Tag Archive for IU basketball

Fire Sale in Bloomington

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.

Hoosiers on the Bubble?

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.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Inside the Man Room

All basketball all the time on this week’s podcast.  I look at the Pacers-76ers trade that brought Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to Indy.  I also give my theory on why college basketball teams in the state are so bad this year.  Plus my soapbox rant on getting out to see high school basketball.  Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

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.

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.

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.

Rise and Fire

Oladip-Go

IU’s Victor Oladipo Declares for NBA Draft

Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo announced at a press conference today that he will forego his senior season to enter the NBA Draft.  After a junior season that saw Oladipo average 13.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 2.1 assists per game, he was named first team All-American.  The NABC named him co-defensive player of the year as well.  So even though he only spent three years in Bloomington it was time for Victor to go.

Oladipo is making the best decision for himself.  In situations like this, a player has to know that his stock is never going to be higher.  They must strike while the iron is hot.

I know that many IU fans out there wanted to hear that Oladipo and Cody Zeller would both come back to complete unfinished business.  Or to play in college because they love the college experience.  The fact of the matter is for Oladipo that he has to enter the draft now.  There is nothing left for him to prove at the collegiate level and coming back would only give the scouts more time to critique his game.  In a league where potential determines where you will be drafted more than your accomplishments the timing is right.

Take a look at the incredible rise Oladipo has had over the last three years.  He was a moderately recruited player his senior year of high school rated around 150.  His freshman year he saw good minutes and was a productive role player.  Last season saw him start most games and contribute effectively, but not as a main cog.  Then there was this season where he broke out.  From the opening tip of the season, Oladipo was a rising star on one of the best teams in the country.  He improved his shooting to go along with his ability to drive.  His athleticism helped him become one of the top defenders in the country.

Without question Oladipo is making the correct choice.  The decision to leave I am sure was a tough one, but with life altering money available as a sure fire lottery pick he made the right call.  Oladipo will be remembered fondly for what he did at IU, but a time comes when you have to make the best decision for yourself.  Victor did that today.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer and @IndySportsCrew.

Rise and Fire

5 Keys to the Elite Eight

Indiana vs. Syracuse

As the NCAA Tournament reaches its second weekend, teams know they are just two victories away from the biggest stage in the game.  Indiana looks to go at least one step further than they did last season, when they lost to eventual champ Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, and make it to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2002.  The East region’s #1 seeded Hoosiers will travel to Washington, D.C. to play the fourth seed Syracuse Orange on Thursday.  Here are my top five keys to the game.

1.  Defense (Part 1)

The defensive end of the court will be the biggest factor for both teams in this game.  For IU, if they are able to contain Syracuse the way they did Temple they will put themselves in great position.  Temple scored only 52 points, shooting just 33.9% from the field and a dismal 12.5% from beyond the arc.  Yes, Khalif Wyatt went off for 31 points but the Owls only had three other players score and only one other player in double figures.  Syracuse is a team that can catch fire from the outside, but if Indiana can defend the three-point line that will bode well for them.  Particularly keeping James Southerland under control.

2.  Defense (Part 2)

Syracuse has be known for years for their 2-3 zone.  Jim Boeheim does an unbelievable job of recruiting guys that fit his style perfectly.  The Orange’s athleticism and length makes it difficult to penetrate the zone or to just simply shoot over the top of it.  IU will need to find gaps for Cody Zeller and Christian Watford to score inside.  That could loosen the zone up enough for the Hoosier shooters to find open looks.  Zeller in particular will be looked upon to use his versatility in the high post as well as on the block to make shots and rebound.

3.  C. J. Fair

C. J. Fair is Syracuse’s 6’8″ power forward who is their leading scorer and rebounder.  Fair is averaging 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season.  His production will be essential for Syracuse on both ends.  Offensively he will be asked not only to score but to put pressure on Cody Zeller.  This goes both ways but if Fair is able to make Zeller work defensively that could slow him from getting out and running.  Fair will also be the key defensively as he will have to step up on Zeller at the high post, but needs to protect the basket in the zone as well.

4.  Rebounding

These teams both rank in the top 25 in total rebounds per game.  Syracuse averages 38.7 boards while Indiana averages 38.6, which is good for 20th and 24th respectively.  The reason this is important is that the Orange average 14.3 offensive rebounds per game.  IU allowed an undersized Temple team to grab eleven offensive rebounds.  Syracuse does not shoot a high percentage (44%) but will look to mitigate that with second chance scoring.  It will be imperative that the Hoosiers close out defensive possessions with rebounds which could lead to offensive opportunities before the Syracuse zone gets set.

5.  Shooting

This may seem like a trite statement, but the way IU shoots the ball on Thursday might be the most telling attribute for this game’s outcome.  IU on the season shoots 48.6% from the field and 40.8% from behind the three-point line.  Making shots against the Syracuse 2-3 zone will put pressure on their players to get out on shooters which could shift the zone and open up interior passing and scoring lanes.  The Hoosiers only shot 42.2% in a slowed down game against Temple.  If they are able to knock shots in at a higher rate pushing the score up, that will make it tough for Syracuse to keep pace.  IU is the third highest scoring team in the nation at 80.0 ppg, while the Orange has had some issues scoring lately.  Getting the game at a quicker speed and forcing Syracuse to score will give the advantage to Indiana.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer and @IndySportsCrew.

Rise and Fire

Reviewing the first weekend of NCAA tournament action for the four Indiana schools.  Only one team has advanced to the Sweet 16- Indiana.  Butler won their 2nd Round contest but got beat Saturday by Marquette.  Check out my thoughts on the action here.  Let me know what you think on Twitter @thadvandeventer.

Rise and Fire

The NCAA Tournament is here.  Get yourself prepared for the first weekend of games with my analysis of the four Indiana teams in the field.  IU, Butler, Notre Dame, and Valparaiso each have differing situations but some deep run opportunities are there.

Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.