Archive for The Crimson Corner

The Crimson Corner

True Life: I’m An IU Football Fan

It was a sight I had seen many times before. A belligerent 20 year old jumping up and down screaming about my team’s defeat. Their team beat a Big Ten school. In Virginia they jumped up and down while wearing bow ties and salmon pants. In Southern Illinois they jumped up and down because they actually won a game. Last Saturday, for the 3rd consecutive time, Ball State faithful greeted us with a “chirp, chirp” chant led by the previously mentioned 20 year old. Was he wearing Indiana University Kilroy’s paraphernalia? Of course he was. Was this a Ball State student in disguise or was it an IU student that finally gave up? These are questions I pondered as I strolled in the darkness across the tailgate fields that 5 hours ago hosted IU’s 2nd Spring Break of the season.

My group of college friends has lived in a different world than 90% of those who attended IU. Naturally, we enjoyed the tailgate festivities. When it was game time however, the troops were rallied and we marched in to watch the Indiana Hoosiers take the field. The seasons we attended (2004-2008) probably stand to be the height of IU Football over the past 20 years. Did you know IU made a bowl in 2007? That’s right they actually won 6 games in a season.

Since 2004 the following has occurred for IU Program:

- 4 Different Head Coaches

-The tragic loss of Coach Terry Hoeppner

-The best recruit in 30 years Gunner Kiel, likely the four year starter at IU now sits and waits at Notre Dame

-A one win season in 2011

-The cruel joke this year, IU’s promising QB, Tre Roberson, breaking his leg while on his way to a career day

Yeah, this is IU Football. Sadly there are no record books to look back on and remember the good days. The losing culture of this football program is undeniable and seemingly contagious. What makes it even worse is that IU plays in the Big Ten. A conference known for storied, powerhouse programs such as Ohio State and Michigan. Anyone that has followed the Big Ten could remember a string of success for their team. Not this team I’m afraid. Not in my life time.

Is IU Football cursed? Did Branch McCracken sell the soul of the Football Team for glory in Basketball? Ask Kevin Wilson what it’s like. He has the pedigree to do great things, yet here we are on the cusp of another season dedicated to merely serve as closing time for the Tailgate. What’s to blame? One can try and blame the Athletic Department but IU has renovated their stadium and added facilities to try and put themselves as a respectable team. This team just can’t get the recruits and can’t get any momentum.

This isn’t meant to rip IU Football. I truly believe the university wants their biggest money maker to make even more money. For now it seems the only hope for the future might lie in recruiting the youth that play in the Kids Zone during the game. Some of us are still holding on for better days. We can’t last forever though, so let’s hope Branch’s deal expires soon.

Follow on Twitter @IndySportsCrew and @Kipicher.

The Crimson Corner

The New Blue(s)

A new beginning has dawned on Indianapolis as the Colts have made the move for the future. As with the beginning of every season, each NFL fan wonders if their team can make the strides for this year to be the year. Well, maybe not every fan as is the case with this year’s Colts team (and of course the Bills and Jags). It’s a feeling that Colts fans haven’t had in over 10 years. Instead of wondering if this is again the year to break through to the Super Bowl, now expectations have changed. The Colts you knew are gone. The no huddle offense, The Cover 2 and the legend that built Lucas Oil are all gone. It wasn’t a total house cleaning. Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney all remain. They, along with the rest of Indianapolis, have some adjustments to make. Freeney and Mathis will inherit Linebacking duties while Reggie Wayne will find himself lining up somewhere besides the outside of the hash marks since his days as a Hurricane.

The adjustments for the fans need to change significantly as well. The days of 10+ wins every year have passed. For a few years the wins could come at any number. So what should we expect for year 1? The playoffs? Doubtful. The Super Bowl? Nearly Impossible. This season will not be measured by wins and losses but how a team can adjust to a new style, a new system and a system of thinking for the first time in 10+ years. In the past, Peyton Manning could be the difference in 3 or more wins. Now, a rookie (a damn good one but still a rookie) steps in to the shadow of a legend. His preseason was impressive but let’s not forget that even the aforementioned legend himself only won 3 games in his first season. If the Colts hope to eclipse that 3 win mark, it will not just be about the play of Andrew Luck.

In the hopes of gaining the success of a Defense such as the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts went straight to the source with Coach Chuck Pagano. The Colts are attempting to adapt their success on defense after acquiring their schemes and many of their former players. The new faces on Defense should not be a change as every year has pretty much been a revolving door of personnel even during the times of success. What this season will uncover is if the Colts are ready to adopt the attitude and will to become what this team has always lacked, a defense that is feared. The time to bend but not break is over. This is a defense that wants to attack and be feared.

There are still personnel concerns but Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson have shown that they are not afraid to make the moves and spend whatever is necessary to help this team. We’ll need more linemen and more depth pretty much everywhere. 30 of the 53 players on the roster are making their first appearance as a Colt this year. The Colts are going to lose some games badly. They are going to look like a team that is trying to figure itself out. Andrew Luck is going to end up looking like a rookie at times. Time to re-set your expectations and enjoy the wins while we get them this year.

Lucas Oil wasn’t built in a day.

The Crimson Corner

Pacers Can’t Cool Down the Heat

That was fun wasn’t it? Well maybe the first 3.5 games of the series. The ride ended on Thursday as Indiana Pacers were overpowered by the Heat on Thursday. Much like previous Heat wins in this series; the Pacers looked great in the first half only to come unraveled during the third quarter. The Pacers held it close in the third but a two minute stretch by the Heat put the game out of reach. The Pacers failed to take advantage of their strengths over the Heat and LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were simply just too good in all the Heat wins. The Pacers came into this series as a team no one cared or knew about and at the very least they have established themselves as a formidable foe.

It was questionable to see if two players could carry a team through a playoff series but they were enough against the Indiana Pacers. The shots Dwayne Wade were putting in were simply shots that you can’t defend any better. When Wade wasn’t making circus shots LeBron would get great shots in the lane and Mike Miller was knocking down threes. The Pacers won the rebounding battle by 11 and in this series that should mean that you win the game. When everything the Heat shoots goes in however, there are not that many opportunities for rebounds.

What the Pacers could help was the amount of turnovers. 20 turnovers for an NBA basketball team are inexcusable. Half of the turnovers weren’t difficult plays. Passes to the stands and silly dribbling errors cost the Pacers valuable possessions. Many of these ball control issues point to the fact that the Pacers are still lacking a point guard that can properly run an offense. George Hill was too sporadic with his passes and shot selection. Darren Collison dribbled too much and also took too many poor shots. Too many times Roy Hibbert had great post position on a weaker defender and too many times he never got the ball. Clearly the biggest advantage the Pacers had in the series, Hibbert only took 8 shots in Game Six.

David West and Danny Granger did their best to help in Game Six but it wasn’t enough. Granger showed heart and the All IMPORTANT TOUGHNESS in playing through his injury but this series showed Pacer fans what some already knew. Granger is a rhythm guitarist and the Pacers need a lead. They need someone that can take control of a game and get this team a basket when they need it most. Once the Pacers got out of an offensive rhythm they had no clue where to go to get points. Many will questions Frank Vogel’s coaching when the Pacers needed points but it’s hard to control execution and player’s limitations.

The second unit was just not very good Thursday and wasn’t very good the entire series. Barbosa was supposed to increase scoring but had 3 turnovers in 8 minutes. Tyler Hansbrough looks like he’s still in college and gone it seems the player who posted 30 and 15 last year. The Pacers certainly have needs to address this offseason and besides finding a scorer, they need some real depth in the front court and a point guard that can consistently run the offense.

Even without Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat were just too good and the Pacers just weren’t ready to contend with the two superstars. Much like last year’s series against the Bulls, this year’s series was another great step. Three years ago the Pacers were the laughing stock of the NBA and this year they were the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They had the Miami Heat in a state of emergency. Most importantly, the Pacers made people believe in them again. Next year the fans will need to put in the same effort the Pacers are going to make in the offseason. Bottom three in the league in attendance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. There is a great, young core established and Larry Bird will continue to improve this team for next year. So while the Pacers missed their chance to shock the NBA/E!SPN machine, they have the momentum to become a contender for years to come.

Cheers to the Pacers on a great season.

Follow me @Kipicher and @IndySportsCrew

The Crimson Corner

Pacers Fight for Redemption in Game 6

On Tuesday night the Indiana Pacers were simply punked in every way possible. The Miami Heat ran them off of the floor. They ran off the Pacers two best players with injuries. They laid down fouls that would make Bill Laimbeer blush. The foul Pittman laid down would be considered a crime anywhere but the NBA. What did the Pacers do to stop any of this you ask? Nothing. For the last six quarters the Pacers have simply done nothing. The Miami Heat have looked like the superior team and all the credit the Pacers have fought for will simply go for nothing if they give the effort given in game 5.

The first 3 games were about establishing this team’s toughness and showing the Heat that they deserve to be taken seriously. After going up 2-1 in the series, were the Pacers happy to get that far? Larry Bird believes so as he let the entire nation know that his team is S-O-F-T. Granted Miami has 2 of the best 3 players in the league but the Pacers had advantages against this team. Gone is the advantage the Pacers had in rebounding. Gone is the use of the Pacers All-Star Center who is matched up against opposing centers that would be on everyone else’s D-League team. Gone is the vaunted depth and 2nd unit that would wear down the extended first unit of the Miami Heat.

I would like to thank the Miami Heat for their bush league, classless acts on Tuesday night. You left in LeBron and Wade till the end of the game, fine. You ran up the score, fine. You went for the head and the throat of another person on a basketball court, well that goes beyond toughness. That makes you and your whole organization cowards. You want to know why I say the whole organization? Dexter Pittman gave you the wink to let you know. How long was this planned and how many rewards did Pittman claim from his teammates? Haslem and Pittman were rightfully suspended but the message was clear from the Heat. They were tired of being called soft and sent the strongest message of the series to the Pacers. For all the faces Granger and West have been in this series, how do the Pacers respond now? How can you not find motivation in not only being spanked on national television but also watching two of your own almost get knocked out? Myself and Larry aren’t asking you to go out in Game 6 and drop gloves after the opening tip but to work your ass off. If LeBron James or Wade come in to the lane give them a legitimate hard foul. No more lay-ups and no more alley-oops.

The national media has given up on the Pacers. Some of the fan base the Pacers have won back have given up on the Pacers. Game 6 is the true “prove it” game. They want to prove they belong then it’s time to respond. The Pacers have the formula for beating this team and it all starts on defense and on the glass. Cut out the stupid turnovers and run some half-court offense instead of jacking up 35 foot threes. If the Pacers want it more than it is time to show it. Your legendary GM knows you’ve been outworked and he knows you’ve been punked. It’s up to the Pacers now to bring the fight back to Miami and get their respect back. Time to put up or shut up.

The Crimson Corner

 Two is Enough

When LeBron James chooses to be, he is the best player in basketball. While no one can deny he is the most talented, there are times where he refuses to assert himself. Sunday night was not the case. 40-18-9 are numbers that I can barely get in NBA 2K12 yet he was almost to those stats after three quarters. The Pacers were helpless to stop him and as LeBron goes so does Dwayne Wade. His stat line 30-9-6 would be incredible except he was outdone by his own teammate. The Pacers had flashbacks to Game 1 as the Heat turned the series back to a best of 3.

While this game seemed to be similar to Game 1, the biggest problem was that this was a game the Pacers dropped on their own court. The crowd was in a frenzy as the Pacers jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead. Everything they did well in games 2 & 3 was on display early. Roy Hibbert was dominating on offense and defense, the Pacers were getting good shots in transition and they were keeping the Heat off of the free throw line. While Miami scraped back to get it close at halftime, they opened up a 25-5 run in the 3rd. The 3rd quarter seems to be the turning point for every game in this series so far and the 3rd favored Miami on Sunday. When the 4th quarter came the Pacers did their best to shut down the Big Two however they left Udonis Halsem open too many times as the Heat found a third scorer to close the game out.

The playoffs are about adjustments and the Heat made their adjustments; now its Frank Vogel’s turn to respond in Game 5. It’s hard to criticize anything Vogel has done this season but David West and Roy Hibbert needed to be on the court in the 4th quarter and not Lou Amundson and Tyler Hansbrough. When they were brought in with 4 minutes to go the Pacers had no margin for error and the Heat had already figured out they could use Haslem as their safety scoring valve. Additionally, the Pacers lost the most important battles under the rim and on sheer hustle plays. The Pacers have the advantage on the glass and if they can win the rebounding battles they can win the series. LeBron outrebounded West, Hibbert and Hansbrough by himself.

The Pacers have made it a priority to show they are a tougher team but Danny Granger seems to be taking his toughness a little too far. At times, his emotions seem to be getting the best of him and getting ejected from the game isn’t going to help anyone. This team needs him to play better if they are going to win. He is due for a big game and Tuesday night just might be it. David West can handle leading the toughness but Granger needs to focus on his scoring and helping keep Wade and James off of the glass.

Now that it’s a best of three the Pacers have to win the battles they better equipped to win. The Pacers are a deeper team but the second unit needs to step up and play better defense. There is no second squad for the Heat as LeBron and Wade wil,l no doubt, be on the floor for nearly the entirety of the game. The Pacers need to continue to use David West to physically punish James down low. Most importantly for this team is the play of Roy Hibbert. He needs touches down low to stay in the flow of the game and the Pacers need him to be the best big man in the series because that’s what he is.

Let the best of 3 begin.

Follow me @Kipicher and @IndySportsCrew

The Crimson Corner

Gold Swagger Fans the Heat’s Flames

Bankers Life Fieldhouse was a madhouse last night. Indiana now has the team they have been craving since Reggie Miller. If you are looking to hear this team talked about nationally it’s still probably not going to happen. E!SPN and other national sporting markets are more concerned with what the Heat are doing wrong and not what the Pacers are doing right. A 19 point victory served as a message to the nation that the Indiana Pacers are poised to have everyone recognize what’s happening in our “Wannabe Big City.”

You wouldn’t know it E!SPN or Steve Kerr, but the Pacers are the 3 seed in the East. They were one of, if not the hottest, teams in the league going into the playoffs. The injury to Chris Bosh has forced the Heat to match-up in a way that they aren’t comfortable doing. Playing Lebron James at the Power Forward is forcing him to contend with the likes of David West and Tyler Hansbrough, two players that relish contact and have to bring the slightest smirk to Larry Bird’s face. In the first three games the Pacers are mentally and physically beating up the Heat. The toughness of this team is a perfect complement to their fearlessness. They aren’t scared of Miami and have no plans to back down. What do they have to lose? Last year was their first time in the playoffs in over 5 years.

The defense of the Pacers has stifled the Heat. In the last 8 quarters the Heat have scored more than 20 points only once. The Pacers have the big bodies to clog the lane and the depth to wear Miami out. Miami can barely get three players in to double figures while the Pacers starting five almost always are on the fringe of breaking double figures. The ball movement has been Spurs-like and anyone on the court can score (besides Lou). When the game breaks down in to half-court offense in the final quarter only Wade or James is going to take that shot. The Pacers are going to find the guy that is open. Additionally, David West has provided an incredible amount of leadership and Roy Hibbert is playing like the All-Star he is.

The Heat are not 100% right now. They have guys injured. The main injury is obviously Chris Bosh and exposed that the problem for the Heat is that their roster doesn’t have enough talent or chemistry beyond the “Big Three.” They were a group of three All-Stars and whoever else they could afford. They truly were the “Big Three” and now they are the “Big Two.” Granted the “Big Two” are two of the top three players in the league but can 2 take down 10? Thursday was so bad that Chalmers had to pretend to be Wade. Lebron went to the Heat to defer, to not have to singly carry the burden of being the guy in the playoffs. He has Wade to be that killer at the end of games. He has Wade to be the vocal leader because the Heat are his team. After last night, it appears that no one is sure whose team it is. Erik Spoelstra certainly isn’t in control and got put in the corner by Wade last night. Wade came off last night as a selfish child who looked sloppy and had no desire to hustle or compete in the 2nd half of the game. He snapped on his teammates and is showing a side that truly puts his ability to lead, and even be admired, in question. James can try and smile and shake hands in the last minute but behind that smile hides doubt. A doubt that the Heat never imagined they would face 3 games into an Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Sunday is going to bring back a desperate team in the Miami Heat. They were thoroughly embarrassed in almost every way possible on National Television and will be more focused than ever. They still have the best player in the game in James but his Batman is quickly turning into Blankman. Their depth is killing them and the rest of their roster is full of players that would probably qualify as “Players to be Named Later” in a trade. The Pacers defense can’t give an inch however as James and Wade have shown they can outscore the entire Pacers team in a half. This will probably be a seven game series but Friday serves a day for the Pacers to continue the Gold Swagger.

The Crimson Corner

The Empire Struck Back

Friday night marked the end of the road for the Indiana Hoosiers as they were defeated by Kentucky 102-90. The highly anticipated rematch was one of the most exciting games of the season and had no shortage of offensive firepower. When it came time for a defensive stop however, the Hoosiers simply couldn’t muster enough energy and were outmatched by Kentucky’s size and athleticism.

Right from the start Terrance Jones sent the message that Kentucky didn’t forget their last matchup in December as he powered his way to a quick five points. Indiana responded well and the teams continued to trade blows throughout the first half. With four minutes remaining the first half, IU took their only lead of the game. Less than two minutes later Kentucky grabbed the lead and put a cap on what could have been the most exciting half of basketball I’ve seen this season.

It would have been but there was a variable that has affected the play of many games this year and that was the officiating. I normally don’t like to rant and rave (in writing anyway) about the officiating because I somewhat understand what these guys go through. I officiated six years of basketball at Indiana University and the University of Florida’s Intramural Programs as well as at the High School level. By no means am I Lil’ Ted Valentine but I know enough to understand when the officials are taking away from the game. This season’s officiating, as a whole, has been subpar. Specifically reasons: officials taking control of games, inconsistency on how they will call the game from half to half and breaking up any type of team momentum by using the replay monitor as their crutch. By giving Anthony Davis and Cody Zeller each two early fouls, the officials robbed everyone of the premier matchup of the game. (Both players only played 25 and 27 minutes in the entire 40 minute game.) The second foul on both players were fouls that just weren’t there. For better or worse, it changed the way both teams wanted to play in the first half.

The second half picked up with Kentucky taking a lead and basically never looking back. IU did their best to keep it close but Kentucky was just too big and too physical for IU to matchup with. The frantic scoring pace remained the same but strong offensive sets broke down into Kentucky fast breaks and scrambles for rebounds and loose balls. When those rebounding battles took place, IU was no match for Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrest and Terrance Jones. With the entire Zeller family down low, IU had a chance. When the threes weren’t going in however, IU couldn’t muster the inside presence to compete with the superior athleticism of the Wildcats.

The officiating didn’t exactly improve in the second half as IU lost their best defender and off the dribble threat when Victor Oladipo was called for a fifth foul that could be described as laughable with over 5 minutes remaining in the game. Additionally, Kentucky shot an incredible 37 free throws during the game. Is that the officials fault or IU’s? Might be a little bit of both but IU had no answers for Kidd-Gilchrist or anyone that decided to put up an attempt inside. To Kentucky’s credit, they fixed the problem that might have been their downfall in the first meeting and that was making free throws. UK made an incredible 35 free throws and shot 94% from the line.

Don’t get me wrong, the officiating wasn’t good but Kentucky won this game outright. Indiana did what they could and put up a great effort on offense as Christian Watford, Oladipo and Cody Zeller provided an incredible amount of scoring. When you give up 100 points to the #1 team in the nation, however, you are going to lose every time. While the pace of the game dictated some of the lack of defense, it was IU’s inability to make a stop or create a turnover when they needed to most. Kentucky is too big and too good and you need a near perfect game/game plan. The first meeting in December was just that and IU was the better team that night. This was a different and more mature Kentucky team and the night that mattered most this year belonged to them.

Follow me @IndySportsCrew and @Kipicher

The Crimson Corner

The Empire Looks to Strike Back

Tonight will bring the most anticipated game thus far of the tournament. Yes, it is a bias opinion but what were the odds that the upset of the year would be replayed again in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament? These two programs are two of the most elite, blue-chip programs in college basketball history. Most importantly these two teams are bitter rivals. Kentucky is looking to validate their talent and their coach with a National Championship. The Hoosiers are looking to continue a season that can only be described as miraculous.

If you turned on your TV today you were reminded of the result of the first game. That game, however, was played by two different teams that won’t be on the court tonight. Kentucky is a team that plays out a normal 4 year college career in one season, as most of their players will leave after their Freshman Year. This team is composed of players that have matured and grown into their potential and giant, grown-man, 18 year old bodies. Besides an SEC Championship loss to Vanderbilt, the Wildcats have been unscathed after IU. Anthony Davis has transformed from an awkward freshman to the awkward Player of the Year. Defensively he is a nightmare inside and offensively he can do everything from post-up to step out and hit the three.

IU is a team that by all rights shouldn’t be in this game. After an up and down Big Ten season, IU cruised past New Mexico State only to lose all semblance of an offense against VCU. 23 turnovers and under 25 points scored in the second half. Those two stats would all but guarantee a loss but IU rode their defense and poise in the clutch to a win. In order to beat Kentucky they will need to take a look at where they struggled in the first matchup at Assembly Hall. IU led for almost the entire game yet faltered in the end due to sluggish ball movement. The loss of Verdell Jones will hurt in this game as VCU exposed the Hoosiers lack of talent in regards to ball-handlers. Look for constant pressure by the supremely athletic Wildcats.

All eyes will be on the matchup of Cody Zeller and Anthony Davis. Zeller is going to be the focal point on offense and defense for the Hoosiers. Anthony Davis can get into foul trouble and Zeller needs to keep him working on defense. That being said, Zeller could just as easily get into foul trouble this game so he’ll need to be smart. Big bodies like Kidd-Gilchrist and Jones will be looking for redemption and will look to punish IU down low. Zeller is going to need help from everyone on the glass. Another key matchup will be Jordan Hulls against Teague. In the first game, Teague began to realize that he could get past Hulls nearly every position and began to take advantage in the second half. The help defense will need to be crisp on their rotations and don’t be surprised if Crean again goes to the 2-3 zone. Kentucky would rather take you off the dribble and on the break than outshoot you. IU cannot afford to have an off night shooting.

Kentucky is a better team than they were the last game. Athletically, they are much more gifted than IU. There is no way they have forgotten about their loss to IU and have to be ecstatic about the chance to redeem themselves. IU is also a better team than when they last met. They have improved by learning from their mistakes and taking their lumps. In order to pull off a second win against Kentucky they will need to take advantage of what they do better than Kentucky, team basketball.

Follow the Hoosiers tonight at 9:45pm.

The Crimson Corner

Indiana Outlasts VCU

Improbable. Impossible. A miracle. These were a few of the things racing through my mind after Saturday night’s 63-61 win over VCU. This game seemed to feature several different games wrapped into one. The first half featured a frantic pace with both teams trading blows until the very end of the first half. VCU looked as though they were going to take control before half-time and then Christian Watford literally took the game into his hands. Watford scored 8 consecutive points and showed the enthusiasm that Hoosiers fans are so desperate to see out of him all the time.

The second half was a defensive slugfest, a clinic on offensive ineptitude and both teams wearing down from the tempo of the first half. The offense was so scarce at times in the second half that both teams went over 6 minutes without scoring a single point. For IU, the game seemed as though it were taking an eerily similar path to the VCU/Purdue match-up from last years’ NCAA Tournament in which VCU pressed and trapped Purdue out of the gym in a blow out. Every time IU looked to set-up any type of offense in the half-court, there would be a turnover. Miscues were had by every single player as IU couldn’t even get a shot attempt off. IU had an incredible 22 turnovers for the game. VCU on the other hand, didn’t see a shot they wouldn’t take as they hoisted 30 3-point attempts. Despite the fact that they only shot 9-30 from the 3 point arc, their game plan was clear. As long as they kept forcing turnovers, 1 out of every 3 3-pt baskets was good enough to keep IU down.

With IU not being able to afford to simply trade turnovers with missed 3’s, the game looked to be in doubt with just under two minutes to go. After a missed three point attempt by VCU, IU went to Cody Zeller in middle for two consecutive possessions. Tom Crean answered everyone’s biggest gripe about this offense and did what everyone wanted. Give Zeller the ball in the post and let him go to work. Cody Zeller came through with a huge jumper, a defensive rebound and two huge free throws to bring IU within three. After a Sheehey foul, VCU put the punctuation on their collapse by missing two consecutive free throws. Redemption came for Victor Oladipo as he drove in to the lane and made the biggest three-point play of the last ten years for the Indiana Hoosiers. When VCU missed another three point attempt it became clear that IU would attack the lane for the fifth consecutive possession. As with the missed free throws, IU got the perfect break and the ball bounced right into Sheehey’s hands in a spot that he knows all too well. Will did what he does best, what has been called a lost-art, the mid range jumper. After the cold as ice shot, VCU ran the perfect play, as no one should have been surprised that it would be a three for the win. I heard that VCU missed the attempt but I couldn’t see it for myself.

IU should not have won this game. VCU had a plan and executed it without diversion, even as they continued to miss and miss. Almost an intramural type approach of jacking up threes was complimented by the amount of pressure they put on IU’s ball handlers. The ball handlers were the reason IU should have lost this game. IU could get no ball movement as Jordan Hulls and Oladipo (10) combined for one less turnover than the entire VCU team (11).  It became clear the presence of Verdell Jones was missed. If teams are looking for the weakness in this IU team, they need to look no further as IU has struggled against pressing defenses and athletic guards that pressure the ball all year. In the end, however, it was the defense of IU that prevailed as VCU had no answer in running their half-court offense. IU held VCU to 6 points over the last 14 minutes of the game. When they ran out of steam, there was no legitimate threat of them coming into the paint and IU knew it.

What should have been a loss turned into a win for the ages. Shaka Smart is a great coach and will be a force once he accepts the big time offer he is sure to receive from a BCS school. The night, however, belonged to IU as luck and clutch play collided to bring IU to the Sweet Sixteen. It collided to bring IU back to where the magic of this season began, the Kentucky Wildcats.

Follow me @Kipicher and @IndySportsCrew

The Crimson Corner

Hoosiers Tame the Beast, Now on to the Beauty

New Mexico State was a team that wanted to hurt IU down low. Their big men, led by Hamidu Rahman, didn’t play the prettiest style of basketball. They wanted to bring the ball inside and draw fouls. At 30 free throw attempts per game, the Aggies faced a disciplined defense that they hadn’t faced all year. In the 79-66 victory on Thursday evening, the Hoosiers displayed an incredible amount of activity on defense. They forced 17 turnovers and it seemed as though every time a New Mexico State Big Man put the ball on the floor, there was a defender with his hands around the ball. New Mexico State only shot 10 free throws in the game and at times looked lost on offense. Especially on one on one situations in fast break, the Aggies would just throw up wild shots hoping to draw a foul.

On offense the Hoosiers shot the ball lights out at nearly 60% for the game and over 50% from the three point line. They are a tough team to beat when the team is firing offensively on all cylinders. Christian Watford helped the Hoosiers get off to a great start as IU established a tempo that New Mexico State was having trouble keeping up with. As the game progressed Jordan Hulls and Cody Zeller began to take over. Hulls was 4-6 from the 3 point line and looked absolutely locked in on offense all game. Zeller displayed his typical set of offensive skills and defensive playmaking ability despite trying to be out-muscled by the Aggies interior players. Several times Zeller was tossed around like a rag doll yet stayed persistent on the boards as the Hoosiers only legitimate post threat.

After a great start, the Hoosiers will now face returning tournament darling, VCU. Coming off a Final Four appearance last year, Future Illinois Head Coach, Shaka Smart already took down the fifth seeded Wichita State. While four players graduated from last years’ team, this years’ roster actually outperformed that team before the tournament. VCU won their conference tournament and have actually won one more game than they had at this point last year. While a 12 is next to their name, this team is a serious threat to the Indiana Hoosiers.

Of concern for the Hoosiers was the lack of presence of Victor Oladipo and the disappearance of Christian Watford as the game progressed. In order to continue on in the tournament Oladipo needs to be aggressive on offense and attack the basket to free up open looks against better defenses. Watford possesses the best overall offensive skill set on the team and will need to find ways to stay involved when Zeller is doubled and teams can recover on screens set for Hulls.

VCU still continues to amaze in dance, despite the fact that much like the New Mexico State Aggies, they have no wins against any team in the top 25 this season. Their only top 25 opponent was Alabama, who beat them by 8 back in November. VCU is a team that doesn’t specialize in doing one thing extremely well yet they are a team that executes Smart’s game plan for each opponent well. If Indiana can continue shooting the ball well then they can move on to the Sweet 16. This will likely be an up-tempo, running game and it promises to be one of the more entertaining games of the tournament.

Follow me @Kipicher and @IndySportsCrew.