Friday, October 31, 2008

Wertheim SI article about IU basketball.

Jon Wertheim, the primary tennis writer for Sports Illustrated but also a Bloomington native who sometimes delves into basketball, wrote a lengthy article about IU basketball for this week's edition of SI. It's definitely worth a read. Also, Inside the Hall landed a quick interview with Wertheim that details the story behind the story. You should read the whole thing, but some of the highlights:
  • Wertheim provides more detail on the hiring process that we have seen before. (certainly more than local reporters have provided). Adam Herbert, the former IU president, who reportedly spearheaded the decision to hire Sampson, did not respond to Wertheim's inquiries. Mr. Herbert, Indiana taxpayers and IU students paid you a lot of money. Man up and publicly discuss your role in one of the most sordid episodes in IU's athletic history.
  • Wertheim is, to my knowledge, the first to actually discuss the issue with Sampson (by discuss, I mean something beyond reading a pre-prepared statement).
  • More detail on the in-season suspensions and the dismissal of Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis from the team.
Some disagreements.
  • The usual (paraphrase) "Mike Davis was a good man who wasn't accepted by IU fans because he isn't a Midwesterner or a former Hoosier. " Bunk. Mike Davis wasn't accepted because he was a bad coach, a coach whose one great tournament run bore no resemblance to any other part of his career, an excuse-making crybaby, and a poor recruiter. Wertheim's own words contradict this claim. Kelvin Sampson, who is neither a Midwesterner nor a former IU player, was instantly accepted and was well-liked by most until he committed NCAA violations at IU. While ultimately vindicated, the likes of Ted Kitchel's comments were few and far between.
  • Again, whiole I'm glad Sampson is gone, I don't think there was anything wrong with hiring Jeff Meyer, an experienced Division I head coach with time as an assistant at Missouri and Purdue. Wertheim describes the hiring of Roshown McLeod by Crean as a "sign of the times." It's important to draw a distinction between hiring an unqualified assistant coach because of his connections and hiring a qualified assistant coach for his connections.
Again, despite my minor quibbles, this is an excellent article and well worth your time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Central Michigan.

Central Michigan Chippewas
2008 record: 6-2
2008 Sagarin: 65 (IU is #82)
2007 record: 8-6 (lost to Purdue in Motor City Bowl)
2007 Sagarin: 82
Series: IU leads 3-0
Last IU win: 9/2/2005 (20-13 in Mount Pleasant)
Last CMU win: never
Last IU win in Bloomington: 9/4/2004 (41-10)
TV: Noon, BTN
IU's 42-20 loss to Ball State earlier in the season ended IU's 20 game, 30 year winning streak against the MAC. Now, IU seeks to begin a new streak against Central Michigan, which probably is the second-best team in the MAC behind Ball State. The Chips have lost both games to the BCS conference opponents that they have played (56-17 at Georgia, and 32-25 at Purdue, a game that CMU led with a couple of minutes remaining). Although the Chips are 5-0 in the MAC, they haven't dominated any particular game; they have two 10 point wins, and the other three were by four points or fewer. CMU's only BCS conference wins ever came against Michigan State in 1991 and 1992.
Quarterback Dan LeFevour has had the sheer quantity of production that he did last year, but he still has been very good: 66 percent completions, 321 yards per game, 11 TDs and 3 interceptions. LeFevour also leads CMU with 389 yards rushing and has 3 rushing TDs. Ontario Sneed has 304 yards rushing and six touchdowns. No dominant receiver stands out, but Bryan Anderson leads the way with 538 yards and 4 TDs. Nationally, CMU is #39 in total offense (IU is #53); #19 in passing offense (IU is #67); #76 is rushing offense (IU is #43); #96 in total defense, allowing over six yards per play (IU is #80); #115 in pass defense (IU is #73); and #46 is rushing defense (IU is #80). The Chippewas allow 634 percent completions and over four yards per carry. Id IU doesn't move the ball in this game, the Hoosiers won't move it against anyone.
IU still faces a difficult road to bowl eligibility, but IU's win over Northwestern kept the season alive. CMU, as with any MAC opponent, should not be overlooked, but CMU's apparently porous defense should provide IU with the opportunity to win and set the stage for a season-defining home finale against Wisconsin.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fred Glass to be named IU athletic director.

According to Hoosier Nation, Indianapolis attorney Fred Glass, formerly the chairman of the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, will be named IU's new athletic director tomorrow. He's the second attorney from Indianapolis law firm Baker & Daniels to take the reigns at a major college athletic program in recent months--Jack Swarbrick became Notre Dame's AD over the summer. He has no experience in college athletics, but has an impressive resume nonetheless. Here's a link to his B&D bio. As the bio notes, for those who are not familiar, the CIB owns and operates Victory Field and Conseco Fieldhouse. Although surrendering authority to a different board was part of the compromise that led to Lucas Oil Stadium, Glass was instrumental in the construction of that facility. Glass was an appointee of former Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson. Peterson unexpectedly lost in his bid for a third term in 2007, and so Glass did not get to see the Lucal Oil project to its end.
It's an interesting pick. While I had not had the time to post on the subject, most the of the public speculation had centered on Oregon State AD Bob DiCarolis, a former administrator at Michigan. The other name bandied about was IU Varsity Club director Scott Dolson. I suppose Glass represents something of a compromise. The two schools of thought on this hire seemed to be that IU should hire an IU guy, or should hire the best experienced AD available. Glass is an IU alumnus, so he is an IU guy in that sense, but he isn't an internal hire.
IU's last two ADs without AD experience were Clarence Doninger and Michael McNeely[EDIT: this is wrong: McNeely had been the AD at Pacific, but never at a amjor program or a school with a I-A football program]. Neither was an overwhelming success (understatement), although neither came to the job with the sort of profile that Glass brings to the job. As noted above, Notre Dame took a similar route with its hire. Also, Purdue's longtime AD, Morgan Burke (also an attorney), was an executive with Inland Steel before going to Purdue. I don't have a strong feeling on this hire. Glass is extremely well-regarded, but someone like DiCarolis would have been a more conventional pick. We shall see.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blogpoll draft ballot, week 9.

1Texas --
2Alabama --
3Penn State --
4Texas Tech 2
5Oklahoma --
6Florida 1
7Georgia 1
8Oklahoma State 4
9Southern Cal --
10Utah 2
11TCU 2
12Boise State 3
13Missouri 1
14Florida State 6
15Ohio State 4
16LSU 6
17Ball State 2
18Tulsa 5
19Minnesota 7
20Michigan State 5
21Oregon 5
22North Carolina 4
23Connecticut 3
24Boston College 3
25Oregon State 1

Dropped Out: Pittsburgh (#16), South Florida (#17), Georgia Tech (#18), Northwestern (#22), Kansas (#24).
Once again, a reconstruction rather than by reference to last week's ballot. It's tough this year. I had a busy weekend, but did watch Indiana-Northwestern and Notre Dame-Washington.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Finally, a glimmer: Indiana 21, Northwestern 19.

IU still faces a tough path to the postseason, but preserved some hope with a homecoming upset of #22 Northwestern. Here are the stats. The box score reveals a fairly even game statistically, although Northwestern's five turnovers certainly stand out. Still, IU modestly outgained the Wildcats (319-316). NU ran the ball more effectively than IU, but neither was great: NU ran for 152 yards and 3.2 per carry; IU managed only 72 yards and 2 yards per carry. Both teams were 22-35 passing, but IU threw for 247 yards and no interceptions, while NU passed for 164 yards and threw two interceptions. Kellen Lewis was dressed but did not play. Chappell went the distance. Also, IU was without senior WR Andrew Means.
Often, games with such a high turnover differential of four have the feel of a giveaway (IU's 2004 win over Oregon, for instance). This one doesn't have that feel. IU averaged more yards per offensive play (4.5 to 3.9). Quite simply, IU's big plays were two tricky touchdown passes (a fake end around the led to a 43 yard touchdown pass from Ben Chappell to Demarlo Belcher, and a 28 yard toss from WR Mitchell Evans to true freshman Tandon Doss in the third quarter. NU's big pass plays were inteceptions and a spectacular fumble, discussed below. Other thoughts:
  • Perhaps it was because of the Means injury, but this game felt like a changing of the guard in the receiving corps: Ray Fisher caught four passes, but the 18 other completions all were caught by players who didn't contribute last season: true freshman Doss caught 8 balls for 107 yards, redshirt freshman Belcher caught 6 for 82; Terrence Turner, injured most of last season, caught 2, and converted DB Evans and freshman tight end Max Dedmond caught one each.
  • Marcus Thigpen couldn't quite break one for a touchdown, but he averaged over 33 yards on four kickoff returns, so perhaps he can recapture that 2006 magic as his IU career winds down.
  • After Northwestern QB CJ Bacher left the game with a hamstring injury, quarterback Mike Kafka made one of the most horrific plays I have ever seen: while in the grasp of IU lineman, Kafka threw the ball away--backwards, meaning it was a live ball. Instead of losing a handful of yards on a sack, NU was stuck with a fumble and 24 yard loss. He was lucky it didn't turn into an IU touchdown.

It maybe too little, too late, but IU's defense played well again and the offense finally showed some life. At the very least, things will remain interesting into November, which is better than the alternative. IU finished with Central Michigan (6-2, 5-0 MAC) on Saturday, and then finishes the home schedule against Wisconsin (4-4, 1-4). IU then travels to #3 Penn State (9-0, 5-0) and Purdue (2-6, 0-4). All four of the games are loseable; all but Penn State seem winnable.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Q&A with Lake the Posts.

I exchanged some questions with Northwestern blogger Lake the Posts. My answers to his questions are here, and his answers to my questions are below. As LTP notes, I'm a bit pressed for time, so my list is shorter than his.

1. Obviously, IU has done nothing to inspire fear in anyone, but do you have any concerns about any Hoosiers in particular and what problems they might cause for NU?

The most unsettling is the uncertainty surrounding Kellen Lewis. An 80% Lewis scares us moreso than a 100% Chappell at QB. Gameplanning for both scenarios is something that may present problems. Lewis is a playmaker, pure and simple. We've never fared well against mobile QBs, but thank God Hardy has departed as we know firsthand how dangerous that 1-2 punch was. The idea of Chappell back there with your relatively weak OL has us licking our chops to see an all-out Hankwitz blitz attack all day. All eyes will be on our sophomore middle LB, Nate Williams, who must step in to fill the shoes of Malcolm Arrington who is injured and done for the season.

2. Both IU and Northwestern have lost head coaches to untimely death in recent years. Unsurprisingly, IU fans are experiencing some buyer's remorse concerning Bill Lynch. On the other hand, Pat Fitzgerald has steadily improved from 4-8 to 6-6 to a nearly certain winning season in 2008. If I recall correctly, Fitz was immediately given a long-term deal after Randy Walker died. How was that decision received at the time? Do you think Fitzgerald will return NU to Barnett levels of accomplishment?

Walker's death was so much more sudden that the announcement happened when we were all still in a shell-shocked state. I think I speak for most when I say the general feeling was it was too eary for Fitz, but he was the only choice and the right choice. Most went into the situation with a "let's give him a couple of years to get experience under his belt before we pass a lick of judgment" and for the most part that has happened. The 2007 season was one in which many started to voice concerns as the team was way too inconsistent. But, the offseason wholesale changes among assistants truly made this year's team "Fitz' team". I think it is unfair to judge any coach until year three. No one, and I mean no one can question his passion, desire and work ethic. In a word, the guy is relentless. Most of us feel he has already raised the bar of expectations that less than six wins on any given year is considered failure. We all hope that we have the rare catch of longevity - a la Paterno or Bobby Bowden. I can't see him ever leaving for another school since it is such a part of his DNA. He has had success quicker than any coach in the last 50 years including Barnett although to be fair to Gary, his hurdle was much more significant than Fitz'. Not only do I think he will return us to Barnett levels, I think we expect it. The true test will be curing the "NU is good every three years" trend and getting to bowl games in our "down" years. 2009 will be the first major test.

Thanks, LTP. I would with you good luck, but you guys have had plenty of it in our last four matchups and may not need it this time.

BTB Roundtable.

It's been a while, and since I don't have to spend much time breaking down IU's bowl prospects or NCAA Tournament seeding scenarios, here's my contribution. This week, the roundtable is hosted by Nittany Whiteout, who wrote the questions and will be posting a wrap-up later in the week.

1. We're approaching week 9 now, are you pleasantly surprised or already waiting for basketball season?

Heh. Basketball season. I never completely give up on an IU football season, believe it or not. Even a dramatic turnaround wouldn’t be enough to salvage a bowl bid at this point (the trip to Penn State is unwinnable), but with remaining games against Northwestern, Central Michigan, Wisconsin, and at Purdue, IU has a bunch of games that are within the realm of winnability, if the Hoosiers can show even a glimmer of what they had last year. But at this point I’m rooting for improvement. Otherwise, this season is toast.

2. Describe one specific play from this season you would alter for a different outcome if you had the chance to.

IU has been so bad in its losses that it’s hard to target a single play that would have turned a game. Accordingly, I wish Ball State’s Dante Love hadn’t broken his neck in IU’s game against Ball State. In IU’s only reasonably competitive loss, at Minnesota, I would target Kellen Lewis’s fumble deep in Gopher territory and the borderline pass interference call on third and long that extended Minnesota’s game-sealing drive.

3. How could it (#2) possibly impact the way your season is going?

Not very much. IU’s offense has been so inept that I’m not sure the extra chances against Minnesota would have led to anything. Still, 3-4 is much more palatable than 2-5, so if either of those plays had turned that game, I would be able to rationalize for a couple more weeks.

4. Big Ten player you just can't stand, why?

It feels like piling on given the way his season has gone, but I have never bought in to the Curtis Painter hype. Has he ever had a good game against a good team? His position in the Big Ten and Purdue record books is an affront to history.

5. Booing your own team (we've seen quite a lot of this across the Big Ten this season), your feelings on this.

Generally, I don’t approve. Occasionally, as a spontaneous outburst of disapproval over a particularly awful performance by a team that should do better (e.g., Ohio State trailing Ohio at the half), I can live with it. I don’t approve of picking on a clearly overmatched team or turning a particular player into a whipping boy. Perhaps the worst example I have ever seen was in 1992, my freshman year of college. Trent Green, after a strong junior season, struggled as a senior. He was having a particularly rough game against Iowa that year on what happened to be Parents Weekend. At halftime, IU introduced the seniors parents, and a minority, but sizeable enough to be heard, booed his parents. Green, who still is in the NFL 16 years later and is the only legitimate NFL starting QB that IU has ever produced, got the last laugh, but it was a low moment, and illustrates just how petty and wrongheaded booing can be. Green was great as a junior, so unless he suddenly forgot how to play, other factors must have led to his subpar senior season. Yet, the backup QB was the most popular guy on the team that year.

Last chance: the Northwestern game.

Northwestern Wildcats
2008 record: 6-1 (2-1)
2008 Sagarin: 21 (IU is #97)
2007 record: 6-6
2007 Sagarin: 86
Series: Northwestern leads 42-33-1
Last IU win: 11/3/2001, 56-21 in Bloomington
Last Northwestern win: 11/10/2007, 31-28 in Evanston
Last Northwestern win in Bloomington: 2004 (31-24)
TV: Noon, BTN
IU's last, desperate chance for a winning season is on the line in Saturday's homecoming game against Northwestern. While there is virtually no chance that IU will win out, obviously falling to 2-6 before the end of October would be a significant disappointment. Unfortunately, IU has been snake-bitten against Northwestern since IU's last win in 2001. IU has lost four in a row to the Wildcats, although none of the games has been decided by more than seven points, and two of the games were decided in overtime. Perhaps the most galling was the 2004 game in Evanston. IU led by a touchdown in the first overtime, but Brett Basanez, thinking it was fourth down, recklessly heaved the ball into the endzone on third and two and managed to tie the game. That's all water under the bridge, of course, because IU will be very fortunate to be within a possession in this game. Northwestern is ranked 21 in the Sagarin, 24 in the coaches' poll, and 22 on my Blogpoll ballot (new poll will be released Wednesday), and 22 in the first BCS ratings of the season. NU is favored by more than a touchdown.
IU and NU are roughly on par in total offense (NU is #44, IU is #46), although I don't think the overall numbers, inflated by the Murray and Western Kentucky games, capture IU's recent ineptitude. IU is #85 in total defense, while NUis #49. NU's CJ Bacher has been respectable but not great: 58 percent completions, 10 TDs, 9 INT, 222 yards per game. Tyrell Sutton has been strong, averaging 100 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. NU has a balanced offense. Four different Wildcats have receiving yardage totals of between 262 and 359 yards.
There's really not much to say. Before the season, this appeared to be a winnable game. Right now, IU could not beat a single BCS conference team. Something will have to chance if IU is going to beat Northwestern, Central Michigan, or anyone else.

Monday, October 20, 2008 Blogpoll, draft ballot for week 8.

1Texas --
2Alabama --
3Penn State --
4Oklahoma State --
5Oklahoma --
6Texas Tech --
7Florida --
8Georgia 1
9Southern Cal 1
10LSU 1
11Ohio State 1
12Utah 2
13TCU 13
14Missouri 1
15Boise State 1
16Pittsburgh 7
17South Florida 2
18Georgia Tech 8
19Ball State 2
20Florida State 6
21Boston College 5
22Northwestern 4
23Tulsa 2
24Kansas 9
25Michigan State 5

Dropped Out: Brigham Young (#8), Wake Forest (#17), California (#18), North Carolina (#22), Vanderbilt (#24).
I reworked this one completely, so there may be some odd results. I did what I should do every week, and dug a little deeper rather than simply rearranging. Normally, I'm not fond of ranking non-BCS teams, but the field among BCS conferences seems fairly shallow this year. Odds are that I won't have time to make changes this week, but you never know.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rock bottom, yet? Illinois 55, Indiana 13.

IU treated the Big Ten Network's prime time audience to horrid performance. IU was moderately competitive for much of the first half, moving the ball with some success, and missing two makeable field goals. Here are the stats.
The stats don't tell anything that watching the game did not. Illinois nearly doubled up IU in total offense (563-313); averaged 6.6 yards per carry to IU's 3.2; passed for 271 yards to IU 172; averaged 8.5 yards per play to IU's 4.3; and turned the ball over once to IU's twice. Last year, I made quite a bit of fun of Juice Williams, so it's only fair to note that he is much improved as a passer, and his 72.7 completion percentage last night was his career best. Other thoughts:
  • The Seven Blocks of Limestone are more like Seven Bags of Mulch. Ben Chappell was sacked four times in his first college start, and the O-line's failures continue to hurt every aspect of the offense.
  • While the line takes its share of the blame, Chappell, filling in for injured Kellen Lewis, completed only 10 of his 29 pass attempts against a previously mediocre Illinois defense.
  • Austin Starr and Greg Middleton need not worry about repeating as All-Americans this season.
  • What in the world possessed Bill Lynch to kick field goals down 34-7 and 48-10? I suppose I can understand the last one, trying to restore Starr's confidence. But a 20 point deficit in the middle of the third quarter is not insurmountable. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying IU would have won if Lynch had gone for it there--we probably wouldn't have gotten the touchdown. But midway through the third quarter is too early to wave the white flag.

This season has turned into a disaster. Last year, Rick Greenspan faced a difficult choice: he could elevate the acting head coach, who had a poor Division I-A record but had performed admirably in tough circumstances and led IU to its first bowl game in 14 years. There's no guarantee that IU would have landed a top-notch coach if Greenspan had conducted an open search. The rationale behind hiring Lynch was continuity: he would avoid the inevitable staff turnover and player attrition and would keep the original Hoeppner staff roughly intact. In short, having finally achieved some momentum with the football program, IU hired Lynch precisely to avoid this sort of season. I'm not calling for Lynch's head, but there's no doubt that if Greenspan had any inkling that 2008 would look like this, Lynch would not have been considered. My various posts from last November make clear that I was ambivalent about the Lynch hiring. I look forward to Bob Kravitz's mea culpa, but I'm not holding my breath. IU has five games remaining, and four of them would be winnable if IU were a decent team. It's time to salvage something.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hysteria, Madness, and all that.

Visiting recruits on visits to Bloomington often are amazed at how many students and other fanss that they encounter know exactly who they are. Players who actually enroll enjoy celebrity status on campus and throughout the state. Given that usual level of recognition, this season is going to be odd. A few weeks ago, I saw a photo of several IU players and didn't know who any of them were. So, as tonight's Hoosier Hysteria approaches (yeah, it's now past, I started this last night), here's a guide:

Kyle Taber, #44. This guy you know. The former walk-on from Evansville and only senior on the 2008-09 squad saw his only meaningful minutes during last season, and knew his role better than anyone on the team. He scored 1.3 points and pulled down 2.5 rebounds per game.


Devan Dumes, #33. Dumes is from Decatur Central in Indianapolis. He played at Eastern Michigan as a freshman and average 8.1 points per game. He then transferred to Vincennes JC.

Tijan Jobe, #40. As I noted last spring, Jobe, who is a 7 footer, is a project. He averaged only 3 points and 3 rebounds per game last year for Olney Central CC.

Steven Gambles, #24. Even on this year's team, Gambles seems likely to be relegated to towel-waving. Gambles is the most recently added walk-on, and he's in his fourth year since high school. He redshirted as a freshman at IUPUI in 2005-06, transfered to Lambuth (a division II school I had never heard of until previewing the WKU football game earlier) for 2006-07, where he averaged 3.7 points per game, and was a non-athlete student at IU last year. He played high school ball for North Central in Indianapolis (and would have been Eric Gordon's teammate for a couple of years) and averaged 8.9 points pere game as a senior.


Brett Finkelmeier, #4. IU has no scholarship sophomores, and so walk-on Finkelmeier, from Carmel, who scored 2 points in 11 minutes of play last year, is it.


Verdell Jones, III, #12. Jones, from Champaign, Illinois, is a recruit added by Crean last spring. He has soem size (6-5) and averaged 17.6 points and 6.5 assists last year. He shot 46 percent from the field but only 31 percent from three point range. He was ranked #127 nationally by Scout, and was widely expected to commit to Minnesots until the last minute.

Tom Prtichard, #5. Prtichard, a 6-9 240 big man from near Cleveland, is, along with Matt Roth, one of only two scholarship players recruited by Kelvin Sampson. Unlike Devin Ebanks and Terrelle Holloway, Prtichard and Roth elected to come to IU after Sampson left.

Matt Roth, #2. Roth, another downstate Illinoisan, is a 6-3 guard and reportedly a great shooter. As a senior, he averaged 21 points per game and shot 48 percent from behind the arc. As mentioned above, Roth was a Sampson recruit.

Malik Story, #34. Story, from Los Angeles, is a 6-5 wing who led Artisia High to two state championships before spending his senior year at a prep school. He was a Crean recruit.

Nick Williams, #20. Williams, who originally committed to Marquette conditioned on Crean being the coach, probably is the class of the class. A top 50 recruit according to most sources, he scored 21 points per game on a team from Mobile, Alabama that spent most of the season in the national rankings. A 6-4 guard, he is the best bet to lead IU in scoring this season.

Kory Barnett, #30. A freshman walk-on from Rochester, Indiana, Barnett is a skinny 6-6 forward.

Daniel Moore, #3. Moore, a 5-11 guard from Carmel, seems mostly likely of all the walk-ons to contribute. He originally intended to play at Division I Boston University before deciding to walk-on at IU. He avereaged 13 points and nearly 8 assists a game and was an Indiana All-Star.

Broderick Lewis, #32. As if this season couldn't be any stranger, IU has players from West Lafayette and Champaign on the roster. Lewis, who played at Lafayette Jeff, is 6-6 and a great athlete (state finalist in the long jump), but reportedly isn't terribly skilled as a basketball player. Still, perhaps there is room for improvement.


Jeremiah Rivers, #5. Rivers, the son of NBA great and Celtics coach Doc Rivers, is a transfer from Georgetown, so he's the player to be named later in the Patrick Ewing trade. Rivers isn't much of a scorer but is considered a defensive specialist. He has two years of eligibility remaining, and so he likely will be the only scholarship player in the class of 2011.