Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Offensive Lineman Commits to Indiana

And then there were two. Figure about 20 or so more to go.

Yes, Indiana football is back in the recruiting news now that offensive lineman Kirk Harris has orally committed to the Hoosiers. He’s a 6-5, 278-pounder from Stilwell, Kansas.

Harris joins linebacker Mike Replogle of Ohio, who committed last month.

Harris committed after visiting IU and its spring practice. He met with all the coaches, including new offensive line coach Mo Moriarity.

Harris isn’t ranked by any of the recruiting services, but considering the schools that were recruiting him (Nebraska, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Mississippi, Kansas and Kansas State), the talent must be there. He’s started 24 straight games for Blue Valley High School. He’s also a regional discus champion and that multi-sport nature fits what coach Bill Lynch and his staff like to see in recruits.

Players can’t sign national letters of intent until next February. Lynch and his staff can’t comment on them until they do sign. In the meantime, they're busy with spring practice, which ends April 17 with the spring game.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Indiana Would Be Wise To Follow Butler’s Recruiting Example

How important is having state of Indiana players? Let’s take a look at Butler, which, in case you’ve spent the last few days on vacation on the Amazon River and missed it, is in the Final Four.

The Bulldogs have 15 players on their roster and 10 are from Indiana. They also have one player from Illinois, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia.

Their best player is 6-9 sophomore Gordon Hayward. He’s from Brownsburg and has generated speculation that he might enter the NBA draft after this season, although he’s too smart to say anything about that. Beating Michigan State in Saturday’s national semifinal –- plus juggling a rigorous academic load -- is enough to think about.

Arguably their second-best player is sophomore Matt Howard, who is from Connersville. He will not, by the way, enter the NBA draft after this season, but he just might flop to draw a charging file in the defensive spirit that once made Dane Fife an Indiana University legend.

Of Butler’s five out-of-state players, four are key contributors. They are Shelvin Mack from Kentucky, Ronald Nored from Alabama, Shawn Vanzant from Florida and Willie Veasley from Illinois.

In other words, most of the players are from Indiana and the bordering states of Illinois and Kentucky. Coach Brad Stevens went long-distance to get Nored and Vanzant. It’s a Midwest-centered recruiting philosophy that also has worked well for Purdue’s Matt Painter.

Indiana coach Tom Crean knows all about this. He is targeting the state and the surrounding area. The Classes of 2011 and 2012 seem especially loaded. It’s crucial to the rebuilding process for Crean to get as much high-end in-state talent as possible.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Timeline for an Indiana Basketball Turnaround

So we know Tom Crean and some of his coaching rivals were busy watching some of the state’s best high school talent go at it during the state finals in Indianapolis.

They had plenty to see with Park Tudor’s Kevin Ferrell, Bowman Academy’s DeJaun Marrero, Washington’s Cody Zeller, North Central’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Gary Wallace’s Brandon Dawson.

Purdue’s Matt Painter, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Illinois’ Bruce Weber and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith also were on hand in yet another endorsement for the quality of talent the state is producing and why Crean has to tap into it if he’s to restore the Hoosier program.

Crean is trying, of course. He has a lot of ground to make up and it takes time, just as it takes time to rebuild a gutted program, as IU’s basically was in the aftermath of the Kelvin Sampson mess.

How much time? Let’s take a look at the ultimate rebuilding project from the ultimate gutted program –- Baylor.

The coach is Scott Drew, the son of Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, and it’s taken him seven years to build an Elite Eight program that just missed a Final Four berth.

Baylor, of course, was an absolute disaster under former coach Dave Bliss. There was a murder, NCAA infractions, an attempted cover-up and, well, it got so bad the NCAA came very close to giving Baylor the death penalty and shutting down the program.

Scott Drew arrived after one year at Valparaiso –- he won 20 games after replacing his father –- with a far tougher job than what Crean inherited, which is saying something because Crean inherited a big-time mess.

Baylor went 8-21 in Drew’s first year, 9-19 in his second. Then things really got bad because that’s when the NCAA, after a long investigation, finally sanctioned the program. Baylor was banned from playing any non-Big 12 teams, which meant all the players could do in November and December was practice. Still, they finished 4-13, which was a positive.

In the meantime, Drew was recruiting hard and well. His first class was rated 10th nationally by most recruiting experts. His next two were ranked 11th and 17th. The foundation was being built, and if it meant ticking off a few Big 12 coaches in the process, well, nobody said recruiting was a nice-guy’s task.

Anyway, Baylor was 15-16 in Drew’s fourth year. The next season, it went 21-11, made the NCAA tourney and lost to Purdue in the first round. Last season it was 24-15. This season it finished 28-8 and lost to Duke in the Elite Eight. It is a remarkable turnaround.

Yes, it's not an identical situation, but it does give an indication of what reasonable progress is. Figure Crean will get the Hoosiers back to their winning ways within two seasons. That depends on keeping his key returning players -– Verdell Jones, Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls, Bobby Capobianco -– developing Bawa Muniru, and signing some top-caliber recruits. It means establishing a style of play -- an identity -- and sticking to it.

It sounds easy, but then, when it comes to IU basketball, nothing is easy anymore.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Indiana Good News; Plus, Analzying Basketball Recruiting Picture

Amidst basketball recruiting gloom (more on this in a moment), comes a bit of Cream ‘n Crimson athletic glory -– Indiana ranks 21st in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup Division I Winter standings, which measures the overall athletic department’s excellence. That is 21st, by the way, out of 209 programs being rated.

The Hoosiers got a boost from the men’s track program which finished sixth nationally behind high jump champ Derek Drouin, the women’s swimming and diving program, which finished 10th behind 200 backstroke champ Kate Fesenko, wrestling team, which took 21st behind the third-place finish of 125-pounder Angel Escobedo and the women’s track program’s 28th-place showing.

This, of course, doesn’t take away the sting from the 1-2 basketball recruiting punch of losing Moses Abraham to Georgetown and Matt Carlino to the whims of teenage male angst. Thus you have some fans calling for coach Tom Crean to go, which shows they don’t understand how much damage Kelvin Sampson caused, both by some of the phone calls he made and some (not all) of the players he signed.

All indications are Crean is finished with Carlino even if the guard changes his mind and wants to return –- which is extremely unlikely. It’s important for Crean to get players who are the right fit for his program and that includes rock solid commitment. You want guys, to borrow a cliché, you can go to war with, not guys who might bolt. Carlino didn’t have that commitment, perhaps because he committed too soon. It happens all the time in recruiting. Carlino has to know that Crean and Indiana are the right fit for him, as well. Apparently, he no longer felt they were.

One thing Abraham and Carlino had in common was neither were from the state of Indiana. Neither had that deep-rooted understanding of IU’s tradition that comes from those born and raised here.

Of course, if the unprecedented losing continues, the tradition will be as relevant to today’s kids as Lawrence Welk, which is why the Hoosiers need to return to their winning ways as soon as possible. Next year would be really, really good.

Crean is working the in-state connection hard, but he has plenty of competition from Purdue’s Matt Painter, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Ohio State’s Thad Matta, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and, yes, the nuclear bomb of coaching threats right now, Coach Calipari.

Still, if Crean is to thrive at IU, he has to get the state’s best players. Those are the guys you can go to war with and no better example of that right now is Purdue’s Chris Kramer, who is from Huntington North. He wasn’t the most talented basketball player coming out of high school, but he was a tough-minded three-sport standout who knew how to win. The Boilers have certainly reaped the benefits.

Recruiting is all about relationships and no one has exploited the Hoosiers’ poor coaching choices better than Painter. He has made huge in-state in-roads with the best players, and while he doesn’t get everyone he wants (Butler is getting some now), he gets enough to make the Boilers a national player for the foreseeable future.

Yes, some can blame IU’s woes on the firing of Bob Knight and the hiring of Mike Davis, but the real blunder came when Davis left. The one coach Painter was most concerned about IU hiring was Steve Alford, who had the connections and background to draw the best in-state talent. Indiana passed on Alford (who has now taken New Mexico to unprecedented heights), settled on Sampson and left Crean with a mess.

Crean will clean it up, by the way. It will get better. He is too good a coach and recruiter; he understands too well the tradition of Indiana basketball. The key word to remember, is PATIENCE.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bad Day for IU Basketball Recruiting

So Indiana basketball had a bad recruiting day. It happens. But did it have to happen to a program so badly in need of a big-time boost?

Sometimes, you don’t get a choice.

The Hoosiers lost the big man they had made a full-court press to get. They lost the verbal commitment they seemed to have locked in for good.

So who’s left? John Wilkins? Will Yeguete? Is that going to be enough?

Hold that thought.

First, 6-9 forward Moses Abraham is going to Georgetown. At least, he is right now based on his verbal commitment. He’ll be able to sign next month. Abraham had a good two-day visit to IU this week. Coach Tom Crean made a big push and got to the brink of a big commitment before Abraham chose the Hoyas, who are closer to his Washington DC home and who are not in a major rebuilding mode.

Then, guard Matt Carlino backed off his commitment and reopened his recruiting. This is big because Carlino moved from Arizona to Indiana and Bloomington South. The proximity to IU’s program was not a coincidence. He averaged 13.3 points and 4.3 assists as a junior for the Panthers, who were undefeated until losing to Jeffersonville in the regional finals. rated Carlino as the nation’s No. 122 recruit.

This is a double blow for the Hoosiers, whose incoming class of Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey excites few except, perhaps, their families. Abraham could have been a shot-blocking force next season. Actually, he almost certainly will be. Just not for the Hoosiers. Carlino is a versatile athlete who understands the game. You can’t get enough of such players in your program.

Wilkins and Yeguete are decent players, but unlikely to make the kind of major impact IU needs next season.

Here’s the bottom line. For Crean to start having consistent big-time recruiting success, he has to get in-state players. They are more likely to appreciate Hoosier tradition. But Crean is in a big recruiting hole because of the huge in-state push by Purdue coach Matt Painter, who exploited the Hoosiers poor coaching decisions (Mike Davis beget Kelvin Sampson beget players who refused to do what was right on or off the court) to build one of the nation’s top programs. It will take years for Crean to undo all that damage.

Can he? Absolutely. Crean made his reputation on being a dynamic recruiter as an assistant coach at Michigan State and as the head coach at Marquette. He can do the same thing at IU. First, though, he’s got to get through this disappointment. He’s got to land more strong recruits (remember the current group of Hoosier freshmen were considered one of the nation’s best groups). He’s got to ensure all the key returning players will actually return. He’s got to start producing winning records.

It’s a lot to ask for, but then, nobody said restoring a program to glory would be easy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

IU Recruiting Intrigue Keeps Spring Interesting

It’s spring, which at some schools means March Madness, at other schools spring football practice. At Indiana, it’s a little bit of football, a little bit of basketball recruiting intrigue, which makes it good to get up in the morning because who knows what the day will bring.

Could it be a big-time shot blocker or key inside player?

Let’s take a look.

We do know -– courtesy of the efforts of Mike Pegram and Justin Dopirak –- all about 6-9 Moses Abraham, the four-star recruit who spent the last two days visiting IU.

And thanks to John Decker of, we get indications that 6-9 junior college player John Wilkins is set to visit Bloomington as well. Yes, that’s the same John Wilkins who has reportedly committed to Iowa State, but in the drama that is recruiting, committing doesn’t guarantee signing.

Abraham spent a couple days in Bloomington and that’s a tribute to the persuasive power of IU coach Tom Crean. Abraham figured to be a lock for Georgetown or even Maryland. Both schools are close to his Washington D.C. home at the moment, although how much of a home that is given that Abraham has only been in the country a couple of months after arriving from Africa is uncertain.

Anyway, Abraham seemed set to announce for Georgetown until Crean swooped in at the last minute and convinced Abraham to at least visit Bloomington before making his decision. Abraham did, and now we’ll see if that leads to a Hoosier home run or near miss.

In the meantime, Wilkins also is in the picture. He, too, provides the inside size the Hoosiers need. As a junior college player, he brings some extra maturity, which will help, although many junior college players need a year to adapt to major college life.

Wilkins is the son of former NBA player Jeff Wilkins, so at least genetically he would figure to have a promising upside. He had originally committed to Bradley, but because of eligibility issues went to Southeastern Community College in Iowa. He ran into more eligibility issues because he previously played for a Belgium club team (he’s originally from Europe) that paid some of its players, so didn’t play for Southeastern.

For now, at least, Wilkins has three years of eligibility for some team’s benefit. Will it be for the Hoosiers? And what of Abraham? Those are questions best answered, for now, by patience.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eye On IU Football -- Quarterback Depth

We’re talking Indiana quarterback and here are a couple of key facts you should know:

Ben Chappell is the man, which is what you’d expect from a guy who threw for 2,941 yards and 17 touchdowns last year while completing 62.6 percent of his passes.

Yes, the 15 interceptions were a bit high and it would be nice to push the completion percentage closer to 70, but Chappell has improved every year, and if he’s not a Michael Vick mobile quarterback clone, he doesn’t have to be. Really, in the end, he just has to win.

“I thought he had an outstanding year,” coach Bill Lynch said. “He’ll get better because he works hard at it. He’s very smart. He’s worked hard in the weight room. He has such a great feel for the game. He has great rapport with the receivers.”

Mitchell Evans is not the man. He’s out of the Wildcat quarterback picture now that he’s a safety. If he would move back to offense, it would be strictly as a receiver. The goal, of course, is that he’s good enough at safety to make it a permanent move.

“I don’t see Mitchell coming back in the Wildcat role,” coach Bill Lynch said. “He’s such a good athlete and an aware athlete he could come back over in a couple of days and play some receiver. He’s that kind of athlete.”

Adam Follett is not the man, even though he’s listed as the backup quarterback on the spring practice depth chart. Follett will very likely end up No. 4 given that the backup battle is set between Edward Wright-Baker or Dusty Kiel.

Wright-Baker is the most mobile quarterback on the team and will inherit Evans’ Wildcat role. Kiel is more of a drop-back passer.

“Wright-Baker and Kiel are very could athletes. I could see one of them play into that role.”

IU opened spring practice Tuesday and developing quarterback depth is a priority.

“Ben goes in as No. 1,” Lynch said, “but we’ll give the young guys a chance to see what they can do. That position it’s so important so we have to find out who our quarterbacks are.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eye On IU Football -- Secondary Moves

In case you haven’t noticed, IU is putting a big emphasis on upgrading its secondary, in part because of graduation losses, mostly because of necessity. The Hoosiers struggled in defending the pass last year, especially in giving up big plays. Yes, injuries played a part, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. If they can’t play better pass defense, they can’t win. And if they can’t win, well, everybody knows the stakes.

So we offer Mitchell Evans and Matt Ernest, who have switched from receivers to defensive backs in what could be crucial moves.

“Both guys are good athletes,” coach Bill Lynch said. “Mitchell has played safety in the Big Ten before. Matt played both ways in high school.”

Evans has seemingly played every position but center in his previous three years in the program. He was a quarterback, a receiver, a safety, a Wildcat quarterback, a running back, a special teams guy and, well, you get the picture. Last year he caught 33 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 151 yards (averaging 4.6 yards a carry) and completed 3-of-7 passes for 21 yards.

You’ve got to have that kind of athleticism on the field, and given IU’s receiver depth, the move to safety makes sense. Evans likely will miss spring practice because of a hip injury, but he’s expected to be ready to go for the fall.

Ernest has been a decent receiver (10 catches, 87 yards, one TD in his first two seasons) and a better special teams player (four times winning special teams player-of-the-week honors). His speed and agility make him a cornerback candidate. He’ll get his shot in the spring to see how well he makes the transition.

He does have an extra challenge -- he also pitches for the baseball team. He’s appeared in four games and totaled a 4.00 earned run average in nine innings. He is also 2-for-2 in stolen bases, an indication of his speed.

“For Matt it will be unusual because he might miss some (football) practice time,” Lynch said. “He has great speed and feet. He became a good special teams player for us. And if it doesn’t work out, Matt can go back to wide receiver and fit right in.”

In an ideal Cream ‘n Crimson world, it will work out, and if that leads to an 8-4 record and a bowl bid, well, isn’t that what spring optimism is all about?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is Rib-Rocking Defense Coming To IU?

Are you like me? Are you contemplating Tuesday’s start of spring football practice through the frenzy of March madness -- did Kansas REALLY lose to Northern Iowa; how in the world did Villanova not beat St. Mary’s; wasn’t the Pac-10 supposed to stink -- and realize that the quickest way for Indiana to get back to bowl status -- and stay there -- is through rib-rocking defense.

Yes, that’s the same unit that has tortured the Hoosiers for the last 17 years or so, not that we’re counting.

Now they return just four starters from a unit that ranked 10th in the Big Ten and 91st nationally in points allowed. Heading for a shot at the NFL are defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton, who combined for 9.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss last year. Holes are at linebacker and the secondary. It’s enough to make you wonder if the Hoosiers will ever get back to the level of Bill Mallory’s glory years.

Coach Bill Lynch isn’t wondering because he’s doing something about it. He’s ratcheted up the off-season practice competitiveness, changed a few positions (receivers Mitchell Evans and Matt Ernest will move to the secondary) and developed enough young talent to offer hope that better days are coming.

“I’m excited about the defense,” Lynch said. “Everybody says we lost all those guys. We lost them because they had played a lot. They had played a long time when they were young and we didn’t have the depth so they had to play. We have more depth and more competition now.”

That’s especially true in the secondary, where about 15 players -- including junior college transfers Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles -- will vie for playing time.

“We have some pretty good players,” Lynch said, “but they haven’t played much. Now it’s their turn.”

Their turn starts Tuesday. We’ll see what they do with it.

No National Title For IU's Escobedo

Sometimes not getting what you want is the best thing that could happen to you.

Sometimes, it just sucks.

So we offer Indiana wrestler Angel Escobedo, whose bid to become a two-time national champion ended with Saturday’s surprising 125-pound semifinal defeat.

Escobedo can still finish third if he wins two matches today. He is guaranteed to finish as the Hoosiers’ first four-time All-America.

The top-ranked Escobedo cruised into the semifinals with three dominating performances to improve to 36-0. But he was upset by fifth-seeded Andrew Long of Iowa State, 7-4, in the semifinals.

Escobedo jumped to a 2-0 lead off a takedown, trailed 4-2 in the third period, then got a 2-point reversal to tie the score. Long got a one-point escape and a 2-point takedown in the final 90 seconds to end Escobedo’s quest to add to the national title he won two years ago. He finished fourth in the nation as a freshman and fifth last year.

Escobedo plans to enter international competition with the goal of making the U. S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team in 2012. Maybe this defeat will help motivate Escobedo to Olympic success, much as a surprising college defeat helped Dan Gable win Olympic gold in 1972.

We’ll know in a couple years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wanted -- Fierce Competitors for IU Football

Let’s say you’re Indiana football coach Bill Lynch, or any college coach, and want to build a successful program. Yes, you can have all the bells and whistles and spectacular stadiums and impressive weight training facilities money can buy, but if you don’t have good players, quality players, players you can count on when times get tough, as they always do, you don’t really have anything.

The No. 1 attribute that all coaches seem to want, regardless of the sport, is competitiveness. They want fierce competitors who will do what is necessary to win while still following the rules.

There are two ways to get competitive guys -- recruit them or develop them. So we posed this question to Lynch -- how do you get the kind of competitors necessary to win at the Big Ten level?

“We try to find it,” Lynch said. “If you find that naturally fierce competitor, that’s a key. Really competitive people never lose it.”

How do you find it?

“It starts with conversation,” Lynch said. “We talk to the high school coaches and anybody in the (high school) building. We want competitive kids who compete in the class room, the weight room and on the field. The better we get to know these kids, the more we see them at camp, the better feel we get for how competitive they are.

“Once they get here their true personality comes out.”

Is it really possible to turn a passive player, maybe just a really nice guy, into an aggressive, competitive, nasty player?

“I do think you can develop competitiveness,” Lynch said. “Some kids are brought up in a competitive environment and competed in everything they did. The more competition you put in front of them, the more competitive drills you have, the better it teaches a kid to be more competitive.”

Lynch pushed competitive drills hard in the off-season conditioning program. And there is nothing he likes better than to sign multi-sport athletes.

“If you see them compete in basketball, in track, in wrestling, that’s important,” he said. “We’re even starting to get Lacrosse players. I like to see kids competing and going from sport to sport.”

You can win with those kind of players. That, is the bottom line.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

For Indiana Football, It's Time To Finish

So here is Bill Lynch, braced for the start of spring football practice, geared for what he and the Indiana Hoosiers hope is a break-through season, the culmination of years of recruiting and redshirting and developing.

IU came close last season. It finished 4-8 and it could have been, without divine intervention, 8-4.

It lost to Michigan 36-33, Northwestern 29-28, Iowa 42-24 and Wisconsin 31-28. It was outscored in the fourth quarter 15-7 by Michigan, 10-0 by Northwestern and 28-0 by Iowa.

With just a little more effort and execution, the Hoosiers would have made a bowl game.

Guess what? That’s been a point of off-season emphasis. So with spring practice set to begin on Tuesday, the theme is as clear as a fist to the gut:


“It’s on the back of the players’ work-out t-shirts,” Lynch said. “It’s in big letters – FINISH.

“There’s no question we were close and had leads in the fourth quarter. We needed to get a first down or punch it in the end zone or get a stop and we didn’t do it. We’ve got to get over the hump and finish.”

The coaches have ramped up the competitive battles in off-season workouts to try to develop the mindset that leads to strong finishes. And there is, Lynch insists, enough talent to ensure that competitiveness is real and not contrived.

“We have more depth at more positions than we’ve had,” he said. “It’s going to be a great spring to see who comes out ahead.”

Who, in other words, knows how to finish.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Will Abraham Visit Equal Recruiting Gold for IU

Tom Crean is trying for recruiting magic. Will it work? And even if it does, is 6-9 Moses Abraham the impact big man Crean needs to turn the Indiana basketball program around?

So many questions, so few answers.

For now, though, consider that Crean was persuasive enough in the last few days to convince Abraham to delay his decision not once, but twice. He got IU into Abraham’s top-two finalist list along with favored Georgetown.

Now that the one-week contact period is here, Crean can actually visit Abraham, which is what he did by flying to Washington D.C. on Tuesday. Crean did well enough so that Abraham will wait on choosing a school until after making an official visit to Bloomington. Abraham has already visited Maryland and Tennessee. He lives in the D.C. area and has visited Georgetown multiple times.

Yes, the college basketball buzz centers on the NCAA Tournament, but the Hoosiers weren’t close to making that tourney for the second straight year. So Crean continues to Tweet his message so recruits and fans won’t forget the Hoosiers. One message said, “We need to get the guys added who can help us get back to Selection Sunday. Another said, “Size, toughness and athleticism."

Crean knows he needs a big guy and he believes Abraham is that guy. The key is how raw is Abraham. He’s from Ghana and hasn’t been in the U.S. long enough for recruiting experts to rate him He is apparently good enough for high-profile college coaches to seek his services. But does that mean he has enough offensive polish, defensive awareness and overall savvy to thrive in the rugged Big Ten as a freshman?

Crean has gone the Africa route before, with little to show for it. Tijan Jobe and Bawa Muniru barely played during IU’s 10-21 season.

Let’s face it. If you can’t play much on a bad team, who can you play for?

Anyway, Jobe has finished his eligibility. Muniru has three more years left.

Abraham might be more developed than those two players. He might pick up things faster. We won’t know that until next season, regardless of which school he ultimately picks.

For now, this is what we do know –- IU needs a dominant big man who can thrive right away; Crean is making a fierce recruiting pitch; Abraham plans to officially visit IU soon.

Magic, it seems, will have to wait.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Replogle Family Still Good To IU

Yes, we know everyone is buzzing about basketball recruiting -- this is Indiana, after all -- but here's a thought:

Why do Tom and Theresa Replogle produce so many good football playing sons?

Here’s a hint –- Tom played football at Virginia Military Institute from 1974-77.

Here’s another hint –- their four sons are all big, athletic and love the game.

You don’t have to tell that to Indiana coach Bill Lynch. He’s too busy reaping the benefits.

The newest Replogle set to join the Hoosier program is Mike, a 6-2, 210-pound linebacker out of Centerville, Ohio. He has orally committed to IU and will officially sign in February of 2011 and then join the team that fall.

Replogle is, in fact, Indiana’s first commitment for the Class of 2011. He is listed as a three-star player (out of a five-star system) by

IU already has Mike’s two older brothers. Adam, a 6-3, 270-pound defensive lineman (pictured on left), saw significant action last season as a true freshman. He totaled 32 tackles, including five for loss and four sacks. Tyler, a 6-2, 231-pound linebacker (pictured on right), was the Hoosiers’ second-leading tackler with 80. He had 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, one interception (returned for 30 yards), two pass break ups and three passes defended.

Centerville coach Ron Ullery talks about Mike’s high motor, physical play and relentless commitment to improve. But then, that’s also true of his brothers.

This won’t be the first time three brothers have played for Indiana. Brian, Bob and Steve Tillery were on the 1979 Holiday Bowl team, although only Steve and Bob are listed as lettermen.

Oh, yes. There is one more Replogle, Jake, an eighth grader. Could he be a future Hoosiers?

That’s a question for another day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Crean Recruiting Parable -- The Basketball SOB

So let’s say you enter some Stephen King-like fog one morning and come out the other side as Tom Crean. Yes, this would mean you were making $2.3 million a year, which could buy a lot of, say, Storm Trooper outfits, but that’s not your priority. Restoring Indiana basketball glory is and that means you’ve got to recruit, and recruit well.

So what do you look for?

The easy answer is sign three LeBron James, two John Walls and one Shaq and you’re good to go. Of course, recruiting isn’t always easy, even if you’re Roy Williams, and you’ll need more than just a bunch of guys who can run and jump, dribble with their left hand and consistently hit three-pointers.

You need guys who will rebound, guys who will defend, guys who make plays with the game on the line (can you say Evan Turner?), and because this takes effort and awareness and tenacity, you need guys who have heart. But what does that mean? Consider this tale Crean once told, sort of a recruiting parable.

Ralph Willard was coaching Pitt back in the day, when Crean was a Michigan State assistant coach and real men relaxed by reading Dan Gable’s training techniques. They were at a wedding and, of course, talk turned to the bride’s dress and the gorgeous flowers and those frilly …

Wait. Of course they didn’t talk dresses and flowers. They talked recruiting and Willard was saying he made a mistake by not recruiting at Pitt like he did at Western Kentucky. In other words, Willard had gotten seduced by the glamour guys, the highly ranked guys, yes even the prima donna guys rather than the blue-collar, do-what-needs-to-be-done players who had led Western Kentucky to the Sweet 16 while he was there.

“That registered with me,” Crean said. “Every time I get too caught up in where I guy is ranked, it’s reiterated more to me to look for things like toughness, winning, basketball temperament, that desire to be on the court, that desire to get better. All those things matter more than ever.

“Talent is not a great separator. You’ve got to get that toughness where you fight just a little bit longer. If you have that in practice and start carrying that into games, you have something. It’s the same with every sport.

“You can get away from that. I did at Marquette a few times. I started looking at upside and talent rather than pure toughness.”

So Crean seeks toughness to go with talent. He wants hard-nosed SOBs who can break you with their will even more than their skill, yet still go to class and handle themselves with class, and the sooner the better.

It’s highly unlikely that every Hoosier who is supposed to return from IU’s 10-21 team will return, either by their choice or Crean’s choice or mutual agreement. He needs to sign more players, to upgrade the talent as well as balance the class numbers. He needs size and a junior college player or two might provide the maturity to go with that size.

Mostly, though, he needs guys who know how to win, who are fierce competitors who seek out and thrive on challenges.

And, of course, who look good in Storm Trooper outfits.

Sorry. Anyway, figure on a spring recruiting surprise or two. How do we know this? Let’s just say Stephen King isn’t the only one who knows his way around supernatural fogs.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mystery Solved? -- McLeod Talks

At last, the mystery is solved. At last Roshown McLeod speaks and we have understanding, clarity and resolution in the Indiana assistant basketball coach’s sudden firing.

Or do we?

According to Dustin Dopirak from the Bloomington Herald-Times, here is McLeod’s long-awaited statement regarding his dismissal:

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity afforded me by Indiana University. It gave me the chance to work with some amazing student athletes over the last two years. I wish the best for IU as they move forward.”

What? You were expecting Housewives of New Jersey dirt?

You spend basically a week coming up with a statement, courtesy of a Philadelphia public relations company called Amira Shiraz, Inc., and that’s the best you can do? Come on. McLeod apparently didn’t have time to include a desire for world peace and a booming economy.

If you’re looking for deeper meaning, consider that McLeod’s statement never included any of the IU coaches or administrators with that “amazing” tag. Okay, it’s not much of a deeper meaning, but work with us here.

Consider that coach Tom Crean, while also being vague, has said the qualities he wants in a new coach include “pulling in the same direction, trust, loyalty.” One can assume Crean perceived those attributes to be lacking from McLeod.

Yes, we know the dangers of assuming, but again, work with us here.

It would have been a lot more fun if Crean and McLeod would have verbally gone toe to toe (He said WHAT? He did this to WHOM and for HOW LONG?), but that would not have been in either’s best interest. McLeod has to move on with his life and career. Crean has to get the IU program back to championship-winning ways. He needs to find a new assistant coach and whether the new guy has a Hoosier connection (can you say Dane Fife, Tom Coverdale, Michael Lewis, Calbert Cheaney –- hey, don’t you love it when we toss out names) or not, he needs to be the right fit for Crean and the university.

And, if Crean REALLY wants to make a stir, the new coach doesn’t have to be a guy at all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hoosiers To Power Up in Off-Season

So what do you do, if you’re Indiana coach Tom Crean, and you’re coming off the two worst seasons in program history?

You lift weights, of course.

Prayer, by the way, is a nice second option.

The lifting refers to Hoosier players, although Crean could use some weight training to relieve stress and regain the weight he lost during this 10-21 season (16-46 in his two years in Bloomington).

All the Hoosiers need a heave dose of lifting that strength coach Jeff Watkinson will devise for them. It figures to start right after they return from spring break. Players need to get bigger and stronger

Why? If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.

Guard Jordan Hulls, Verdell Jones and Christian Watford, in particular, need big gains in this area, although no player is immune.

“They have to mature their bodies,” Crean said. “We’re not strong enough yet to hold people off, body up people on cuts and drives. Our bodies have to take a different look. That’s why, from Year 1 to Year 2, is such a big jump. Our ability to get stronger is very important.”

For the record, while Crean has just finished his second season, in so many ways it was his first season. Last year was just survival after Crean had to gut the program to get rid of all the Kelvin Sampson-era players who didn’t understand the concept of going to class and doing the right things all the time, or even half the time. This season was, in reality, the first year of his rebuilding.

Figure at least two more seasons are needed to get IU back to national relevance.

Anyway, there is another aspect that is more important than getting stronger.

“WILL is the biggest word in my mind,” Crean said. “We need to develop a bigger defensive and offensive will. We have to develop a toughness. We’ve made strides, but we don’t have close to the physical and mental toughness we need to have.”

Crean has pounded that theme all season. The problem -- you can’t force feed maturity. Well, you can try, but time and experience are the key ingredients. The Hoosiers got 31 games worth of experience and will have six months to build strength and develop their skills.

The importance of recruiting better, tougher players can’t be over stated. It is the No. 1 way to turn this around fast. Look for Crean to add some players to next year’s class of guards Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. Right now IU is set to lose three seniors (Devan Dumes, Tijan Jobe and Steven Gambles). Don’t be surprised if others move on, either by their choice, or the coaches.

As far as recruiting, forward Abraham Moses is set to make a decision on Sunday, and IU is in the mix. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, so are powers Georgetown (the favorite), Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, UCLA, Florida and Seton Hall.

Hey, nobody said this would be easy. But then, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hoosier Turnaround Will Come

Indiana’s season is over and it’s not man-bites-dog news. The Hoosiers faded down the stretch, treated the ball like a time bomb and lost their offensive way in Thursday night’s 73-58 loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten tourney.

That’s what happens in a 10-21 season.

Still, you see the way Derek Elston played (10 points, nine rebounds) and Verdell Jones thrived (20 points, six assists, four rebounds) and IU hustled. You recognize the youth and the prospects even while understanding how much effort it will take to get past this patsy phase.

The Hoosiers will get past it, by the way.

Yes, IU had beaten Northwestern five days earlier in overtime, but that was at Assembly Hall. This was a neutral court, although Conseco Fieldhouse’s ability to sap the accuracy from Wildcat shooters caused coach Bill Carmody to quip, “I just hate these rims. That’s why I always voted for Chicago (as the conference tourney site). It’s nothing about the city. It’s closer, collegiate, all that stuff. I just hate the rims.”

Indiana coach Tom Crean hates losing, and he has an off-season to devise ways to prevent it. Players will get stronger. He’ll recruit better players. Today’s mistakes will become tomorrow’s successes.

It’s not guaranteed, of course. There will certainly be more stumbles along the climb to the basketball mountaintop. But this is, in almost every way, the first year of Crean’s rebuilding project. And if he can land some impact big guys -- no projects, please! -- if the players use the struggles to fuel their fire, the program will be back. And then IU basketball will be fun again, and spring break will be reserved for NCAA tourney action and not, say, Florida beaches.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bet The House – Here is IU’s Next Assistant Coach

Welcome to the Inspector Clouseau school of solving Indiana basketball mysteries. By that we mean being able to tell you, with absolute certainty, who the next Hoosier assistant basketball coach will be.

How will we do this when coach Tom Crean insists he doesn’t know, that he hasn’t even nailed down all the criteria he wants? Simple. We’ll use the powers of levity and deduction made famous by the legendary movie detective. We’ll use the Peter Sellers version, of course, and not the poor imitation Steve Martin has delivered in recent years.

We’ll start with the facts:

FACT – IU needs a new assistant coach.

FACT – Crean likes former Hoosier players around his team.

FACT – Dane Fife is a former Hoosier player.

FACT – Fife was at IU’s practice on Wednesday.

FACT – Fife has spent the last five years being the youngest head coach in America at IPFW. He is coming off a 16-15 record, a school record for victories at the NCAA Division I level.

FACT -- Crean said he won’t talk about any candidates. He also said he doesn’t have a timetable to name a new assistant coach, although “I don’t see it being a long time.” He also said there was not a connection between Fife’s visit and the job opening.

FACT – Actually, Crean said, “Not at this point,” when asked about a connection.

FACT – Winning at IPFW, given a non-conference schedule that included losses at Wisconsin, at Washington State, at Gonzaga and at Michigan State, given a host of other disadvantages, is almost impossible to do, let alone sustain. Fife has taken the program about as far as is humanly possible. He almost certainly would want a chance to coach at his alma mater.

FACT – Fife was talking with Angelo Pizzo outside of Assembly Hall on Wednesday after practice.

FACT – Angelo Pizzo is the writer/producer of “Hoosiers,” the best basketball movie ever made and the best sports movie ever made that doesn’t include the line, “He’s just a man, Rock. He’s just a man. Be more man than him!”

FACT – Angelo Pizzo is a huge IU basketball fan and a good friend of Crean. He's also an IU grad. He's also Italian. Lombardi was Italian. Da Vinci was Italian. Pitino and Calipari are Italian. The guy who writes this blog is Italian.

FACT – Crean joined Fife and Pizzo outside Assembly Hall. Fife eventually drove away. Crean and Pizzo continued to talk.

FACT – Crean said Fife’s visit was planned before McLeod was fired. He said Fife has been to practices before. He said he liked having Fife, and all former IU players, around practice. “Any time you can have those guys around,” Crean said, “it’s good.”

FACT – Crean’s main focus in the short term is beating Northwestern on Thursday and advancing to Friday’s quarterfinal game against Purdue.

FACT – Crean is still deciding on what he wants from the new coach, but provides some basic qualities –- “pulling in the same direction, trust, loyalty.” Those attributes, or the perceived lack of them, might help explain McLeod’s firing.

FACT -- IU needs a great recruiter and teacher for an assistant coach, someone who can help bring glory back to old IU.

FACT -- Crean is not Italian.

Add it all up and what do you get:

Angelo Pizzo will be the next assistant coach.

Wait. Sorry. Consider this -- when it comes to Indiana basketball, as in life, what you expect is often not what you get.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Crean's Rule To Recruit By

Okay, so we know Tom Crean needs big guys, big guys who can play right away, big guys who can thrive from the moment they hit campus. They don’t have to be Greg Oden, although that would be a huge plus, but they do need to rebound and defend and provide some kind of offensive threat.

Projects need to stay far, far, far away.

Maybe it will be somebody like Moses Abraham or Will Yeguette or even John Wilkins, a forward from Belgium who just happens to be the son for former NBA player Jeff Wilkins. Maybe it will be a junior college player, somebody with a little more maturity to handle Big Ten battles. If Indiana is to get this thing turned around, it needs inside muscle and, yes, nastiness.

So even as Crean prepares his Hoosiers for Thursday’s Big Ten tourney opener against Northwestern, he’s working the recruiting angles. And as he works, he stays true to his recruiting nature.

That leads to one of Crean’s rules to recruit by:

“If it takes a kid a long time to say yes, he isn’t worth the yes. There are always signs.”

Coaches can sometimes be seduced by a player’s talent and forget about whether that player is a good fit with the school, the program, the other players. They'll see the potential and ignore whether a player has the passion for the program necessary for elite success.

“When you stop trusting your instincts,” Crean said. “When you start worrying about when is the right time for that player to make a decision and then making the decision, you leave yourself open to a lot of potholes.”

Crean, of course, doesn’t need potholes. He needs guys who can help him win now by doing things the right way on and off the court.

“You need skilled, tough guys in this league,” he said.

Identifying need is one thing. Landing that need, satisfying that need? That is the challenge.

Monday, March 8, 2010

McLeod Is Gone, Intrigue Remains

So the mystery about the firing of Indiana basketball assistant coach Roshown McLeod remains.

Is there a reason to worry?

It’s too early to tell.

All we know for sure is that coach Tom Crean jettisoned McLeod just a few days before the start of the Big Ten tourney. More than likely, the Hoosiers’ season will end by the weekend. Their 10-20 record does not suggest a conference tourney title, and the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney, is imminent.

So what was so crucial that McLeod had to go now?

Crean kept things vague when discussing it during the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference.

“You can’t focus on timing,” Crean said. “You focus on what the right decision is. That’s the way that it is. That’s the decision I made. It’s all about moving the program forward. It’s about putting the program first. That’s the focus I’m going to have. Now we just do the things we need to do to continue to get better in the short term and work to improve in the long term. That’s the extent of it right now.”

Crean didn’t provide any more details on Monday night’s radio show. Basically, he said he needed to make a change, that he wasn’t going to be indecisive, that the decision had been made and that it was time to focus on the team and recruiting.

McLeod’s major roles were working with the big men and recruiting in the South and the East Coast. He had not excelled in either area.

“The bottom line with any decision is to do everything to put the program first,” Crean said. “This will help the program move forward as we get ready to compete this week.”

Maybe it was philosophical differences. Maybe McLeod wasn’t a good fit. Or, maybe, it was something to worry about.

For now, we’re once against left with spring intrigue.

When it comes to IU basketball, it seems, some things never change.

Hoosiers Seek To Boost NFL Prospects

Hoosier football players get another shot at impressing NFL coaches and scouts on Tuesday when Indiana has its pro day. The big names are offensive lineman Rodger Saffold (pictured courtesy of IU athletics), defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton, and safety Nick Polk. All four participated in last month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Also participating are safety Austin Thomas, tight end Troy Wagner, running back Demetrius McCray, cornerback/returner Ray Fisher, and linebackers Will Patterson and Matt Mayberry.

Saint Francis running back Daniel Carter and University of Indianapolis offensive lineman Tim Dury also will show what they can do.

Saffold, a left tackle, had an impressive Combine. In fact, he rated second among linemen with a 9-foot-5 broad jump, third in the three-cone drill with a time of 7.42 seconds, eighth in the 20-yard shuttle run (4.67 seconds) and 12th in the vertical jump (29 ½ inches).

Add a solid showing in East-West Shrine All-Star Game and Saffold might have risen to a top-three round pick.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Roshown McLeod Out at IU

So let the speculation begin.

Word has come from Indiana that assistant coach Roshown McLeod is finished with the basketball team.

There had been talk that McLeod’s Hoosier tenure would be over after the season. Instead, he’s done “effective immediately.”

“There is never a good time for something like this,” coach Tom Crean said in a university release, “but it is a decision that had to be made moving forward.”

Does that sound like he was fired?

We thought so.

McLeod, who wasn’t at Saturday’s win over Northwestern, was a former college player at Duke and St. John’s. His main role was to work with the Hoosier big men. He previously was an assistant coach at Fairfield University, at Woodward Academy in Atlanta and with AAU club programs.

McLeod was hired to bring in top-level recruits from Atlanta and the East Coast. It didn’t happen. His main claim to recruiting fame was getting a verbal commitment from Florida forward David Williams, a lightly regarded player who opted not to sign with the Hoosiers.

Let’s just say that no one was disappointed.

Names will be tossed about for a new assistant, many with Hoosier connections such as Tom Coverdale and even Calbert Cheaney. Figure Crean will take his time. There’s no rush. The new coach will have to be good at developing players as well as recruiting new ones. He’ll need to be able to work with Crean and to understand the kinds of players who will fit in well with the program and the university.

And if he can help sign the next Greg Oden, all the better.

What Does Crean Want in a Recruit, Part I

With all the recruiting speculation about Will Yeguette making an official visit to IU this weekend and Moses Abraham passing on his because of the flu, it’s important to understand what coach Tom Crean wants in a recruit.

Of course he wants guys skillful enough to thrive at the Big Ten level. And they’d better be focused on academics and doing things the right way. But in so many ways, it’s the intangibles that will most determine a player’s success.

For instance, Crean has talked about wanting recruits who have had adversity in their lives, who have had to overcome tough times because that will steel them for the challenges that await at the major college level.

“There are so many things that go into recruiting,” Crean said, “but basketball temperament, toughness, speed. We’ve got to keep finding those things.”

Crean wants players who are winners, who come from winning high school and club programs, who have developed the habits necessary for high level success. That’s why a recruit such as small forward Will Sheehey, whose team lost in the Florida state semifinals, is important.

“I got texts at midnight about his energy and how hard he’s playing,” Crean said. “That’s the stuff we have to have. The guys we bring in here have to have it in them.”

So while recruiting rankings mean something, and impressive stats have their place, it’s what you can’t see -– the drive and heart and competitiveness -– that will make all the difference.

Against Northwestern, for the first time in a month and a half, IU showed those characteristics. Specifically, the freshmen did, which bodes well for the program’s future if it can be sustained. It might even bode well on Thursday, when the Hoosiers face Northwestern in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney.

Amazing, isn’t it, how much one victory can change the mood surrounding a rebuilding program.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What Does IU Win Mean -- Hope

Okay, so maybe it’s not time to play Bawa Muniru. Maybe we confused Bawa with, say, Bobby Capobianco or, perhaps, Derek Elston. Hey, it happens.

Elston, by the way, is the big guy with the tattoos.

Anyway, IU found an inside game and, lo and behold, found a way to win. It beat Northwestern 88-80 and if it unnecessarily needed overtime to do it, why quibble over a victory that’s been so long in coming.

Capobianco played a huge role with his eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Then there was Elston, who is becoming a man right before our eyes. He had a career-high 17 points and eight rebounds to follow up the 13 points and seven rebounds he had against Purdue. Add the fourth double-double by Christian Watford (14 points, 11 rebounds) and suddenly you have a formidable inside game.

Outside balance came from Jordan Hulls who went 8-for-12 from three-point range and showed why IU coaches were so high on him when he committed to the program. He just missed the school record of nine three-point baskets held by Rod Wilmont and Matt Roth.

“Jordan made some big shots,” coach Tom Crean said, “and I think that’s going to be part of his persona at Indiana.”

Verdell Jones chipped in 18 points despite going 0-for-5 from three-point range.

So what does it all mean? First, IU’s 11-game losing streak is over, which means they're smiling again in the locker room. Second, the 10-20 Hoosiers are the 10th seed and will play Thursday at around 5 p.m. They’ll either play Northwestern or Michigan, depending on what happens with today’s game between Michigan State and Michigan. Third, beating Northwestern at home isn't the same as winning at Purdue, but it's a start.

That leads to the most important point. This victory means hope that maybe, just maybe, the Hoosiers are growing up and better times are coming, perhaps even in the Big Ten tourney.

Isn't hope a wonderful thing?

As for Bawa, well, does IU REALLY need a 6-10 athlete sitting the bench? Can he ever develop to the point he gets even one minute a game that matters? That, it seems, is one of the great Hoosier mysteries.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is It Time To Play Bawa Muniru

We’re just a few days from the start of the Big Ten tourney and ready to ask the key Cream ‘n Crimson basketball questions.

For instance, is it time to play Bawa Muniru?

Let’s face it. Indiana’s season long ago became a short-term lost cause. It’s time to face the future, and one area that has to get better is the inside game.

So why not play a 6-11, 242-pound freshman athlete?

Yes, Muniru is going to mess up. He’ll blow defensive assignments, not help when he should, not always run the play coach Tom Crean wants to run. No matter. It’s time for some on-the-job learning because Muniru’s upside is high.

Or so we’ve been told. Since practices are closed and Muniru hasn’t played much, it’s hard to know for sure.

Hey, it’s not like playing Muniru is going to cost the Hoosiers a championship. They’re 9-20 for goodness sakes. Everybody blows them out. Put him out there and let him figure it out.

Crean and his coaches aren’t stupid. If Muniru could help IU win now, he’d be getting major minutes. He’s not because he gets lost in what the Hoosiers are trying to do, mostly because he hasn’t played the game long enough to have developed that sense of where to be and what to do. Learning the college game in general, and Crean’s system in particular, has been a challenge.

Here’s the bottom line -- Muniru is raw and might be too nice for his own good. He has played in 18 games and averages 3.4 minutes. He’s scored a total of 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. The most he’s played is eight minutes and that was back in late December against Bryant. He got three minutes in Wednesday’s loss at Purdue and grabbed a rebound, scored a basket and took a shot to the eye from 7-foot teammate Tijan Jobe, the most dangerous Hoosier of the century.

Anyway, if Muniru is so big a project that Crean can’t put him on the floor, after already burning his redshirt opportunity, well, Muniru has got to play. Start him against Northwestern and for however long IU is in next week’s Big Ten Tournament. What’s the worst that can happen? In this conference season of misery, there is no “worst.” There is only growth, and you can’t grow if you don’t play. Who knows? Maybe he’s one of those guys who plays better than he practices.

If Muniru is not the right fit for the program, let him prove it on the court. If he is, he needs experience.

So is it time to play Bawa Muniru?

In fact, it’s way past time.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No Easy Answer for IU Struggles

What can Jordan Hulls say, really, beyond the obvious?

“There’s no reason why we can’t be physical,” Indiana’s freshman guard says. “We have to keep working it at practice every day and get better.”

What, you were expecting the secret location of the Fountain of Youth?

If it were EASY to stop Indiana’s unprecedented losing, if there was some sort of strategy that could turn youth to experience, soft play into tough-as-nails performance and defeat into victories, the Hoosiers already would be doing it.

They’re not, of course, and have the school-record-tying 11 straight losses and second-straight 20-loss season to prove it.

Still, inquiring minds want to know what's going on because, well, that’s what they do. Questions are asked, answers are given and truth sometimes emerges. And if it lacks the drama of, say, Kanye West enjoying rewards show time with Taylor Swift, well, IU has enough drama these days.

The Hoosiers insist they do what is necessary in practice, but not in games. There’s no verification because coach Tom Crean keeps practices closed tighter than the Colonel’s secret recipe, but assuming it’s true, maybe Hulls has an explanation.

“There’s no answer,” he says. “(Practice effort) doesn’t carry over to the games.”

There is an answer, of course. It works in practice because the Hoosiers are going against themselves and not, say, the Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans are older, stronger, tougher and better. They will not allow it to work against them, and the Hoosiers aren’t tough enough to force the issue.

Some day, they will be. Today’s misery will beget tomorrow’s success. For now, though, all IU (9-20) has is one remaining regular season game. Mercifully, it is at Assembly Hall. It comes Saturday against a 19-11 Northwestern team that flirted with NCAA tourney at-large prospects before a recent slump seemingly guarantees a NIT appearance.

After that comes what seems to be a one-and-done showing at next week’s Big Ten tourney in Indianapolis. Then the Hoosiers can take a second straight unwanted spring break instead of a NCAA tourney trip. They can get away from each other, and let’s face it, you lose this much and getting away from each other can’t come soon enough.

A break will let passions cool and give coaches time to find a much-needed inside presence. Coaches have offered 6-9 Moses Abraham of Maryland a scholarship. They've also offered 6-7 forward Will Yeguete of Florida.

IU coaches likely will explore the junior college option to try to land a instant-impact player it needs to jump-start the rebuilding project.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For the Hoosiers, for now, all that matters is beating Northwestern.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Boiler Basher -- Jones Fuels IU's Upset Bid

There’s something about Purdue that seems to bring out the best in Indiana’s Verdell Jones. The sophomore guard has burned the Boilers with two-game averages of 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

Jones had 22 points in last month’s game at Assembly Hall. That’s one of eight 20-point efforts he’s had in 16 Big Ten games this season. In fact, Jones has scored at least 20 points in 11 of his last 19 conference games.

Yes, Purdue coach Matt Painter has noticed.

“(Defending Jones) is a key,” Painter said. “He’s had a lot of success against us. He’s a good player. He has good size for a guard. He has a nice pull-up (jumper). He has a nice in-between game. It’s important that we keep him in check.”

For the season Jones averages 14.6 points, 16.8 points in Big Ten games.

If IU (9-19) is to upset the seventh-ranked Boilers (24-4) tonight at Mackey Arena, Jones will have to have a huge game. So will forwards Christian Watford and Tom Pritchard, plus guards Devan Dumes and Jeremiah Rivers.

Don’t be surprised if Pritchard plays well. The sophomore has averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games against Purdue. That’s well above his season averages of 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds.

“With Watford and Dumes and (Jordan) Hulls, those guys can make shots,” Painter said. “Pritchard had his best game (of the season) against us. Rivers is a talented kid who can break you down.”

Still, the Hoosiers seem to be the ones who are broken with a 10-game losing streak and six straight losses by at least 14 points. Purdue has won three of the last four meetings, although IU has won six of the last nine games.

The Hoosiers haven't played well since nearly upsetting the Boilers at Assembly Hall last month. If ever there was a time to return to that form, this is the game. Otherwise, it could get real ugly real fast.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Unexpected Return -- Moriarity Back at IU

Did you see this coming, that Mo Moriarity would return to coaching football at Indiana?

Yes, that’s the same Moriarity who thrived at Carmel High School the past five years with a 58-14 record that included the 2007 state title and three state runner-up finishes.

It’s the same Moriarity who went 143-31 with two state titles in 15 years at Bloomington South.

It’s also the same Moriarity who coached at Bloomington North for a few weeks before bolting for the Carmel job, angering Cougar supporters who had pushed for his hiring.

No matter. The guy can coach and recruit, and that’s the bottom line.

Indiana coach Bill Lynch was focused on finding the best replacement for offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, who took a job with the Buffalo Bills a couple of weeks ago. Moriarity will coach the offensive line. He was IU’s tight ends coach from 2002-2004 under former head coach Gerry DiNardo. He worked with future NFL player Aaron Halterman.

“We are excited to have Mo join our staff,” Lynch said in a release. “He has been a proven winner through the years. He shares my passion and vision for football at Indiana University. Our offensive line will be well coached and fundamentally sound.”

Moriarity also will provide strong in-state recruiting connections, particularly in central Indiana. He’s a former president of the Indiana Football Coaches Association.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with Bill Lynch and be part of a program heading in the right direction,” Moriarity said in a release. “After talking with Coach Lynch about IU football, I can’t wait to get back down to Bloomington.”

Moriarity has 33 years of coaching experience, 25 as a head coach, with a career record of 241-56 (.811).

That’s great, but the bottom line is, can he get the Hoosiers to pass protect and run block? We’ll start finding that out next season.