Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blogpoll ballot, week 14.

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

Dropped Out: Oregon State (#16).
Obviously, the key issue with this week's ballot concerns the one-loss teams, particularly Texas and Oklahoma. My placement is unchanged from last week and has as much to do with the nature of the Big XII triumvirate's losses more than anything else; in other words, I have ranked the three Big XII teams based on which is the closest to being undefeated. Texas lost at Texas Tech in the final seconds of the game; Oklahoma lost to Texas in a competitive but not down-to-the-wire game on a neutral field; Texas Tech lost badly at Oklahoma. Obviously, a review of the teams' nonconference schedule strength relegates TT a distant third among the group. Oklahoma, thanks to surprisingly good seasons by Cincinnati and TCU, had a tougher non-con than Texas, but not sufficiently tougher to override a 10 point win on a neutral field. I'm not entirely sure whether I should have TT behind Florida, but Florida's placement this week is academic: an SEC title game win over #1 Alabama would place the Gators in the top two, while a loss would take the Gators out of the top 5.
The more interesting question is what I would have done if Oklahoma had lost in Stillwater last night. Clearly, when head-to-head is taken out of the equation, I believe Texas has a resume superior to TT. Still, I'm a strong believer in the significance of head-to-head competition, sanctity of the regular season, etc., so I would have had to rank TT ahead of Texas (in that alternate universe, it would have been Alabama-TT-Texas-Florida). Texas would beat TT 7 times out of ten, but what happened happened. Of course, I may face this conundrum next week if OU edges ahead of UT in the BCS rankings and then loses to Missouri. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

The Cornell game.

Cornell Big Red
Current record: 4-2
Current RPI: 135
Current Sagarin: 127
Current Pomeroy: 103
2007-08 record: 22-6 (lost to Stanford in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2007-08 RPI: 67
2007-08 Sagarin: 113
2007-08 Pomeroy: 135
Series: first meeting
Pomeroy gameplan
TV: 4 pm, BTN

IU returns to the mainland with what could be a really tough game against Cornell, the defending Ivy League champion. Last season, Cornell went 21-5 and lost to Stanford in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Big Red were one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country last year. They were #37 in the nation in offensive efficiency, averaging over 1.1 points per possession, and shot 40.2 from three point range (#7 in the nation) and 52.6 percent from two point rsange (#32 nationally). They shot 76 percent from the line, #10 nationally.

The Cornell Basketball blog has an impressive amount of coverage of this one. The Athlon preview noted in this post shows that the Big Red return three all-Ivy selections from last season, including Ryan Wittman, a first team all-conference player who is the son of former IU great Randy Wittman. Witman is about 10 percent off his 43 percent career three point average, but certainly he will be looking forward to playing on his dad's old homecourt.

So far, Cornell has lost to St. John's and Siena and has wins over South Dakota, the Loyolas of Maryland and Chicago, and Eastern Michigan. Cornell has continued to shoot well, but isn't a great rebounding team. On paper, this looks like a challenging post-Hawaii matchup for the Hoosiers, who have been overmatched by both major opponents and competitive with some low major or worse programs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lynch receives the dreaded vote of confidence.

Per the Hoosier Scoop, incoming athletic director Fred Glass, who doesn't actually start the job until January 2, affirmed that Bill Lynch will be the coach next season. He didn't limit it to next season, of course, simply saying that Lynch "will be the football coach at Indiana University." According to the Hoosier Scoop, negative recruiting from other schools and comments from fans led to the decision to issue the statement. While such statements are, from the coach's perspective, better than the alternative, they are never a sign of health in a program, and almost always foretell a firing or resignation in the coming seasons.

One statement from Glass that made me pull my hair out: “I think contracts need to mean something at Indiana University." Yes, they need to mean what they say. Firing a coach with years remaining on his contract is not a violation of the contract. It's consistent with the termination provisions of the contract. Glass, an attorney far more accomplished than me and most in his profession, knows this, but wants to play the sports talk radio game about "honoring" a contract. Why? He's probably going to have to fire him after 2009 with years left on his contract. Whatever. At least we have the answer and can hope for a transformation in the next nine months.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Purdue wrap-up and season post-mortem.

Here's the box score. Anyone who watched the game, read the coverage, or even saw the score knows that this game was a complete beatdown, and I'm not going to bother to rehash it a week later. 62-10, 596-214 in total offense, and 35-14 in first downs tell most of the story. My post from last weekend puts the game in historical context: the largest margin of defeat to Purdue since the 19th century, and IU's largest margin of defeat, in 122 years of football, to a team with a losing record.

There are many reasonable criticisms of Bill Lynch, but I really hate hearing about how he lacks passion on the sideline. There are great coaches who have a stoic demeanor. There are bad coaches who are fiery on the sideline. Still, when I contrast the indifference with which this result seemed to transpire on the sideline, compared to Terry Hoeppner's exhortation of the Hoosiers in the 2006 comeback at Illinois, it's hard not to buy into those criticisms for a moment. As poorly as the team played, the most pathetic moment of this most pathetic game was with 2:49 remaining in the first half, when IU, facing 4th and goal from the 9, kicked a 27 yard field goal to "narrow" the deficit to 34-3. This was the first half. More than half of the game remained. Against a fellow 3-8, 1-6 team that happens to be a rival. That was the first time in the game that IU had been closer to the end zone than the Purdue 35. I realize, of course, that IU's odds of winning were low at that point. But any IU comeback, however improbable, required a touchdown on that possession. For whatever reason, Lynch was happy to get on the scoreboard and essentially waved the white flag before halftime.

There hasn't been any media groundswell about Lynch's performance, and so I suspect that he will be back for 2009. In his various postseason comments, Lynch has noted the need to go back to work, etc., but I don't see any outward sign of serious introspection.

Some big picture stuff: in all games, IU scored 246 points and allowed 423 for a margin of -177. IU was -187 and -211 in 2002 and 2003, Gerry Dinardo's first two years, and -239 in 1997, Cam Cameron's first year. Before that, it's necessary to go back to 1970 to find a worse point differential. For what it's worth, the 11 game schedule and the eight game Big Ten schedule began in 1971. One might argue that it's not fair to compare a point differential in a 12 game to an 11 game season. I disagree. IU's numbers this year are bad despite a +60 differential in games against I-AA Murray State and essentially I-AA Western Kentucky. The 1997 nonconference schedule included a Mack Brown-led North Carolina team that finished 11-1 and a mediocre Kentucky team. The 2002 schedule, while not murderer's row, included road trips to Utah (5-6) and Kentucky (7-5). The 2003 schedule included road trips to Connecticut (9-3) and Washington (6-6). In other words, the 12 game schedule, which included two functional exhibition games in addition to two good MAC teams, made IU's point differential look better than it should, not worse.

A review of IU's Big Ten performance confirms this. In the eight Big Ten games, IU scored only 116 points and allowed 328. In other words, IU was outscored by 212 points in Big Ten play and the average score of a Big Ten game was 41-15. Here are the Big Ten point differentials for other bad seasons since the eight game schedule was introduced in 1971 (although the Big Ten did play a nine game schedule in 1983 and 1984):
2008: -212
2005: -148
2004: -99
2003: -175
2002: -168
2000: -116
1999: -86
1998: -105
1997: -207
1996: -87
1995: -175
1985: -124
1984: -112
1983: -163
1981: -115
1974: -81
1973: -132
1971: -108
In other words, this was IU's least competitive Big Ten season since the advent of the eight game schedule.

I don't know what is going to happen to Lynch. As I said above, I expect that he will be back for 2009, and if so, I sincerely hope that he proves me wrong and wins a bunch of games. Still, by the numbers, Lynch's first season is most comparable to Cam Cameron's first season and Gerry Dinardo's first two seasons. The only rationale for hiring Lynch, as opposed to opening up a search and finding someone who didn't lose 21 in a row at Ball State, was to avoid the negative aspects of a coaching change. Instead, IU produced a season that was comparable to recent transition seasons, and quite arguably worse. Rick Greenspan was under quite a bit of pressure last year, from the media and from old guard program guys like Bill Mallory and Harold Mauro, to give Lynch the job. Certainly, it would have been odd to see IU preparing for its first bowl game in 14 seasons with a lame duck coach. Still, the facts have not vindicated the decision to hire Lynch, and actually undercut the only reason for hiring him. Calling the 2008 season a setback doesn't quite capture it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Maui Invitational, game 3: Indiana 81, Chaminade 79.

Here are the stats. We'll take it, of course. As I mentioned yesterday, Chaminade wins a game in this tournament every so often, so it's nice that IU avoided that indignity. IU led by 9 at halftime and expanded the lead to 15 with 14:41 remaining in the game. IU missed a bunch of freethrows in the final minutes, and Chaminade had a three point shot for the win. I didn't see this one, so I'll avoid too much comment. By the numbers, IU improved a number of problems. The Hoosiers shot 58 percent from the field, assisted 18 of 30 field goals, and turned the ball over only 11 times in a 68 possession game. Chaminade was able to stick around because the Silverswords made 12 od 23 three point shots and because IU shot only 14-27 from the line. There are no big lessons to be drawn from a game against a D-II opponent, but the Hoosiers leave the islands with a 3-2 record overall and a chance against Cornell of the Ivy League on Sunday, before the inevitable beatdown at Wake Forest.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Maui Invitational, game 3: Chaminade.

IU's trip to Hawaii comes to a merciful end at 7 p.m. tonight with a game against Chaminade, the host school. I'm not doing a full preview because there isn't much statistical information about the Division II Silverswords. IU played Chaminade in the loser's bracked in 1994 and won 92-79, between losses to Utah and Tulane. According to Yahoo! Sports, Chaminade has a 5-65 record in the tournament, including a win last season over Princeton. Chaminade also defeated Davidson in 1984, Providence in 1991, Stanford in 1992, and Villanova in 2003. Contrary to popular belief (or at least my belief), Chaminade's legendary upset of top-ranked Virginia in 1982 was not part of the Maui Invitational; rather, it provided the inspiration for the tournament.

The NCAA report.

Here's a link to the .pdf of the NCAA's report. It's much longer than most of the reports I have read of this nature--about 60 pages. Ultimately, the NCAA seems to have split the difference. The NCAA stood firm on its 11th hour addition of the "failure to monitor" charge, concluding: "
Its monitoring of the former head coach and the men's basketball program proved both untimely in execution and inadequate to fulfill the requirements of heightened scrutiny.
Nevertheless, the NCAA added no additional penalties. Ultimately, the NCAA decided that hiring Sampson was such a gamble that IU was obligated to review by hand every single telephone record as it came in the door. Factors in IU's favor on this count were IU's nearly 50 years without a major violation, the significance of the self-imposed sanctions (including lost scholarships, significant recruiting restrictions on Crean, Dakich, Sampson, and one of the assistant coaches, the slot then filled by Dakich and now filled by one of Crean's assistants), and the way that IU dealt with Sampson and the remaining players.

So, that's that. IU kept its nose clean for 50 years beforehand, so doing so for the next three years (and hopefully for long after that) shouldn't be a problem. If anyone wants to argue that IU didn't pay a price, I would direct you to IU's results after mid-February of last year through this season, and to a comparison of last season's roster to this season's.

Maui Invitational, game 2: St. Joseph's 80, Indiana 54.

Here's the box. I didn't get the chance to watch this one, and probably won't see tomorrow's seventh place game against Chaminade. IU was reasonably competitive in the first half, trailing 34-29 at the break, and pulled to within one after scoring the first four points of the second half. A 23-2 run by St. Joseph's immediately thereafter sealed the game and illustrated just how long this season could be. Certainly, IU's young players should improve, but they are far from being able to compete with even a middle of the pack Big Ten team. Nine turnovers in the first seven and a half minutes of the second half sealed the deal. Frankly, however, St. Joseph's didn't take much better care of the ball, with 19 turnovers to IU's 23. Really, the numbers were fairly similar with the glaring exception of field goal percentage: St. Joe's shot 58 percent from the field, including 7-9 from three point range by Darrin Govens. Again, considering that IU isn't going to out-muscle anyone, shooting and valuing the ball are the Hoosiers' only hope, and they haven't shown much of it recently.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


According to the Hoosier Scoop, IU will be on probation for three years, but will receive no additional sanctions other than what IU self-imposed. It will be interesting to read the report, of course, but my guess is that the outcome will satisfy everyone who matters (the definition "everyone who matters" does not include Purdue and Illinois fans or their douchebag coaches, of course).

The Hoosier Scoop doesn't say what happened to Sampson and Senderoff. That will be interesting.

NCAA to announce decision at 4 p.m.

This will be an unusually eventful afternoon for the IU basketball program. Per the Indianapolis Star, the NCAA will announce its disposition of IU's case in a 4 p.m. conference call today. That call will commence shortly after the conclusion of IU's game against St. Joseph's in Maui.

Maui Invitational, game 2: St. Joseph's.

St. Joseph's Hawks
Current record: 1-2
Current RPI: 78
Current Sagarin: 78
Current Pomeroy: 191
2007-08 record: 21-13 (lost to Oklahoma in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2007-08 RPI: 50
2007-08 Sagarin: 54
2007-08 Pomeroy: 54
Series: IU leads 2-1
Last IU win: 12/15/1984 (81-44 in Bloomington)
Last St. Joseph's win: 12/30/68 (80-72 in Philadelphia)
Pomeroy gameplan
TV: 1:30 pm today, ESPNU

IU enters the loser's bracket of the Maui Invitational today and plays St. Joseph's, a team that has struggled a bit this season but has been one of the most successful programs in the Atlantic 10 in recent years. As noted above, this is the fourth meeting all-time between the schools. The most memorable to IU was was in the 1981 NCAA Tournament. St. Joe's upset top ranked DePaul in the second round of the tournament, but ultimately lost 78-46 to IU in the regional final, and IU eventually won the title.

As for the current team, St. Joe's was, like Notre Dame, an extremely efficient offensive team last year. The Hawks ranked #19 in raw offensive efficiency last year, and ranked in the top 30 in both two point and three point shooting percentage. According to this CollegeHoopsNet preview, St. Joe's lost its leading scorer and most of its big men, and like IU, the Hawks should be more of a perimeter-oriented team. The Hawks lost 68-50 to Texas in the first round in Maui, and after a season-opening 69-57 win against Rider, but lost 73-69 to Holy Cross. Even a much better IU team may well have lost to Notre Dame, but this game strikes me as something of a bellwether that will tell us whether the 2008-09 Hoosiers might flirt with an NIT bid, or whether we are headed for a single-digit victory total. Obviously, IU is young and inexperienced and should improve as the season goes on, so I don't want to overemphasize this game. But I think it will tell us more than last night's game told us.

Maui Invitational game one: Notre Dame 88, Indiana 50.

IU's first game against high major competition certainly highlighted the problems that the Hoosiers will have this season, although very few games will be against teams the caliber of #8 ND. Here's the box score. Certainly, ND has a high powered offense that will score points against nearly anyone, but IU's poor shooting in the first half, even on open shots, prevented IU from competing in the game. IU shot 31 percent in the first half before improving to 50 percent in the second half. The other story was offensive rebounding: while the announcers convinced themselves early on that IU was forcing ND into long possessions, IU pulled down only 7 offensive rebounds on 35 misses.
This game was played at Notre Dame's pace--roughly 72 possessions--but IU's 20 turnovers still are a concern, as was the 1-12 shooting from behind the arc. This is going to be a familar routine, but if IU is going to achieve any relative success this year with this guard-heavy roster, the team must shoot well from behind the arc and must take care of the ball. Notre Dame, on the other hand, shot 10-26 from three point range. While Harangody had a decent enough game, Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney killed IU from outside. As for IU's individuals:
  • Tom Pritchard's game looked prettier on TV than on paper. Pritchard shot 6-15 from the field and score 14 points while pulling down 6 rebounds. Still, he wasn't overwhelmed by Harangody, and put himself in position for open shots that he simply did not make. If that improves, Pritchard is going to be a fine player this season and beyond.
  • Devan Dumes likes to shoot, but it wasn't working tonight: 10 points on 13 shots.

St. Joseph's tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Maui Invitational, game one: Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Current record: 2-0
Current RPI: 224
Current Sagarin: 34
Current Pomeroy: 147
2007-08 record: 25-8 (lost to Washington State in second round of NCAA Tournament)
2007-08 RPI: 28
2007-08 Sagarin: 22
2007-08 Pomeroy: 28
Series: IU leads 47-20
Last IU win: 12/10/2003 (66-63 in South Bend)
Last Notre Dame win: 12/8/2004 (55-45 in Bloomington)
Last neutral site meeting: 12/19/1967 (Fort Wayne)
Pomeroy gameplan
TV: 5:30 pm tonight, ESPN2

IU and Notre Dame play each other this afternoon for the first time in four years. This is the longest gap in the series since the teams went 15 years between meetings from 1932 to 1947. IU leads the series comfortably, although in the last meeting, ND won at Assembly Hall, breaking a 31-year skid in Bloomington and an 8-game series losing streak. ND seems likely to defeat IU in back-to-back games for the first time since the Lou Watson era, 1968 and 1969. The numbers above show why I should ignore computer rankings until mid December: ND is universally expected to be a top 10 team this year. The main reason for ND's recent renaissance (after missing the tournament three straight times from 2004-2006) is Luke Harangody, a surprisingly versatile big man who happens to be the son and brother of former IU football players. Harangody is one of the more notable recruiting misses brought on by IU's stubborn refusal to part with Mike Davis when his incompetence had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Giving up about a 40 point game to Harangody would be a nice illustration of IU's recent missteps: getting beat up by a guy who might have played for IU if Davis were gone, against a roster decimated by IU's post-Davis decision to hire a crook.

I don't have time to do a full workup, so I recommend this Inside the Hall post, which links to the ND preview written by John Gasaway, formerly the Big Ten Wonk. In short, ND has been great offensively, not so dominant defensively. Harangody's presence makes a competitive game even more of a longshot than it would be against many other top 10 teams. IU's only chance would seem to be foul trouble (or a self-inflicted off game) by Harangody combined with incredible shooting from Matt Roth and other IU guards. Not likely.

Blogpoll draft ballot, week 13.

Done quickly. Hopefully nothing stupid. My ranking of the Texas-Texas Tech-Oklahoma triumvirate is based on how close each team is to being undefeated. Texas lost to TT at the last second; Oklahoma was competitive with Texas but lost by 10; TT was pantsed by Oklahoma.

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

Dropped Out: LSU (#17), Miami (Florida) (#18), Maryland (#22), North Carolina (#23), Brigham Young (#25).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Indiana 60, IUPUI 57.

My cooling-off period following the Bucket game continues, but I do need to catch up on old business and wrap up the IUPUI game. Here are the stats. This game provided some of the roller-coaster effect that we should expect from this young team this season. IU fell behind 18-12 with 7:30 remaining in the half, but finished the half with a 19-2 run and led 31-20 at the break. Like many Hoosier fans, I'm sure, I began thinking, hey, we're not that bad. IU then let IUPUI almost catch up, although the Jaguars never again led the game, but had a shot to win in the last minute.

The Pomeroy game plan reveals a 61 possession game, a complete opposite of IU's 86 possession game against Northwestern State. IU's offensive production remains below average on a points-per possession basis, mostly because of a high percentage of turnovers. IU's effective field goal percentage is 49 percent, good enough for a rank of 135 nationally, and IU especially excels in getting to the line (#36 nationally) and two point field goal percentage (52.3, #88 nationally). Still, this is a guard-dominated team that, however it might bother Tom Crean, is never going to dominate the offensive or defensive boards. If IU is to flirt with a .500 record, which I think is a reasonable if fairly optimistic goal, the Hoosiers simply cannot allow 25 percent of their possessions to end in turnovers. We have good shooters, and have to get them the ball. The prettiest number? 73 percent of IU's field goals have been the result of assists, good enough for #10 nationally. We certainly haven't seen the likes of that number in a while.

Defensively, IU's raw numbers are respectable, but that's probably mostly a function of competition. We will have a tough time guarding people this year, I would guess, starting with Luke Harangody tomorrow. Still, at this point IU's defensive turnover percentage and defensive field goal percentages are excellent, so perhaps there is more there than I am willing to acknowledge.

As for the individuals:
  • Tom Pritchard was outstanding, scoring 19 points on 7-8 from the field and grabbing ten rebounds.
  • Nearly all of the guards struggled shooting, but Matt Roth literally saved the game with his 4-9 three point shooting.
  • Both Devan Dumes and Nick Williams struggled with turnovers.
  • Walk-on Daniel Moore is an assist machine, although he did not attempt a field goal.
In sum, IU will take any wins it gets this season, and showed some character in refusing to surrender the lead after it mostly evaporated. The team is now in Hawaii, and I'll try to preview the Notre Dame game sometime today.


IU does not have a strong football history. Indeed, IU ranks fairly low among major conference teams in all-time wins and winning percentage. Still, to put today's game in historical perspective, here's a list of IU's games, from 1900 to present, in which IU has lost by more than 50 points:
2008: Purdue 62 IU 10 (4-8)
2000: Michigan 58 IU 0 (9-3)
1999: Wisconsin 59 IU 0 (10-2)
1997: Iowa 62 IU 0 (7-5)
1978: Nebraska 68, IU 17 (9-3)
1971: Michigan 61 IU 7 (11-1)
1957: Michigan State 54, IU 0 (8-1)
1957: Ohio State 56, IU 0 (9-1)
1948: Michigan 54, IU 0 (9-0)
1925: Michigan 63, IU 0 (7-1)
1923: Wisconsin 52, IU 0 (3-3-1)
1914: Illinois 51, IU 0 (7-0)
1913: IU 60, IU 0 (5-2)
1904 Chicago 56, IU 0 (10-1-1)
1903: Michigan 51, IU 0 (11-0-1)
1902: Michigan 60, IU 0 (11-0)

The opponent's record is in parentheses. Take a look at those records, and compare and contrast to the record of the team that did this in 2008. In 100 years of mostly bad football, that's only 16 games in which IU has lost by 50 or more points. I write this not to rub salt in the wounds of fellow IU fans, but to show that I'm not exaggerating a bit when I call today's game what it was: the worst loss in the history of Indiana University football. Much more later.


IU lost five games by more than 50 points in the 19th Century: to Depauw and Purdue in 1891; to Purdue in 1892; to Purdue in 1893; and to Butler in 1894. All finished with winning records, so my point stands.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Purdue game.

Purdue Boilermakers
2008 record: 3-8
2008 Sagarin: 76 (IU is #105)
2007 record: 8-5 (beat Central Michigan in Motor City Bowl)
2007 Sagarin: 57
Series: Purdue leads 62-36-6
Last IU win: 11/17/2007 (27-24 in Bloomington)
Last Purdue win: 11/18/2006 (28-19 in West Lafayette)
Last IU win in West Lafayette: 11/23/1996 (33-16)
TV: Noon, ESPN2

Both IU and Purdue have had horrific seasons, but one of the teams can take some solace with a win in the Bucket game. IU, in one of the few bright moments of the last 15 years, beat Purdue on a late 49-yard field goal by Austin Starr. It was unfortunate that the game came down to that--IU had a 24-3 lead in the third quarter before the awakening of Purdue's offense and some IU miscues and turnovers necessitated the heroics. Now, IU seeks its first back-to-back Bucket wins since 1993 and 1994 and its first win in West Lafayette since 1996, a game that was the last coached by IU's Bill Mallory and Purdue's Jim Colletto.

Both teams enter the game with identical records, although even Purdue's meager accomplishments look good next to IU's. Purdue's losses in the non-conference were to respectable Notre Dame and Oregon, while IU lost to two MAC teams--the two best MAC teams, but still MAC teams. In the Big Ten season, Purdue has been more competitive: only one of Purdue's 6 Big Ten losses has been by more than 20 points, while 4 of IU's 6 Big Ten losses have been by at least 27 points. Depending on the source, oddsmakers have made Purdue an 11 to 13 point favorite.

Curtis Painter, who actually entered the season with (incomprehensible to me) Heisman hype given his hard-to-figure place of prominence in the Big Ten and Purdue record books, has been horrid even when he hasn't been injured. He has completed only 58 percent of his passes and has thrown 11 interceptions to only 8 touchdowns. His two backups have been similarly unremarkable. The savior for Purdue's offense has been Cory Sheets, who averages nearly 5 yards per carry and has run for 1070 yards and 13 touchdowns. Purdue ranks 68 in total offense (IU is #62); 47 in passing offense (IU is #82); #86 in rushing offense (IU is #44); 72 in total defense (IU is #102); 40 in pass defense (IU is #104); ansd 96 in rushing defense (IU is #92). In short, they are two rotten teams, and Purdue has a slight edge statistically against a tougher schedule.

Still, this is an important game. A road win for IU would provide some reason for optimism among recruits and players. A win for Purdue would give them some momentum as Danny Hope takes over for Joe Tiller. Given Tiller's 9-2 record against IU, sending him home a loser in his last game would be nice. Finally, if IU wins this one, Purdue fans might have to admit that it counts. What do I mean? Take this, for instance, from Off the Tracks:
Both times it took extraordinary circumstances (an absolute monsoon and a coach’s death providing motivation) for Indiana to beat us.
The absolute monsoon was in 2001. I was at the game, and by my recollection, it was raining on both sides of the field (and was only drizzling in the second half.) I have always thought that games played in inclement weather counted, that it's part of the game, but Purdue fans have always disagreed about 2001. But I can let that go. Here's what I can't let go: I'm sorry that Travis, who I like and respect, is the one who has to bear the brunt of this, but I am completely fucking sick and tired of hearing about how the fact that our coach fucking died of fucking cancer was such a fucking advantage for the 2007 team. If you think it's so great, maybe someday your coach will die of fucking cancer and you can see how great it is. Go dig up some 2007 previews. The talking heads, the bloggers, the print journalists, and others were unanimous that Hoeppner's death would be a fatal blow to the fortune's of IU's 2007 season. The Hoosiers were supposed to finish in the basement. Instead, they managed to win seven games and play in a bowl game. They didn't do that because of a ghost. or because of any "win one for the Gipper" speeches. They did it because a) the schedule was easy; b) the Big Ten was down; c) we had a uncoverable wide receiver; d) we had two senior cornerbacks, including one who started in the NFL this year; e) Kellen Lewis was healthy and didn't miss spring practice.; f) and out-of-nowhere All-American performances from Greg Middleton and Austin Starr. We won last year because we had a better team than Purdue and because we were playing at home, and it shouldn't have been that close.

So, a win would be nice, but might be too much to ask from the 2008 Hoosiers. This team was bad before the injury problems began, but those injuries are unquestionably a factor now. IU has to win the turnover game. In 2006, Curtis Painter threw 4 interceptions, but IU couldn't take advantage. If anything of the sort happens again, hopefully IU will be ready.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The IUPUI game.

IUPUI Jaguars
Current record: 1-1
Current RPI: 202
Current Sagarin: 118
Current Pomeroy: 258
2007-08 record: 23-7
2007-08 RPI: 70
2007-08 Sagarin: 70
2007-08 Pomeroy: 91
Series: IU leads 1-0 (IU won 86-57 on 12/22/2006 at Conseco Fieldhouse)
TV: 6:30 pm tonight, BTN

The IUPUI Jaguars make their first-ever appearance at Assembly Hall tonight. As the numbers above indicate, IUPUI put together quite a respectable season last year, finishing in the top 100 in all three computer rankings. Unfortunately, after losing to Oral Roberts in the Summit League (formerly the Mid Continent Conference) title game, the Jaguars missed out on an NIT bid. Certainly, this could be something of a rebuilding year for coach Ron Hunter, because the Jaguars lost George Hill, IUPUI's greatest player ever, to the NBA (he was drafted by the Spurs in the first round). Still, it's hard to overstate the significance of Hunter's accomplishments in Indy. When he arrived in 1994, the team was known as the "Metros" and had just made the leap from NAIA to NCAA Division II. IUPUI moved up to Division I in 1997, and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2003, in only its sixth year in Division I and less than a decade removed from NAIA. While they haven't yet returned to the Big Dance, they have become a consistently successful program, nearly always finishing in the top half of the conference standings.

The Jaugars succeeded last year with a deliberate (62 possessions per game, about #300 in Division I) but ruthlessly efficient offense. Here's their Kenpom scouting report. The Jaguars led the country in offensive efficiency (that's right, #1 of 341 Division I programs), averaging 1.17 points per possession. The Jags also led the country in three point field goal percentage (42.4 percent), finished #3 in free throw percentage (78 percent), #11 in two point field goal percentage, and second in effective field goal percentage (a computation based on points per shot). IUPUI took very good care of the ball, ranking #49 in turnover percentage and #34 in steal percentage. The Jags' defensive numbers are more pedestrian, except that they ranked #47 in steal percentage. Certainly, some of these numbers relate to George Hill, a true man among boys in the Summit League, but IUPUI's efficiency numbers are top 100 (and often much better) for as far back as Pomeroy keeps track. In short, George Hill or not, IU will be facing a motivated opponent that will take care of the ball. This game will give us a better idea of IU's style of play: IU goes from playing one of the fastest-paced programs in D-I to one of the slowest.

Still, this isn't last year's IUPUI team. Hill is in the NBA, and second leading scorer Austin Montgomery is gone. Gary Patterson is out indefinitely with a broken hand, which leaves Jon Avery as IUPUI's only returning double figure scorer. Currently, freshman Alex Young, a 6-5 wing from Northwest HS in Indianapolis, leads the way at 16 points per game. Juco forward Robert Glenn is averaging 12.5 points per game while shooting 75 percent from the field. LeRoy Nobles, who played only 10 minutes per game last season, is averaging of 10 points per game and is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc.

In short, both teams are relying almost entirely on new faces or former role players. It's hard to have a feel for this game because IU's team remains a mystery, but this game will be an interesting test before IU heads to Maui.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blogpoll draft ballot, week 13.

Too late for inclusion in the preliminary poll, I fear, but open to modification until Wednesday.

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

Dropped Out: Florida State (#17), Tulsa (#24), California (#25).
Late update: I flipped BYU and TCU.

Penn State 34, Indiana 7.

There's not much to say about this one. It bore some similarity to last week's game against Wisconsin in that IU hung around in the first half but was shut out in the second half. IU held Penn State to punts, a fumble, and a missed field goal in five of their first six possessions, but did little more on offense. IU managed only 6 first downs all day, and eventually the defense wore down. The scoreboard and the most basic statistics tell the story: in addition to the above, Penn State outgained IU 442-180. Well, on to the Bucket game, where IU is an early 13 point underdog.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good enough: Indiana 83, Northwestern State 65.

Here's the box score. IU led for most of the game. Much like the football team's early warmups, this game doesn't tell us much: a game like this can deliver only bad news. First, this game was played at a blistering pace: roughly 86 possessions per my count (ps: Ken Pomeroy updated his site before I came back to finish the post, and Ken puts this game at 85.9 possessions per game, so that is correct). That means, of course, that viewed through the prism of tempo-free, IU's 83 points aren't as good as that number ordinarily would suggest and the 23 turnovers, while bad, aren't as bad as in a typically paced game (although this would have been IU's third-worst performance of 2007-08 in that regard). Kenpom's gameplan numbers go back only two years, but IU never played in an 80 possession game in either 2007-08 or 2006-07.

By the way, for those of you who are new to the site and unfamiliar with tempo-free stats, Ken Pomeroy's website is the place to go. Pomeroy tells a mixed story about IU's first game. Of course, Northwestern State likes to run, and so the 86 possession game may not be the standard. Nevertheless, it also shows that IU's 83 points wasn't terribly efficient, and amounted to less than a point per possession. IU's shooting percentage, about 45 percent, isn't bad, but IU's 68 percent shooting on 41 free throw attempts had a big effect on IU's bottom line. On the other hand, IU's defense was quite effective, limiting NSU to 31 percent from the field. Also, IU forced 30 turnovers, which even in a fast paced game amounted to a remarkable 36.1 turnover percentage.

Finally, Crean-coached teams, like those of his mentor Tom Izzo, focus on rebounding. The very nature of IU's roster this year is going to lead to some frustration for the coach. Certainly, NSU's poor shooting percentage gave the Demons more opportunities for offensive rebounds, but by any measure, IU did not rebound well on the defensive end. NSU rebounded 49 percent of its own misses, which, if repeated all season, would put IU well into the 200s of the 320 or so Division I teams. It's difficult to draw many conclusions from a single game, but IU's size, or lack thereof, could create some problems in rebounding.

As for the individuals:
  • Tom Pritchard played well, shooting 5-8 from the field, grabbing 10 rebounds, including 4 offensive boards, and scoring 13 points.
  • Kyle Taber was 2-6 from the field. Taber was excellent in his limited role last year, and his four missed field goals in the NSU game exceed the number of field goals he missed in 2007-08 (he was 11-14 from the field). The efficiency that Tabor demonstrated last year is unlikely to repeat itself now that he has been forced into a more significant role.
  • Devan Dumes, who with his year at Eastern Michigan and year at Vincennes JC is IU's most experienced player, led the way with 21 points on 10 shots from the field. He shot 6-10 from the field, including 4-8 from three point range, and shot 10-13 from the line.
  • Nick Williams, IU's most highly regarded recruit, did not fare as well. He scored 6 points on 2-5 shooting and turned the ball over 6 times.
This game doesn't say much about IU's future. It tells us that IU can win comfortably against a middle-of-the pack team from a low Division I conference. The game also presents some red flags. Still, any IU fan would have been happy to take an 18 point win.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The real beginning of the Crean era: Northwestern State.

Northwestern State Demons
Current record: 0-0
Current RPI: n/a
Current Sagarin:n/a
Current Pomeroy:
2007-08 record: 12-17
2007-08 RPI: 191
2007-08 Sagarin: 237
2007-08 Pomeroy: 258
Series: first meeting
TV: 7 pm tonight, BTN
I'm under the weather and so I won't give this preview the full workup that I would like, but IU should be ready to run tonight. Northwestern State ranked #8 in Division I with 74.9 possessions per game. The Demons also have a Big Ten scalp in their recent history: they upset Iowa in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Coach Mike McConathy is in his tenth season there. Still, NSU has fallen back to the pack in the last two years. As for the current roster, I'll lift directly from NSU's official preview:
Back from last year’s team is 51 percent of the scoring (1,234 of 2,437 points) and 40 percent of the rebounding (484 of 1,218 rebounds). Seven players on this season’s team started at least once last year with a total of 71 starting assignments. The returning starters are guards [Keithan] Hancock and Michael McConathy. There is not a player on the team who has averaged scoring in double figures for an entire season. Hancock did score 10.2 per game in Southland Conference play last season. However, there are eight players who scored in double figures at least once last year, and who combined to post 42 double-figure games.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Q&A with Zombie Nation.

Penn State blog Zombie Nation and I exchanged some questions and answers about Saturday's scintillating matchup. My answers to his questions are here; his answers to my questions are below.

1. Well, sorry about that one last weekend. At least this time, you guys lost your shot by actually losing a game, not by allowing a couple of garbage time touchdowns to IU as in 1994. And at least the Lions remain favorites to win the conference and head to Pasadena. For so many years, in the pre-BCS days, reaching (and winning, hopefully) the Rose Bowl was the pinnacle of success for any Big Ten school. Especially for those of us who follow schools that rarely get there, it retains huge appeal. I'm wondering, given Penn State's fairly recent relationship with the Big Ten compared to the other members, whether the game has any special significance for Penn State fans. Is making the Rose Bowl a big deal, or is it just another BCS bowl in a year in which you would rather be playing for the title?

ZN: It's always "just another BCS bowl." You have to understand (I know you do, but just saying), that Penn State made itself as a football power as an independent. It was either the National Championship or bust for decades. Also, there is no historical significance to the Rose Bowl for Penn State fans, as the 1994 edition didn't mean squat, and the last time before that was 1923! Yes, we would love to win the conference, but it will be yet another shared title, so really the Rose Bowl is no different than the Orange Bowl was three years ago.

2. The numbers I have seen install Penn State as a more than 30 point favorite. Any particular concerns about IU? And presuming that the answer is no, what do you hope to see from your team as compared to last week? How in the world did Iowa beat Penn State?

ZN: It looked to me like Penn State didn't check the weather until the first snap. Iowa played with the weather, while Penn State played against the weather. I'm not blaming the loss on that, but it definitely played a part. Well, that, and the fact that Iowa had blow heaters on its sidelines, while Penn State did not.

This weekend, I want to see Penn State play like it did the first nine games–confident, poised and clean. I'm not so sure Indiana will roll over, especially since Penn State may very well come out flat. If Penn State can get on the score board before Indiana, things should be fine for PSU.

3. So, Daryll Clark spent two years behind Anthony Morelli? Why? Was his play this year expected, or did he come out of nowhere?

ZN: He did sort of come out of nowhere. Everyone will tell you that they "knew" he was better than Morelli, but really, there's no substance to that argument. Clark never played meaningful downs, until the Alamo Bowl, and then he just ran the ball. I do think the Iowa game proved or disproved nothing at all, as everyone's saying "see, I told you he was overrated." Every quarterback has a bad game, and the Iowa outing was it. Clark could return to form this week, and if he does, Michigan State could be in trouble.

4. I'm sure you enjoy Joe Paterno questions as much as I enjoy Bob Knight questions. But, for those of us who don't follow PSU on a weekly basis, is Joe expected to return as head coach next year? If not, what is the conventional wisdom on a successor–i.e., doe Joe have the clout or desire to install one of his assistants, or will the next coach be an outsider?

ZN: I really do hope, if Penn State finishes 12-1, that Joe Paterno will step down. More so, I hope that if someone is installed as HC, it's Tom Bradley. As you said, I've heard this a thousand times, and have had plenty of practice with the argument. Jay Paterno is no more than a position coach, if that. Bradley should get the nod, giving the defense over to Larry Johnson, Sr. On offense, Galen Hall will leave when Joe does. Joe and Galen already said that much. So, if an outside hire must be made, I would go with a new offensive coordinator, leaving the rest. There are plenty of good Penn Staters out there to bring in, who would understand how PSU works. But then again, some of the inside guys are pretty good picks for OC.

Good luck this weekend, you Hoosiers will need it!

The Penn State game.

Penn State Nittany Lions
2008 record: 9-1
2008 Sagarin: 7 (IU is #100)
2007 record: 9-4 (beat Texas A&M in the Alamo bowl)
2007 Sagarin: 26
Series: Penn State leads 11-0
Last IU win: never
Last Penn State win: 10/20/2007 (36-31 in Bloomington)
TV: Noon, BTN

The last two meetings in this series, close IU losses in 2004 and 2007, were among the most disappointing losses IU has had in the last 15 years, not because IU was the better team on either occasion, but because opportunities for programs like IU to beat programs like Penn State are so rare. In 2008, both IU and Penn State are back to their historical positions, and the Nittany Lions are favored by more than 30 points. Black Shoe Diaries tells the statistical story, and it's not pretty (although everyone knows that "net punting" is a bellwether stat). Simply, of the 21 stats listed by BSD, 19 favor Penn State, and in 9 of the statistical categories, Penn State ranks in the top 25 while IU ranks below 100.

This has been a horrible season for IU, and not because of injuries. Still, injuries have played some role in preventing IU from making late-season progress. This paragraph from IU's weekly release says it all:

Junior free safety Nick Polk became the third starting member of the Hoosier secondary to suffer a season-ending knee injury last week, joining senior cornerback Christopher Phillips and junior strong safety Austin Thomas. Overall this season, Indiana has lost 29 starting games to 13 starters. Phillips has missed seven games followed by Thomas (5), Polk (3), junior QB Kellen Lewis (3), sophomore DT Deonte Mack (2) and junior LT Rodger Saffold (2). Junior wide receivers Andrew Means and Ray Fisher, junior C Pete Saxon, junior TE Brian Zematis, sophomore C Alex Perry, sophomore RG Cody Faulkner and redshirt freshman LG Andrew McDonald have each missed one game.
This would be a tough game under the best of circumstances, but injuries have made it nearly impossible. IU's only hope for a shred of dignity this season is to ruin Joe Tiller's farewell party and keep the Bucket. Hopefully, nothing that happens in the Penn State game will make that less likely.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

BTB Roundtable: playing out the string edition.

We haven't been terribly consistent with these roundtables this year, but Michigan blog Maize and Blue Nation has shaken off the disappointment of Michigan's first losing season in decades and has submitted some questions for the group. Check back later in the week for his recap.

1) With two weeks left in the season, it's safe to say that most schools have reached the point where the year has been a success or a disappointment. How has your school fared this year in your opinion? Or, is the jury still out?

A disappointment, indeed. IU's historical track record is what it is, and it's almost always safe to bet against the Hoosiers. Still, with eight home games, one of the easiest schedules of any BCS conference member, and most key players returning from a team that won seven games, I expected IU to at least come close to postseason play. Absent one of the biggest upsets in conference history, IU will lose its eighth game at Penn State on Saturday, and as bad as Purdue is, a loss in Joe Tiller's last home game seems likely. Going 3-9 against one of the weakest schedules in BCS-land is by no means a sign of progress.

2) Is your school heading to a bowl? If so, which one? And if not,WTF?

See above.

3) The Big Ten has recently had a hard time getting respect among the national media as a top conference. Has the Big Ten taken a step forward or a step backward in this debate this season?

I don't know how anyone could make the argument that the Big Ten has taken a step forward this year. The Big Ten played very few top-notch nonconference games, and the only arguably impressive wins were Penn State's whipping of Oregon State and Michigan State's win over a mediocre Notre Dame team. OSU was embarrassed by USC, the aforementioned ND team has two wins against the Big Ten, and decent-but-not-great Cal, Pitt, Missouri, and Oregon all prevailed against what should at least be peer programs. A Penn State win over USC in the Rose Bowl (plus respectable showings against the SEC in Tampa and Orlando) would be the only way to salvage the season in this respect.

4) Would the Big Ten benefit from adding another school to create two divisions like the SEC, Big 12, ACC and MAC? And if so, which school should be added? Or, should we drop one school?

Conference championship games have financial benefits, but also provide a conference's championship contenders one more opportunity to lose a game. I don't think a championship game would solve the Big Ten's current problems, and while I wouldn't be opposed to adding a 12th team, I don't support expansion for the sake of expansion. Notre Dame is the only obvious fit, but has no interest. While the usual suspects such as Missouri, Rutgers, West Virginia, and Syracuse all have positive and negative traits, one school that intrigues me a bit is Kentucky. UK's football program isn't great, but it is well-supported, and the basketball program would be quite an asset to the conference. I'm not necessarily advocating for Kentucky, and don't expect UK would leave the SEC, but I'm at least intrigued, and wanted to mention a school that doesn't usually enter these conversations.

5) Do you agree with President-elect Obama that college football should have an 8 school post-season playoff?

Not really. I would have no problem with an eight game playoff as long as it preserved the bowl system. Such a setup would involve playing the first two rounds at campus sites in early December, playing the championship game at a bowl site, and preserving the rest of the system as it is. Unfortunately, these things take on a life of their own. As soon as we accept an eight team playoff, the teams on the cusp will start clamoring for 16. The importance of the regular season sets college football apart from all other sports. If I thought the playoff would stop at eight games, I would support it, but I think it would be the first step in ruining what makes college football unique and enjoyable.

6a) Who is your favorite network television play-by-play announcer/ color commentator/sideline reporter?

I like Ron Franklin of ESPN for play-by-play, and while I haven't seen him this year, enjoy Bill Curry for color commentary. Verne Lundquist is getting a bit-mistake prone in his old age, but does a good job. Also, I'm really excited that GUS! JOHNSON!! will be joining the Big Ten Network for college basketball coverage. Not as excited as GUS!, but excited nonetheless. GUS! will make every Northwestern-Penn State tilt feel like the Final Four.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Indiana 103, Anderson 71.

Normally, it might not be worth the trouble to review the box score of an exhibition game against a D-III opponent, but that's literally all we have to go on for the 2008-09 Hoosiers. A few random thoughts:
  • This was a 74 possession game, much faster than IU's 2008-09 average of 67.1. On the other hand, IU was pretty fast against lesser non-conference opponents last season, so this many not represent a sea change in tempo--it may just have been IU running wild on one of the few teams we will out-talent this season.
  • In light of the pace, it's outstanding that IU turned the ball over only 10 times. Again, this was against a Division III team, but given the pace, the completely new roster, and Anderson's experience, I happy about this.
  • IU was 4-11 from three point range, again, quite a departure for IU. It's lower than I expected for such a guard-heavy team, and I expect that to change as we play more talented opponents.
Again, all this game proves is that IU would be a very good Division III team. But that's better than the alternative.

Blogpoll draft ballot, Week 11.

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

Dropped Out: Georgia Tech (#20), West Virginia (#22), Northwestern (#24).

Hastily done. Hopefully nothing stupid. I reserve the right to completely rework before Wednesday.