Tough Week Ahead for Hoosiers, Crean

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.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Indiana Sports Talk

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Weekend of February 21-22

Just two weeks remain in the boys high school basketball regular season which means this weekend is huge for two reasons.  Number one each team has to start peaking now in order to get ready for the tournament.  Number two is the pairings show will take place Sunday afternoon when the match ups for the second season will be announced.

6.     Zionsville (12-4)     at     4A #2 Indianapolis Tech (18-2)

5.     Vincennes Lincoln (14-3)     at     4A #13 Evansville Reitz (14-4)

Vincennes Lincoln is finishing up their regular season with a tour of Evansville.  Three games are left for them starting with Memorial on Friday, Reitz on Saturday, and North next weekend.  Lincoln has spent most of this year in the 3A rankings but have dropped out now.  They are focused on getting on track now for the tournament.  The Alices have played a ton of tight games over the past month with seven of their last ten games being decided by five points or less.  They are definitely battle tested now they hope to take momentum with them.  Evansville Reitz is one of the hottest teams around.  Winners of five straight and seven of eight the Panthers are rolling.  Their offense has been high flying over this stretch topping 87 points four times.  Head coach Michael Adams in his 21st year at the helm has possibly his best team.  They look to keep things flowing along into the postseason.  It will be interesting to see if Lincoln is able to keep the Reitz offense in check.

4.     3A #9 Madison (13-3)     at     4A #17 Columbus East (13-3)

Madison caught the state’s attention back on January 24th when they beat #1 and previously unbeaten Greensburg 89-87 in overtime after trailing by as many as 19.  They had a let down their next time out losing to Silver Creek but righted the ship quickly and have won five straight since.  The Cubs do it with a balanced and potent offense that features four players averaging double figures.  They are lead by senior Landon Perry’s 18.9 points a game and junior Nick Macon (15.6 ppg) has shown the ability to make big shots as he made the dagger three to beat Greensburg.  Columbus East has been solid all year.  The Olympians won two big time road games last week at Brownstown Central and Franklin Central.  They have four games left to play over the next two weeks so a chance to build some great momentum for the tournament.  They have two go-to offensive players junior Connor Umphress (18.4 ppg) and senior Bryce Lienhoop (15.6 ppg and 11.0 rpg).  This game has some huge significance as well in the Hoosier Hills Conference.  Columbus East comes in with just one conference loss and a half game back of New Albany.  Madison has two losses so they need a win and some help to earn a share of the conference title.

3.     4A #17 Kokomo (12-6)     at     4A #8 Richmond (16-2)

You would be hard pressed to find any contest that pairs up two schools with more basketball history, heritage, and tradition then Kokomo and Richmond.  Combined these two schools have 135 sectional championships and 55 regional titles.  Not to mention that this is a showdown in the storied North Central Conference.  Kokomo comes in playing their best basketball of the year winning their last seven with none of those victories being closer than 13 points.  The Wildkats have stars Tayler Persons (18.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Erik Bowen (14.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg) to depend on as both are seniors.  Richmond may be the least talked about 16-2 team around coming into this weekend.  The Red Devils are outscoring their opponents by an average of fourteen points a game and holding them to 51.1 points.  Coach Joe Luce has his best team at Richmond as they look to win their first sectional since 1996.  They also can clinch the NCC championship with a win over Kokomo.  This is a big stretch for Richmond as they try to close the season strong and with two titles in sight.

2.     A #10 Rossville (12-4)     at     A #8 Lafayette Central Catholic (9-7)

The Hornets of Rossville have been buzzing along in 2014 as they have won seven of their last eight games.  They are a senior laden bunch that has grown up with third year head coach Dave Mosson.  Their top three players are all seniors in Brandon Tonsoni (18.4 ppg), Austin Miller (14.0 ppg), and E.T. Brenneman (12.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg).  You may be surprised to see a team with a 9-7 record ranked in the top ten in any class, but the voters give credit to Lafayette Central Catholic for the schedule that they play.  Playing top notch competition not just in their area but also traveling north to the region or southeast to Indianapolis.  The Knights have struggled of late though losing three out of four and four out of six.  Two of those four losses were by a mere two points apiece but with just four regular season games left they are hoping to sort these issues out.  The Knights are used to playing tight games though as they only average 55.3 ppg and allow 50.6.  This game may be little bigger for Rossville as they try to remain hot, but also try to beat LCC for the first time since 2007.

1.     A #9 Borden (14-3)     at     2A #2 Clarksville (15-2)

Borden is the defending class A state champion and they look like they have not missed a beat.  Following a two game hiccup at the end of January, the Braves have won four in a row.  They have done it all year with their defense as they allow only 46.5 points per game.  Their ball control style helps with that, but coach Doc Nash is a defensive coach and preaches to his team that defense really does win championships.  The Braves may not be the favorite to come out of the south this year, but they weren’t last year either.  Clarksville is another team that somehow has flown under the radar state wide even though they ranked #2 and are 15-2.  Their lone losses were to 3A top ten squads Bowman Academy and Brownstown Central.  The Generals made some noise last year winning their first sectional since 1986, but have most of their team back and have higher expectations this year.  It also helps when you have seniors leading the way.  Andrew Jones is averaging 19.8 points and Calvin McEwen puts up 18.7 points while dishing out 6.8 assists.  With their firepower they will put pressure on the Borden defense.  Clarksville averages 21.5 points per game more than what the Braves allow.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Inside the Man Room

A new edition of “Inside the Man Room” this week.  I talk about the incident at Assembly Hall and what that means for IU.  I also take a look at the NFL Combine in Indy this weekend as well as our weekly watch of who is not in the NCAA tournament from Indiana.  Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer and remember to download the podcast on iTunes.

Pacers: Top Things to Watch For in Second Half

The NBA All-Star game is always the unofficial break between the first and second half of the season, even though Indiana has already played more than half of their games.  The All-Star break is a good time to reflect on what has been, but also for teams to gear up for the final two months of the regular season.  The Pacers have the second best record in the NBA behind Oklahoma City and are atop the Eastern conference by 2.5 games.  With the second half set to tip off, I wanted to take a look at the top things to look for down the stretch leading to the playoffs.

3.  Andrew Bynum

Indiana went out and signed Bynum to be the backup for Roy Hibbert.  We all know the story with Bynum- young kid who played well and won titles with the Lakers, but who over the past few years has been injured and showed a lack of professional and desire to play the game.  It was not a huge risk to sign him for the remainder of the season for only $1 million.  This will be interesting to see when he gets into action.  Bynum has still not played and the team has said when he is ready he will go.  As stated before, there is only two months remaining before the playoffs begin.  You would like to see him get into a good number of games, get his legs under him, and see if he can perform before the playoffs.  It will also be important to see him on the court to get a rhythm and feel for how to play with this team.  I am a believer that if Bynum steps in and helps win one game against the Heat or helps you win another playoff game that it was worth signing him.  If Hibbert were to get in foul trouble like the last time Indy played in Miami and Bynum was able to hold down the fort and the Pacers pull out a win, this was worth it.  Before you get to that point though it would be nice to actually see him in action.

2.  Starters Minutes

This is a tricky issue, but one I believe is important for Frank Vogel and the staff to monitor down the stretch.  Last season was the first deep run this team has made in the playoffs which means you have a shorter off-season.  Coinciding with that is the way this team shot out of the gates to post the best record in the league for much of the first half.  However, now there needs to be some discretion shown on how much time and energy these five guys are logging on a nightly basis.  All five starters are averaging more than thirty minutes a game.  Yes, it is clear that these are the thoroughbreds you want to run with and have put the team in this position.  But I would rather see a thoroughbred run at full strength and energy in the Kentucky Derby and not in a weekday race at Hoosier Park.  The point is to have these guys running at as much of a peak level come late April and into to May as possible.  That is why we all loved the signing of Luis Scola and that Danny Granger has accepted his role off the bench.  You still want to earn the number one seed, but hopefully you can obtain that without wearing out the starters to do so.

1.  Number One Seed

This may seem like a simple answer, but to me this is greatly important to the team both mentally and physically.  I believe Indiana needs the number one seed much more than Miami does.  Obviously home court advantage is huge and if a series goes to a seventh game like it did last year it would be at the Fieldhouse, but this is important for other reasons.  Mentally it is important for this team to continue to believe they belong with the elite of the NBA.  We all know they can play with anyone, but having the validation of that #1 slot would be great.  It could also give this young team that little extra hop in their step when the playoffs start knowing they have this in their back pocket.  Physically it is important mainly for what I listed in the #2 thing to watch.  Expending all of this energy over 5 months of the season just to end up with the #2 seed and knowing four games in Miami could be on the docket in late May would be brutal.  The season is long and is very much a marathon, but the small things are what can carry a team through it.  The Pacers have avoided any big injuries and are clearly one of the favorites to get to and win the NBA Finals.  They just need cap this season off at the top of the standings to give themselves that possible tiny mental edge to get this organization back to Finals and possibly their first NBA Championship.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Basketball State in a Troubled State

Indiana is known as the basketball state.  Stories are told about the legends that came before and the gyms that are packed by rabid fans in every corner of the state.  But these legends and fans may not have any thing to cheer about in March this year at the college basketball level.  It has been well documented the struggles some of the state schools are going through.  After this weekend though, the state that prides itself on the quality of basketball it has is at risk of completely missing the NCAA tournament.

The state is home to ten Division I basketball programs across seven conferences.  At the current time only three of these ten teams have winning conference records and most of these teams are looming somewhere in the bottom half of their league’s standings.  The lone bright spots are Indiana State, IPFW, and Valparaiso.  These teams are near the top in their respective conferences with Valpo actually with a chance of winning the regular season crown.  The issue with these squads and an NCAA tournament bid is that all three will have to win their conference tournament to secure an automatic bid.  None of these teams would be awarded an at-large bid.  Putting all three teams in a tough position to have to win multiple games just to get in.

The marquee intra-state match up has always been Purdue and Indiana.  That game took place Saturday in West Lafayette with the Boilermakers completely dominating IU 82-64.  Of the “big boys” in this state, most people adhere to one of these two schools.  They have be the dominate programs throughout history in this state.  They are both going through a less than stellar season.  Going into the game on Saturday they had identical 14-10 records and were 4-7 in the Big Ten.  Even with this win, Purdue has a lot of work to do just to get in the NCAA tournament discussion.

The next two schools to look at our Notre Dame and Butler.  Both of these teams moved to new conferences this year and have struggled.  Notre Dame has gone into the ACC and have not performed as hoped sitting at 5-8 in the league.  They have also dealt with a lot of upheaval within the program.  Butler left the “mid-major” ranks this year to join the Big East.  This step up has not gone well for the Bulldogs.  They are just 2-11 in conference and are at risk of their first overall losing record in 9 years.

The remaining teams are all middle to lower level teams in their conferences and would have to go on a miracle run to win their conference tournaments.  Ball State, IUPUI, and Evansville have struggled for various reasons but the results have been similar.  Evansville has been the best of this group but have an incredibly young team.  They are building for next year.  IUPUI has been down the past several years.  Last year suffering through injuries and this year just not playing consistently.  Ball State is under first year head coach James Whitford.  They are looking to the future in Muncie and Whitford has hit the recruiting trail hard.

So this begs the questions- What is going on? and How does it get corrected?  The easy answer is that all of these programs are just having bad years.  That all of them have the chance to get back on track next year.  In some cases that is true.  Indiana State has been the beacon of hope this year and have put together a very solid four year run under Greg Lansing’s guidance.  Along with Valpo they are the best two chances the state has at NCAA appearances.  Both teams are in second place in their respective conferences, but will each have to win their conference tournaments to sneak in.  Most people would talk about the struggles of IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, and Butler being the biggest issues.  Each fan base has different reasons they will offer about why each program is down.  The simple rebuttal is that none of these four teams are that good.  Whether it be coaching, young players, player turnover, or injuries the fact remains that these are not the caliber of teams we are used to seeing at these institutions.  Overall, there is a lack of confidence right now.  Losing can do that to a team.  Doubt creeps into their minds and makes it difficult when the going gets tough.  The answer to how this gets corrected is probably one of two options.  Either your team gets hot and closes the season strong.  Building up the confidence level of the players, coaches, and fans.  Or you start building for next year now.  Get the young players on the team the reps they will need to gain experience.  The coaches can look at different player combinations and what may work moving forward.  That is always a tough pill to swallow, but when the postseason is very nearly out of the question you start playing now as if you are playing for the future.

Let us all hope that when the calendar turns to March some magic happens statewide and we get some surprises via the conference tournaments.  Our attention will be kept in Arch Madness rooting on the Sycamores and in the Horizon League tournament for Valpo.  Maybe one of the major conference teams get hot at the right time.  We will see but as for now this could be a dark season in Indiana college basketball history.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Indiana Sports Talk

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Weekend of February 14-15

This weekend is the first weekend of championships to be crowned on the hardwood.  The girls’ state tournament tips off as sectionals will take center stage with 64 titles up for grabs.  With that in mind, I revamped this week’s top 5 format.  I listed a few boys’ regular season match ups to keep your eyes on and then broke down my top five girls sectionals.  Semi-final games are already set so I looked at the final 256 teams still alive and determined the five best weekend slates.

8.     Franklin (12-3)     at     4A #9 Columbus North (16-4)

7.     A #13 Greenwood Christian (11-3)     at    A #14 Morristown (9-5)

6.     3A #12 South Bend St. Joseph (12-4)     at     3A #6 NorthWood (14-1)

5.     Sectional 3 at South Bend Clay

This 4A sectional has two teams ranked in the top 12 with #4 Penn and #12 Mishawaka.  But this sectional makes the list because of the depth and quality of teams that comprise the seven team field.  Five of the seven teams have winning records.  This includes traditional solid program South Bend Washington (13-6). South Bend Adams (15-6) and Plymouth (14-6) are also in this sectional making it one of the toughest brackets to make it out of.  The semi-final match ups of Adams/Penn and Mishawaka/Plymouth set the stage for a excellent weekend.

4.     Sectional 8 at North Central (Indianapolis)

Another 4A sectional that is stuffed to the gills with quality teams.  This sectional may lack in high-ranking teams, just two #14 Fishers (18-4) and #15 Noblesville (16-4), but this may be the toughest seven team field around that no one knows about.  Five of the seven teams in this field had winning records with three teams having 16 or more wins.  Westfield has a record of 16-3 but did not crack the 4A rankings.  They will be out to prove they are a threat.  Westfield matches up with dark horse Hamilton Southeastern (12-9) in one semi with the two ranked teams Fishers and Noblesville in the other.

3.     Sectional 51 at Triton

It is hard to overlook a field that has three teams ranked in the top twelve and only one team with a losing record.  That is why this is #3.  Even with the quality programs in this field there is a preeminent favorite with #1 Oregon-Davis (17-2).  OD is the two-time defending sectional champs and have won six of the last seven titles.  They took out one of the ranked teams already beating South Central (Union Mills).  Their semi-final match up is with the third ranked team in the field #10 Culver.  The other semi-final hosts the two dark horses Argos (10-8) and the host Triton (14-6).

2.     Sectional 22 at Garrett

Coming into this sectional there were three top ten teams and four teams with 16 wins or more.  That number has already been trimmed to three with Ft. Wayne Concordia knocking out Ft. Wayne Luers in their opener.  #5 Concordia has won two of the last four state championships (2010, 2012) in class 3A, but are not the highest ranked team in this sectional.  That would be undefeated and #3 Garrett Railroaders (21-0).  Garrett has a tough road to remain perfect on the season.  They play a 17-4 Leo squad in the semis with a possible date against Concordia Saturday night.  Concordia faces underdog Ft. Wayne Dwenger (4-15) who will try to shock everyone by pulling the upset.  A Garrett/Concordia final could be a classic.

1.     Sectional 32 at Boonville

There is probably nothing bigger than a #1 versus #2 match up, but how about if that showdown happens with a title on the line.  This could happen in the sectional final down in Boonville.  #1 Princeton (21-0) and #2 Evansville Mater Dei (21-1) both reside in this bracket but as if it were seeded on opposite sides.  Mater Dei won the last two 2A state championships and were moved up to 3A via the success factor.  Princeton has been steamrolling people all season with an average margin of victory of 22 points a game.  Before we get to this titanic match up there are the semi-finals pairing up Evansville Bosse (13-7) with Mater Dei and Princeton with Evansville Memorial (8-12).  Looking ahead to a #1/#2 match up is fun but both teams know they need to handle their business Friday night to get to an epic Saturday night showdown.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Indiana Sports Talk

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Weekend of February 7-8

The calendar has turned to February which means it is time for teams to start rounding themselves into tournament form.  One month from this weekend 64 sectional champions will be crowned.  Coaches know that this final month is crucial if there team is to make a run in March.  Playing some stiff competition late in the year can help teams focus on the task at hand plus gives an early tournament feel.  There are several match ups this weekend that provides all of these.

7.     3A #6 NorthWood (12-1)     at     Concord (10-3)

6.     3A #4 New Haven (10-2)     at     Homestead (12-4)

5.     Southport (8-7)     at     Perry Meridian (11-3)

Although these two teams are not ranked, this is a game that deserves some attention.  Not only because this is the battle of Perry Township in Indianapolis, but because both of these teams could be sleepers in March.  The Southport Cardinals are a team that relies heavily on underclassmen.  Due to that it took a while for coach Kyle Simpson to mold his young team this season.  The Cards have won 5 of their last 7 games.  Six of those seven games were against ranked opponents and four of the five wins came against those ranked teams.  They are led in leadership by junior Malik Bennett who scores 13.5 points per game, but youngsters sophomore Joey Brunk (14.0 ppg and 7.9 rpg) and freshman Paul Scruggs (12.4 ppg and 6.5 rpg) are coming on quickly.  Perry Meridian won their first eleven games of the season and found themselves in the 4A rankings.  Then they hit a three game losing skid before bouncing back Saturday beating New Palestine.  The Falcons have been a consistent defensive team this season allowing their opponents just 56.9 points.  Coach Brent Keck and company also have payback on their mind as Southport beat them in round one of the Marion County tournament for their first loss.  This could be the second of three encounters if these two get paired up in the sectional.

4.     4A #1 Carmel (12-1)     at     4A #12 Zionsville (11-2)

Carmel is doing what Carmel does since Scott Heady took over the program.  They continue to win and they continue to do it with defense.  The Greyhounds’ stifling defense surrenders a measly 42.2 points a game.  They have won four straight since their lone hiccup and none of those have been closer than 17 points.  For Carmel offensively, senior Ryan Cline leads the way.  He is a marksman behind the arc and has improved his game off the dribble.  Zach McRoberts is their leading post scorer.  Zionsville has quietly won ten consecutive games for head coach Shaun Busick.  Five of those ten games have been decided by 10 points or less.  The Eagles are learning how to win close games and it is starting to show.  They control the tempo well and only allow their opponents an average of 44.8 ppg.  Zville also boasts a balanced scoring attack led by Derrick Smits, the son of former Pacers great Rik Smits, at 11.7 ppg.  Also producing consistently is Jake Mann 10.9 ppg, Michael Sollman 9.8 ppg, and Braden Hall 8.3 ppg and 5.5 apg.  This will be the Eagles biggest test since losing back to back games early in December to Brownsburg and Hamilton Southeastern.

3.     3A #7 Brownstown Central (11-2)     at    2A #2 Clarksville (12-1)

Head coach Dave Benter has put together an excellent program at Brownstown Central.  They are consistently ranked in the top ten and are a perennial threat come March.  This season is no different.  The Braves have outscored their opponents by an average of 29.5 points a game this season.  Their two losses came by a combined 3 points to class A #1 Barr-Reeve (2) and 3A #5 Corydon Central (1) in double overtime last week.  Clarksville is riding high as well and are on an eight game winning streak.  Their lone defeat came against 3A #2 Bowman Academy back on December 23.  The Generals have two prolific scorers in seniors Andrew Jones 20.9 ppg and Calvin McEwen 18.5 ppg.  McEwen also averages seven assists and has a flare for the dramatic as he hit a last second in three in overtime last Friday to win at Corydon Central 79-76.  This game is also big in the top-heavy Mid-Southern Conference.  Clarksville is one of two unbeatens at 5-0 with BC at 5-1.  Coming down the stretch this is a big one in the conference title race.

2.     4A #6 Indianapolis Cathedral (11-4)     at     3A #2 Bowman Academy (12-3)

Andy Fagan has done a good job of getting this Cathedral team where they are.  The Irish are playing their best basketball of the year even with a six point loss to Tech in the Marion County Tournament championship game last week.  Coach Fagan came into this season working with a lot of new pieces and he has put them in the right position heading into the stretch run of the regular season.  The Irish play a lot of tight games as they only average outscoring their opponents by six points a game, so they are used to playing under pressure.  It seems as if Bowman Academy is in the top 5 games every week, but that is just a testament of how good their schedule is.  The Eagles have played one of the most rigorous schedules you could think of and have excelled.  They have not played since January 25 when they lost at 4A #1 Carmel 74-52.  With Bowman, they love to push the tempo of the game and get it going up and down.  They average 75.5 ppg with four players averaging double figures.  They are led by two sensational players in junior Davon Dillard (15.9 ppg and 6.6 rpg) and senior Justin King (14.8 ppg and 9.3 rpg).  The key to this game will be if Cathedral is able to dictate the tempo.

1.     3A #8 Brebeuf Jesuit (8-3)     at     2A #1 Park Tudor (12-2)

Brebeuf has lost two of their last three but nothing will get a team refocused more than a date with a #1 team.  That is what the Braves have coming up.  Tough road losses at Decatur Central and Guerin Catholic has Brebeuf eager to get back on the right track.  For a team that only averages 64 points a game, the Braves post a balanced scoring attack with five players averaging nine or more.  They are led by P.J. Thompson’s 23.1 ppg, but he gets a lot of help from the A-team- Adam Kroot (13.2), Aaron Banks (10.4), Andrew Terrell (10.0), and Andrew Schmid (9.1).  Kyle Cox has enjoyed a sensational first year as a head coach losing just two games and putting together an offense that averages 86.5 ppg.  Of course it doesn’t hurt to have one of the state’s leading candidates for Mr. Basketball on your team in Trevon Bluiett and his 38.8 points a game average.  The Panthers offense is predicated on spacing the floor to allow Bluiett driving lanes, but also lets him drive and kick to several shooters on the perimeter.  PT also likes to get up and down the court putting pressure on the defense to get back and contest.  Both of these team are looking to close out the regular season strong to carry momentum into March.  The key will be if Brebeuf is able to control the speed of the game and try to keep Bluiett under his average offensively.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Inside the Man Room

It’s back!!!  The Inside the Man Room podcast is back and better than ever!  Tune in to this week’s podcast as I recap some things that were missed and look at some current basketball news.  Also Pete DiPrimio from the Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel joins me to discuss IU basketball.  Remember to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Indiana Sports Talk

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Weekend of January 31 and February 1

This is a weekend of great back-to-backs.  If you have read this post before you know that I am a fan of teams that challenge themselves with tough weekend slates.  This weekend gives us three dandy ones.  Plus a couple other classic match ups.

5.     Marion (9-3)     at     4A #11 Richmond (11-1)

This is a classic match up in one of the historically great conferences in the state.  The North Central Conference was for years the dominant basketball league in Indiana and these are two of the power programs.  Not to mention this game is for first place this season.  The winner takes a one game lead with just two conference games remaining for both.  Marion has been on a roll since James Blackmon, Jr. came back healthy.  Their last four games, all victories, the Giants are winning by an average of 25.75 points and averaging 86.25 points a contest.  Blackmon, Jr. has put himself in the Mr. Basketball discussion by averaging 35.7 points a game.  Richmond has bounced back well from their lone loss with three solid wins.  The Red Devils have also won two straight conference games to make this a prime match up.  They boast a very balanced scoring attack but are lead by senior Mike Tillman’s 16.5 ppg.  Both teams sit at 3-0 in the conference so this game could be an early conference championship decider.

4.     A #10 Orleans (9-4)     at     A #4 Borden (10-2)

Orleans is in a stretch of playing four consecutive ranked teams dropping the first of the four last week at Perry Central.  As mentioned in a previous top 5 post, the Bulldogs are lead by star junior Cale Hall who is pouring in 23.2 points a game.  For the Dogs this is big game to get back on track as their next two are huge conference tilts.  Borden is coming off of their first loss in 2014 to Christian Academy.  The Braves are getting used to tight games as only one game in their last six has been decided by more than seven points.  Doc Nash has put together a nice program as year in and year out they are consistently ranked.  This game also has a side of revenge coming with it as Borden edged Orleans by one point in the Regional last season on their way to a state championship.  The numbers on these two teams are very similar as both average 57.2 points so this one may come down to the small things and a few plays down the stretch.

3.     2A #10 Providence (8-4)     at     A #8 Christian Academy (9-3)

       2A #8 Paoli (9-2)     at     A #8 Christian Academy (9-3)

Christian Academy is coming off of their biggest win to date beating Borden last week 44-41.  The Warriors have looked good this season, but it has not been easy.  They only average outscoring their opponents by six points a game.  This weekend probably won’t boost that number as they welcome in back-to-back ranked teams.  Providence is looking to right the ship a bit as they have alternated wins and losses over their last eight games.  The Pioneers got off to five straight wins to begin the season before this stretch.  Saturday night the Paoli Rams roll into town losers of two out of three.  Paoli is another team that is used to close games as they only outscore the opposition by five points a game.  Both of these games should be played at a controlled tempo as all three teams average 57 points or less.

2.     2A #2 Clarksville (10-1)     at     3A #4 Corydon Central (10-1)

       3A #6 Brownstown Central (9-1)     at     3A #4 Corydon Central (10-1)

Two weeks ago the Top 5 Games post featured a back-to-back weekend for Corydon Central that did not take place.  Both games were postponed due to weather.  So we are going to try this again this weekend as one of those postponed games was rescheduled for Friday as Clarksville travels to Corydon.  CC has not lost to an Indiana squad this season (lost to Covington Catholic (KY) 63-43 on January 11), but this weekend should provide a good test.  The Panthers have been dominate in their wins as they are averaging 19 point victories.  Clarksville is on a five game winning streak since their lone loss this season (a three point loss to Bowman Academy).  The Generals have been very impressive this season as well so this lines up to be a great Mid-Southern Conference game.  Brownstown Central visits Corydon on Saturday night in a top ten 3A battle.  BC has won four straight games in impressive fashion by an average margin of 33 points.  The Braves only loss this season was to class A #1 Barr-Reeve by two points in the Graber Post Building Tournament.  This two game stretch will feature three of the best teams from southern Indiana and all three have the ability to make deep runs into March.

1.     4A #4 Indianapolis Cathedral (10-3)     vs.     4A #1 Indianapolis Tech (16-1)

       4A #3 Hamilton Southeastern (12-2)     at     4A #1 Indianapolis Tech (16-1)

I am including Thursday into the weekend this week as the Indianapolis City Tournament Championship game was pushed back from Monday to Thursday due to weather.  The title game features two of the state’s best as Cathedral and Tech will meet for the second time this season.  Their first match up was a 30 point victory for Tech on December 13.  The Irish got off to a rocky start to the season losing 2 of their first three, but since then have won 10 of 11 including a 45-41 win over then #1 Carmel.  Head coach Andy Fagan has molded a new and younger team than he had a season ago into another state title contender.  Now lets move to Saturday night when Hamilton Southeastern will visit Tech in a top three battle.  HSE has been dominate over their last four games winning by an average of 25 points.  The Royals’ two losses on the season have come by a mere three points total.  Eric Davidson and Zach Gunn lead them in scoring at 18 and 13.6 points a game respectfully.  As for Tech, they have been one of the most impressive teams across the state this season.  Their only loss came by four points at Bowman Academy all the way back on November 29.  Fifteen straight wins later the Titans are back to number one in the polls.  The contest with Cathedral to decide the city championship will be a contrast in styles.  Tech has the weapons to score a lot and like to do so as they average 81.3 ppg.  Cathedral likes a slower pace as they limit possessions averaging 57.1 ppg. Saturday night will feature the school that was home to the last two Mr. Basketball’s against a top candidate this season in Tech’s Trey Lyles.  Lyles is averaging 25.4 ppg and 13.2 rpg.  He has been playing at a high level all season but the Titans have more depth than just him.  Senior Jeremie Tyler averages 16.2 points along with sophomore C.J. Walker (8.9 ppg) and senior Mikey Jones (8.5 ppg) being consistent contributors.  This Tech team not only is #1 in the state but has a chance this weekend to prove just how good they are.  On top of that, they are looking ahead to March as they try to win the school’s first sectional title since 1978.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Indiana Sports Talk

Top 5 Games of the Weekend

Weekend of January 24-25

This weekend holds a nice mix of highly ranked teams and some classic rivalries.  Two of the best teams in the state will square off on Saturday as will possibly the best rivalry in the state.  Sprinkle in some other top showdowns and you get this week’s top five.  So here we go.

5.     North Daviess (6-4)     at     A #1 Barr-Reeve (10-1)

The North Daviess – Barr-Reeve rivalry could quite possibly be the best in the state.  The Buggy Bowl as it is known in southern Indiana is as fierce as it comes on the high school hardwood.  The prominence of the Amish community in the area is the origin of the games nickname plus the tradition of seniors bringing an Amish buggy from a local farm to the school for the game.  All 1,800 seats of the gym will be filled (the town of Montgomery has a population of just 343 people) before the JV game hits halftime.  North Daviess got off to a slow start but have won three straight.  The key to the Cougars turn around has been their defense.  They have not allowed more than 45 points in any of the last three games.  Barr-Reeve has been the top team in class A the entire season.  They beat the third member of Class A Triangle, Loogootee, last weekend bouncing back from their only loss.  The Vikings are lead by Addison Wagler (12.8 ppg and 4.7 rpg) and Micah Bullock (15.5 ppg and 4.0 rpg).  These upperclassmen are the engine that makes them go so slowing them down will be the biggest key for ND.

4.     3A #5 New Haven (7-2)     at     Norwell (9-3)

New Haven has been a highly ranked team all year, but right now look to take a step toward another goal of a conference championship.  The Bulldogs enter this game tied with Norwell and Homestead atop the Northeast Hoosier Conference at 3-0.  Whoever takes this game obviously gives themselves a leg up in the race.  New Haven has been a good defensive team this year allowing just 47.8 points a game.  This game Saturday night will be the second road game of the week for New Haven and the second of seven straight roadies.  Norwell has been flying under the radar thus far this season but has the opportunity to turn some heads with a win Saturday night.  Since Randy Hawkins took over the program five years ago they have seen great success with three straight sectional championships and a state finals trip in 2012.  The Knights are no stranger to winning now and this win could build that momentum for them.  Getting the offense going early for Norwell will be the key.

3.     A #8 Orleans (9-3)     at     2A #14 Perry Central (8-2)

This is yet another big conference match up.  Both teams come in undefeated in conference play but it is early in the league slate for both.  Orleans comes in rolling on a four game win streak.  The Bulldogs are lead by stud junior Cale Hall who averages 24.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.  OHS has played excellent defense during their winning streak only allowing 41, 40, 41, and 50 in those victories.  Perry Central comes in to this game after just their second loss of the season, but after playing their last seven games away from home this is a big back-to-back home game weekend for them.  The Commodores have been a very efficient and effective offense this year averaging 65.9 points.  They have topped 73 points four times already this season so they are capable of scoring in bunches.  There are still four teams in the Patoka Lake conference that are unbeaten including Crawford County and Paoli.  With these four teams all still yet to play this game could be huge down the stretch.

2.     3A #6 Brebeuf Jesuit (7-2)     at     3A #3 Guerin Catholic (11-3)

Brebeuf is coming off a one-point loss to Decatur Central in the opening round of the Marion County Tournament giving the Hawks their first and only win of the season.  That disappointment set aside the season has gone well so far.  Missing their leading scorer for the first few games did not hamper them as they got out to a 4-0 record.  P.J. Thompson is back now and averaging a robust 24 points a contest.  Thompson is not alone though as the supporting cast of Kroot, Terrell, and Banks are pretty solid as well with all three averaging double figures.  Guerin Catholic head coach Pete Smith has set up one of the toughest schedules in the state for his team and to this point they have proven up to the task.  The Golden Eagles have three losses by a combined 13 points.  In their most recent game they lost by six to the #1 team in the state of Kentucky, Louisville Ballard, at Freedom Hall.  They have also beaten a number of ranked teams as well.  The Eagles are lead by Aaron Brennan who is putting up 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game.  However, they are guided by senior point guard Whit Rapp.  Rapp runs the show as he averages just eight points, but also 8.1 assists and 4.6 rebounds.  He is the prototypical leader at the point.  This game has the makings of a physical down to the wire game.

1.     3A #2 Bowman Academy (12-2)     at     4A #2 Carmel (9-1)

This will be one of the best match ups of the entire season and hopefully turns out to be one of the best games.  This is a match up of defending state champions as Bowman took the 2A crown and Carmel the 4A.  Bowman has shot up the classification scale first by enrollment going up then secondly by the success factor.  This does not seem to bother them at all as they are as talented as any team around.  They come into this game winners of four straight and averaging 88 points in those wins.  The Eagles overall average is 77.2 points a night thanks to a balanced attack.  They have four players pouring in double figures lead by senior standout Justin King at 15.7 points.  Devon Dillard (14.8), Arthur Haggard (13.5), and Anthony Cole (11.1) also add double figures to this potent offense.  Carmel is the two-time defending 4A state champion and started this season off strong as well.  This recent run of success under coach Scott Heady has been the best consecutive run of tournament success in school history.  They are lead by the inside-out combination Ryan Cline and Zach McRoberts.  Cline is a deadly marksman from outside while McRoberts is a very athletic big man who can run the court.  This game shapes up to be a showdown between offense and defense- Bowman’s prolific offense against Carmel’s steady defense.  The Greyhounds only surrender 41.9 points a game.  The team that is able to dictate their style of play will have the advantage.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.