Reviewing the first weekend of NCAA tournament action for the four Indiana schools. Only one team has advanced to the Sweet 16- Indiana. Butler won their 2nd Round contest but got beat Saturday by Marquette. Check out my thoughts on the action here. Let me know what you think on Twitter @thadvandeventer.
Archive for Notre Dame
The NCAA Tournament is here. Get yourself prepared for the first weekend of games with my analysis of the four Indiana teams in the field. IU, Butler, Notre Dame, and Valparaiso each have differing situations but some deep run opportunities are there.
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This week we make a call to the bullpen and bring in the big right hander from Arkansas, Jon Pratt. JP is filling for the Coach as he preps for the semi-state this Saturday. We talk all hoops this episode. Thoughts on IU’s Big Ten Championship and their prospects for March. Valpo wins the Horizon League title to earn their Big Dance ticket. Plus other basketball chatter.
State Wide Round Ball Round Up
The month where college basketball becomes king is here. March not only marks the beginning of the end for the season, but it is also gives us some of the game’s most lasting memories. Everything is on the line in March. Where players and coaches can put themselves into the fabric of hard court greatness. As we prepare ourselves for the best of all months, we will take a look at where each of the state schools sit with just a few games remaining.
The Hoosiers are currently ranked #1 in the country- at least until the new polls come out tomorrow. IU has been one of the top teams in the country the entire season. They are an impressive 25-4 overall and sit atop the Big Ten with a 13-3 conference mark. IU had a five game winning streak snapped this week with a four point loss at Minnesota. The loss brings up a stat that some would say is a source of pride while others may give it concern. The Hoosiers are 6-0 against teams in the AP top 25, which means all four of their losses have come to unranked teams. It shows they are capable of winning big games, but could be susceptible to let downs. Although in an effort of fairness, all four of these teams have spent time in the polls at some point this season.
Moving forward IU has just two regular season games left. They host Ohio State on Tuesday for Senior Night then travel to Michigan next Sunday. If IU wins out, they will claim their first outright conference championship since 1993 and first overall since 2002. Bigger goals still are out there for this team. A #1 seed in the NCAA tournament is nearly a certainty and this team has all the tools needed to win the title. IU’s big three (Zeller, Oladipo, and Watford) when they play well together can carry this team on a deep run. After a 26 year drought, could this be the team Hoosier faithful have been waiting for to put six consecutive wins together and hang the sixth banner? Just one story that makes March great.
The Irish have been a little up and down in Big East play but sit firmly in the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame is 22-7 overall and 10-6 in the conference which is good for a third place tie. The Big East has proved to be a tough conference to get through this season with the top teams all going through a tough stretch. The Irish have had their difficulty on the road but the best part of the NCAA Tournament is that all games are played at neutral sites. Coach Brey has them playing a balanced brand of basketball right now. Inside Jack Cooley and Tom Knight have played well and control the boards. The perimeter is controlled by Eric Atkins at the point. Atkins runs the show for ND and has a 2.7 assists to turnover ratio for them.
The difference in the tournament for them may be Jerian Grant though. Grant is an athletic scorer and one of the few guys that can create his own shot. ND should fit somewhere around a six or seven seed when the brackets are revealed. Getting out of the first weekend and advancing past the Round of 16 is a possibility for this team. Coach Brey has not had a lot of success in the Big Dance but this team has enough scoring and rebounding to make a run.
The Bulldogs spent a long time in the top fifteen in the country this season but have come across some rough times over the past few weeks. They have lost five of their last eleven games. The move to the Atlantic 10 has proved to be a step up in competition as BU thought it would be. Their overall record is still good at 22-7, but their conference record of 9-5 is only good for a fourth place tie. Butler has suffered back-to-back losses to the top two teams in the conference- St. Louis and VCU. The VCU was an embarrassing 32 point beat down on national TV.
The good news for Butler is that there are a few games left to get this straightened out. Two regular season games remain plus the conference tournament in Brooklyn. Right now Butler is still going to be in the NCAA Tournament but the question for them is where will they be seeded. A few weeks ago they were solidly a top four seed, but now are probably looking more at a seven seed depending on how the next two weeks go.
Bryce Drew has now won back-to-back conference championships in his first two seasons in charge of the Crusaders. Valpo beat UW-Green Bay yesterday 75-56 to clinch the Horizon League title. They are 24-7 overall and won the Horizon with a 13-3 mark. Winning the conference is even more important in the Horizon League as now Valpo will host the conference tournament throughout their run. This was the same scenario last season, but they lost at home to Detroit in the championship game.
This Valparaiso team is constructed of the same players as last year, but as the saying goes they are another year older and another year wiser. If this team makes the NCAA Tournament, they have all the ingredients for a lower seeded squad that could pull off a major upset. Their top six players are seniors, they have a stud go-to scorer (Ryan Broekhoff 15.9 ppg and probably conference POY), and a very good big guy most “mid-majors” don’t have (Kevin Van Wijk 12.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
The Purple Aces are doing just want they want to be doing heading into March. They are playing their best at just the right time. UE is on a four game winning streak and finished the Missouri Valley regular season in fourth place at 10-8 (18-13 overall). Colt Ryan is their senior scoring machine. He surpassed 2,000 points in his career just a few weeks ago and is averaging 20.0 ppg. The key to their offense is sharing the basketball as they rank 15th nationally in assists per game with 16.1 per.
As we enter March, Evansville’s only chance of making the Big Dance is running the gauntlet at Arch Madness. The Missouri Valley Conference tournament has been one of the most exciting and competitive tournaments throughout the years. This year should be the same. The Aces are playing well going into St. Louis with Colt Ryan leading the way. Three wins in three days has been done before.
Along the same lines as Evansville, the IPFW Mastodons are entering their conference tournament on a hot streak. The Dons have won five straight down the stretch to finish fifth in the Summit League. After a rough start to the season, they finished the regular season 15-16 and 7-9 in the conference. Frank Gaines is the go-to guy. He is averaging 19.5 ppg this season and is one of the top scorers in the conference. As IPFW has gotten hot so has Gaines.
Traveling to the cold weather of South Dakota they will look to stay hot. Gaines will need to lead the way with the help of Luis Jacobo (11.3 ppg) for them to advance deep into the Summit League tournament. Without a tournament championship, the Mastodons could possibly get a CBI bid or may get shut out of postseason play.
Faltering a bit down the stretch the Sycamores lost five of their final six games. They still finished with a 17-13 record and 9-9 in the conference, but finishing in fifth after being tied for first late in the conference schedule is disappointing. Jake Odum has lead this inexperienced team all season. Odum is nearly a lock for MVC first team honors with 14.4 ppg and 4.7 apg.
The best news for ISU might be the new life Arch Madness can give them. Putting together three good games in St. Louis can erase the feeling of these final few weeks. Although they are mostly inexperienced, Coach Greg Lansing and Odum have been there and done this before. Just two years ago they ran through the conference tourney on their way to the NCAA.
This has been a very up and down season for Matt Painter and the Boilermakers. With one week remaining in the regular season they sit one game under .500 at 14-15. Purdue’s conference mark is 7-9 with few good wins and some head scratchers. The Boilermakers are coming off possibly their best win of the season over #17 Wisconsin in Madison. A huge second half effort by D.J. Byrd, Terone Johnson, and Sandi Marcius got PU that victory and even caused Coach Painter to crack a smile.
Now the Boilers role will be of spoiler. Two tournament bound teams (Michigan and Minnesota) are left plus the conference tournament. An unbelievable run in Chicago is their only shot at the NCAA tournament. It will take four wins in four games which will be tough for a team that has been so streaky.
After a rough start to the season, Ball State has played much better the last month. They have won five out of six to get out of the basement of the MAC West. The Cardinals are 13-14 overall, but now are 6-8 in the conference good for fourth in the division. Billy Taylor has found some consistency and hope to keep this going for two more weeks.
Jauwan Scaife has upped his play and is scoring at a high rate right now. Scaife leads the team with 16.0 ppg. With some help from Jesse Berry and Majok Majok, the Cards could make some noise in the MAC tourney. The CBI could be a possibility with a good final two weeks which would be big for Coach Taylor building for next year.
This season has been incredibly tough for the Jaguars. Coach Todd Howard’s squad has struggled with injuries all season long which has resulted in a 6-25 record and just 1-15 in the Summit League. The Jags are mired in a fifteen game losing streak and haven’t won since the calendar turned to 2013. Their last win came December 27th against in-state foe IPFW. The conference tournament is the last hope for IUPUI this season. They are matched up with conference co-champion South Dakota St. in the opener who beat the Jags twice this season.
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It is the end of February now which means basketball teams everywhere are gearing up for their final push. In this week’s podcast, the Coach and I get into some Pacers talk. Are the Pacers the only team in the East that can beat the Heat in a seven game series? Plus in the stretch run of the regular season where do the top college basketball teams in the state sit now heading into the magical month of March. Follow us on Twitter @thadvandeventer, @C_K_42, and @IndySportsCrew.
Join us this week in the Man Room as the Coach and I really go in depth with some basketball talk. Dare I say even some “chalk talk”. The main focus is college basketball with some big games this week for Notre Dame, IU, and Indiana State. We also give a special shout out to the Shakamak Lady Lakers with coaches Troy Fougerousse and B.A. Shipman. Follow us @thadvandeventer, @C_K_42, and @IndySportsCrew.
State Wide Round Ball Round Up
We have reached the beginning of February which marks the midway point of conference play in college basketball. Teams at this point have either put themselves in a good position to make a run at the conference crown or have let some work to do.
The Hoosiers will be back up to #1 tomorrow. #3 IU beat #1 Michigan last night in Bloomington to stake claim to the top of the polls again (with some help from Oklahoma State as they beat Kansas in Lawrence yesterday). The past week has been the biggest of the season for Indiana (20-2) so far. On Wednesday night, they beat arch rival Purdue 97-60. The worst home loss the Boilermakers have ever suffered. Then with the bright lights of ESPN’s College Gameday shining last night the Hoosiers toppled Michigan. Indiana will not only be #1 in the country, but they are all alone in first place of the Big Ten (8-1). They have a very tough second half road schedule so this start was needed to put them in the championship mix. Bigger things could be out there for IU. A possible #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament followed by a deep run once they get there. Hoosier nation at this point is hopeful the continues on until the National Championship game on April 8.
The Bulldogs have gone from an unranked team with numerous questions to start the year to a top ten team. Butler gave IU one of their two losses at the Crossroads Classic when IU was last #1 in the country. The addition of Rotnei Clarke (17.1 ppg) has been huge. Clarke not only delivers consistent scoring but seems to exude confidence that the entire team feeds off of. Clarke has come back from a neck injury that caused him to miss a few games, but even with him out of the line up Butler had one of the most memorable games of the season. College Gameday also made an appearance at Hinkle Fieldhouse and when there Butler’s Roosevelt Jones beat Gonzaga on a last second floater.
Butler is still trying to navigate their way through a new conference. The Atlantic 10 has proven to be a tough league this year. Right now four teams have two losses. VCU leads with a 6-2 record with Butler, Charlotte, and St. Louis a half game behind at 5-2. The Bulldogs have lost two of their last four to fall back to the pack.
Mike Brey is doing it again in South Bend. He has this Fighting Irish team competing at a high level and in the mix for the Big East crown. Notre Dame (18-4, 6-3) sits one game back in the standings. This upcoming week will go a long way in determining ND’s fate as they play at Syracuse on Monday then host Louisville on Saturday. The Irish have been lead by Jack Cooley who is averaging a double-double (15.0 ppg, 11.3 rpg). Cooley along with Tom Knight have given them a strong interior presence and solidifying the back of their defense. Overall, Notre Dame is a NCAA Tournament team, but the question is how far can they advance. They need to get injured forward Scott Martin back but with him is this finally the team that can go deep into March for Coach Brey.
ISU is hanging in the ultra competitive Missouri Valley Conference. The Sycamores lost an overtime heart breaker at Drake last night to fall to 7-4 in conference, 14-8 overall. They sit in third place right now two games behind #21 Creighton and one game behind #15 Wichita State- who they just beat on Tuesday. ISU continues to look for that consistent third option to come along behind Jake Odum and Manny Arop, but they have gotten solid play from several guys. Justin Gant and R.J. Mahurin have stepped up the most to chip in plus have strengthened their already stout defense. With Arch Madness on the horizon, ISU looks to close the conference slate strong to be prepped for a tourney run. There is also one other scenario out there for the Trees to get to the big dance. A strong finish could put ISU on the NCAA Tournament bubble as they already hold victories over #14 Miami and #16 Ole Miss. A date with Creighton at home this week could also add to that resume.
The Purple Aces are scratching and clawing in the MVC. They have let a few games slip away but still sit in fourth at 6-5, 13-10 overall. Colt Ryan is the man for UE. Ryan is averaging 17.8 ppg and 4.0 apg. Without Doug McDermott in the MVC, Ryan would be the favorite for conference Player of the Year. Evansville has some big games left down the stretch- with seven regular season games to go they still play Creighton, Wichita St., and Indiana State again. They have the opportunity to put themselves in a good position for Arch Madness in St. Louis. Plus with a guy like Colt Ryan on board, Marty Simmons’ boys have a guy that can carry them for three days and sneak into the dance.
The Boilermakers are having some struggles recently. They have lost three of their last four games and our .500 for the year at 11-11. They are 4-5 in conference even with their recent woes. The biggest bright spot for the Boilers is the production they are getting from their freshmen. A.J. Hammons was lightly recruited but he is proving his worth. The seven footer from Carmel is averaging 11.0 ppg and 6.5 rpg. He set a career high against IU by dropping 30. Along with point guard Ronnie Johnson and forward Raphael Davis, this core looks like they have bright days coming in West Lafayette. With a spoiler role in mind, Coach Matt Painter is going to try to close the season strong and at least make the NIT.
Bryce Drew has his Crusaders in first place in the Horizon League and looking for their second straight regular season championship. This has even more meaning in the HL as the highest seeded team will host the semi-finals and finals. Valpo lost at home in the championship game last year but with their core crew back again they look to host the conference tourney at the ARC again. Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk are leading the way for VU. Broekhoff is on his way to conference player of the year putting up 16.6 ppg and 8.4 rpg. At 17-6 overall the Crusaders are probably not going to be in the discussion for an at-large berth in the tourney so taking care of business in the conference tournament is there ticket back to the dance.
The Cardinals struggles this season have continued in conference play. BSU has started just 2-6 in the MAC putting them at the bottom of the West Division. Billy Taylor’s squad biggest issue this season has been scoring. They are averaging just 63.8 ppg which is 263rd in the country. To coincide with that the Cards field goal percentage is just 42.4% and they only average 12.3 assists a game. Without question the offense has been a struggle for Ball State, but one bright spot has been senior guard Jauwan Scaife averaging 13.0 ppg. There are still a lot of games remaining and as with everyone else the will get a second chance in March with the conference tournament.
This entire season for IUPUI has been a case study in injuries and how they can affect a team. The Jags have had so many injury issues that in several games they have suited up only seven scholarship players. Putting together makeshift line ups has made it difficult for them to find continuity. Sitting now at 6-19 and just 1-10 in the Summit League is not where coach Todd Howard envisioned his team. One player that has stuck out is Mitchell Patton. The junior big man is pouring in 13.4 points and grabbing five rebounds per game. His improvement from his freshman year has been awesome if you include the fact that he has also been struggling with a foot and leg injury issue.
The Mastodons have had their difficulty in Summit League games thus far. They are just 3-7 in league games and 10-14 overall. They have lost some tight games though where one possession here or there changes the outcome. Frank Gaines leads the team in scoring at 19 ppg and grabs 4.3 rpg. Surprisingly, the Dons only have six regular season games left before the conference tournament. Only a few more weeks to see if they can gain some momentum going into March.
We’re back!!! After a short time off due to the holidays and the birth of Graham, the Coach and I are back in the Man Room talking basketball. We had a ton of college basketball action to catch up on. Indiana and Butler are both in the top 10 plus other teams playing well. Listen and get ready for the weekly podcasts once again. Follow us on Twitter @thadvandeventer, @C_K_42, and @IndySportsCrew.