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.