DJ White's MRI revealed no damage but White's sprained knee may keep him out of IU's games this week at home against Purdue and at Northwestern. Has IU basketball ever had a worse week?

Big Ten Bloggers poll, week 7.

1. Purdue (21-5, 12-1). Last week: 1. Purdue became the prohibitive favorite with its win over MSU and IU's loss to Wisconsin.
2. Wisconsin (21-4, 11-2). Last week: 3. I'm not yet sold on the Badgers, but a sweep is a sweep.
3. Indiana (21-4, 10-2). Last week: 2. After a tough week and a tough loss to Wisconsin, IU played its best game of the year against MSU.
4. Michigan State (20-5, 8-4). Last week: 4. The disappointing Spartans need all of the top three to fall apart to have a chance.
5. Ohio State (17-9, 8-5). Last week: 5. The Buckeyes can save their NCAA bid with remaining home games against Purdue, Wisconsin, and MSU, but the loss to Michigan will be tough to overcome.
6. Minnesota (15-9, 5-7). Last week: 6. Wait 'til next year.
7. Michigan (8-17, 4-9). Last week: 9. The Wolverines showed a little life with a home win against Penn State.
8. Penn State (12-12, 4-8). Last week: 8. The sweep over Illinois gave the Lions a respectable week.
9. Iowa (11-15, 4-9). Last week: 7. The loss to Michigan is tough to stomach.
10. Illinois (11-15, 3-10). Last week: 10. Nice win at Minnesota, followed by a loss to Penn State.
11. Northwestern (7-16, 0-12). Last week: 11. For a minute, they looked like they might make the Purdue game interesting.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Indiana 80, Michigan State 61.

Under tough circumstances, IU kept its Big Ten title hopes alive and all-but-officially eliminated preseason favorite Michigan State from the equation. It was a tough game to watch in many respects, even though IU controlled the last 30 minutes. While the various man-on-the-street interviews made clear that IU fans know what will be done and what has to be done, this game was a tease, a last image of what might have been if Sampson had kept his nose clean during probation. I just feel sick about the whole thing, for the players, the students, the fans and alumni, for Sampson and his family. It didn't have to happen. In any event, Sampson can enter his exile with something to smile about if he move the Hoosiers back into the driver's seat with a win over Purdue on Tuesday.
Before I talk about the game, I'm going to violate Big Ten Wonk's commandment and complain about announcers. I feel comfortable doing so because Mr. Gasaway violated his own commandment earlier in the season:

The announcing team working the game last night posed a constant and intractable obstacle between viewers and the game. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is pretty much the precise opposite of what an announcing team is supposed to do.

I literally found myself leaning in toward the TV and squinting at the screen, as if that would help me follow what Gerald Henderson was doing while the announcers went happily and blissfully AWOL, addressing such pressing matters as Ronde Barber, the new College Basketball Experience in Kansas City and, inevitably, Jimmy V.

This announcing team has been tarred on occasion with the easy catch-all pejorative "ESPN," but let us be clear. It's not ESPN. Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery and Sean McDonough share a water cooler with these guys, yet they're consistently outstanding. No, it's simply that last night's announcing team has apparently been given free reign by someone in the organizational chart to ignore the game whenever they want. Which, as it happens, is very often. That's worse than annoying. It's unprofessional in the most literal sense of the term. Anyone else in the world is free to talk about whatever they want to talk about. Last night's announcing team, on the other hand, was paid specifically to talk about Wisconsin vs. Duke. They should have tried it from time to time.

Gasaway didn't mention the main culprit by name. Because he knows that his work is read mostly by avid college basketball fans, he didn't have to. I'm not so nice. Dick Vitale, once a solid commentator known for catch phrases inserted into actual analysis, has for at least a decade been a Saturday Night Live parody of himself. Sometime, on ESPN Classic or the Big Ten Network, watch a game called by Vitale from the early 1990s or before. He actually talks about the game transpiring before his eye! Now, the game is merely incidental. It merely provides Vitale with a platform from which he can say whatever pops in to his mind, and usually it's something that every serious college basketball fan has heard from Vitale dozens of times. He certainly does nothing to enlighten his audience about basketball. The most telling moment of last night's game was when he expressed surprise about IU's use of a zone defense. Vitale was correct that IU, historically and under Sampson, typically has played man defense. But is it unreasonable to expect a man who is paid millions of dollars to serve, ostensibly, as the "basketball expert" half of the announcing tandem might watch some film? In their last 130 minutes of basketball prior to the MSU game, the Hoosiers played probably 75-80 minutes of zone defense: about 30 minutes of the Illinois game, practically all of the OSU game, and a few minutes of the Wisconsin game. That moment was a perfect illustration of what Vitale brings to the table these days: nothing.
I should say that by all accounts, public and private, Vitale is a nice man, generous with his time and money and always considerate to fans that he meets. But the caliber of his work shows a certain level of laziness and narcissism. He believes that his non-game-related thoughts are more important than the game. And he doesn't do his homework even for the tired old material. For years after Knight was fired, Vitale droned on about how IU should name the basketball court after Knight, not realizing that the court already was named after IU's two-time NCAA champion coach Branch McCracken. After someone clued him in, he began clamoring for the naming of Assembly Hall after Knight. Now, I think that would be a great thing, but has Vitale ever done any legwork as to whether Knight would welcome such an honor or would even show up for the ceremony? All public indications are that Knight would not, but that doesn't deter Vitale, who said it twice in the first eight minutes of the game.
I understand that the Sampson story is news. But the ESPN Gameday crew broadcast two hours from Bloomington on Saturday, and handled it proportionately, even if I didn't agree with all of the analysis. After two hours of coverage of off-the-court stuff, it would have been nice if the announcers could have called the game, mostly. But again, that would require doing the sort of homework that most commentators do but that Dick Vitale outgrew years ago.
And now, back to the game. Here's the box score. While MSU hasn't lived up to expectations, this was IU's finest performance of the year, with no close competition. MSU shot only 46 percent from the field, and that was aided by an uncharacteristically good 7-14 performance from three. The Spartans shot only 45 percent from inside the arc, where they usually shoot 53 percent. While the zone provided MSU with some three point opportunities, the Spartans struggled in the areas where they usually excel. That IU maintained control of the game despite DJ White's (hopefully minor) knee injury was impressive. Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on Dick Vitale--Izzo's charges seemed genuinely surprised by the zone, and turned the ball over 19 times in a 67 possession game (compared to 10 for IU), often on tipped passes. The Spartans, who per KJ's (of Spartans Weblog) comment to yesterday's preview post, MSU scores lots of points on offensive rebounding, but MSU corralled only 5 of its 27 misses yesterday. IU was much the same, but such scoring isn't IU's bread and butter. That's 18.7 OR percentage for a team that usually grabs 41 percent of its own misses. Again, considering that IU played much of the game without DJ White and in a zone defense, that's simply outstanding.
The individuals:
  • Gordon was Gordon, 28 points on 15 shots.
  • Jamarcus Ellis was great, 12 points on 7 shots plus his usual good play.
  • Armon Bassett didn't shoot well but managed five assists and one turnover.
  • Jordan Crawford scored well, 12 points on 10 shots, but the turnovers (3) are back.
  • Deandre Thomas provided some much needed offense: 10 points on nine shots, but he still committed 3 fouls in 16 minutes. That will have to improve next year.
  • Kyle Taber's mistake free ball continues: 2 points, no FG attempts, 2 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 1 steal.

It speaks well of these players and Sampson that the team remained focused and didn't panic after falling behind early. Now, it's time to prepare for the biggest IU-Purdue game since the early 1990s. IU will need DJ, as I don't think the zone will work, at least not for the entire game, against Purdue's various three point threats. It should be fun, at least.

The Michigan State game.

Michigan State Spartans
Current record: 20-4
Big Ten record: 8-3
Current RPI: 14
Current Sagarin: 16
2006-07 record:22-11 (8-8)
2006-07 RPI: 24
2006-07 Sagarin: 20
Series: IU leads 63-42
Last IU win: 1/7/07 (73-51 in Bloomington)
Last MSU win: 2/24/07 (66-58 in East Lansing)
Last MSU win in Bloomington: 2/8/03 (67-62)
TV: 9 pm, ESPN

Basketball intervenes, again. Michigan State, not surprisingly since the Spartans are 20-4, looks good in all efficiency measures. Th Spartans are #7 in offensive rebounding, somewhat average in defensive rebounding. MSU doesn't take good care of the ball (#209 in offensive turnover possession). The Spartans don't shoot many three pointers, but prefer to pound the ball inside. MSU shoots on 53 percent from two point range. IU has struggled this year against interior-oriented teams.

Not much to say about this one. Unfortunately, what should have been one of the biggest games of the season feels secondary. Still, IU will remain in the Big Ten hunt if the Hoosiers can win the next two at home. We'll see.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

More eventful than it looked.

I'm sure that at least some media know-nothings will criticize IU president Michael McRobbie for not hauling Sampson on to the stage in shackles and chopping his head off. Some more perceptive media types might justifiably criticize McRobbie for not beginning this process on Monday. Nevertheless, make no mistake about IU's endgame here: the procedures vaguely referenced by McRobbie are found within a paragraph entitled "Procedures for Termination for Just Cause." That paragraph provides for a suspension without pay if the athletic director recommends termination for just cause but is silent on suspensions with pay during the investigation. Wisely, IU is taking no step that isn't expressly described in the contract. IU is willing to accept a week or so of discomfort in an effort to save about $2.5 million. That seems like the right decision.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Contracts 101.

Much of the talk in recent days has concerned what IU can and cannot do pursuant the terms of Kelvin Sampson's employment contract. Of particular concern has been Jim O'Brien's successful suit against Ohio State. The trial court ruled and the appellate court affirmed that Ohio State's firing of O'Brien for cause was a breach of the contract. It's worth considering the similarities and differences between O'Brien's circumstances and Sampson's circumstances. Nothing I say below should be considered a statement of fact or an irrefutable legal opinion. These things are hotly contested, often for years.

Sampson's contract (.pdf)

Sorry if you will have to click on these images to read them, but I'm not typing them in.

As you can see, the first two images above contain the definition of just cause, the third image shows the procedure for termination for just cause, and the final image discusses termination without cause.
O'Brien's contract

Here are the relevant terms of O'Brien's contract, taken from the September 20, 2007 opinion of the Court of Appeals of Ohio. This does not appear to be a reported opinion, but the Westlaw citation for O'Brien v. Ohio State Univ. is 2007 WL 2729077 and the cause number is 06AP946.

5.1 Termination for Cause-Ohio State may terminate this agreement at any time for cause, which, for the purposes of this agreement, shall be limited to the occurrence of one or more of the following:
(a) a material breach of this agreement by Coach, which Coach fails to remedy to OSU's reasonable satisfaction, within a reasonable time period, not to exceed thirty (30) days, after receipt of a written notice from Ohio [S]tate specifying the act(s), conduct or omission(s) constituting such breach;
(b) a violation by Coach * * * of applicable law, policy, rule or regulation of the NCAA or the Big Ten Conference which leads to a “major” infraction investigation by the NCAA or the Big Ten Conference and which results in a finding by the NCAA or the Big Ten Conference of lack of institutional control over the men's basketball program or which results in Ohio State being sanctioned by the NCAA or the Big Ten Conference * * *.

5.2 Termination Other Than For Cause/Partial Liquidated Damages. If Coach's employment hereunder is terminated by Ohio State other than for cause (as delineated in Section 5.1 above), Ohio State shall pay and provide to Coach, as partial liquidated damages * * * (i) the full amount of Coach's then-current base salary (see Section 3.0 above) and (ii) such normal employee benefits as Ohio State then provides generally to its administrative and professional employees * * *.

5.3 Termination Other than for Cause/Additional Liquidated Damages. If Coach's employment is terminated other than for cause (as delineated in Section 5.1 above), in addition to the liquidated damages to be paid and provided by Ohio State pursuant to Section 5.2 above, Ohio State shall compensate Coach for the loss of collateral business opportunities (whether media, public relations, camps, clinics, apparel or similar contracts, sponsorships or any other supplemental or collateral compensation or benefit of any kind) by paying Coach as additional liquidated damages * * *[.]
b. an amount equal to three and a half (3.5) times the product of (y) the Coach's then current base salary * * * and (z) the number of years remaining under the term of this agreement * * *, if Coach's employment is terminated after June 30, 2003. Such amount shall be paid in a lump sum within thirty (30) days after termination of Coach's employment hereunder, and shall be in lieu of any other obligation of Ohio State * * *.

The differences

Not surprisingly, a contract negotiated by a coach after a Final Four appearance looks a bit different from a contract negotiated by a coach under NCAA investigation. Now, the Ohio appellate opinion is 23 pages long, so any effort to quickly summarize it may be lacking. But as you can tell, the "for cause" provisions of the two contracts are quite different. Ohio State got in to trouble because they tried to fire O'Brien under paragraph 5.1(a), for materially breaching the contract by doing what OSU perceived to be an NCAA violation. But the second part of that paragraph, 5.2(b), states that O'Brien could be fired upon an NCAA finding of lack of institutional control or NCAA sanctions. Courts generally disfavor contractual interpretations that render parts of the contract meaningless, and allowing OSU to fire O'Brien because of OSU's own belief that an NCAA violation had occurred would render 5.2(b) meaningless. And of course, OSU couldn't have fired O'Brien in June 2004 based on 5.2(b) because the NCAA had not even investigated yet.
Sampson's contract does contain provisions that allow IU to terminate Sampson for cause on the basis of NCAA violations. But Sampson's contract does not explicitly require a finding by the NCAA that a violation has occurred. The contract speaks of a violation "which may result in the University being placed on probation...." It certainly seems that there is no requirement that IU wait until the NCAA hands down its punishment. If IU were to act before the NCAA's ruling, would the university have a leg to stand on? It sure appears so. Airtight? I haven't done enough research to know, and there's really no such thing, at least when it comes to preventing litigation. But clearly, the relevant provisions of Sampson's contract are different from O'Brien's contract. The O'Brien contract explicitly required that the university allow the process to play out before firing O'Brien for cause. The Sampson contract contains no such explicit requirement. I'm sure this is one of the issues that IU is exploring, and IU's attorneys have much more to work with than did OSU's attorneys.
Finally, paragraph C above, the third image, contains IU's procedures for termination for just cause. Many of us have wondered why IU is allowing Greenspan to take part in this process. The simple answer may be that however much confidence the president and trustees have in Greenspan, they don't want to do anything that runs afoul of the specific procedure described in the contract. The contract says that the AD performs the investigation, so the AD is performing the investigation.
As an aside, even though it's not terribly relevant, I have included the "without cause" provisions of both contracts. O'Brien's buyout was much more generous. IU would owe only base salary, while OSU also owed for loss of outside income.

Some word from the phone call participants.

Via The Meaningful Collateral, an IU-centric general sports blog that is a long-overdue addition to my blogroll, the Cincy Enquirer has talked to Kenny Frease, one of the recruits mentioned in the NCAA notice. Frease, from Massillon, Ohio, is Xavier-bound. Here's what he says:

The NCAA alleges that during the calls, Senderoff would hand the phone to Sampson, a violation of his restrictions. Frease said he spoke with an NCAA investigator in the past three to four weeks about the calls, which occurred between May 25, 2006, and May 24, 2007, according to the report.

"When the NCAA guy came out and we talked to him, the biggest thing I remembered was Senderoff would call and he'd hand the phone to Coach Sampson and we'd talk for a few minutes," Frease said. "I just told him what I remembered about the calls."

Unreal. Fire this man and the feckless AD who tainted our university by hiring him. And fire Adam Herbert, too, even though he retired last year.

Announcement today re: investigation.

Per Hoosier Scoop and various other sources, IU president Michael McRobbie will announce the details of the investigation into the NCAA's latest allegations. None of the articles lists a time, so it's not clear if the president will speak or if this will be in the nature of a written press release. The Indianapolis Star has some additional detail. It is expected that the investigation will take "days." AD Rick Greenspan will make a recommendation to the president. If IU decides to fire Sampson for cause, he is entitled to some sort of a 10 day appeals process, during which he would be suspended. I'm going to take a closer look at Sampson's contract today. But right now, a few things seem clear: first, it seems pretty plain from all of the developments since the disclosure that IU is going to try to fire Sampson for cause; it also seems likely, based upon the supposed outline of this investigation, that Rick Greenspan, who hired Sampson in the first place despite his NCAA issues, will weather the storm, at least for now. He will be involved in the decision whether to fire Sampson, and if he's involved in that, I presume he will be hiring Sampson's successor. Finally, it seems certain that Sampson will coach the team Saturday night against Michigan State.

Stay tuned.

I have absolutely no inside information, but the rumors are flying, so in the next 24 hours it might be a good idea to pay attention to people who tend to know things: most notably Peegs and Hoosier Scoop.
In my post yesterday, I said this:
It's not clear to me how Sampson can survive this, or that he should. It's probably just a matter of how it shakes out. I would be fine with keeping Sampson through the end of the season. These IU players did nothing wrong, and should be allowed to finish the season. But I find it hard to believe that IU will go before the NCAA in June with Sampson still employed.
Ah, the wonders of blogging, with off-the-cuff impressions there for the world to see. I still agree with all of that except the part about Sampson finishing the season. I don't think that's advisable and I don't think it will happen. There's not a good solution at this point, but it probably makes the most sense to make the move now and hire an interim coach. Whether Sampson is guilty of what the NCAA alleges really is beside the point at this point. Even if we interpret the facts most charitably to Sampson, we know the following:
1. While at Oklahoma, Sampson personally and intentionally violated NCAA rules regarding phone calls to recruits;
2. While at IU and on probation for such calls, at the very least, Sampson's assistants intentionally and systematically violated NCAA rules and the conditions of Sampson's probation/self-imposed sanctions;
3. The NCAA enforcement staff will tell take the position before the Infractions Committee that Sampson intentionally violated the conditions of his probation and lied about it.
It's now beside the point whether what the NCAA says about Sampson is true. That the NCAA staff has alleged it is enough. The NCAA is looking to hammer IU, and Sampson made his bed with #1 and #2. It seems obvious, based on the tone of IU's comments yesterday, Sampson's non-participation in IU's press conference, and the rumor mill today, that IU is exploring its options, most likely determining whether IU can fire Sampson for cause (i.e., without paying a seven figure buyout) based on what IU know right now. It's going to be interesting, but it's now obvious that Sampson is done at IU and will be removed sometime between now and the end of the season.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wisconsin 68, Indiana 66.

Last night's game was a sadly appropriate ending to one of the worst days in the history of IU's basketball program. Brian Butch banked in a three pointer in the closing seconds to give Wisconsin a 68-66 lead. Jamarcus Ellis missed a three pointer at the other end, and that was that. Wisconsin's win remade the Big Ten standings. The Badgers are back in the hunt, a game behind Purdue and a half game ahead of IU. The Boilers, as the only one loss team in the conference and with only one game against the top 4 remaining, are now the prohibitive favorite. Even if IU manages to beat Purdue next Tuesday, given IU's roadie to MSU still remaining, Purdue will have to lose at Ohio State or blow a gimme game if IU is to grab even a share of the conference title.
Here's the box score. The Badgers made 7 of their first 11 three point attempts and finished 11-26 for the game, including the game-winner by Butch. The Badgers' flurry of three point baskets, including some that were closely guarded, neutralized a fine first half offensive performance by IU. The Hoosiers shot 56 percent from the field in the first half and 8-10 from the line and only led by one. IU continues to be lulled into slow play. This was a 58 possession game. While IU's offense was fairly efficient, despite the 3-13 three point performance, Wisconsin's 1.15 points per possession was IU's second worst of the season (the loss to Xavier was worse). Ultimately, IU played well enough to win on the offensive end but simply could not deny Wisconsin's three point offense. One positive: the turnover numbers have decreased significantly. IU turned the ball over only 5 times (8.5 percent), season bests by any measure. It's hard to say where the Hoosiers will go from here, but this was, in many respects, a hard luck loss.
The individuals:
  • Gordon scored 23 points on 7-17/0-4 shooting, thanks to 9-10 from the line.
  • DJ White managed 17 points on 10 shots, mostly in the first half. He also had three blocks.
  • Jamarcus Ellis had a rough night: 2 points on 1-5 from the field, and he missed a good look for the win. He did have 8 rebounds.
  • Deandre Thomas played well at times, but again, the failure to play with intelligence is what keeps Deandre off the floor. After he missed a shot, he committed an inexcusable foul 90 feet from the basket. He really does have good skills for his size, and hopefully whoever coaches the team next year can reach him.

Next up: Michigan State, needing some luck to stay in the Big Ten title hunt. After a tough loss at Purdue, the Spartans' luck is improving. IU is in disarray, to the point that it's unclear who will be coaching on Saturday, and the ESPN Gameday crew will be in town. What a train wreck.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Wisconsin game, Deckchairs on the Titanic version

Wisconsin Badgers
Current record: 19-4
Big Ten record: 9-2
Current RPI: 21
Current Sagarin: 9
2006-07 record: 30-6 (lost to UNLV in second round of NCAA Tournament)
2006-07 RPI: 4
2006-07 Sagarin: 8
Series: IU leads 94-56
Last IU win: 1/31/07 (71-66 in Bloomington)
Last Wisconsin win: 1/31/08 (62-49 in Madison)
Last Wisconsin win in Bloomington: 3/9/04 (70-52)
TV: 7 pm, BTN
Since there's nothing else to talk about, I may as well preview the tonight's game. What makes the Sampson news all the more disappointing that that IU is entering what would have been its most exciting stretch of games in years. I feel sorry for the players and the students, who have put up with quite a bit of bad basketball during their time in Bloomington.
Nevertheless, I don't have much time today, so I will refer back to my preview of the first Wisconsin game. For the most part, the Badgers are the same team they were before. Of course, the Badgers lost to Purdue in their only challenging game since playing IU on January 31. Wisconsin's offense was fine, at least in the end. The Badgers shot only 32 percent overall and 3-18 from behind the arc, but edged over a point per possession by shooting 30-33 from the line. Purdue won because of its offense, or because of Wisconsin's defense. Purdue shot 53 percent from the field and 8-19 from behind the arc and overcame 12-22 from the line to score 1.09 points per possession. Wisconsin's only worse defensive performances this year came in losses to Duke and Marquette. The Badgers were also several percentage points below average in their defensive rebounding. The Badgers offensive numbers in the Purdue loss are pretty similar to their offensive numbers in the win over IU. IU played really poorly offensively. In Bloomington, the Hoosiers should be able to score, and the Badgers generally have not played well offensively in their only tough road games, at Purdue and at Duke. If IU can overcome the intangibles and can put the ball in the hole at even an average rate, we should be in a position to win.

Here's the report.

NCAA allegations (.pdf document). I don't have time for a line by line review. In essence: well, via the Hoosier Scoop, here's IU's press release in full:
NCAA serves notice on IU of potential “major violations” in basketball recruiting
­ Indiana University today (Feb. 13) disclosed that it hasreceived formal notice from the National Collegiate Athletic Associationthat allegations of potentially ‘major’ recruiting violations have beenraised against men¹s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and two assistants. The five allegations were outlined in a letter to IU President Michael A.McRobbie from David Price, the NCAA’s vice president for enforcement. Alsocited in the letter for alleged violations were assistant coach Jeff Meyerand former assistant coach Rob Senderoff. Many of the allegations are based on two self-reports of impermissible telephone calls the university filed with the NCAA in October.
The university and three individuals cited were all given until May 8 to file formal written responses. The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions will consider the responses during its June 14 meeting in Seattle, Wash., and then decide if the allegations are substantiated and if penalties should beimposed beyond those that the university imposed on itself in October.
Those penalties included a second year of restrictions on recruit contacts tighter than
is permitted by the NCAA, loss of a basketball scholarship for 2008-09, and Sampson voluntarily agreed to forego a $500,000 salary increase.
Responding for Indiana University, Athletics Director Rick Greenspan said IU is taking these new allegations by the NCAA very seriously.
“We are extremely disappointed in these new allegations regarding Coach Sampson,” Greenspan said. “To say the least, we view these allegations with grave concern and will cooperate fully with the NCAA as they adjudicate these charges.”
NCAA staff initiated a “preliminary inquiry” after IU notified it that the university’s own investigation had documented more than 100 impermissible telephone calls that
were made to prospective student athletes during the2006-07 season, some of which violated NCAA rules.
At the recommendation of attorneys from Ice Miller’s Collegiate Sports Practice in Indianapolis, the university reported some of the telephone calls as being secondary, or minor, violations in part because there was no evidence of “a purposeful plan to circumvent the sanctions.”
After reviewing IU’s self-report and conducting additional interviews with people not associated with Indiana University, the NCAA has categorized the allegations as potential “major violations” of its rules.
The NCAA staff interviewed several potential recruits and their family members who for a variety of reasons had been unavailable to talk to IU’sinvestigating staff or who could not be reached at the time.
The specific allegations cited in the NCAA letter are:
1. That Sampson, Meyer and Senderoff failed to comply with sanctions imposed on Sampson for impermissible recruiting calls he made while he was a coach at Oklahoma. Those sanctions followed Sampson to IU when he came here in May of 2006. Sampson and Senderoff are alleged to have jointly participated in telephone calls at a time when Sampson was prohibited from being present or taking part when staff members made recruiting calls. Senderoff and Meyer are alleged to have made about 100 calls that exceeded the sanction limits. Senderoff resigned his position Oct. 30.
2. That Senderoff and Meyer placed “at least 25 telephone calls” to nine potential
recruits that exceeded NCAA limits even if no sanctions had been in place.
3. That Sampson “acted contrary to the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he
knowingly violated recruiting restrictions imposed by the NCAA Committee on Infractions,” and that he “failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standard of honesty normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics by providing the institution and the NCAA enforcement staff false ormisleading information,” and that he “failed to promote an atmosphere forcompliance within the men’s basketball program and failed to monitor the activities regarding compliance of one or more of his assistant coaches.”
4. That Senderoff “acted contrary to the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he knowingly violated recruiting restrictions imposed by the NCAA Committee on Infractions,” and that he “failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standard of honesty normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics by providing the institution false or misleading information.”
5. That Sampson and Meyer engaged in an impermissible recruiting contact during a two-day sports camp held at Assembly Hall on June 30 and July 1,2007, and that Meyer provided the potential recruit with an impermissible benefit ­ at least one T-shirt and drawstring backpack.
Fun stuff. I have placed the above in bold. Maybe I am reading to deeply into it, but this strikes me as a statement that is designed to absolve the university and Ice Miller for failing to find the additional violations. It (plus Greenspan's quotes) also strikes me as an indication that the university isn't going to go to bat for Sampson. It's not clear to me how Sampson can survive this, or that he should. It's probably just a matter of how it shakes out. I would be fine with keeping Sampson through the end of the season. These IU players did nothing wrong, and should be allowed to finish the season. But I find it hard to believe that IU will go before the NCAA in June with Sampson still employed.

Busy day.

I'll be busy today personally (not to mention the biggest home game of the year so far tonight, maybe I'll even find time to write about basketball), so for breaking news on when IU will hold its press conference (if that's how it's done, I suppose it could be by news release) concerning the NCAA's report, check the Hoosier Scoop, which has guys who are paid to follow these things. I'm not going to have much to say about it right now. The AP report generally says that the NCAA has issued its report to IU, but IU has 90 days to respond, which would push any sort of determination by the NCAA into the summer at least. In sum, we won't know any final disposition for a long time, but today we should find out the results of the NCAA's investigation.
I'm not defending Sampson in the least. I think my posts on this from back in the fall make clear that I'm not defending him. But my goodness, can't the Associated Press at least get the basic facts of the story correct?
It comes in response to October's announcement that a university investigation found Sampson made more than 100 impermissible phone calls while still on NCAA probation for infractions he committed during his tenure at Oklahoma.
That's plainly untrue. According to IU's report, Sampson personally made two impermissible phone calls, one of which was rendered impermissible (i.e., he had no way of knowing it was impermissible because Senderoff wasn't logging his home phone calls) and one of which was truly impermissible (and Sampson made no recruiting calls during the period when he was prohibited from calling recruits--the two impermissible calls came during the "probation" but not during Sampson's one-year "blackout"). Also, he was the recipient of about 10 three way calls that are the crux of the problem. Again, the truth is bad enough. Even if everything Sampson says is true, he did a remarkably bad job impressing upon his staff the significance of the sanctions. Nevertheless, is it asking too much for the media to report the basic findings, which were established months ago? The Associated Press? ESPN's report is more troubling. Andy Katz reports that the NCAA has characterized the violations as major. Whether that means the NCAA found something new, or whether they characterized the actions described in IU's report as major, is something we will find out today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Remaining schedules for Big Ten contenders.

With the Big Ten season past the halfway point and with several games between the contenders in the next week (MSU at Purdue tonight; Wisconsin at IU tomorrow; MSU at IU on Saturday; Purdue at IU next Tuesday;), the Big Ten race will be much more predictable a week from tomorrow. This post includes a snapshot of what each of the four contenders faces for the rest of the season. For the purposes of this post, the top tier includes Purdue, IU, Wisconsin, and MSU; the middle tier includes Ohio State, Minnesota, and Iowa; and the basement includes Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, and Northwestern.
To clarify the two Pomeroy categories below: Pomeroy predicts (his model does, not Ken Pomeroy himself) each individual game, but also predicts an overall record (accounting for luck, etc.) that does not necessarily correspond to the individual predictions. For instance, Pomeroy predicts Wisconsin to finish with a 14-4 record, but the only specific loss predicted is the IU game.
Current record: 10-1
Games remaining: 7
Top tier home games: 1 (MSU 2/12)
Top tier road games: 1 (IU 2/19)
Middle tier home games: 1 (Minnesota 2/27)
Middle tier road games: 1 (OSU 3/4)
Basement home games: 1 (Northwestern 3/1)
Basement road games: 2 (Northwestern 2/16; Michigan 3/9)
Pomeroy's projected conference record: 15-3
Pomeroy's game-by-game projected record: 15-3

Current record: 9-1
Games remaining: 8
Top tier home games: 3 (Wisconsin 2/13; MSU 2/16; Purdue 2/19)
Top tier road games: 1 (MSU 3/2)
Middle tier home games: 2 (OSU 2/26; Minnesota 3/5)
Middle tier road games: 0
Basement home games: 0
Basement road games: 2 (Northwestern 2/23; Penn State 3/8)
Pomeroy's projected conference record: 15-3
Pomeroy's game-by-game projected record: 16-2

Current record: 9-2
Games remaining: 7
Top tier home games: 1 (MSU 2/28)
Top tier road games: 1 (IU 2/13)
Middle tier home games: 1 (Minnesota 2/16)
Middle tier road games: 1 (OSU 2/24)
Basement home games: 1 (Penn State 3/5)
Basement road games: 2 (Illinios 3/20; Northwestern 3/8)
Pomeroy's projected conference record: 14-4
Pomeroy's game-by-game projected record: 15-3

Michigan State
Current record: 8-2
Games remaining: 8
Top tier home games:1 (IU 3/2)
Top tier road games: 3 (Purdue 2/12; IU 2/16; Wisconsin 2/28)
Middle tier home games: 1 (Iowa 2/23)
Middle tier road games: 1 (OSU 3/9)
Basement home games: 1 (Penn State 2/20)
Basement road games: 1 (Illinois 3/4)
Pomeroy's projected conference record: 12-6
Pomeroy's game-by-game projected record: 12-6
Random thoughts:
  • If Pomeroy's projected records hold up, IU and Purdue will tie for the conference title at 15-3, with the #1 seed dependent on whether IU's "unpredicted" loss is the home game against Purdue.
  • If Pomeroy's game-by-game predictions hold up, IU will win the conference with a record of 16-2, one game ahead of 15-3 Purdue.
  • I would never bet against an Izzo-coached team, but Pomeroy says the Spartans are done. MSU may decide the Big Ten race by beating Purdue, IU and/or Wisconsin on the road, but the Spartans will have to play amazingly well to grab a share for themselves.
  • If Ohio State doesn't make the tournament, it won't be for lack of late-season opportunity: MSU, Purdue, and Wisconsin all have to go to Columbus.
  • Purdue and Wisconsin have functionally identical schedules for the rest of the season. They play the same top and middle tier opponents home and away.
  • IU is the only team with empty categories, playing to middle tier road games (good) and no basement home games (too bad).

AJ Ratliff is no longer on the team.

Per the Bloomington Herald-Times, senior AJ Ratliff is no longer on the IU basketball team. Comments earlier this week indicated that Ratliff's absence was not academics- or discipline-related, but related to "personal issues." I'm reluctant to say much because I have no idea what those issues are, but it seems quite a shame to walk away just as IU enters what should be its most exciting end to the regular season in years. On one hand, I hope it's nothing awful, but on the other hand, I hope that AJ isn't passing up his only chance at Big Ten and NCAA Tournament success for anything less than a good reason.
As I noted a couple of days ago, since returning from his first semester academic suspension in December, Ratliff has really struggled. In nine games this season, Ratliff shot 18 percent from the field and averaged 1.7 points per game. For his career, Ratliff averaged 5.8 points per game. His best season was last year, when he shot 45 percent from the field, 41 percent from three point range, and average 9.3 points per game. Ratliff's career highlights came in big games: as a sophomore, he scored 21 points on 6-9 from the field in IU's first win over Kentucky in six years. Last year, he scored 20 on 7-9/4-6 shooting in IU's win over #2 Wisconsin. Like most Hoosier fans, I had hoped that Ratliff would find a way to regain his form and contribute down the stretch. Oh well.
Perhaps most significantly, the IU program is now facing a significant AJ deficit. In 1996, AJ Guyton began his productive four year career at IU, graduating in 2000 as one of the school's greats. In 2000, AJ Moye instantly became a fan favorite because of his hustle and ability to compete in the paint with much taller players, most memorably with a jump-ball block of the much taller Carlos Boozer in IU's 2002 NCAA Tournament upset of #1 Duke. After Moye departed in 2004, AJ Ratliff enrolled and enjoyed an up-and-down career that is now over. Three AJs, evenly spaced. Does anyone know Adam Ahlfeld's middle name? As far as I'm concerned, it is "James."

Monday, February 11, 2008

IU against Big Ten NCAA Tournament teams on the road, 1985-1994.

Yesterday, I listed IU's results against Big Ten teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. It wasn't pretty. The Hoosiers have won only three such games in the last 13 seasons. The cutoff I chose was 1994, which was Bob Knight's last Sweet 16 team. To determine how noteworthy that 3-46 record is, I figured I better compare it to the ten years prior, from 1985 (the first year of the 64-team tournament and the first year that "NCAA Tournament team" came to mean what it means now). Here goes:
Ohio State L 84-86
Michigan State L 61-68
Michigan W 87-62
Purdue L 52-62
Michigan L 52-83
Michigan State W 97-79
Iowa L 69-79
Illinois W 61-60
Purdue L 68-85
Purdue L 64-75
Michigan W 85-84
Illinois L 67-69
Ohio State W 92-80
Iowa L 88-101
Purdue L 85-95
Illinois W 75-74
Michigan L 72-92
Iowa L 70-84
Iowa L 70-87
Minnesota W 75-62
Illinois L 65-75
Michigan W 71-70
Purdue L 49-72
Illinois L 65-70
Michigan State L 66-72
Minnesota L 89-108
Michigan L 71-79
Ohio State L 67-69
Purdue W 65-62
Ohio State L 95-97
Iowa W 99-79
Michigan State W 62-56
Iowa W 64-60
Michigan State L 60-76
Ohio State W 86-80
Michigan L 60-68
Purdue W 74-65
Iowa W 73-66
Michigan W 76-75
Illinois W 83-79
Michigan L 67-91
Illinois L 81-88
Purdue L 76-83
Michigan State L 78-94
Minnesota L 56-106
Wisconsin DNP
  • The record: 17-28.
  • I thought about making the cut-off after 1993, Knight's last great team. That would have resulted in a record of 17-23 before the cutoff and 3-51 after.
  • I often contended that because of the absence of a championship during that stretch, 1991-1993 is the most underrated stretch of Knight's career. During those 3 seasons, Knight was 9-3 on the road against Big Ten NCAA qualifiers.
  • Even some of the less remarkable teams of this era did okay: 1985 (NIT) 1-3; 1986 (first round loss) 2-3; 1988 (first round loss) 1-3. Only the 1990 team, one of Knight's few seasons with a losing record in the conference, and the 1994 team, the beginning of the end, were shut out.

I don't know if it is cause or effect, but if IU wins at Michigan State, we may finally be putting the worst years behind us.