Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goodbye, Hoosier Report.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I will be joining the SB Nation blog network as SBN's IU blogger. Today is the day. The Crimson Quarry is now live, and I will be posting there exclusively from this point forward. I hope all of you who stop by here will update your bookmarks/blogrolls and continue the habit and will take advantage of the various tools that make SB Nation blogs a more interactive environment.

Michigan State, take 2.

Michigan State Spartans
Current record: 23-5 (13-3)
Current RPI: 4
Current Sagarin: 6
Current Pomeroy: 12
2007-08 record: 27-9, 12-6 (lost to Memphis in NCAA Sweet 16)
2007-08 RPI: 13
2007-08 Sagarin: 15
2007-08 Pomeroy: 15
Series: IU leads 65-45
Last Michigan State win: 2/7/2009 (75-47 in East Lansing)
Last IU win: 2/16/2008 (80-61 in Bloomington)
Last MSU win in Bloomington: 2/8/2003 (67-62)
TV: 7 pm Tuesday, ESPN

I'm not going to say much about the game. MSU is one of the best teams in the country. IU has clinched 11th place in the conference. The Spartans, with one win in their next two games, can clinch their first outright Big Ten title since 1999 and have already clinched a share of the title. Still, although MSU is the most successful Big Ten program of the last 15 years, the Spartans have struggled in Bloomington. Tom Izzo is only 2-9 in Bloomington and hasn't won at Assembly Hall in six years. The Spartans are highly favored to win the game, but I suppose we can always hope for some senior night magic. MSU, as always, is excellent on the boards on both ends of the court. That's it. IU should lose, but we can hope that the team finds a way to compete in the final home game of the season.

On a side note, if you're getting ready to purchase those season tickets and finding the deadline is quickly approaching, there's now a way to get an almost instant cash advance online. Getting access to your money has never been faster or easier....and just a click away.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Senior night: Kyle Taber.

A more comprehensive Michigan State preview will follow (as if it matters), probably later tonight. Tonight will be a strange senior night to follow a strange season. Kyle Taber came to IU as a walk-on, spent a redshirt season with a knee injury, and then played not a single significant minute in the next 2.5 seasons. In his redshirt freshman year, 2005-06, Taber played a total of four minutes in three non-conference blowouts and scored a total of four points. In 2006-07, Taber played 10 minutes in 6 games and scored two points. In 2007-08, for the first 20 games, there was a modest uptick in Taber's time on the court: In those first 20 games, he appeared in 9 games for a total of 40 minutes, and scored 5 points. Although a couple of extended garbage time stints padded those numbers, he played a total of two minutes against major conference teams and his scoreless one minute stint against Iowa was his only appearance in IU's first eight Big Ten games. There have been times that I have thought Crean was a little tough on Taber this year, expecting a bit more leadership from his lone senior. While I'm sure he knew it, I think Crean has tended to forget that Taber's transition from career practice player to contributor occurred barely a year ago.

Taber, to everyone's surprise, started against Northwestern on February 3, 2008, and played 24 scoreless minutes with 4 rebounds, a block, and a turnover. From that point forward, Taber played in every game, exceeding 20 minutes four times, and playing at least 10 minutes in 10 of IU's 13 remaining games. Taber was a model of offensive efficiency, shooting only when a basket was certain. He shot 0-1 against NU but then made all nine of his attempts for the rest of the season. He shot 5-6 from the line, pulled down 3 rebounds per game, and turned the ball over only 5 times in 207 minutes. As I noted many times last year, he was a classic do-no-harm player. He played minutes without making a huge positive impact, but with virtually no negative impact.

Unsurprisingly, with a larger role this season, he hasn't been quite as effective, but he has been very solid: in 24 minutes per game, he has shot 50 percent from the field and pulled down 5 rebounds per game. Like nearly all members of this team, more has been asked of Taber than is realistic, yet he has handled it well. Taber has had a front row seat for one of the most turmoil filled periods in IU basketball history: he witnessed the contentious last two years of the Davis era, the entire Sampson era and all that entailed, and the unique first season of Tom Crean. Thanks, Kyle.

Penn State 61, Indiana 58.

Here's the box score. After the Northwestern game, I figured that IU had played its last competitive game of the season, but IU remained competitive throughout. IU's largest lead was 4, and Penn State's largest lead was 5. IU had a three point lead in the late going, but couldn't hold on and missed a couple of decent three pointers. This was an extraordinarily slow paced game: 55 possessions per side, IU's lowest total of the season. That puts a bit of a damper on enthusiasm about IU's 11 turnovers, but the 20 percent turnover percentage was IU's fifth-best of the season. IU shot reasonably well, rebounded respectably, but Penn State shot a bit better and turned the ball over only 8 times to IU's 11. For the seventh time in 16 Big Ten games, IU was within a single digit margin, but has only one win to show for it. Again, it was nice to see the team complete after what had to be a terribly depressing blowout loss to Northwestern, but it's also difficult to take much solace in a close loss at this point.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Penn State, take II.

Penn State Nittany Lions
Current record: 19-9 (8-7)
Current RPI: 61
Current Sagarin: 57
Current Pomeroy: 74 (8-7)
2007-08 record: 15-16 (7-11)
2007-08 RPI: 155
2007-08 Sagarin: 115
2007-08 Pomeroy: 108
Series: IU leads 27-5 (25-5 since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992-93)
Last Penn State win: 1/17/2009 (65-55 in Bloomington)
Last IU win: 1/20/2008 (81-65 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in University Park: 1/13/2007 (84-74)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 6 pm Saturday, BTN

IU has lost to Penn State only five times since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1992-93, and I feel comfortable guessing that the Lions have never been so heavily favored against IU as they will be tomorrow night. PSU, like Northwestern, won at Assembly Hall for the first time ever this season, and a win tomorrow night will give PSU its first-ever season sweep of IU. Penn State is firmly in NCAA contention, but the lackluster computer ratings suggest that the Lions still have some work to do. It goes without saying that Penn State can't afford to lose to IU. Penn State concludes its schedule with a home game against Illinois and a road trip to Iowa, and Penn State probably needs two wins to feel relatively comfortable.

Penn State, like so many other Big Ten teams, plays a slow-paced offense (ranked below 300 in possessions per game) and takes good care of the ball. Limiting turnovers, defensive rebounding, three point shooting, and perimeter defense have allowed Penn State to move out of the lower echelon. Penn State completely shut down IU's offense in the last game. Defense and taking care of the ball allowed Penn State to overcome a less than impressive shooting performance.

The previews are getting a bit stale, I realize, but there's not much to say. IU faces a much better team tomorrow, and will need a well-above-average performance to have a chance to win.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Northwestern 75, Indiana 53.

Here's the box score. IU looked good in the first 10 minutes, but NU dominated the last 30 minutes of the game and won for the first time at Assembly Hall, and the first time in Bloomington since 1968. Lake the Posts has an understandably joyful post on the significance of the win. Among the tidbits I could have lived without knowing: this was Northwestern's most lopsided Big Ten road win since a win over the University of Chicago in 1944. It's also IU's most lopsided loss to Northwestern since a 40-16 loss in 1914, also in Bloomington. It's also only the fourth time that NU has won in Bloomington by a double digit margin (1914, 1916, 1963). As for the game itself, maybe I will check back in when I have more time, but probably not. NU simply dominated that game. IU had difficulty finding good looks and missed some that were open. Devan Dumes and Matt Roth were badly off from three point range. Northwestern converted on nearly all of its opportunities: 6-7 from behind the arc in the second half and 65 percent from the field. IU's 17 turnovers in a 61 possession game weren't the worst output of this season by far (27.8 percent), but NU turned the ball over only 11 times.
Before the Big Ten season, I said that I wanted IU to win two games: the home games against Penn State and Northwestern, because neither team had ever won in Bloomington and I didn't want those streaks to end under these circumstances. Mission not accomplished, but thank god for Iowa.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A phone call?

Thanks to the tip from Jared from Midwest Sports Fans, and also discussed on Inside the Hall, the Indianapolis Star is reporting that IU self-reported an impermissible phone call. Here's the NCAA self-report form. I tend to agree with ITH, that this isn't a big deal, but the very nature of the violation causes some heartburn. The report provides a bit more detail than the Star article. The report indicates that on October 25, Roshown McLeod made what was the third call of the week to Bawa Muniru. Tom Crean had made a call on that Sunday, and again on Wednedsay. Because of IU's practice schedule, he thought the Sunday call had been made the previous day. IU found the violation on November 21, reported it on December 10, and imposed a sanction of no calls for a week in December. It sounds as if the staff has a good system for preventing these sorts of issues--the head coach and the responsible assistant each make no more than one call a week to a recruit--but it failed in this instance because of a misrecollection by Crean as to the date of the first call. McLeod made what he thought was his one call of the week, but he didn't have it. Expect howling from the usual quarters, but I don 't think this is a major concern, just a major annoyance.

Also, if self-reports of these sorts of violations are front page news, perhaps the Star should recall that the open records statute applies to all publicly supported institutions, and most states have similar laws. The Star says that these things are commonplace, and IU's critics will try to turn this into a big deal. Perhaps the Star should find out what Purdue, Ball State, Indiana State, IUPUI and others are reporting on a regular basis, if anything, or even other Big Ten schools in neighboring states.

The Northwestern game, take 2.

Northwestern Wildcats
Current record: 14-11 (5-9)
Current RPI: 78
Current Sagarin: 64
Current Pomeroy: 82
2007-08 record: 8-21 (1-17)
2007-08 RPI: 191
2007-08 Sagarin: 190
2007-08 Pomeroy: 158
Series: IU leads 107-44
Last Northwestern win: 1/29/2009 (77-75 in Evanston)
Last IU win: 2/23/2008 (85-82 in Evanston)
Last Northwestern win in Bloomington: 1/13/1968 (86-81)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 6:30 Wednesday, BTN

When IU and Northwestern last played, just less than a month ago, the Wildcats were 2-5 in the Big Ten against a brutal schedule, but were sporting bubble-worthy computer rankings in the mid 40s. Now, NU has settled back to earth. IU nearly upset the Wildcats in January, but NU simply gave away home games against Illinois and Purdue, and but for those losses, the Wildcats might be in the bubble discussions today. Instead, Northwestern must win this game to preserve its NIT hopes, considering that the Wildcats still have to travel to Purdue and Ohio State.

In the first game, neither defense excelled, and both teams turned the ball over quite a bit. For IU, that is typical. for Northwestern, it is not. In conference games, NU allows 1.09 points per possessions, just a touch better than IU's 1.10. On offense, NU is marginally better. Both teams are shooting well from three point range during Big Ten games (NU 37 percent, IU 36.8 percent). On the other hand, the teams are the two worst defensively against the three. IU rebounds significantly better on both ends of the court. NU's main advantage, statistically, comes from turnovers. NU is first the conference both in taking care of the ball and in forcing turnovers on the other end. In the first game, both teams turned it over a bunch and both teams shot 12-23 from behind the arc. If IU is to win, the Hoosiers will have to take better care of the ball, do whatever they did to force NU to cough it up, and find a way to stop Kevin Coble, Craig Moore, and Michael Thompson.

Northwestern has never won at Assembly Hall. That was true of Penn State until a few weeks ago, but Penn State has been in the conference only since 1993. Northwestern, a charter member of the Big Ten, is 0-32 in Assembly Hall and hasn't won in Bloomington since 1968, when IU played at what then was known as the "new fieldhouse." In the 101 years since IU and NU first played in basketball, the Wildcats have won in Bloomington on 12 times, and eight of those were before the NCAA Tournament era began in 1939. I'm not sure how, but IU simply has to win this game.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Blogpoll draft ballot, week 3.

1 Pittsburgh 2
2 Connecticut 1
3 Missouri 3
4 Oklahoma
5 North Carolina 3
6 Duke 1
7 Memphis 1
8 Kansas 3
9 Villanova
10 Michigan St. 3
11 Clemson 1
12 Louisville
13 Arizona St. 2
14 Purdue 5
15 Illinois 2
16 Wake Forest 2
17 Washington
18 Marquette 4
19 UCLA 1
20 Gonzaga
21 Xavier 5
22 West Virginia 1
23 Louisiana St.
24 Florida St.
25 Brigham Young
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: California (#23), Butler (#24), Syracuse (#25).

Here it is. Let me say this. Basketball polls are hard. There are more teams, more games, less uniformity in scheduling, less ability to rely mostly on overall record. I'm not sure how I feel about my ballot.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Purdue 81, Indiana 67.

Here's the box score. That could have been worse. It wasn't a particularly close game--Purdue expanded its lead to 10 points with 11:32 remaining in the first half, and IU never got closer than six. The Boilers never trailed. On the other hand, other than a brief 14 point lead early in the second half, the game stayed in the 8-12 range until IU started fouling at the end of the game. There are no moral victories, especially against Purdue, but IU played reasonably well under the circumstances: the season, the venue, the 39 hour turnaround. Contrary to earlier reports, Robbie Hummel did play. He didn't start, but played 16 minutes before leaving the game after running into a (clean) Tom Pritchard screen. Earlier in the season, I mocked the IU students for booing the Cornell player who knocked Verdell Jones out cold with a legal screen, so I don't think I'm a complete homer for thinking the Mackey crowd badly overreacted to a legal play.

This wasn't the turnover-fest I expected. In 72 possessions, IU turned the ball over 16 times, 22.2 percent. This is my own math, not Pomeroy's, but if my numbers are correct, this would be one of IU's best 8 or 9 performances of the season in terms of turnovers. If I could have made a single prediction about this game, I would have predicated a minimum of 22 turnovers. It's also a significant improvement over last season's lone game against Purdue, in which IU turned the ball over on 32 percent of its possessions. While IU's offensive numbers were acceptable, even surprisingly good, across the board, Purdue's were significantly better. IU shot 50 percent; Purdue shot 57 percent. Purdue turned the ball over only 14 times, and made 7 three pointers to IU's 3. Neither team shot well from the line, but Purdue had more opportunities (6-13 for IU; 18-33 for Purdue). Rebounding was fairly even.

As for the individuals:
  • Verdell Jones has played well in the last two games. He scored 16 points on 7-12 from the field. He had 4 turnovers but 5 assists.
  • Tom Pritchard had his best game in a while. He scored 12 points (first time in double digits since January 25 against Minnesota) on 6-11 from the field and had 8 rebounds.
  • Kyle Taber was 5-7 from the field and finished with 10 points, although he fouled out.
  • Devan Dumes continues to struggle a bit: he scored 7 points on 2-7 from the field and turned the ball over four times.
Frankly, I'm just relieved that the game is over. I dreaded this one more than any game on the schedule. As I said above, no moral victories, but I imagined it would be much worse, and I'm sure most Purdue fans did, too. Next year, the teams will return to the traditional home-and-home matchups, and if Jim Delany has an ounce of grey matter, this will be the last time that IU and Purdue play only once in the regular season. Protected rivalries work for football, and they would work for basketball as well. Historically, this is the most notable rivalry in the Big Ten, and now both schools have young, impressive coaches who seem likely to be at their respective schools for decades, literally. If both program go where they are capable of going, is Jim Delany really going to let this home and home rotate off the schedule again in 7 or 8 years? I hope not.

For the Boiler perspective, here is Hammer and Rails.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hummel out?

The media and the Purdue sports information office seem to be at odds on this issue, but Jeff Washburn of the Lafayette Courier Journal reports on his blog that Hummel "almost certainly will not play against Indiana" and may miss the rest of the season because of a fracture of one of the vertebrae in his lower back. This, of course, will almost certainly have no impact on who wins or loses today's game, but is of interest and does contradict my earlier assumption that Hummel would be healthy and available for today's game.

The Purdue game.

Purdue Boilermakers
Current record: 20-6 (9-4)
Current RPI: 20
Current Sagarin: 10
Current Pomeroy: 12
2007-08 record: 24-7 (15-3) (lost to Xavier in second round of NCAA Tournament)
2007-08 RPI: 42
2007-08 Sagarin: 27
2007-08 Pomeroy: 23
Series: Purdue leads 107-84
Last IU win: 2/19/2008 (77-68 in Bloomington)
Last Purdue win: 2/15/2007 (81-68 in West Lafayette)
Last IU win in West Lafayette: 3/1/2006 (70-59)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 2 pm Saturday, BTN

As I said, I don't have much time today, and this game probably doesn't warrant it. Purdue is much better than IU, apparently has a healthy Robbie Hummel, is playing at home, it's a rivalry game in which there is no chance that Purdue will mail it in, the game will tip off less than 39 hours after the end of the Wisconsin game.

Purdue is reasonably proficient on offense, but the Boilers are in the Big Ten title hunt and the high-seed discussion because they have one of the best defenses in the country in nearly every sense imaginable. Purdue is #2 in adjusted defensive efficiency (and raw efficiency, for that matter), and they allow only .86 points per possession. Purdue forces lots of turnovers (23.6 percent of possessions), plays excellent field goal defense, you name it. In offensive rebounding, Purdue is merely above average, ranking #134 in D-I. To make matter worse, Purdue has two players, JaJuan Johnson and Hummel, who really are unguardable by any current Hoosier. This could be every bit as ugly as the Bucket game.

Travis at Hammer and Rails has a much more detailed look at things than I do. H&R is the new Purdue blog on SB Nation, replacing Travis's personal blog Off the Tracks. SB Nation is making a push to fill out its college coverage, and Wisconsin and Illinois blogs either are now or soon will be live. I'll provide more details later, but I will be joining SB Nation as its IU blogger in the near future. I don't have a firm start date yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Wisconsin 68, Indiana 51.

Here's the box score. I admit that I held out some hope that the Hoosiers could win this one, and they played well in the first half, but the Badgers simply overpowered and outsmarted the Hoosiers defense and completely shut down the Hoosier offense in the second half. This was IU's fist true home blowout of the Big Ten season. Here's the box score. I have about as much time to write this post and my Purdue preview as Tom Crean and his staff have had to put together a game plan in the 18 hours between the final buzzer last night and the bus ride to West Lafayette (thanks, Delany--couldn't it at least have been a Saturday night game? Or 6 pm? Come on). So, in bullet point form:
  • This was IU's slowest paced game of the season, 57 percentages, so the 15 turnovers weren't any better than usual.
  • The game stats don't really tell the story in this one: IU shot 50 percent in the first half and only 27.8 percent in the second half.
  • The free throw shooting was better: 15-19. That sort of shooting would have won a couple of more games for IU if done in close games.
  • IU rebounded reasonably well at the defensive end, not so well at the offensive end.
  • Verdell Jones was reasonably effective driving to the basket, scoring 16 points on 7-14 from the field. Still, 2 assists to 4 turnovers.
  • Devan Dumes was a bit rusty, shooting 1-6 from the field on his return from a two game suspension.
  • Malik Story scored 11 points on 5-8 from the field.
  • Tom Pritchard continues to struggle: only 4 points on 2-5 shooting in 24 minutes of play, and 5 rebounds.
Not much to take from this one. Wisconsin, while not as good as in the last two seasons, made it look easy last night.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Mike Davis of Deadspin.

I didn't mention it yesterday because the Inside the Hall guys had it surrounded, but a couple of bloggers chose the occasion of IU's school-record 18th loss of the season to announce the permanent irrelevance of Indiana basketball. One of the blogs was too dumb to matter, but the other was the venerable Deadspin. Of course, Deadspin founder Will Leitch has departed, which leaves a variety of guys, including someone named Rick Chandler, to try to carry on.
Yesterday's Chandler post, as the ITH guys note, was a gem. Chandler contended:
  • Bob Knight would have suspended Dumes before the season (even though the conduct for which Dumes was suspended began in the Northwestern game);
  • "the system's not designed for sleepy backwaters like Bloomington, Indiana, to have powerhouse teams" (I wonder if Chandler has ever been to Lawrence, Kansas, the home of the 2008 NCAA Champs, a town that is very similar to Bloomington in size, character, and proximity to a semi-major city);
  • "Tom Crean — even though he hasn't really had a chance to prove what he can do with his own players — isn't the answer."
  • "Have you been to Bloomington? What multi-talented player is going to go there to play for Tom Crean?"

After he was savaged by his own commenters and in various other places, Chandler came back for more today, pronouncing himself "guilty...with an explanation." He began with a pithy explanation of his devotion to Bob Knight, a mid-1980s interview with the coach, and so on. It turns out that Chandler, despite no ties to Indiana or to IU, is a hardcore Knight fan, which is fine. He made something of a pilgrimage to Bloomington in 1987 and caught an IU game and continued to make the trip regularly. And then, because he made a trip once a year for less than a decade, tells us: "But be aware that you're in my wheelhouse on this one. I've been watching the situation for more than 20 years. And I've been taking notes."

Wow, thanks, Rick! I've lived in Indiana for nearly all of my life, but you used to show up for a few days a year, and you took notes! Please, educate me about my home state and my alma mater. Unfortunately, Chandler's mea culpa contains nearly as much bullshit as the first:

  • First, and perhaps a minor quibble, but I think it shows the lack of care that Chandler has given to his work: he claims to have watched Damon Bailey play on his home court in something called the "semifinals of the state playoffs." First, as anyone from Indiana knows, there is the sectional, the regional, the semistate, and the state finals. Which was it? "Semifinals of the state playoffs" has no meaning to anyone who actually follows Indiana high school basketball. Really, it doesn't matter what round it was, because as this site shows, Bedford-North Lawrence didn't play any state tournament games on its home court in 1987 or in any other year of Bailey's career. All sectional and regional games were at Seymour; the semistates were at Evansville and Terre Haute, and the state finals in Indianapolis. In other words, all of the wax-poetic bullshit about "Bedford's gym" just doesn't hold up. (There must have been some nacho cheese on that page of Rick's notes).
  • "No, that magical, John Feinsteinian year of 1987 is gone forever." The "season on the brink" was 1985-86 and Feinstein's book was published in 1986.
  • "Yeah, he had blue chippers, but the bulk of his rosters were always populated by JC transfers (Keith Smart, Dean Garrett) and local kids (Bailey, Joe Hillman, Alford) which he took and beat the likes of Syracuse and Shaquille O'Neal's LSU in the Big Dance." Ah, where to start. First, Smart and Garrett were the first juco transfers that Knight ever took [this isn't quite right--Andre Harris was there the year before, and Courtney Witte a couple of years earlier]. His excellent 1991-93 teams had no juco transfers. So, the 1987 team was the only of Knight's excellent teams that was populated to any degree by Juco transfers. Joe Hillman was from California. I'm not sure what definition of blue chippers Chandler is using, but Bailey and Alford were elite recruits who would have been welcome anywhere. The team that beat Shaq in the 1992 tournament included three NBA first rounders (Alan Henderson, Calbert Cheaney, and Greg Graham). Isiah Thomas was an elite recruit from Illinois. Scott May and Quinn Buckner were from Ohio and Illinois, respectively. Kent Benson, while local, was an elite recruit who could have played anywhere. There's certainly no disagreement that Knight was an excellent coach who got the most out of his players, but come on. He wasn't doing it with smoke and mirrors.
  • He then tries to backpedal on the "backwater" comments: "what I mean by basketball backwater is that the Hoosiers will always take a back seat to Duke and North Carolina and UCLA and even Wake Forest and UConn." Come on, Rick. If you are going to strike an apologetic pose, stop bullshitting us! By backwater, you meant that you think Bloomington, because it's a small, somewhat out-of-the-way town, would be a tough place to attract blue chip talent. That's why you said, "Have you been to Bloomington? What multi-talented player is going to go there to play for Tom Crean?" I would respect you more if you had the courage of your convictions, Rick. I think it's a stupid point (explain to me what makes Lawrence and Storrs and Chapel Hill and Durham and Winston-Salem and East Lansing so much more inherently attractive), but we know exactly what you meant, and respect you less for not admitting it.

I realize that some of these points are nit-picky, but if some non-resident doofus is going to lecture us about Indiana (both state-of and IU) basketball, his "wheelhouse," he better as hell have his facts straight. Rick Chandler doesn't. He also won't stand by the assertions that he made in his sloppy initial post, crafting a dishonest dodge about what he meant by "backwater." No one actually knows what the next two or five or twenty years hold for IU basketball, but it's an odd argument indeed that the tradition and fan support that arise from Bob Knight's excellence are some sort of disadvantage. I do know that whenever it happens, Rick Chandler will say, "well, I didn't mean that Indiana would never get back to the Elite Eight."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Wisconsin game.

Wisconsin Badgers
Current record: 16-9 (7-6)
Current RPI: 30
Current Sagarin: 30
Current Pomeroy: 32
2007-08 record: 31-5 (16-2, Big Ten champion/Big Ten Tournament champion; lost to Davidson in NCAA Sweet 16)
2007-08 RPI: 10
2007-08 Sagarin: 5
2007-08 Pomeroy: 5
Series: IU leads 94-57
Last IU win: 1/31/2007 (71-66 in Bloomington)
Last Wisconsin win: 2/13/2008 (68-66 in Bloomington)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 9 pm Thursday, ESPN

(I thought the game was tomorrow, but it's Thursday. Here's the preview anyway).

After two excellent seasons, the Badgers have settled back to Earth this season, and the Badgers cannot afford to lose to IU, even on the road. Wisconsin has rallied admirably from a six game losing streak, and has won four in a row, including home wins against Illinois and Ohio State and a road win at Penn State. Not long ago, Wisconsin was a Big Ten laughingstock and went 46 seasons (from 1947 to 1994) without a single NCAA Tournament appearance. Now, Wisconsin has been to the tournament ten consecutive years and 11 of the last 12. Only Michigan State has a longer current tournament streak among Big Ten programs. Of the Badgers' five remaining games, two are against IU, but the Badgers still have to travel to Michigan State and Minnesota.

The main tempo free difference between this year's Badgers and the excellent teams of 2007 and 20008 is on the defensive side. UW's usually dominant defense is merely above average. Wisconsin's field goal defense and defensive turnover and steal percentages are pedestrian or worse, although they remain among the nation's leaders in defensive rebounding. On the offensive side, the Badgers continue to excel at taking care of the ball. As always, the Badgers play at a very slow pace, only 60 possessions per game (#331 of 344 teams).

The ageless Marcus Landry leads the Badgers at 12.9 points per game, and is shooting 50 percent from the field and 37 percent from behind the arc. Virtually all of Wisconsin's top 7 scorers are legitimate threats to shoot three pointers. Jon Leuer, who is 6-10, is shooting only 28 percent from behind the arc, but still takes 1.6 from there per game, and could present a matchup problem, as could Landry if he drags seemingly exhausted Tom Pritchard out to the perimeter. I wouldn't be surprised to see some novel defensive looks for Crean in this game.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blogpoll draft ballot, week 2.

1 Connecticut
2 North Carolina 2
3 Pittsburgh 1
4 Oklahoma 1
5 Duke 2
6 Missouri 6
7 Michigan St. 2
8 Memphis 2
9 Villanova 2
10 Clemson 3
11 Kansas 2
12 Louisville 6
13 Illinois 2
14 Wake Forest 6
15 Arizona St. 7
16 Xavier 3
17 Washington 1
18 UCLA 4
19 Purdue 2
20 Gonzaga 4
21 West Virginia
22 Marquette 5
23 California
24 Butler 8
25 Syracuse
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Ohio St. (#20), Florida St. (#23).

There it is, done hastily. I did an average of RPI, Sagarin, and Pomeroy ratings, developed the top 25 from that, and adjusted as I saw fit. What I didn't do was pay attention to last week's ballot or to the media/coaches polls. If something is obviously stupid, please let me know.

Illinois 65, Indiana 52.

Here's the box score. Illinois played an excellent first half on both sides of the ball and built enough of a cushion to withstand an IU rally. The Illini shot 63 percent in the first half and held IU to 27 percent shooting in that half. In the first half, IU had an equal number of turnovers and field goals (6). In the second half, thanks to a triangle-and-two defense lauded by the CBS announcers, IU stymied the Illinois offense a bit and managed to pull within 6 with a Malik Story layup at 6:27. After a missed three pointer by Verdell Jones, Illinois's Chester Frazier, typically not a three point shooter, hit an open three pointer, and IU never really challenged after that.

IU's turnover numbers were modestly better. They turned the ball over 13 times in a 59 possession game. The slow pace exaggerates it a bit, but the 22 percent figure still makes it one of IU's better performances of the season in that regard. On the downside, the rebounding stats, one of the few bright spots of IU's trip to Illinois, were almost completely reversed in this game. The Hoosiers pulled down only 25 percent of their own misses (second worst performance of the season) and Illinois ended up with 40 percent of its misses, IU's fourth worst performance of the season. Most disappointing was the 11-24 performance from the free throw line. Illinois committed 20 fouls to IU's 14, but IU could have made the game much more competitive by making a respectable number of free throws.

Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale led the way for Illinois, each scoring 16 points on 12 shots. Trent Meacham and Dominique Keller led the way during the road loss in Champaign, but didn't play huge roles today. Illinois's balanced offense could help the Illini in March. There was plenty of strutting and posing in the first half, which led to some sort of discussion/staredown between Tom Crean and Davis. I haven't read anything about it in the media, and Crean deflected a question about taunting during his press conference. In the second half, Calvin Brock got a technical for what appeared to be an inadvertent collision with Kyle Taber while dancing after a made basket. It was a tough call, but I'll take it as payback for the officials' refusal to T up Chester Frazier in Champaign last year.

As for IU's individuals:
  • Tom Prtichard again wasn't much of a factor. He scored 7 points on 6 attempts and had 4 rebounds in 36 minutes.
  • Kyle Taber, although chewed out by Crean late in the first half, had a game more reminiscent of his performances last season, when he wasn't asked to shoulder as much of a burden. He scored 5 points on 2-3 from the field, had 7 rebounds, and didn't turn the ball over. Do no harm.
  • Matt Roth was IU's leading scorer, scoring 13 points on 4-7 from the field, 3-6 from behind the arc.
  • Verdell Jones had a couple of nice plays, but 5 of IU's 13 turnovers.
  • Devan Dumes sat out his second consecutive game as part of his indefinite suspension for elbows against Northwestern and Michigan State. I won't quote it, because it appears only as part of Peegs's premium content (i.e., the IU Pravda site didn't reproduce the whole press conference transcript), but there's at least a suggestion that IU is getting pressure from Jim Delany not to bring Dumes back quite yet. Figures.
It's hard to believe, but the season is winding down. Only six regular season games remain. IU hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday night, travels to Purdue on Saturday, and hosts Northwestern a week from Wednesday. The Badgers have rebounded nicely from their six game losing streak, but aren't as strong as in recent years. Northwestern , now 4-8 in the conference, seems to have firmly pissed away its best chance ever for a NCAA bid with gut-wrenching home losses to Illinois and Michigan. These next two home games, plus the possibility of catching the 6 seed napping in the Big Ten Tournament, probably are IU's only real opportunities to win again this season. The Purdue game, while nearly a certain loss, will be an opportunity for the Hoosiers to try to stay close to a better team that will be looking to humiliate them.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Illinois game, take 2.

Illinois fighting Illini
Current record: 20-5 (8-4)
Current RPI: 13
Current Sagarin: 13
Current Pomeroy: 22
2007-08 record: 16-19 (5-13)
2007-08 RPI: 99
2007-08 Sagarin: 73
2007-08 Pomeroy: 40
Series: IU leads 82-79
Last IU win: 2/7/2008 (83-79 in Champaign, double OT)
Last Illinois win: 1/10/2009 (76-45 in Champaign)
Last Illinois win in Bloomington: 2/3/2004 (51-49)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 1pm Saturday, CBS

After a horrific 2007-08 season, Illinois is in the best position of the three four loss Big Ten teams (Purdue and Ohio State are the others) to mae a run at 2-loss Michigan State. As sadly goes without saying this year, Illinois cannot afford to lose to IU. While the Hoosiers have been competitive in all but two of their conference games this season, the trip to Champaign was the least competitive of the bunch, and like the trip to Kentucky, the game at Illinois was effectively over by the first TV timeout. IU has been competitive at home, losing by no more than 12 points, but Illinois probably is the best team IU has faced at home.
Illinois has been excellent defensively. The Illini currently rank #7 in the nation in defensive efficiency and are the best in the Big Ten in that category in league games. The Illini force opponents to turn the ball over on 22 percent of possessions and rank #5 in the nation in three point defense. Illinois does not stand out as a rebounding team. The Illini rank #7 in offensive rebounding in league games and #8 on the defensive side. IU is ahead of the Illini on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Illinois has been respectable but not great from behind the arc, shooting 35 percent, but the Illini made 13 three pointers in the blowout in Champaign. Withstanding the Illinois defense and finding a way to stop Trent Meacham, who went 7-9 from behind the arc against IU, will be key. Meacham and Dominique Keller, who made 4-4 against IU, both shoot over 40 percent from behind the arc.
The trip to Illinois was IU's third worst turnover performance of the conference season, second worst in terms of offensive efficiency, and second worst in defensive efficiency. On the other hand, IU's offensive and defensive rebound percentages were IU's second best of the season. If IU can continue that trend but do a better job containing Illinois's three point shooters and find some looks for their own, is it crazy to think IU can compete? I do think IU can and will compete. That has not been the problem this season. I expect a game decided by a single digit margin, but Illinois is deservedly favored.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Minnesota 62, Indiana 54.

Playing without Devin Dumes and despite 26 turnovers, IU managed to make a game of this one and even led briefly during the second half. The main distinguishing characteristic of Tubby's first two Minnesota games has been the ability to ugly things up. Of course, this year, the problem is exacerbated, because Minnesota's defensive strengths play into IU's offensive weaknesses. But don't forget last year's win at the Barn. Despite having a much more talented team, IU still managed to turn the ball over (drumroll) 26 times. In last year's game, IU turned the ball over on 35.4 percent of its possession. In the last two seasons, only last night's game (38.6) and the Northeastern loss (36.1) have been worse than the 2008 trip to Minnesota. As painful as it was to watch that spectacle last night, this may become the usual pattern in Minneapolis.

Neither offense looked very good, but the Gophers' shooting was even worse than IU's. The difference is that because of a +7 turnover differential and tremendous offensive rebounding by Minnesota (48.5 percent of their own misses), the Gophers attempted 55 field goals to IU's 37.

Verdell Jones, despite 5 turnovers, was very effective. He scored 18 points on 8 attempts, thanks to 8-8 from the line. Nick Williams scored 15 points on 7 shots because of 5-6 from the line. IU began the game 1-6 from the line but made 15 of its final 16 free throw attempts. Malik Story was fine offensively (9 points on 8 shots, but 5 turnovers). Most significantly, he played 24 minutes, in a road game no less, and committed only one foul. That's progress.

On the downside, Tom Pritchard may be hitting the wall. He hasn't scored in double figures in the last five games. Last night, he didn't score and fouled out in 27 minutes. Ditto Daniel Moore. Again, all of these guys are bearing more burden than any freshman typically has to bear. Still, 5 turnovers and 4 fouls in 13 minutes isn't a good output for a guy who doesn't shoot.

IU plays at home against Illinois on Sunday. It will be the Illini's first trip to Bloomington since last year's game in Champaign, and it will be interesting to see how the crowd greets Bruce Weber and Chester Frazier.

The Daily Gopher's take is here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

IU and UVa agree to home-and-home.

A few weeks ago, South Florida opted out of its scheduled 2009 trip to Bloomington, and now Virginia has become the final piece of the football scheduling puzzle. IU heads to Charlottesville this season, and the Cavaliers come to Bloomington in 2010. No date was announced, and UVa's ACC games all are listed with dates to be determined, but the best guess seems to be that the game will be on October 10.

IU's schedule will be a bit tougher this season. IU still plays Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky, Akron (it's not clear if this game will be at home or on the road), and Western Michigan, but the addition of a BCS conference road game at least will keep us off the "worst schedule" lists. Also, IU drops Michigan State and Minnesota in favor of Michigan and Ohio State.

As for Virginia, former Jets coach Al Groh now is entering his ninth season in Charlottesville. Groh has won 56 percent of his games there, although he hasn't been quite as successful as his predecessor, the underrated George Welsh. Groh has led the Cavaliers to five minor bowl bids in his eight season there. After a Gator Bowl bid in 2007-08, UVa fell back to 5-7 last season. Groh is 2-2 against Big Ten schools, with a bowl win over Minnesota, a home win against Penn State, and road losses to Penn State and Wisconsin.

I have mixed feelings about this game. If IU, at this stage in the program's development, really wanted to play a BCS conference school, I would prefer a team in the Washington State or Iowa State mold. Still, if IU is a legitimate bowl contender, this is a winnable game. If it's not a winnable game, then IU probably isn't going anywhere anyway. Still, if IU is sitting a 5-7 with a 3 point loss at Charlottesville, there may be some second-guessing.

The Minnesota game, take 2.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Current record: 18-5 (6-5)
Current RPI: 25
Current Sagarin: 32
Current Pomeroy: 48
2007-08 record: 20-14 (8-10), lost to Maryland in first round of NIT
2007-08 RPI: 98
2007-08 Sagarin: 78
2007-08 Pomeroy: 61
Series: IU leads 88-65
Last Minnesota win: 1/25/2009 (67-63 in Bloomington)
Last IU win: 3/5/2008 (69-55 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in Minneapolis: 1/17/2008 (65-60)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 9 p.m. tonight, BTN

IU's home loss to Minnesota was one of the most disappointing of the season. Certainly, the Gophers were justifiably favored, but IU was in the game for the duration, but poor judgment in late game possessions and poor free throw shooting doomed the Hoosiers. Minnesota is 6-5 in the Big Ten and remains in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament thanks to a tough schedule and a nice non-conference win against Louisville. Minnesota is on track to get a bid, but certainly doesn't have much margin for error. And losing this game would be an error. Fortunately for the Gophers, the Barn has been a house of horrors for IU. Since IU's last outright Big Ten title in 1993, IU has won at the Barn only three times, including last season. That makes it among the worst road venues for IU in that time frame, behind Michigan State (0 wins since 1991) and tied with Illinois and Wisconsin. The difference, of course, is that those three schools have been very good during most of that period. In other words, better IU teams have lost to worse Minnesota teams up there.

As I noted before the last game, the Gophers present particular problems for IU because their strength's match IU's weaknesses. Minnesota leads the nation in blocked shot percentage, is #9 in steal percentage, and #44 in defensive turnover percentage. In conference play, Minnesota ranks second to Northwestern in turnover percentage and is the by-far leader in block percentage (over 11 percent of attempts, compared to about 3 percent by IU). The Gophers rank #3 in conference games in effective field goal percentage allowed. The Gophers have struggled a bit offensively in conference, shooting only 41.4 percent from the field (#10 in the conference, one spot behind IU) and only 32.5 percent from behind the arc (IU ranks #2 in the conference at 39 percent). Even Blake Hoffarber hasn't been immune. The Gophers have struggled with turnovers, surrendering the ball on 22.6 percent of their possessions, almost as bad as IU's 25 percent.

It's hard to be optimistic about this game. Minnesota is at home, needs a win, and should be able to disrupt IU's offense. And IU will be playing without Devan Dumes, sitting out the first game of his indefinite suspension for throwing some elbows against MSU and in earlier games.

For the Minnesota side, be sure to check out the Daily Gopher. From the Barn has a preview up, and advocates treating it as an exhibition game, essentially. With Dumes out, Minnesota probably could get away with it, but that seems like an odd perspective considering that the game in Bloomington was within a one point margin with 29 seconds remaining.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Inaugural CBS Sports basketball Blogpoll draft ballot.

Here's my draft ballot for the first basketball version of the Blogpoll. I'll revisit later in the week. This is a draft ballot, and therefore comments are welcome and will be considered. My methodology was to rank the teams based on an aggregate of Pomeroy/Sagarin/RPI and adjust as I saw fit.
4North Carolina
8Wake Forest
9Michigan St.
20Ohio St.
22Arizona St.
23Florida St.

Michigan State 75, Indiana 47.

After a surprisingly competitive first 22 minutes, Michigan State exploded in the second half, and the final score was much as expected. Here's the box score. Of course, the various issues involving Devan Dumes have dominated postgame coverage. My thoughts, now mute thanks to Tom Crean's decision to suspend Dumes indefinitely, were that sitting him down for a game would be warranted. Some commenters on Inside the Hall and in other places were suggesting anything from a five game suspension to dismissal from the team. I think there's a bit of shellshock among the IU fan base and a tendency to overreact. I don't excuse Dumes's actions, but that would be harsh, and I'm guessing that the indefinite suspension (under which Dumes will continue practicing and traveling with the team) will be in the nature of a game or two.

For Dumes, this game included three incidents, any one of which might have been excused, but which taken as a whole (and perhaps with the elbow to the head of Northwestern's Craig Moore a couple of weeks ago) seem to be a pattern that Crean needed to get under control. Elbow number one against MSU was fairly innocuous. Absent the rest of the game, it would have been forgotten. Later in the game, Dumes clearly elbowed Michigan State's Goran Suton in the crotch. KJ of Spartans Weblog had an in-person view of the play and is incredulous that Ed Hightower didn't toss Dumes out of the game after the video review. Eh. While I don't think there's much doubt that Dumes threw the elbow intentionally (i.e., it wasn't part of his running motion), my best guess is that Hightower concluded that he wasn't sure if Dumes intentionally elbowed Suton where he did or if he was just trying (illegally) to get ahead of Suton. Whatever. I didn't see the final elbow of the game, but ultimately, the totality earned a suspension for Dumes, and hopefully he will learn his lesson.
As for the game, IU played its least efficient offensive game since Maui, scoring only .68 points per possession. IU turned the ball over quite a bit, and although the Hoosiers rebounded respectably on the defensive end, MSU took much better care of the ball (only 10 turnovers to IU's 21) and made six three pointers. MSU shot only 42 percent from the field, but IU shot 31 percent. It was a decent enough defensive performance from IU, but was overwhelmed by the Spartan defense.
No Hoosiers stood out much on offense. Verdell Jones scored 13 points on 8 shots thanks to 8-10 from the line. Matt Roth scored 10 points on 8 shots despite only 2-8 from the field.
Overall, this one was unsurprising. Now, IU heads to Minnesota without its leading scorer and then hosts Illinois on Sunday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Michigan State game.

Michigan State Spartans
Current record: 18-4 (8-2)
Current RPI: 4
Current Sagarin: 7
Current Pomeroy: 14
2007-08 record: 27-9, 12-6 (lost to Memphis in NCAA Sweet 16)
2007-08 RPI: 13
2007-08 Sagarin: 15
2007-08 Pomeroy: 15
Series: IU leads 65-44
Last Michigan State win: 3/2/2008 (103-74 in East Lansing)
Last IU win: 2/16/2008 (80-61 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in East Lansing: 2/28/1991 (62-56)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 4 pm, ESPN

While conventional wisdom suggests that the Big Ten does not have a great team this season, but absent an inexplicable home losses to Northwestern and Penn State a couple of weeks ago, the Spartans would be in control of the Big Ten race and in the thick of the one-seed discussion. Of course, Penn State and Northwestern are much better than usual, but it would be interesting to know the highest in the Big Ten standings a team has finished in a season in which it lost at home to both Penn State and Northwestern.

I digress because I don't have much to say about this game. It appears to be IU's second most hopeless remaining game, ahead only of the trip to Mackey in a couple of weeks. This team is yet another example of the classic Izzo formula: good shooting plus excellent offensive rebounding equals an incredibly efficient, if not pretty, offense. On the defensive side, the Spartans excel only at rebounding, but that's enough to make MSU's defense very effective. Unlike matchups against the likes of Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, and even Ohio State and Illinois, MSU seems likely to manhandle the Hoosiers. Currently, the Spartans rank #3 nationally in offensive rebounding, coming up with 42.2 percent of their own misses, and #8 in defensive rebounding percentage, limiting opponents to 27 percent of their misses. MSU doesn't take all that many three pointers, but they choose carefully, ranking #44 nationally with 37.8 percent shooting from behind the arc, and thanks presumably in large part to second chance points, the Spartans shoot over 50 percent from inside the arc. MSU doesn't take particularly good care of the ball and doesn't force many turnovers, but the Spartans play solid field goal defense and rarely allow or miss out on a second chance.

Of course, the subtext in this game is the first conference game between Izzo and his protege, Tom Crean. They previously met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007, and MSU defeated Marquette. Many IU fans will be wondering if they are watching a preview of future IU teams? To some degree, that seems likely. The one thread that runs through Crean's good and mediocre Marquette teams is excellent offensive rebounding. Marquette under Crean never really excelled on the defensive boards the way Izzo's teams do, but Crean's teams also tended to be more perimeter oriented, with more three point shooting, and also look a bit better on turnovers on both sides of the ball.

The only positive for tomorrow is that Raymar Morgan, MSU's #2 scorer and #2 rebounder, will miss his second consecutive game because of walking pneumonia. Still, the Spartans, with Kalin Lucas, Goran Suton, and a host of others, even a competitive loss by IU would be a surprise.

For the Spartan side of things, be sure to check out this preview from Spartans Weblog, one of the finest basketball-focused blogs around. As KJ notes, IU may be starting to show the Izzo-Crean influence already. In conference games, IU ranks #3 in offensive rebounding percentage and #2 in defensive rebounding percentage, and #3 in three point percentage (41 percent, thanks in large part to great games from Matt Roth and Devan Dumes in the last week.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cut down the nets! Indiana 68, Iowa 60.

Here's the box score, in all its glory. Going 1-17 won't be any treat, if it happens, but at least the Hoosiers won't enter next season 0-for-2009 or with a losing streak in excess of 20 games. As it was, IU tied, but did not break, the school record losing streak, and can't break the record this season. That's what we'll take as success this season.
As with everything else in 2008-09, this was not easy. IU had a 20 point lead (49-29) with 11:58 remaining, but with a 31-10 run, Iowa pulled to within 3 points with 44 seconds remaining. Fortunately, the Hawkeyes turned the ball over twice in the last 24 seconds, and IU finally made some free throws and preserved the win.
If my math is correct, this was roughly a 59 possession game, so IU's 11 turnover performance isn't as good as it might appear (around 18 percent, still pretty good for this team). Still, after 5 turnovers in the first 4:08, IU turned the ball over only 6 times in the final 36 minutes of the game. IU's failure to make free throws in the second half gave Iowa a chance to win the game, but the Hawkeyes didn't, and I'll take whatever IU gets this season.
As for the individuals:
  • Devan Dumes was perhaps even better than Matt Roth was against OSU. Dumes scored 27 points on 8-9 from the field (including 5-5 from behind the arc) and 6-8 from the line.
  • Nick Williams scored 14 points on 9 attempts, thanks to 6-6 from the line. He also had 9 rebounds.
  • Malik Story scored 9 points on 8 attempts. Unfortunately, Story committed 3 fouls in 15 minutes, which limited his play. Story is averaging a foul every 7.6 minutes, every 6.8 minutes in Big Ten play. Story has quite a bit of potential, but has to find a way to stay on the court.
  • Tom Prtichard is struggling a bit. He scored only 2 points and fouled out.
  • Fortunately, Kyle Taber picked up the slack with one of his best games as a Hoosier. Seven points on six shots, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks.

Well, that's a relief. We'll leave the 0-fers to Northwestern. IU goes to Michigan State on Saturday, where the Hoosiers haven't won since 1991. Let's worry about that one tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Signing day link.

IU is updating the official site as letters come in. So far, as of 9:38, IU has received 14 of its 18 expected letters of intent. No surprises either way so far.

UPDATE: As the link now reflects, this was an uneventful signing day by modern standards. All eighteen commits signed: no additions, no subtractions.

Iowa, take II.

Iowa Hawkeyes
Current record: 12-10 (2-7)
Current RPI: 88
Current Sagarin: 75
Current Pomeroy: 84
2007-08 record: 13-19 (6-12)
2007-08 RPI: 188
2007-08 Sagarin: 149
2007-08 Pomeroy: 116
Series: IU leads 93-69
Last Iowa win: 1/3/2009 (65-60 in Iowa City)
Last IU win: 1/23/2008 (65-43 in Bloomington)
Last Iowa win in Bloomington: 2/11/2006 (70-67)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 6:30 pm, BTN

The Hawkeyes are in a much different place than when these two teams met a month ago in IU's Big Ten opener. At the time, Iowa was 10-4 with computer rankings squarely in bubble range. Today, Iowa is 2-7 (with home wins over IU and struggling Wisconsin) and probably is more realistically concerned with making the NIT. As for the Hoosiers, IU simply has to win this game. Has to has to has to. In the last game, IU and Iowa were fairly evenly matched, but Iowa's Cyrus Tate had a huge game, not unlike Ralph Sampson, and just about every big man who sees the chance.
Pomeroy says that this is IU's best remaining chance to win, a whopping 25 percent chance. I could spend lots of time breaking down the matchups, but this season is beyond that right now. It's just a must-win.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Signing day eve.

Those who have read this blog for a while know that I'm not much of a recruiting follower. For basketball, I can keep track to some degree, but for football, the sheer number of players recruited as well as the greater difficulty in evaluating football players makes it a mind-numbing exercise for me. That said, Wednesday's signing day looks to be IU's best in years. I've been quite critical of Bill Lynch and the performance of the 2008 Hoosiers, so it's only fair to note that despite the on-field downturn, Lynch managed to hold together a solid recruiting class. While IU did not land any of the highly coveted four star or five star recruits, 15 of IU's 18 recruits are three star recruits, according to Rivals.com. This doesn't put IU in the upper echelon (IU's class currently ranks #58 nationally and ninth in the big Ten, ahead of Iowa and Purdue), but is a dramatic improvement over IU's recent classes. Since 2002 (as far back as the Rivals ratings go,) IU's best haul previously was 7 three star recruits in 2003. In every other season, the number has been between three and five. IU fans often joke that the best way for a three star recruit to turn into a two star is to commit to Indiana, so it is to this staff's credit that this class looks so good on paper.

Also, there is no doubt that IU is employing a close to home philosophy. Of IU's 18 commits, 17 are from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, or Michigan. The 18th is from Pennsylvania, within the Big Ten footprint. It will be interesting to see how IU under Lynch and Purdue, under new coach Danny Hope, compete both on the field and on the recruiting trail. From the looks of Purdue's class, they may not be moving in the same circles. Of Purdue's recruits, 13 are from Florida, none from Indiana, and a single recruit from Kentucky is the only Boiler commit who is from a state that is even contiguous to Indiana.

I don't mean to take this post in a "whose class is better" direction. IU's class is better in terms of star rankings, but there is such a glut of talent in places like Florida, Georgia, and Texas that many talented players are under the radar, and obviously Hope hopes that he has found those types of players. Still, I think Purdue's philosophy is good for IU. One of IU's great disadvantages has been being the #3 football school in a relatively small state. If Purdue simply declines to compete for Indiana kids, leaving IU as the first caller for good players who aren't quite good enough to get offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, etc., that's good. Again, that's not to say that one philosophy or the other is better. But it's long been conventional wisdom that it's tough for IU and Purdue to be good at the same time. In the last 25 years, Purdue was mostly horrible during the Mallory era, and IU was mostly horrible during the Tiller era. If Purdue is going to focus so heavily on outside recruits, that makes it more likely in my mind that both teams could be good at the same time.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ohio State 93, Indiana 81.

Despite one of the great individual shooting performances in IU history, 9 three pointers by freshman Matt Roth, IU couldn't outscore the Buckeyes, who shot 63 percent for the game and 73 percent in the second half. Here's the box score. The IU offense was very effective. IU's 1.15 points per possession is the best IU has done against Division I competition this season. The turnover percentage of 18.1 was IU's lowest of the Big Ten season. Unfortunately, IU's defensive performance was the worst of the season across the board. Really, Roth's shooting masked a 37% shooting percentage for the team, but kept the Hoosiers in the game for about 30 of its 40 minutes.
There's not much more to say about this game. I'm happy to have seen Roth show his excellent shooting ability, and there's no doubt in my mind, as I have said before, that once IU's overall talent level increases, Roth will be a key contributor. Next, IU faces Iowa, the Hoosiers' best remaining chance for a win. We shall see.