After a very long hiatus, Indy Sports Crew is getting back to work. The podcasts will start up again this week as football is underway. Blog posts and the weekly “Monday Night Reaction” will also be returning. Rounding back into broadcasting form this week by doing some play-by-play work at the NCSA swim meet at the IUPUI Natatorium. You can view the webcast here. As always stay connected and let me know your thoughts @thadvandeventer.
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Indiana Sports Talk
Top 5 Games of the Weekend
Weekend of March 29
The high school basketball season will come to an end Saturday culminating in the 104th annual IHSAA boys basketball state finals. Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis will be full with fans from different corners of the state to view the marquee stage in high school hoops. Four state champions will be crowned in what is shaping up to be some competitive games. Since all of these games feature good teams, good players, good coaches, and are all for championships I will not list these as they are all great games. I will start with the first game of the day and work my way through the match ups.
Class A #1 Barr-Reeve (26-1) vs. #3 Marquette Catholic (19-6)
Barr-Reeve has been the top ranked team in class A all season long and they are looking to cap it off with a championship. The Vikings are making their fourth trip to the class A finals in the past 12 years and second in five years. Head coach Brian Hughes has built one of the most consistent programs around in his 22 years at the helm in Montgomery. BR is lead by upperclassmen most notably senior Micah Bullock and junior Addison Wagler. Bullock is their leading scorer at 15.6 points a game with Wagler pouring in 15 points a contest. However, the strength of this team is its defense as they allow a state low 39.89 points a game. Marquette Catholic has spent much of this season ranked in the top ten, but didn’t really hit their stride until late January. After a loss to Hammond Noll on January 22 that dropped their record to 8-6, the Blazers have won 11 straight games. Their title game run has been impressive not only by margin of victory, but by teams defeated. MC went through the early rounds winning games by an average of 18 points and beating four ranked teams. It is a balanced scoring attack for the Blazers with three players averaging double digits. Junior Ryan Fazekas (13.4 ppg), senior Richie Mitchell (11.7 ppg), and senior Nathan Flores (11.6 ppg) lead the charge for MC. Both teams are seeking their schools first boys basketball state championship and this one may come down to Marquette Catholic’s ability to handle Barr-Reeve’s defensive pressure.
Class 2A #1 Park Tudor (23-4) vs. Westview (23-4)
Park Tudor is in the midst of a great run of success. They will be playing in their fourth state championship game in five years and are looking to win their third in four years. This coming from a program where before this run only had two sectional and one regional championship under its belt. This run started with the coach and player combination of Ed Schilling and Yogi Ferrell. Now you have Kyle Cox and Trevon Bluiett. Cox is in his first season as Panthers head coach while Bluiett is one of the top three candidates for Mr. Basketball. Bluiett averages 35.6 points and 11.4 rebounds a game. It is not just Bluiett however as this team leads the state in scoring at 81.96 points. Bryce Moore (11.2 ppg) and Austin Shelton (10.5 ppg) also average in double figures. PT has won all of their tournament games by 12 points or more scoring at least 65 points in all of them. Westview is the only unranked team that will be playing in the state finals this weekend. Surprising for a team that lost just four games this season. Mentioning the recent tournament success of Park Tudor, you also have to account for the program’s success at Westview. Since 1973 they have won 17 sectionals, 5 regionals, 3 semi-states, and two state championships going back-to-back for 2A crowns in 1999-2000. The heritage this Warrior program has is impressive and so was their road to Indy. They beat two ranked teams along the way taking out Hammond Noll in the regional and then Lewis Cass in the semi-state. Rob Yoder’s team relies heavily on two talented players in senior Jordyn Bontrager (17.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and junior Chandler Aspy (15.8 ppg, 6 rpg). They only average 60.5 points a game as a team so it will be interesting to see what tempo this game is played at.
3A #1 Greensburg (27-1) vs. #3 Bowman Academy (22-4)
This is probably the marquee match up of the day. Both teams won state championships last year and are two of the most talented teams in the state. Greensburg is looking to go back-to-back 3A championships after a come from behind overtime win in last year’s championship game beating Ft. Wayne Concordia 73-70. The Pirates are an impressive 53-2 over the last two seasons. Coach Stacy Meyer’s team boasts five starters that will be playing Division I college athletics as well. They have three players who average double figures in senior Sean Sellers (20.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Ryan Welage (15 ppg, 6.3 rpg), and Bryant McIntosh (14.1 ppg, 9.1 apg). McIntosh is the true leader and floor general for this squad as they put the ball in his hands and let him run the show. They just got past #2 Guerin Catholic in the semi-state in a high level game where they trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half. Bowman Academy is on an unprecedented run of success in the state tournament. Their first tournament appearance just came in 2009, but since then they have won two state championships and will be playing in their fifth. To go along with that, Bowman is trying to become the first school to win championships in three different classifications (2010 A, 2013 2A). Head coach Marvin Rea has built an incredible program from scratch and became just the second person ever to win the Trester award as a player and then coach a state championship team. More impressively for Bowman is the balanced scoring attack they have. They have four players averaging double figures with junior Davon Dillard leading the way with 17 ppg. Senior Justin King is a force as well averaging a near double-double with 14.6 ppg and 9.3 rpg. These are two of the top eight highest scoring teams in the state with Bowman averaging 77.69 and Greensburg 76.18. This game will feature two talent laden teams that like to push the tempo so this has all the makings of a great match up.
4A #2 Indianapolis Tech (26-2) vs. #8 Lake Central (22-3)
Indianapolis Tech is not only one of the best teams in the state, but in the country. They are not just a good team they are also a good story. Tech is making their first appearance in the state finals since 1966. That year they finished runner-up. They are also carrying with them renewed pride and excitement from the Indianapolis Public Schools. Tech is the first IPS team to reach the state finals since Broad Ripple won the title in 1980. This team is not just a feel good story though. They are incredibly good and talented. Jason Delaney has molded this team for this moment. The Titans have improved each of his three seasons now to be at this level. It doesn’t hurt either when you have a Mr. Basketball candidate in Trey Lyles. Lyles averages a double-double with 24 points and 12.9 rebounds a contest. He is not alone as a big time scoring threat as Jeremie Tyler puts in 16.1 points a night. This team is well coached and very good defensively with a stifling zone. Lake Central is coming off one of their most impressive wins of the season in the semi-state beating Homestead 79-57. The Indians have played at a high level all year and along with Bowman were one of the best teams from northwest Indiana. Head coach Dave Milausnic is in his 10th season at LC and this has been their most successful season yet. They did win their sectional in 2012, but this is just the second time they have advanced past the regional level since 1984. That year the Indians won the championship. Similar to Tech, LC has two main scoring options with Tyler Wideman averaging 15.7 points and Tye Wilburn 12.3 points. The unique part of this match up is that they have already faced each other once this season. Tech beat LC 80-61 back on January 3. Both teams have changed since then, but rare you see teams from different parts of the state facing off for the championship. This game will come down to how efficient and effective Lake Central can be against Tech’s defense and limiting Tech’s fast break points.
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The events of today in the Indiana basketball program sent Hoosier Nation into a tizzy. In the matter of a few hours news came out that several members of the 2013-14 Indiana team would no longer be a part of the program. Freshman Noah Vonleh will be entering the NBA draft, while sophomores Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington, and Johnny Marlin all announced they will transfer. Adding to the mass exodus is the rumor that walk-on freshman players Joe Fagan and Andrew Calomeris will also be leaving the program. This news heightens the fervor of the IU faithful following a disappointing season. But what does all of this really mean?
Obviously the depletion in numbers from today is an issue coach Tom Crean will need to take care of during the spring signing period. That will be the first issue to handle. The Hoosiers already have three incoming freshman signed for next season to fill a portion of the vacancies.
The bigger issue at play here is perception and not production. Yes, replacing the Big Ten freshman of the year Noah Vonleh will be difficult, but that was something that could have been foreseen. The idea of issues within the locker room or problems between players and coaches is more glaring. Cracks in what a year ago seemed to be a strong foundation are now apparent.
Crean has been known as a strong recruiter. Even dating back to his Marquette days when he pulled in Dwyane Wade, Travis Diener, Steve Novak, Dominic James, and Wesley Matthews. He has had strong recruiting classes in Bloomington too. Obviously signing Cody Zeller was the biggest recruiting prize he brought in, but finding Victor Oladipo was a great find. Following those classes up was the “Movement” class. This was one of the most hyped recruiting classes by IU fans which included Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Peter Jurkin, and Ron Patterson. Of these players, only Ferrell has had a major impact. Hollowell is leaving and Patterson never played a game with Indiana and has ended up at Syracuse.
This is not just a “Movement” issue either. Look at the past two seasons for the program. Last season IU did not bring Matt Roth back for what could have been another year of eligibility. The following offseason saw Maurice Creek not brought back and he transferred to George Washington. Remy Abell also left the program moving on to Xavier. Luke Fisher came in this year’s recruiting class but only made it through one semester before deciding to transfer to Marquette. Add all of this up and there may be an underlying problem.
I am not going to say that this is all on Crean and that there is no way the program can recover. I am also not going to say that this is no cause for concern. This could just be a blip on the radar if the incoming class can produce at a high level and Indiana gets back to the tournament. Winning can always cover up your faults. But seeing guys who could and should be four year program guys like Abell and Etherington leave gives your operation a black eye. And to think this does not have an affect on future recruiting would be foolish.
The seat is getting hotter for Crean in Bloomington. These issues do not help his cause and the critics in Hoosier Nation are increasing. Getting the program back on track in 2014-15 is the first major cure all, but that could become more difficult seeing these blemishes rise to the forefront.
Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.
Indiana Sports Talk
Top 5 Games of the Weekend
Weekend of March 22
The best weekend of the year for basketball fans is here. The NCAA tournament kicks off and along with that we enter Final Four Saturday for high school basketball. Four sites will host semi-state games where each team is just one step away from playing for it all on the big stage in Indianapolis. Here is my breakdown of the semi-states.
4. Huntington North
The 2A semi-state gets things tipped off in Huntington with Westview (22-4) taking on #7 Lewis Cass (22-2). Westview may be a bit of a surprise to be playing in the semi-state but they have been solid all year and earned their trip last week in the regional. The Warriors have not lost since February 13 winning eleven in a row. Their regional trip included beating #5 Hammond Noll in double overtime 75-64 and coming back that night with an impressive 69-53 win over Winamac. This is the deepest Westview has been since 2008 and looking to make their first state finals appearance since winning back-to-back 2A titles in 1999 and 2000. Lewis Cass has not lost a game since before Christmas. Their last loss came all the way back on December 13 in overtime to Hamilton Heights 73-70. Cass is actually just 12 points shy of an undefeated record. The Kings have won twenty straight and had a great showing in the regional last week. They took down #3 Wapahani in the morning game 63-62 then came back to beat Tipton 55-47 in the championship. Head coach Jon Kitchel is in just his third season at Cass but already has them playing for just their second trip to the state finals. They won the 2A championship back in 2003.
The second game in Huntington clearly has a favorite and an underdog. #3 Bowman Academy (21-4) takes on unranked Ft. Wayne Dwenger (17-8). Bowman has been one of the favorites all year in 3A which is impressive considering they won the 2A state title last season and were bumped up due to the success factor. The Eagles are looking for their third state championship in as many different classes. They are lead by the one-two punch of Davon Dillard (17 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Justin King (14.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg). These two together are a very potent combo and if Bowman gets the tempo up that will be to their advantage. Ft. Wayne Dwenger is a team that came together at just the right time. After a mid-season stretch where they lost eight out of ten games, the Saints turned it around and have now won ten straight. Their performance in the tournament has been impressive as well. They beat #4 New Haven to win the sectional. Then they got past #5 NorthWood in the first game of the regional before squeaking by Muncie Central in overtime 50-47 to win the regional title. They have shown a lot of guts to get to this point and in a statistical oddity they scored exactly 50 points in their last three tournament wins. The key to this game will be if Dwenger is able to slow the pace and limit possessions for Bowman.
3. Lafayette Jefferson
The first game of the Lafayette Jeff semi-state has the makings of one of the best. Class A #3 Marquette Catholic (18-6) and A #10 Liberty Christian (20-6) will face off. Both of these programs are in unfamiliar territory as neither have ever advanced past the regional, but do not think this stage will be too big for them. Marquette Catholic has been highly rated all season and since the last day of January they have hit their rhythm. They have won ten straight with every game before the tournament being a victory against a team from a higher classification. Their closest game in the tournament was a thirteen point win in their sectional opener over Washington Township. Since that game they have won by spreads of 15, 21, and most impressively 30 in the regional final. Liberty Christian is looking to put a cap on a great three year run by making it to Indianapolis. The Lions have won three straight sectionals and finally got past the regional with a big win over Lafayette Central Catholic in the final by ten, 65-55. They too have won every tournament game by double figures with the closest being ten points. Jason Chappell’s crew has a point differential on the season of 22.1 points a game so they are used to running away from their opponents. This one looks to be a tighter game for both so the team who handles the pressure best could be headed to Indy.
Game number two in Lafayette features one of the top teams from the Region and one of the semi-state surprises. 4A #8 Lake Central (21-3) will battle Homestead (20-7) in a game that will showcase two promising post players. Lake Central has been a ranked team all season long and their tournament run has been impressive. In the sectional semifinal, they avenged an earlier loss to East Chicago Central at ECC before upending Munster in the final. Then they took out #6 Penn in the regional final by two points. The Indians are lead by star senior Tyler Wideman who averages 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. Wideman will be key in this game not only offensively but defensively with his match up. Homestead has had a solid season but probably a surprise to be playing in the final four. They earned their way here though with a very impressive performance in the Marion regional. In their first game, they took out a hot Kokomo squad by eight points, before holding on to beat #3 Hamilton Southeastern by two. Any team that can escape a regional with those two teams plus #4 Ft. Wayne North deserves to advance. For the Spartans, it has been a youth movement lead by sophomore double-double machine Caleb Swanigan. With just two seniors on the roster Homestead may be a year early to the party, but they have a lot of talent. The match up between Wideman and Swanigan will be the focal point and could decide who advances.
Clay City (20-6) is enjoying the most success they have had since the 1970′s and have advanced to the semi-state level for just the second time in school history (1974). The Eels have won three consecutive sectional championships under head coach Vance Edmondson. They survived a few scares on their road to Seymour escaping an overtime sectional semifinal at White River Valley and holding on for a one point win against Greenwood Christian in the regional final. As is the case in most tourney runs a team will have to survive a few tight games. The Eels are now hoping to turn that momentum around and reverse their fortune against their semi-state opponent. It is rare that you meet a team this deep in the tournament you have faced before, but Clay City played Barr-Reeve late in December at the Graber Post Tournament. Barr-Reeve handled CC 63-33 in that contest leading to three straight losses in the tournament for CC. Since that loss the Eels closed the season winning 15 out of 18. Barr-Reeve (25-1) has been the #1 team in Class A all season long. They have not lost to a team from Indiana all season with their only defeat coming at the hands of Kentucky power team Elizabethtown at Freedom Hall. Coach Brian Hughes has had a team all season that he knew could get to this point and has the ability to win a state championship. The Vikings are lead by two very talented players in senior Micah Bullock (15.5 ppg) and junior Addison Wagler (14.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg). The program that Hughes has down in Montgomery has been built for tournament runs like this, but this team has a chance to do something no other has done- win a state championship. They will be looking for their fourth trip to Indy in the last twelve seasons, but they have yet to cut down the nets. They key to this game will be Clay City’s ability to take care of the ball.
The second game in Seymour will be one of two match ups between the #1 and #2 ranked teams in their respective classes. 2A #1 Park Tudor (22-4) and #2 Clarksville (23-2) will face off in what should be a great game. Park Tudor brings with them one of the top candidates for Mr. Basketball in Trevon Bluiett. Bluiett is averaging some incredible numbers as he pours in 36.2 points and grabs 11.5 rebounds a game. The Panthers also have one of the most prolific offenses in the state averaging 82.2 points. They scored 87 and 83 points respectively in their regional wins and have not played a tournament game closer than twenty points. Clarksville has had a more difficult time getting to this point. The Generals survived two overtime games in the regional, including hitting buzzer beater at the end of regulation in the regional final just to send the game to the extra session. They are lead by two seniors in Calvin McEwen and Andrew Jones who are their catalysts. Their leadership will be a huge benefit for Clarksville as this is the deepest tournament run in school history. Park Tudor on the other hand is looking for their fourth state finals appearance in five years and third championship.
Class 3A has been looked at all season to have three top notch contenders for the state championship. Two of those three will meet in Richmond in a match up of #1 versus #2. #2 Guerin Catholic (22-3) will take on #1 and defending state champion Greensburg (26-1). Guerin Catholic has been battled tested this season by playing one of the best schedules around. They also have one of the best combos in Aaron Brennan and Matt Holba. Brennan averages 16.6 points and 8 rebounds while Holba chips in 15.6 points and 6.9 rebounds. These two upperclassmen along with senior point guard Whit Rapp lead the Golden Eagles. Rapp is your prototypical pass-first point guard and runs an efficient show. There will be a lot asked of these three going up against Greensburg. The Pirates are 52-2 over the past two seasons and have all of their major contributors back from their championship run. They also boast a starting five of all Division I athletes and are mainly all upperclassmen. They have three players averaging double figures in Sean Sellars (20.2 ppg), Ryan Welage (15 ppg), and Bryant McIntosh (14.1 ppg). This game should shake out to be a well played contest and come down to the end. Both teams have senior point guards that will lead their teams. Guerin is looking to get back to the state finals and win like they did in 2012 and Greensburg trying to go back-to-back. Nothing better than #1 versus #2 featuring the last two state champions.
The second game is where possibly the best team in the state will participate when #2 Indianapolis Tech (25-2) battles upset minded Bloomington North (16-8). Tech has been expected to be in this position all season long and have proven it so far in the tournament. They have handled all competition and were not challenged until the regional final against Pike when they came away with an eight point win. Mr. Basketball candidate Trey Lyles is the statistical and emotional leader for Tech. He averages 23.9 points and 13.0 rebounds each time out. It is more than just Lyles though for the Titans as they have a very balanced team. Namely Jeremie Tyler who chips in 16 points a game. The Titans are trying to get back to the state finals for the first time since 1966 and are the favorite right now to cut down the nets. Bloomington North is the biggest underdog in the semi-state round. They came into the tournament unranked and have won every tournament game by single digits. It has been a tough road for North at they beat #16 Columbus North in the sectional semifinal and beat rival Bloomington South in the championship. Then it was a day full of drama in the regional as they got past Franklin Central by five in their first game and beat New Albany on a last second three pointer in overtime 46-45 to win their first regional since 2004. North will need to control the tempo in this game and keep possessions to a minimum if they want to hang in and beat powerhouse Tech.
Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.
Indiana Sports Talk
Top 5 Games of the Weekend
Weekend of March 15
Regional Saturday is upon us. This day always delivers some of the best basketball action of the entire season and can really test a team. Knowing you have to win two games in one day will be taxing both physically and mentally. I am listing the top five regionals based on the teams and competition level at each location.
5. 3A Blackford Regional
This regional may be under the radar for some but digging into the match ups you see that this may be one of the most competitive sites. You start with the two ranked teams in #5 NorthWood (21-2) and #14 Norwell (19-6). NorthWood has lost two games this season by a total of six points. They have not been in the discussion of a title contender with Greensburg, Bowman Academy, or Guerin Catholic, but have the opportunity to make some noise. Norwell is no stranger to this round having just won their fourth consecutive sectional. They were the state runner-up just two years ago so have some experience. The match ups have NorthWood and Ft. Wayne Dwenger tipping at ten with Norwell and Muncie Central to follow at noon. Dwenger has won eight straight games while Central was on a late season slide before getting it corrected during the sectional.
4. 2A Connersville Regional
Three ranked teams will be competing in Connersville on Saturday- most notably #1 Park Tudor (20-4). Also traveling to the Spartan Bowl will be #10 Northeastern (22-2), #12 Speedway (16-6), and upstart Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (13-9). PT has been the favorite to win the state championship since the preseason and following an early February swoon where they lost three out of four has righted the ship and won seven straight. The Panthers will take on Attucks in the first game. The Tigers have won six straight and have topped at least 74 points in four of those. They will need all the offense they can get to beat PT. Northeastern has not lost a game in 2014. Their last lost came back on December 28 and they carry a 14 game winning streak. Speedway is the defending regional champ at Connersville as they have won 11 straight. The Sparkplugs last lost came in overtime by five points to Park Tudor on January 21.
3. A Frankfort Regional
Another regional that sees three ranked teams coming in with #7 Lafayette Central Catholic (15-8), #10 Liberty Christian (18-6), and #13 Rossville (16-8). Per the norm for all sports at LCC, the Knights played a very challenging regular season schedule to prepare themselves for the tournament. Part of that schedule was Rossville who they beat 82-68 on February 21. They will see a rematch at Case Arena tipping off at noon. Those two teams had been doing battle in the same sectional until this year when LCC was moved. Liberty Christian is no stranger to this round of tournament play either. The Lions have won three consecutive sectionals and lost to LCC in the regional final last year. Liberty will battle Seton Catholic in the first game. Seton is coming off their first ever sectional championship and are winners of 11 out of 12.
2. 4A Marion Regional
A top five showdown will take place in one regional semifinal in Marion on Saturday. #3 Hamilton Southeastern (22-3) and #4 Ft. Wayne North (24-1) face off in the second game of the day. Both of these teams finished the season in the top four but did not start there. They have proven themselves throughout the season. Neither of them have lost since holiday tournaments so are riding high coming into the regional. This is the epitome of a toss up game. Do not sleep on the first game featuring Kokomo (16-7) and Homestead (18-7). Kokomo has lost just twice since the first of the year (#1 Carmel and #7 Richmond) and have been playing very well down the stretch. Homestead has played a very tough schedule against the best of the Ft. Wayne area and have closed the season on a high note. They lost three games in February all by single digits. The last of which came to Ft. Wayne North 88-79 just two weekends ago. At first glance this may look top heavy, but this could be the regional that supplies a big upset in the final.
1. 4A Southport Regional
No other regional in the state will have three participants ranked in the top seven. This was does. It also has the remaining favorite in #2 Indianapolis Tech (23-2). #1 Carmel bowed out in the sectional final so most people have turned their attention to Tech now in 4A. It will not be easy for the Titans. They will play #7 Richmond (22-2) in the first game. Both teams have cruised through the regular season and through their sectionals. They should not expect that to be the case Saturday morning. In the other morning game #5 Brownsburg (21-2) will play Pike (14-8). It is rare to see Pike come in as an unranked team but the Red Devils are coming off of their fourth consecutive sectional crown. Brownsburg’s lone losses this year came to #1 Carmel and #3 Hamilton Southeastern. They hope to get another shot at a top ten team in the championship game. This regional not only has the most heavyweight teams in its field but may have the most overall talent including but not limited to Mr. Basketball candidate Trey Lyles from Tech. This should be a players regional where winners will be decided on the court.
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Following a loss in the regular season finale to Northwestern 74-65, Matt Painter turned some heads with his post game comments. This season did not turn out as many Purdue fans had thought and for that matter as Painter thought it would. It was obvious that he had hit his breaking point. Reacting not only to this season, but to his players and the state of the program after their sixth straight loss. Here is what he said:
“It’s my fault.” ”It’s my job to get guys to play together. It’s my job to get guys to play hard. It’s my job to get guys to play smart and we don’t do any of those. So it’s my fault.”
“When you start off, people will always give you a break, but when you’re somewhere for nine years, they shouldn’t, they absolutely shouldn’t because it is my fault that we are in this position.”
“I haven’t gotten them to understand playing together, and getting that and having that being contagious and moving the basketball and sharing the basketball not only helps your offensive game but also helps your defensive game because you get a better shot,” said Painter. “When you get a better shot you set your defense and when you set your defense it limits their transition opportunities.”
“We have to recruit a more unselfish player. We have to recruit a tougher player,” said Painter. “We have some of those guys in our program and some guys we don’t-we’ve got to get that out of them or maybe this isn’t their place.
“That’s my fault. This isn’t a school district. I recruited these guys, so the position that we’re in is my fault.”
It is clear that Painter let his true feelings boil over in the press conference. Even when struggling most coaches do not air all of their grievances to the media. So what did this mean in the short term and what will be the repercussions down the road?
In the short term this could be another way Painter is trying to reach his players. They were a young team coming into the season, but never really grew out of that mold. It is difficult to see a team that does not show improvement throughout the season. This could be a motivational tool for one last charge in this week’s Big Ten Tournament. Also in the short term, this could be a chance for Painter himself to reevaluate his performance. How can he do better with the pieces he has? It is easy to point out the reason why you had a disappointing season, but it is more difficult to self-analyze what you could have done differently. I think that was a big reason for this rant. He is trying to not only get the best out of his players. He is trying to push himself to get better.
The long term affects of this are easy to see. The Purdue faithful were already grumbling about the state of the program. This will be two consecutive years without even an NIT bid. This press conference will crank up the heat on Painter. He would have been in trouble if they had a similar season next year, but now he has basically put himself in a make-the-NCAA-tournament-or-your-fired position.
The second thing this does is set in motion changes for next season. Painter knows that this team did not play well. He knows that he needs to get them to buy in. He knows that he needs to get them to play “Purdue” basketball- defense, hustle, intensity, toughness. These were all the traits that made the teams in the Keady and early Painter eras successful. These are the things the fan base wants to see. This should make them get back to the basics and find a way to sell these players on believing in true Boilermaker basketball.
Matt Painter has given himself one offseason and one regular season to turn this around. His own comments have given himself a deadline-Selection Sunday 2015. A year from now we will know if this press conference and re-dedication to the program paid off.
Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.
Indiana Sports Talk
Top 5 Games of the Weekend
Weekend of March 7-8
This may be the busiest and most exciting weekend for high school basketball. Boys sectional action tipped off Tuesday to officially begin Hoosier Hysteria leading up to Saturday night when 64 teams will cut down the nets as sectional champs. Adding to that the IHSAA girls state basketball championships will be held Saturday. The Hulman Center in Terre Haute will host the four title games featuring some of the state’s powerhouse programs. With so much going on, I was forced to once again expand the top games this week. Starting with the top five sectional final fours this weekend and then the girls state championships.
Sectional 10 at Lawrence North- #2 Indianapolis Tech, #14 Lawrence Central
Sectional 26 at Indianapolis Marshall- #2 Guerin Catholic, #9 Brebeuf Jesuit
Sectional 29 at Greensburg- #1 Greensburg, #8 Batesville
6. Sectional 42 at Broad Ripple
This 2A sectional not only features the #1 team in Park Tudor (18-4), but also has all four semifinal squads with 13 wins or more. Park Tudor is definitely the favorite in this sectional and in the state tournament. Their biggest threat here could come in the championship game against #9 Indianapolis Scecina (17-5). They too have spent most of their time in the top ten this season. Park Tudor faces Indianapolis Shortridge (14-7) in the first semifinal with Scecina matching up with Indianapolis Howe (13-7) in the second. Howe could be the sleeper here.
5. Sectional 30 at North Harrison
This sectional opened up with three teams ranked in the top 13. One of them has already fallen as Silver Creek (13-8) beat #13 Madison on Wednesday night. Still remaining are #6 Corydon Central (19-3) and #7 Brownstown Central (19-3). BC will play underdog Charlestown (6-15) in one semifinal and Corydon will face upset minded Silver Creek in the other. A sectional final with BC getting the winner of that second contest would be extremely exciting.
4. Sectional 40 at Lapel
It is rare to see two twenty win teams face off this early in the tournament, but could be the case Saturday night. This 2A sectional features the #3 team in the state Wapahani (20-1) and the #4 team Frankton (20-2). Frankton was the only team to beat Wapahani and that came all the way back on December 27. Before we get to a top five showdown there are two very interesting semifinal games. The opener has Wapahani facing the host Lapel (14-8). The second tilt sees Winchester (12-6) take on Frankton. Don’t sleep on Lapel or Winchester as they are solid teams, but a match up of highly rated teams would make for a great championship game.
3. Sectional 49 at Morgan Township
Normally when you talk about this part of the state you talk about the big boys, but lest you forget the overall quality of basketball in northwest Indiana (The Region). This sectional is a perfect example and could be the toughest slate of any this weekend. All four teams remaining are in the class A top 15 poll including two top five teams. The first semifinal pairs #3 Marquette Catholic (14-6) against #15 Washington Township (16-5). Marquette has been a top five team most of the year and would probably have been the favorite coming in. The second semifinal has #15 Gary 21st Century (14-5) taking on #5 Kouts (16-4). Obviously whoever comes out of this sectional will have earned their regional trip.
2. Sectional 8 at Noblesville
Year in and year out this is one of the top sectionals in the state. It also still has that local flavor to it like the old days with five of the teams located in Hamilton County and then add in local rivals Zionsville and North Central (Indianapolis) into the mix. This sectional is also the only sectional to have three top ten teams in it. Starting with #1 Carmel (20-1) who is the two-time defending state champion. This sectional also has #3 Hamilton Southeastern (20-3) and #9 North Central (16-6). Don’t forget about the fourth semifinalist who is the host Noblesville (14-6), a team that has won six out of seven. The Friday night match ups should be great with Noblesville challenging HSE and Carmel against North Central. The competition level will be high and it will be interesting to see if anyone can take out defending champ Carmel.
T1. A #4 Vincennes Rivet (22-4) vs. A #1 Oregon-Davis (22-2)
This state finals showdown features two of the best girls programs in the state. Vincennes Rivet is making their fifth title game appearance in the last six years. They won the championship back in 2011. They have won 12 in a row coming into this game beating 3 top ten opponents in the tournament already. Oregon-Davis may not have the state finals appearance of Rivet, but a lot of that is because they couldn’t get past the hurdle of Ft. Wayne Canterbury. With Canterbury moving up to 2A, the door was open for OD. The Bobcats won the 2007 state championship and this is their first return trip since. They lead the state with an average margin of victory of 35.5 points a game.
T1. 2A #1 Heritage Christian (26-1) vs. 2A #3 Ft. Wayne Canterbury (20-4)
The second game of the day in Terre Haute could be the best match up. These are two of the most dominant programs over the past decade. Heritage Christian is back in the state finals for the first time since 2009 when they capped off an unprecedented four-peat of championships. Head coach Rick Risinger is looking to become the first girls coach to win five state championships. Ft. Wayne Canterbury had dominated class A girls basketball over the past six years winning five state titles in that stretch. Moving up a class due to the tournament success factor did not slow down this juggernaut. They have rolled through the tournament this far winning all of their games by double figures.
T1. 3A #2 Evansville Mater Dei (26-1) vs. 3A #6 Western (22-3)
Evansville Mater Dei is in a familiar place but at a different time. The Wildcats have one the last two 2A state titles so they were moved up due to the tournament success factor playing in the evening session this time around. Mater Dei is riding a 19 game winning streak into the finals. Their championship game experience could be an advantage in this contest. Western is the underdog in this game simply because Mater Dei has been there and done that, but don’t look past the Panthers. They have won 13 of their last 14 games and have an average point differential of 21.7 a game. The program’s history may not be strong, but this team’s talent is and they will come with confidence on Saturday.
T1. 4A #2 Bedford North Lawrence (26-1) vs. 4A #4 Penn (25-1)
The Bedford North Lawrence Stars may be known more by casual fans due to their coach, Hoosier legend Damon Bailey, than their actual ability, but when you see them play you know why they are competing for back-to-back state titles. BNL has a roster filled with talented players many will be playing Division I college basketball down the road. Saturday will see their third consecutive game against a top four opponent so it has not been an easy road for them. They come with a record of 54-1 over the past two seasons. Penn is playing for their first girls basketball title , but this will be their second trip in four seasons. The Kingsmen are hot having won 16 straight to earn a trip to Terre Haute. They do it on the defensive end holding their opponents to just 33.5 points a game. That will be key to keep BNL in check. Surprisingly this will be the first ranked opponent they will have faced in the tournament.
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The Indiana Hoosiers have won three of their last four games bringing their season back to respectability. But is IU playing themselves onto the bubble and into the NCAA tournament? Yes and no are both acceptable answers to this question. I wanted to take a look at the case both for and against the Hoosiers as a legitimate NCAA tournament team and how they can get there.
The case for the Hoosiers is not as long as the case against. Fortunately for IU that is the case with most of the teams on the bubble. The bubble is weak this year which is why IU may get consideration anyway. The biggest selling point is quality wins. They have four wins against top 25 teams in the poll- #3 Wisconsin, #10 Michigan, #20 Iowa, and #22 Ohio State. The last two coming just last week. Those two victories also helped their strength of schedule which has risen to 54. Clearly not the best schedule but that is on par with most of the other bubble teams. The Ohio State win also came without the services of Noah Vonleh who sat out due to a foot injury. If the selection committee takes into consideration losses when players are out injured, should they consider wins in the same situation. Winning without one of their best players could give them a little extra credit.
The last thing that is a selling point for IU is their list of bad losses. Although they have four losses to teams outside of the RPI top 100, the worst they have done is a loss to #129. Theoretically these losses could be worse dragging them down farther. The fact that three of those four losses came in conference also maybe helps, but losing two of them at home probably negates that notion. One positive left is their remaining schedule. In the Big Ten, you get more opportunities to impress and IU has to take advantage of that now. This week they play Nebraska, a fellow bubble team, and at #12 Michigan plus the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis next week.
The case against the Hoosiers may be stronger right now, but as I stated before this is a weak bubble so they have a chance to play their way in. The biggest case against them is overall record and perception. Sitting at 17-12 overall and just 7-9 in the conference is not a strong position. A losing record in any conference is tough to overcome and when you couple that with the weak non-conference slate the Hoosiers went through that does not help. IU’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks 207. Bad losses can hurt Indiana as well. As stated before losing four games to teams outside the RPI top 100 is where IU sits now. That is not all bad but the fact that two of those took place at home really hurts. The next blemish is the record away from home. The Hoosiers are a lackluster 3-9 away from Bloomington with just two wins on an opponents’ home court. Those are not quality road wins either against Penn St. and Northwestern (the two teams outside the top 100 that won at IU).
Lastly the biggest strike against IU’s resume is their RPI. This is one of the major factors the selection committee will review. An RPI of 77 is very poor even on this soft bubble. Most of the other bubble watchers have RPI’s at least in the 50′s. A lot of this goes back to the weak non-conference schedule they played and the lack of a quality win out of the conference. Yes, they have four rock solid wins against ranked opponents, but in the only three outings against power conference teams outside of the Big Ten the Hoosiers did not get a win. One of those against a below average Notre Dame team on a neutral court. Losing by one to UConn in Madison Square Garden and getting pummeled on the road at Syracuse are good character building games but in black and white on your tournament resume the committee will not care.
So how does IU sneak into the dance? One may suggest having a friend boost you in through the bathroom window or you could play your way in. As mentioned before, they have two regular season games left plus the conference tournament. I believe they will have to win both games this week and then get at least to the B1G semifinals to have a chance at an at-large bid. Beating fellow bubble watcher Nebraska at home is where they have to start. That could also hurt Nebraska’s chances helping yours in the process. Then winning at #12 Michigan to close out the conference would be a huge victory. That would give IU at least one big road win on the docket to use as leverage. Finishing 9-9 would give them a seed anywhere between 4-8, but they will probably get 6 or 7. Playing the opening Thursday against one of the lesser teams in the conference is a must win. Coming back on Friday against Wisconsin or Michigan St. and getting a win is really when tournament talks can start. The semifinals would be a toss up by then possibly playing Michigan again. Winning these next four gives IU a six game winning streak and would put their record at 21-12 going into a semifinal game. If they can get to that point then I think they will have a serious tournament resume with five of those six wins coming against possible tournament teams.
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Indiana Sports Talk
Top 5 Games of the Weekend
Weekend of February 28-March 1
This is an interesting weekend in high school basketball. The regular season for the boys schedule will conclude while sixteen girls teams will be competing for semi-state titles. Boys’ sectional action will start up on Tuesday across the state and next Saturday four girls’ state championship games will be held at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute. With so much going on, I decided this week to list my four favorite boys and girls games.
4. A #1 Oregon-Davis (21-2) vs. A #7 Lafayette Central Catholic (19-5)
3. A #4 Vincennes Rivet (21-4) vs. A #8 Jac-Cen-Del (19-3)
2. 2A #3 Ft. Wayne Canterbury (19-4) vs. 2A #5 Tipton (18-4)
1. 4A #1 Lawrence North (25-1) at 4A #2 Bedford North Lawrence (25-1)
The only thing more you could ask for is that these two teams could have met in the state finals. Both are competing in the south portion of the bracket so instead we get this game in the semi-state. Still you cannot complain. These have been the top two girls teams all season. This game is actually a rematch as well with Lawrence North topping BNL 59-49 back on January 10th. Since then the Lady Stars have rolled off 12 straight wins and have not had a tournament game closer than 14 points. Lawrence North had their lone set back the night after beating BNL losing to Pike 53-50. They ride an eleven game winning streak into Saturday, but have been tested already in the tournament. Their last three games have all been decided by single digits including the third match up with Pike in the regional final. This game should be a great one. Both teams are stacked with talented players. The slight edge may go to BNL since they will be playing this game at home.
4. 4A #4 Ft. Wayne North (20-1) at Homestead (15-6)
Ft. Wayne North may be the least publicized one loss team around. The Redskins have steamrolled opponents this season winning by an average margin of 18.1 ppg. The only loss on the record came nearly two months ago to Columbus North 59-54 back on January 4. Since then they have rolled off ten straight wins and are closing the season strong winning their last three games by an average of 35.6 points. Head coach Shabaz Khaliq has his team peaking at the right time and hoping to carry it into March. Homestead has quietly put together a very nice season. They finished second in the Northeast Hoosier conference and with the exception of their season opening loss at Huntington North have lost all other games by eight points or less. For head coach Chris Johnson and the Spartans a victory over North could propel them for a deep tournament run. This game will most likely come down to the Homestead defense. If they are able to slow down North’s offense, they could make this interesting.
3. 4A #12 Evansville Reitz (16-4) at 3A #16 Evansville Bosse (12-6)
This game has a lot of excitement surrounding a regular season finale with sectionals just around the corner. Evansville Reitz is looking to tie Evansville Bosse for the Southern Indiana Conference title with a win Friday night. Reitz has won seven straight games and nine of their last ten. As was talked about last week in the top 5 games post, Reitz head coach Michael Adams may have his best he’s ever had at Reitz. Bosse is maybe a little more under the radar but have been playing extremely well since the middle of January. They have won eight out of ten with back-to-back losses coming two weeks ago to Castle and Jeffersonville. Perry Fairrow is the man for Bosse as he is averaging 27.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Shane Burkhart’s crew knows how to win as they have won three straight sectionals and look primed for another run this year. Would be a huge momentum springboard into the postseason to beat rival Reitz and clinch the outright conference championship.
2. 4A #17 Ft. Wayne Snider (14-6) at 4A #14 Marion (16-4)
Ft. Wayne Snider has lost two out of three but that does not mean they are playing poorly. Before this recent hiccup, the Panthers won eight straight games. Most of those contests came against Ft. Wayne rivals. Now they are looking to end their season on a high note before going in the state tournament. John Todor’s team is used to playing tight games as this one looks like it should fit that mold. Marion finally cracks back into the rankings and they deserve it. The Giants have only lost once in 2014 and that was a four point loss at top ten Richmond to close out January. This has been a family affair this year for Marion as dad James Blackmon has come back to his alma mater to coach. Son James Blackmon, Jr. is averaging an astounding 33.6 ppg while younger brother Vijay is putting in 12.3. The Giants have won eleven out of twelve and look to keep things rolling into the postseason.
1. 3A #7 Brebeuf Jesuit (14-4) at 4A #1 Carmel (18-1)
Brebeuf Jesuit is peaking at just the right time. The Braves have won seven of eight including a win at Park Tudor. The only setback was a two point loss last weekend at Zionsville. For Noah Haynes team this streak has been predicated on defense as they have held five opponents to 58 points or fewer. Brebeuf has balanced scoring with three players averaging double figures, but it is no question they are led by senior guard P.J. Thompson’s 23.4 points a night. Thompson is the straw that stirs the drink but the overall balance and athleticism Brebeuf has makes them a sleeper contender in the tournament next week. What can you say about Carmel that hasn’t been said over the past two and a half seasons? The two-time defending state champions are a favorite again this year to cut down the nets. Head coach Scott Heady’s team does it with great team defense. The Greyhounds only allow 42.2 points to their opponents and are winning by an average of 16.6 points. Offensively it has become the Ryan Cline show. The senior guard has elevated his play this season and is their leading scorer. He is much more than a jump shooter now and is able to penetrate off the dribble. This will be a tough road game for Brebeuf, but a nice season closing match up for both teams moving towards the tournament.
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This has been a roller coaster season thus far for Indiana and head coach Tom Crean. This week coming up has the possibility to make it even more topsy-turvy than it already was. The Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8) will play three games in the next five days all against ranked opponents. Taking a look at the possible outcomes of this stretch and the reaction each would give Crean and Hoosier Nation is an interesting dynamic.
#14 Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5) is up first as IU will travel to Madison tonight. We all know what happened the first time these squads met this year. Yogi Ferrell put on a great performance and IU beat the then #3 Badgers in Bloomington to hand them their first loss of the year. Thursday night comes the make up date from last week’s postponed contest against Iowa after a piece of Assembly Hall’s ceiling crashed down into the seats. The Hawkeyes (19-7, 8-5) are ranked #19 this week. They are coming off a home loss to Wisconsin over the weekend. Then on Sunday, IU will welcome Ohio State to Bloomington to cap off this unbelievable one week stretch. The #20 Buckeyes (22-6, 9-6) are playing much better of late and have won six of their last seven games.
The Hoosiers know this will be a tough week, but let us look ahead at what could be the end result come Sunday evening. The least likely scenario would be the Hoosiers sweep all three games this week. This would do two things- 1) Most of Hoosier Nation would take a step back from the ledge and they would also stop calling for Crean’s head (at least momentarily) 2) The Hoosiers would put themselves back into the NCAA discussion. Three wins would put them at 18-11 overall and back to .500 in the conference. They would also then have five wins over top 20 teams including a sweep of Wisconsin. They would probably not be a lock then, but they would at least be in the discussion and trending in the right direction to close the season.
The next possibility is they win two out of three. Still a very nice achievement for this team, but could still not land them in tournament bubble talks. 17-12 and two games below .500 in the conference is a tough sell to the selection committee. Maybe getting a road win over Wisconsin coupled with another home win over a ranked opponent would help the perception but not likely to sway the committee. The fan base’s reaction would probably be split. Some would defend the team and coach Crean especially if they got a big road win. Plus, that would be three wins out of their last four games which would give the fans hope of a strong finish.
Winning one of the next three could have multiple differences in reaction depending on what was the win. Winning at Wisconsin tonight, but losing the next two at home would be demoralizing to the fans and probably the players. Hopes would be high and then to see them crash down with two home losses would spark more “fire Crean” talk (not like it will ever go away with IU’s fans but it would not be on a full scale alert). Winning one of the two home games would feel like a salvage of this tough week and I don’t think would change the tone of the program or fans. Taking just one win away from this week would not put IU into tournament talks and they would be looking squarely at an NIT bid.
Losing all three games would very nearly be a disaster. Sinking to 5-11 in the Big Ten and hovering one game above .500 overall with just two regular season games left would be a far cry from outright conference champs and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament as they were last year. This is a different team with an overhauled roster, but the expectations were high. If the Hoosiers lose all three games this week, the roar from the fans who dislike Crean would be at an all-time high. This would be a stretch of six losses in seven games and put any postseason bids at risk. This is obviously the worst case scenario, but not out of the realm of possibility.
Now you see the daunting task ahead over the next five days for Crean and IU. Obviously not an easy road with three straight top twenty teams crammed into a short stretch. The question is now how will this week turn out. How will this team respond to the adversity and up-and-down nature this season has been? Will Crean be able to make the right moves and get his team ready for this tough week all the while quieting some of his critics? These are all interesting scenarios with drastically different results and perceptions waiting after each outcome. It all starts tonight in Madison and we will know the situation more clearly Sunday evening in Bloomington.
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