Monday, May 31, 2010

Cook Hall Has IU Basketball Coach Smiling Even More

Does Felisha Legette-Jack EVER have a bad day? How is it that the Indiana women’s basketball coach always seems to have a smile on her face and an inspiration word on her lips?

We can’t explain the past 10 or so years for her, but if you listen to Legette-Jack talk about Cook Hall, you might understand why she’s that way now.

Cook Hall, as you should recall, is IU’s new practice facility full of state-of-the-art stuff designed to boost recruiting, development and the Hoosier way.

Because it’s only been open for a month or so, it’s too early to determine the impact, although IU basketball players are excited to be using it. But their excitement can’t match that expressed by Legette-Jack.

“It’s going to have such a great impact for recruiting down the road,” she said. “For now, for the mental well being of the people working there, it’s unbelievable. We’ve always been in good moods, but it takes your spirits to another level. It just such a privilege to walk into that atmosphere every day. It gets you ready to work and call players to come join us. When recruits come in they are taken away by that.”

Legette-Jack and men’s coach Tom Crean are both coming off losing seasons. Both are hopeful Cook Hall will speed up the rebuilding process.

“Tom and I, we skip to work because it’s such a beautiful place,” she said. “I don’t do it service by telling you. You have to see it for yourself.”

Recruits will see it during camps and AAU events, plus unofficial and official visits.

It won’t guarantee a recruit will sign with IU -– Washington standout Cody Zeller, a 6-10 Hoosier target, has said facilities are important, but are not the No. 1 reason why he will pick a college –- but it will certainly help.

And given the concern some fans have that Zeller has cooled on the Hoosiers –- relax, nothing has been decided and today’s hot team can become tomorrow’s discarded pick. Zeller has said he’ll wait until the fall to announce his college decision, that he will make the best decision for his situation. Yes, older brother Tyler plays for North Carolina, and the Tar Heels are on Cody’s list, but playing with his brother has never been Cody’s focus and likely won’t.

To badly paraphrase Yogi Berra, IU is in the running until it is not in the running and right now it is in the running so don’t sweat the small stuff.

Oh, yes. Cook Hall is really cool.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

IU Basketball Players Thrive At Doing The Right Thing

Maurice Creek doesn’t buy the concept that athletes aren’t role models and shouldn’t try to positively impact the lives of others. Indiana’s sophomore guard understands the responsibilities that come from being a Hoosier; that his high profile image should benefit rather than distract or embarrass or anger.

In other words, be more like Peyton Manning and less like Tiger Woods.

“I take it seriously,” Creek said. “Athletes are role models. Young people look up to athletes every day. And when you make them feel good, it makes you feel good.”

Creek was one of four IU basketball players -- guard Jordan Hulls and forwards Bobby Capobianco and Derek Elston were the others -- doing their part recently while touring Bloomington’s Middle Way House, a facility that services victims of violence.
“Little kids are looking at you every day,” Hulls said. “People are watching you. You have to set a good example. To come here and do this is rewarding and a blessing.”

What exactly did the Hoosiers do? They visited the New Wings Community Partnership Project, which is a multi-use center at the old Coca-Cola Bottling Company plant. It will provide jobs, housing, childcare and youth programs. The players learned about all the services Middle Way House provides – including 24/7 crisis prevention and emergency shelter.

“It’s rewarding for us to have an impact in the community,” Capobianco said. “We’ve had multiple opportunities to do things like this. Not every guy has done every one. It’s more of a team effort. If there are more of these, we’re more than willing to do it.”

Project coordinator Cynthia Brubaker met with Joani Crean, the wife of IU coach Tom Crean, to direct the players during the tour.

“This is about doing the right thing,” forward Derek Elston said. “I’ve never been in an environment like this. It makes you feel like a better person when you do something like this.”

Interacting in the community (Creek also recently talked at a Bloomington elementary school) is among the ways Crean wants his playing to give back to those who support the program. The biggest way to give back, of course, is through basketball. Players are spending most of their off-season time preparing for what they hope is a turnaround season. That includes taking advantage of the recently opened Cook Hall.

IU won six games in Crean’s first season, 10 in his second and is looking for more. Creek is well on his way to a full recovery from knee surgery that cost him his Big Ten season.. A winning record and a postseason opportunity this year would not be mission impossible.

Still, for a few hours on a sun-splashed late May afternoon, basketball took second billing to community service.

“Any time you can brighten someone’s day,” Capobianco said, “it’s a good day.”

And so it was.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Howard's 'Upside' Boosts Indiana's Frontcourt Possibilities

So what does Jeff Howard give Indiana now that the word is out that he will be a preferred walk-on next basketball season?

For starters, he’s 6-8 and 225 pounds. Yes, size does matter, especially for the often inside-challenged Hoosiers. At the minimum, Howard will help with practice. At the maximum, he’ll contribute defense and rebounding in games.

He’s also smart, with a reported 4.3 grade point average. He’s a high-energy guy who’s emerged as a late bloomer. He averaged 16.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a senior for Westfield High School just north of Indianapolis. That’s a huge step after an unimpressive AAU summer run.

Defense is Howard’s strength. He’s quick enough to defend guards, even very good guards such as Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris. He’s smart enough to thrive in defensive rotations. He’s a good passer, but he needs to work on his outside shooting. He projects as a power forward in college.

Howard had enough limitations to prevent anyone offering him a major college scholarship, although Eastern Kentucky, a NCAA Division I mid-major program, did offer him one. So did Division II University of Indianapolis.

Still, Westfield coach Eric Rauch told the Indianapolis Star’s Ted Schultz that Howard had a “huge upside” and has a “great future head of him athletically and academically.”

Howard said he received scholarship offers from Eastern Kentucky (Div. I) and University of Indianapolis (Div. II). Rauch said several other D-II and D-III schools were interested.

In the end, Howard chose Indiana. A preferred walk-on means he won’t be on scholarship, but he doesn’t have to try out to make the team. It doesn’t guarantee him any playing time, but it does give him a chance to earn some.

Suddenly IU has plenty of inside depth, and while none of it reminds anyone of, say, Dwight Howard, there is potential with veterans Christian Watford (6-9, 220 pounds), Tom Pritchard (6-9, 248), Bobby Capobianco (6-9, 238), Derek Elston (6-9, 220) and Bawa Muniru (6-11, 242). Howard will join 7-1 junior college transfer Guy-Marc Michel to provide the kind of inside depth the Hoosiers lacked in coach Tom Crean’s first two seasons.

Of course, that’s assuming Muniru actually plays next season, and that Michel and Howard are ready to contribute right away.

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

Watford is an All-Big Ten caliber guy in potential. If Elston learns to play consistent defense, he will be a force. Capobianco is a big body with a big heart that should make him a significant contributor. Pritchard was erratic last year and didn’t show the sophomore improvement expected after a solid freshman season. Still, he has the potential to be a double-figure scorer along with 4 to 5 rebounds a game

There’s plenty for Crean to work with and if the players all buy into his approach, if they play with passion and awareness, winning will come. Yes, that’s easy to say in late May, but the Hoosiers will get a chance to start proving it come November.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cavs Consider Sampson; Finch Leaves IU

What in the heck is going on? First it was announced there are hidden messages in Michelanglo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece. Then we discover that Tiger Woods’ soon to be ex-wife won’t let him date until the divorce in final and she gets something like half a billion dollars. Now we hear that the Cleveland Cavaliers are considering Kelvin Sampson as their next coach.

What’s next -– Jerimy Finch leaving the Indiana football program?

Wait. Finch IS leaving the program, making him perhaps the biggest bust of an elite Cream ‘n Crimson player ever.

Hold that thought and let’s get back to Sampson.

He’s the guy who single handedly damaged two high-profile programs –- Oklahoma and Indiana -- by flouting (as in disregarding) the phone call rules. He’s banned from coaching in college for a long time, probably forever.

For the last two years Sampson has been an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. Now reports have him in the running for the Cleveland job, as well as Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers (ex-Hoosier Eric Gordon plays for the Clippers).

Here’s a thought -- no matter what Sampson’s sins were, the man can coach. He’s won wherever he’s been. In truth, the pros, which don’t mess with phone call rules or academic standards, might be the best place for him.

So we’ll see what happens.

Then there’s Finch, a super highly heralded player out of Indianapolis Warren Central good enough to start three games at linebacker as a freshman at Florida. Then he broke his ankle while returning an interception against Tennessee, transferred to Indiana amid reports of academic ineligibility, didn’t do much in his two years in Bloomington and now is leaving.

Why he left remains a mystery, although given the fact Finch was out of position so often that coaches couldn’t trust him out there wasn’t a good sign.

Here’s the deal –- Finch couldn’t crack the starting lineup in what was a MEDIOCRE-at-best secondary wracked by injuries. In two years he played in 12 games and dominated in none.

Once upon a time Finch was considered the nation’s No. 1 prep safety. He was a man among boys who seemed certain to thrive at the college level, and beyond.

It never happened. He did record two fumble recoveries while playing special teams last season. This spring he was again a role player working behind Chris Adkins and Donnell Jones. Coach Bill Lynch never said much about Finch.

A terse IU release said Finch will not return and “will pursue other options outside the program.”

“We thank Jerimy for his contributions to the program and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Lynch said in that release.

And now you know.

Or, do you?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Should Jammie Kirlew Do With $1.84 Million

So let’s say you’re Jammie Kirlew (photo courtesy of IU athletics) and you just signed a four-year contract for $1.84 million with the Denver Broncos.

What do you do with the money?

You could go the Mike Tyson route, which means $1.4 million goes to Don King and the rest goes to buying and maintaining the tiger that appeared in the absolutely-did-happen movie, “The Hangover.”

Fortunately, Kirlew is a smart guy. For one thing, he’s not looking to buy a tiger. For another, his agent is not Don King, but Jared Fox. Finally, in the NFL, a $1.84 million contract is not what it seems. Only $50,000 is guaranteed. Why? Because Kirlew is a seventh-round pick, so lacks the bargaining power of a first-rounder.

Kirlew has to make the team and get a certain amount of playing time over the next four years to get all the money in the contract.

No matter. Kirlew will get his shot, and it’s expected to come as a rush linebacker in Denver’s 3-4 defensive scheme rather than at defensive end, where Kirlew was an All-Big Ten performer.

Two other Indiana players were drafted last month and neither has signed. Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, a second-round pick, is with the St. Louis Rams. Cornerback/returner Ray Fisher, a seventh-round pick, is with the Indianapolis Colts.

Hoosiers signed as free agents include linebacker Will Patterson (with Houston), defensive back Nick Polk (with Houston) and linebacker Matt Mayberry (with Chicago).

Yes, this reflects IU’s improving football talent. The fact that it didn’t produce a winning record (the Hoosiers were 3-9 and 4-8 in the last two years) doesn’t diminish the possibilities for this season.

In the end, it’s about results. And, of course, tigers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pitching Power -- IU Advances in Big Ten Baseball Tourney

What’s all this stuff about Indiana not having any pitching? Check that. It was actually that the Hoosiers had the Big Ten’s worst pitching.

Suddenly that’s a myth courtesy of Drew Leininger’s eight-hit shutout of Northwestern to open Big Ten baseball tourney play.

The final score was 5-0 and you couldn’t have scripted a better start for the defending tourney champs. They don’t have a lot of pitching depth and can’t afford to drop into the loser’s bracket, which would almost certainly ruin their chances at repeating and earning a second straight trip to the NCAA tourney.

IU’s only chance is to stay in the winner’s bracket. Next up is regular season champ Minnesota and a victory is not exactly mission impossible. The Gophers are a good team (hey, at least they have a winning overall record, something Northwestern can’t say with its 24-31 mark).

The Hoosiers might be fine if they could pitch Leininger (photo courtesy of IU athletics) every game. He is 9-3 on the season. That ranks fourth in school history for most pitching victories in a season.

Still, IU remains an offense-dominated team behind sophomore outfielder Alex Dickerson. He was named Big Ten player of the year after winning the conference triple crown by hitting .415 with 23 home runs and 73 runs batted in. He is the third Hoosier to win player of the year honors. Mike Smith in 1992 and Kennard Jones in 2002 were the others. Dickerson ranks fourth nationally in home runs.

Sophomore designated hitter Josh Lyon was on the All-Big Ten team after leading all Big Ten designated hitters with a .370 average, 21 doubles and a .721 slugging percentage. He also has hit 11 home runs.

Junior first baseman Jerrud Sabourin was second team All-Big Ten. He finished second to Dickerson in batting average, at .410. He had a career-high seven home runs and 53 runs.

Also outfielder Michael Early made third team all-conference after hitting 13 home runs along with a .352 average. Second baseman Tyler Rogers also made third team by hitting .427 in conference play. He has hit better than .300 in all three of his IU seasons. He moved to center field a few weeks ago and made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch in the seventh inning to preserve the shutout.

What does all this mean? Basically, that the Hoosiers still have a chance to win the Big Ten tourney. And that, after all the lost players courtesy of the Major League draft and injuries, is an impressive feat.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bet The House II -- Hoosiers Will Make Basketball Move up

So here we are, on the cusp of predicting the Big Ten’s second division and where will we find Indiana?

Not last. That honor is reserved for Iowa, which will face some turmoil with the transition from fired Todd Lickliter to hired Fran McCaffery, the former highly successful Siena coach who has a lot of recruiting work to do to get this program back to Big Ten competitiveness. Still, he does have Matt Gatens, Cully Payne and Eric May to work with.

The Hoosiers won’t be 10th. Michigan seems a lock for that now that it’s without DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. Two years ago the Wolverines were a NCAA tourney team and seemed to be on the upswing behind coach John Beilein. Then they lost their outside touch and just about everything else. Beilein shook up his staff, but that won’t be enough to get this program back on track next season.

As a reminder, we had Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois as the first five. So with Michigan and Iowa taking charge of the Big Ten basement, here’s a look at the rest of the standings.

6) Northwestern: If the Wildcats hadn’t lost stud forward Kevin Coble early in the season, they would have made the NCAA tourney. Even without him, they made a run at it before settling on the NIT. Figure he’ll be back fully healthy. Add Drew Crawford and the most talent ever assembled under coach Bill Carmody, and you have a NCAA team, Northwestern’s first since Brent Musburger invented fire (okay, the Wildcat grad only seems that old).

7) Indiana: A lot of experts will put Minnesota here, but figure the Hoosiers will really gel in coach Tom Crean’s third season. The key is high-scoring Maurice Creek returning to full health after last year’s knee injury. Youth won’t be an excuse anymore. Verdell Jones will be one of the Big Ten’s best guards. Forward Derek Elston became a man the last month of the season and that has to continue. Forward Christian Watford has impressive potential. Forward Tom Pritchard needs to play like he did as a freshman and not as a sophomore. Forward Bawa Muniru just needs to play (if he’s a project, why is he here?), as does newcomer Guy-Marc Michel and his 77-foot wingspan (he’d better not be a project). And somebody has to thrive at point guard. Maybe it will be sharp-shooting Jordan Hulls. It won’t be Jeremiah Rivers, who too often drove into trouble when he wasn’t missing free throws. The bottom line, the Hoosiers will finish with a winning record and make the postseason.

8) Minnesota: Coach Tubby Smith will again have plenty of size with Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson. The Gophers have a sharpshooter in Blake Hoffarber and an aggressive mindset that will produce yet another 20-win season for Tubby.

9) Penn State: The good news for the Nittany Lions is that guard Talor Battle decided to pass on NBA opportunity. The bad news is that there isn’t a lot of talent after him. Coach Ed DeChellis tries hard, he really does, but trying isn’t good enough in a league this strong.

So there you have it, the absolutely accurate Big Ten finish for 2011. However, to be safe, don’t bet the house.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bet The House -- Big Ten Basketball Finish Is Here

Today we’re going to tell you, with 100 percent accuracy, the order of next season’s final Big Ten standings.

Quick hint -– Indiana will not be in the top five.

How do we know it’s 100 percent accurate given that we are six months away from the start of the season?

Well, we have analyzed, scrutinized and, in the end, guessed. In other words, we’ve done the same thing all those bloggers have done trying to decipher the meaning of the final “Lost” episode.

First, we know that the Big Ten lost only two players early to the NBA draft. The first was Ohio State’s Evan Turner, who absolutely had to go given he’ll be one of the first two picks taken.

The second was Michigan’s Manny Harris. He didn't have to go, but it was probably a good decision for him, although not so much for the Wolverines.

Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are back. So is Penn State’s Talor Battle and Illinois’ Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey. The Big Ten is better for it.

The Indiana Hoosiers -– not so much.

Overall the Big Ten is so loaded, it might win the Big Ten-ACC Challenge for a second straight year (this is huge considering the Big Ten played the patsy role in this made-for-TV event for years), and should have three top 10 teams, which is great for fan interest, but brutal for coaches who have to face it.

Anyway, today we will showcase the top five teams. This is, of course, guaranteed, so bet the house, the life savings, the kids’ college fund. And if, by chance, it doesn’t turn out this way, we will remind you of that great Animal House line that said, “Hey, you (bleeped) up, you trusted us.”

Here we go:

1) Purdue: The Boilers are loaded. They have three superstars in Johnson, Moore and Robbie Hummel. Yes, there is uncertainty about Hummel’s knee given he blew his ACL and needed surgery to fix it. If this were say, 1967, his future would be grim. Now, guys come back from this stronger than ever. He said, in fact, he's at least on schedule as far as his rehabilitation. Purdue lost Big Ten defensive player of the year Chris Kramer, but bring in a strong freshman class highlighted by high-scoring guard Terone Johnson.

2) Michigan State: Coach Tom Izzo’s knack for strong March runs remains unmatched these days. The Spartans basically have everybody back but Raymar Morgan. Point guard Kalin Lucas should be full go from injury. Draymond Green is going to dominate and, well, never, ever count out Michigan State come NCAA tourney time.

3) Ohio State: Yes, losing Turner is big, but coach Thad Matta’s strong recruiting touch continues with center Jared Sullinger and forward Deshaun Thomas. Four starters return, including William Bufford, who seems destined for a breakthrough season.

4) Wisconsin: We almost put Illinois here, but Badger coach Bo Ryan’s track record is too strong to ignore. Forget about losing senior guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. Wisconsin returns point guard stud Jordan Taylor, plus versatile Jon Leuer and a cast that knows how to play the game. The Badgers will stifle you with defense and break you down with swing offense. Plus, is there a tougher place to play in America than the Kohl Center? The answer, of course, is no.

5) Illinois: The Illini have as much talent as anybody in the conference, but a lot of it is still young with sophomores Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. No matter. McCamey and Davis are as good a 1-2 punch as you’ll see in the Big Ten. Assembly Hall is another tough place to play and the defense should be stifling. These guys could make a strong postseason run if they play to their potential.

So where does Indiana fit in all of this? We’ll let you know on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Basketball Case for Indiana and In-State Class of 2011

In case you’re counting, the state of Indiana has eight basketball players in the Class of 2011 listed among the nation’s top 150 according to That’s twice as many as in the Class of 2010, of which the Hoosiers got zero.

How many is Indiana involved with this time?

Let’s take a look.

In case you’ve forgotten or are too distracted trying to figure out the meaning of the “Lost” final episode (do you mean the last six years were just limbo for the characters on their way to heaven?), three of those eight are already committed.

Indianapolis Pike guard Marquis Teague, ranked No. 2, is going to Kentucky. Indianapolis Lawrence North forward Ryan Taylor, ranked No. 70, is going to Louisville. Bloomington South guard Darwin Davis, ranked No. 80, is headed to Xavier.

Everybody else is in the Cream ‘n Crimson picture, some better than others.

The highest rated is No. 10 Michael Chandler of Indianapolis Lawrence North. Louisville and Ohio State have offered the 6-10 forward. IU is just recruiting him. It's very unlikely he'll be a Hoosier.

Gary guard Branden Dawson is ranked No. 30. He has a ton of offers, including Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and UCLA. Purdue reportedly is the favorite, but the Hoosiers have a chance.

Then there’s 6-10 forward Cody Zeller of Washington. He’s adding schools to his formidable list that already included IU, Purdue, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Butler. He’s ranked No. 46. Yes, the Hoosiers struck out on his older brothers, yes the competition is fierce, but coach Tom Crean and his staff have a good chance at landing him. He said he won't make a decision until the fall.

Also in the running for Indiana are No. 96 Jeremiah Davis of Muncie and No. 101 Mitch McGary of Chesterton. Davis, a 6-3 guard, offers include IU, Purdue, Tennessee, Michigan State and Miami of Florida. McGary’s grades have been a problem, although he’s said he’s improving there. Cincinnati, Marquette and Dayton are recruiting McGary along with Indiana. Purdue’s interest seems to be declining, probably because of grades.

There is, of course, speculation over how IU can offer all these guys scholarships when they don’t have them available. The answer is that Crean will find a way.

First, however, he'll have to get them. Landing two of the five available -- with one being a big guy -- would be great. Is greatness in IU's summer future? It's way too early to tell.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Indiana Big Picture -- Hoosiers Make Big Ten Tourney

Okay, Indiana beating up Illinois in baseball is not quite as big as finding Noah’s Ark, watching Cody Zeller sign with the Hoosiers or getting Danica Patrick to blame herself for her Indy 500 qualifying flameout, but it still shows something special is happening with the Hoosiers’ oldest sports program.

Does that mean Cream ‘n Crimson fans care? Perhaps not, at least not universally, but that misses the big picture, which is that a Hoosier athletic team is winning. In these victory-shy times involving the football and basketball programs, that is saying something.

IU crunched the Illini 16-6 to earn a spot in the six-team Big Ten tourney for the third straight year. That it did so with a young and shaky pitching staff reflects its strong hitting as much as it does conference vulnerability.

Depending on your perspective, Big Ten baseball represents either mediocrity or parity. The Hoosiers qualified for the conference tourney despite a 12-12 league record, 27-25 overall. Minnesota won the regular season crown with a losing overall record (27-28), although it did go 15-9 in league play.

That is of no relevance to IU coach Tracy Smith. His team has a chance to defend its conference tourney title and it will do so while boasting some formidable hitting.

Outfielder Alex Dickerson had three hits against Illinois to win the Big Ten triple crown. He led in batting average (.415), home runs (23) and runs batted in (73).

Dickerson needed those three hits given that teammate Jerrud Sabourin finished at .410. He went 2-for-5 with a home run against the Illini.

So what does all this mean? Indiana is the sixth seed, losing out to Purdue (which also finished 12-12) because the Boilers won their series. The Hoosiers will open the double-elimination tourney Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, against No. 3 seed Northwestern (13-11).

Given the fact the Wildcats (24-30 overall) remind no one of the 1927 New York Yankees, IU has a good shot at advancing and, perhaps, reaching the NCAA tourney for the second straight season.

Hey, it's not like the basketball team returning to NCAA relevance, but it's a start.

Friday, May 21, 2010

IU's Power Display is Chick Friendly

If chicks really do dig the long ball, then Indiana baseball players must be awfully popular these days. The Hoosiers have tied a school record with 82 home runs, including 23 from Alex Dickerson (photo courtesy of IU athletics), a national player of the year finalist.

Three other Hoosiers have reached double digits in homers this season –- Michael Earley (13), Josh Lyons (11) and Micah Johnson (10).

IU has used power to position itself to qualify for the six-team Big Ten tourney. Offense has had to lead the way considering the Hoosiers have one of the worst earned run averages in the Big Ten, at 6.61. Still they are 26-25, 11-12 in the Big Ten.

IU’s 82 homers have come in 51 games. Indiana’s 1992 team had 82 homers in 55 games.

That’s nice, but the bigger issue is advancing into postseason play. The Hoosiers need to beat Illinois in Saturday’s three-game series finale to likely make the conference tournament. The teams split the first two games.

We say likely because of the wide-open Big Ten race. Ten teams are within four games of first.

IU, as the defending Big Ten tourney champs, would seem to have the edge over struggling Illinois, but nothing is as it seems when 12 runs aren’t close to being enough for a victory. The Hoosiers lost 17-12 to Illinois on Friday.

Still, the Hoosiers have a chance because of Dickerson, a sophomore left fielder positioned to win the Big Ten triple crown. He leads in batting average (.411), homers, runs batted in (71) and slugging percentage (.818).

His 23 homers tie Bill Mueller for second on IU’s single-season list. Mike Smith set the record with 27 in 1992. Dickerson’s 37 career homers rank fifth in Indiana history. Smith and Mike Sabo have the school record with 47.

As a result of all this hitting, Dickerson has been invited to the 2010 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Trials. He’s also a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Award, presented annually to the top college player.

Dickerson is one of 38 players invited to the National Team Trials.

What makes this amazing is that Dickerson is from southern California, not exactly a Hoosier hotbed for baseball recruiting. That coach Tracy Smith was able to get an all-state high school player from a warm-weather climate to come to the Midwest is very impressive.

How did he do it? By making a great sales pitch and getting Dickerson to visit the campus. Dickerson did, loved it and is now on pace to become the greatest home run hitter in school history.

But that is a topic for a later discussion. For now, the Hoosiers have to beat Illinois and hope it's enough to get them a postseason opportunity.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dick Vitale, Austin Etherington and Rating Services

If you believe, the national Internet recruiting service, Indiana basketball verbal commitment Austin Etherington has the exact same rating as Dick Vitale.

In other words, none at all.

However, if you believe, another national Internet recruiting service, Etherington is rated No. 88 nationally.

So who is right?

We won’t know for about three years, when Etherington is in the middle of his college career.

What we do know is that rating players is an inexact endeavor. Calbert Cheaney was the lowest ranked of IU’s celebrated freshman class of 1989-90 and wound up as the Big Ten’s career scoring leader and the 1993 national player of the year.

Who knew?

Anyway, and just came out with their top-recruits-in-the-nation lists. Rivals has a top 150, Scout stops at 100. Both are run by reputable recruiting experts in Jerry Meyer (Rivals) and Dave Telep (Scout).

So what does it show for some of the players IU is recruiting? Let’s take a look, in no particular order:

*Cody Zeller (No. 23 Scout, No. 46 Rivals)

*Branden Dawson (No. 17 Scout, No. 30 Rivals)

*Marshall Plumlee (No. 32 Scout, No. 79 Rivals)

*Mitch McGary (No. 101 Rivals, no Scout rating)

*Aaron Thomas (No. 89 Rivals, No. 98 Scout)

*Jeremiah Davis (No. 65 Scout, No. 96 Rivals)

*Austin Etherington (No. 88 Scout, no Rivals rating)

Remember, all these players are from the state of Indiana, and it doesn’t include No. 2 Marquis Teague, who has orally committed to Kentucky. The state is loaded with talent for the next couple of years and the Hoosiers are poised to capitalize.

In the big picture, the ratings don’t mean anything. Performance does.

Just ask Dick Vitale.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How Does IU's 2010 Recruiting Class Stack Up

Okay, it’s time to crunch the numbers when it comes to basketball recruiting for the Class of 2010 and see who the studs are, both in the Big Ten and nationally.

Spoiler alert –- you’re not going to see Indiana on this list.

The No. 1 Big Ten class, according to, a national Internet recruiting service, is Ohio State. The Buckeyes have signed the nation’s No. 2 player in Jared Sullinger, the No. 12 player in Deshaun Thomas of Fort Wayne, No. 51 Jordan Sibert and No. 84 Aaron Craft.

Yes, all-everything guard Evan Turner gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the NBA draft (he’ll likely be drafted No. 2), but with this kind of newcomer talent, Ohio State could be scary good. It is listed as the nation’s third-best class behind Memphis (five top-65 players) and Kentucky.

Oh, yes, Ohio State coach Thad Matta has gotten a commitment from a Class of 2011 star in Georgia point guard Shannon Scott.

Does it ever end?

The same question could be asked of Michigan State. It’s coming off its second straight Final Four and sixth Final Four in the last 12 years. It is bringing in No. 22 Keith Appling, No. 27 Adreian Payne and No. 68 Alex Gauna, plus highly regarded Russell Byrd out of Fort Wayne. This class is rated seventh nationally.

Next is Illinois, which has the No. 13 class nationally. It is bringing in No. 21 Jereme Richmond and No. 49 Meyers Leonard, plus highly regarded Crandall Head.

Purdue is fourth with the nation’s No. 15 class. Guard Terone Johnson out of Indianapolis is rated No. 39 nationally. Then there’s No. 71 Travis Carroll and Chicago standout Anthony Johnson. Forward Donnie Hale is rated No. 79, but he’s headed to prep school for a year because Purdue doesn’t have any scholarships available.

Those are the only Big Ten schools rated in the top 25. Indiana’s class of 7-1 center Guy-Marc Michel and guards Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey doesn’t rank with the big boys. Still, if Michel emerges as a shot-blocking, rebounding, score-a-little threat, this group might surprise some people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Need To Know -- Delany And Big Ten Expansion

So here is Jim Delany, the most powerful man in college sports, playing with the space-time continuum of Big Ten expansion.

You thought he was after Notre Dame, East Coast markets, a mega-gazillion-dollar conference football championship game.

Not so.

Instead, the Big Ten commissioner wants a more lucrative Big Ten TV Network and wants to tap into the population growth of Sun Belt states.Doing so, he said, means expansion, but only after a comprehensive analysis. The Big Ten is five months into its 12-to-18-month timetable. There is much to do, much to consider.

Nothing will happen during this week’s conference officials meeting in Chicago, he said. Nothing will happen when conference presidents gather next month. No invitations. No votes. Nada.

When will it happen?

That, it seems, is the mystery.

Delany said the Sun Belt population growth is “four times the rate of the East or the Midwest.” In 20 years the ramifications will be enormous and the Big Ten wants to benefit from that. That suggests getting some Sun Belt-based schools into the Big Ten.

So that leads to the obvious question –- What the hell is Delany thinking?

Sorry. The obvious question is what are the Sun Belt states?

The obvious answer is Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Texas.

Figure California, New Mexico and Nevada are out. For the remaining states, those schools that are members of the Association of American Universities (all the Big Ten universities belong) will get priority.

In other words, Big Ten schools want the “right fit” academically as well as athletically.

The names spun out of the rumor mill are Texas, Notre Dame, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Nebraska and Rutgers.

Only Texas is in the Sun Belt.

So what does this mean?

As Indiana football coach Bill Lynch has said, Delany “let’s us know what we need to know.”

So what do we need to know?

All in good time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Etherington Pushes the Cream 'n Crimson Cause

So here is Austin Etherington, getting to do what so many teenagers love doing, which is chilling and doing nothing but, say, working on video game improvement.

And he hates it.

The Indiana basketball verbal commitment, Class of 2011, would much rather be battling with his Indiana Elite Team Indiana teammates, working on his game, getting in on the action.

Instead, because of a stress fracture in his lower back, he has to watch while everybody else has all the fun, although not much fun was had in Bloomington last weekend given Indiana Elite’s surprising loss in the adidas May Classic.

Etherington hurt his back a couple of weeks ago. He played through it during a tournament in Fort Wayne and thought he’d be fine in Bloomington by wearing a brace, but doctors told him if he wanted to heal faster and avoid future problems, he needed to take a break.

“They told me they don’t want me doing anything for a while,” he said. “It’s tough. I hate it. But I gotta do what I gotta do.”

Three or four weeks of rest ought to take care of the problem. The stress fracture is similar to what Purdue’s Robbie Hummel endured during his sophomore season. It caused him to miss several games and limited him for the last two months of the season.

The 6-6 Etherington averaged 20.7 points last season for Hamilton Heights. He was originally part of a two-man class committed to IU, but then Matt Carlino backed out and is now headed to UCLA. So now it’s just Etherington.

With Carlino gone, Etherington pushes the Cream ‘n Crimson cause to Indiana Elite teammates such as Park Tudor guard Yogi Ferrell, Muncie Central guard Jeremiah Davis and Washington forward Cody Zeller. All three have Indiana high on their recruiting lists.

“I’ll talk to the guys I know,” Etherington said. “I ask them what they’re thinking.

“We all know (coach Tom Crean) is turning the program around. Being part of something like that would be awesome.”

As far as the Class of 2012, no guard looked any better at the May Classic than Gary Harris, the 6-4 standout from Hamilton Southeastern. He had 36 points in his D3 Heat team’s loss to SYF. If he keeps improving at this pace, he might wind up being the state’s best player by the time he’s a senior, which likely would make him one of the nation’s top players.

Oh, is it possible for a human being to have longer arms that 6-8 forward Hanner Perea? He has the kind of 7-foot-plus wingspan that could make him a big-time college shot blocker.

Yes, Cream could use a guy like that, especially if Perea knows what he’s doing on offense and defense, doesn’t get out of position and generates even a little post offense.

All Crean has to do is sign some of these guys. If he does, look out. If he doesn’t, well, that’s a topic for another day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Relationships, Not Facilities, Top Zeller's Priority List

Remember all the talk you hear from school officials across the country about the importance of upgraded facilities in recruiting, that in this X-box 360 era you’d better WOW recruits if you want to land ‘em because if you’re don’t, you can bet the house your competitors will.

Guess what? Turns out facilities aren’t quite as big a deal after all.

Consider, for your examination, one Cody Zeller, a 6-10, 205-pound high school forward from Washington, Ind., being recruited by more major college coaches than Tiger Woods had, er, acquaintances. Zeller said he won’t pick a school just because of the facilities; that it is, in fact, well down his list of priorities.

“It’s not one of the top things,” he said, “but it’s nice to have a practice area. You can always get in there if something is going on in the main gym.”

It’s important to note that Zeller is more seasoned in the art of recruiting than most. He saw it first hand with older brothers Luke and Tyler, who wound up at Notre Dame and North Carolina. He understands that while bells and whistles are nice, they guarantee nothing. Success, whether on the court on in the classroom, still comes down to effort and desire.

Oh, yes. Liking who you’re with.

So when it comes time for Zeller to make a college choice (Indiana, Purdue, Butler, Notre Dame, Florida, Iowa, Texas, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are the leading candidates), what will be the main selling points?

“Players and coaches are the main thing,” he said. “That’s who you’re going to be around the most. The education, of course. Facilities are important. It’s a long process. There are a lot of things to look at.”

Indiana, like so many colleges these days, spent millions of dollars building Cook Hall (photo courtesy of IU athletics), the new state-of-the-art practice facility that got plenty of use during this weekend’s adidas May Classic. Zeller visited the place and was impressed.

While Zeller couldn’t talk with coach Tom Crean during the Bloomington tournament, it wasn’t allowed per NCAA rules, he has spoken with him and understands Crean’s drive to restore the program’s glory after two years of misery in the wake of former coach Kelvin Sampson’s NCAA transgressions.

“Coach Crean will get it turned around,” Zeller said. “He tells me I can be a part of it. I think he’s already started the rebuilding process with the guys he’s brought in and the guys he’s recruiting.”

Those guys were everywhere you looked this weekend. They ranged from 2011 commit Austin Etherington to prospects such as Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Hanner Perea, Peter Jurkin and, well, we’re too exhausted to type in any more names.

One name you won’t see connected with Indiana anymore is former Warren Central standout Walter Offutt. He decided to take a scholarship to play at Ohio rather than walk-on at IU. The transfer from Ohio State and Wright State was ineligible for scholarship aid from the Hoosiers because of Big Ten transfer rules.

The money was a factor, but Offutt also told the Bloomington Herald-Times’ Dustin Dopirak that he chose Ohio because of his relationship with coach John Groce. Groce recruited Offutt to Ohio State when he was a Buckeyes assistant coach.

Relationships, in the end, are the No. 1 reason recruits chose a college.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is Harris IU's Best Shooting Guard Option for 2012?

Let’s say you’re Tom Crean and you’re looking for a shooting guard out of the Class of 2012. Your choices are Ron Patterson, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Gary Harris.

Who do you take?

A year ago, it was a no-brainer in terms of who you WOULDN’T take. Harris was too thin, too weak and too one dimensional. The other two were better.

Now, however, you could argue that Harris has the biggest upside. Why? For starters because he IS bigger. The Hamilton Southeastern standout has gained 25 or so pounds, to about 195 pounds. At 6-4, he’s still not finished growing or building strength, but you can see the potential end result and it’s impressive.

For instance, consider the manly dunks Harris had during the opening round of the adidas May Classic. He tested the durability of the new Cook Hall rims. He also showed an improved all-around game.

This is why IU has offered him a scholarship. In an ideal Cream ‘n Crimson world, everybody else would pass on him and focus on Patterson and Smith-Rivera. Because this is the real world, schools such as Purdue, Butler, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Illinois, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Xavier and IUPUI have also offered.

Harris said the offers have “exploded” since last summer.

Harris recently took an unofficial visit to IU. He’s also stopped by Butler, Michigan State, Xavier, Illinois and Vanderbilt.

He’s not in a rush, and given he’s still a sophomore, there’s no need to rush.

That’s also true for Patterson, who also is playing at the May Classic. Tennessee, Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Ohio State are on his list. At 6-4 and 200 pounds, he’s a little heavier than Harris.

Smith-Rivera, by the way, pulled double duty by playing for Indiana Elite Team Indiana’s U-16 and U-17 squads on Saturday. He scored 14 points in the U-16 team’s 67-36 win over Wabash Valley Prospects. He had 10 points in the U-17’s 80-30 win over the Illinois Bears.

If nothing else, the guy is fit.

For the record, basically everybody on the Indiana Elite team is being recruited by the Hoosiers. That includes forward Cody Zeller, who is in no hurry to decide on a school. He said Saturday he’ll likely wait till the fall to announce his decision.

Also getting a look is Chesterton forward Mitch McGary. He looked solid on Saturday, but playing ability isn’t the problem. Grades are. He said he’s getting that in order. Saying, of course, is one thing. Doing is all that matters.

Anyway, if Crean can win some of these recruiting battles, he’ll blast away the perception he can’t get the top in-state talent. And with that talent, he’ll be positioned to turn his recruiting pitch into reality.

What is that pitch?

Restore IU’s basketball glory.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wilkerson Helps Show Baker the Way

Forget the rap about AAU basketball being all offense, no defense and to heck with team ball.

Here at Indiana’s state-of-the-art Cook Hall we have state-of-the-art travel ball and the intensity is smokin.’ Drives to the rim do not go unchallenged. Collisions are many; concessions are few.

Players go hard, hot and hungry. They play to win as a team, not thrive as an individual.

Case in point -- Sherron Wilkerson paces the sidelines of his Team Southern Indiana Red squad. It has rallied from a 17-7 early deficit against Club Elite to take a 56-51 lead in the final four minutes. Wilkerson resorts to the four-corner offense North Carolina made popular before the shot clock.

“Wait to attack!” he shouts. “Don’t force it. Don’t play with it. Be patient.”

Wilkerson has paid his dues to be here. He was once the brightest of in-state basketball stars before immaturity cost him his Indiana Mr. Basketball title, his IU basketball scholarship and, perhaps, NBA opportunity.

Some people learn easy, some learn hard and if Wilkerson chose the hard route, at least he learned, and from that wisdom comes the chance to help the nephew of Theo Moore, a long-time friend.

That would be Darryl Baker, the Jeffersonville freshman standout who has become a recruiting focal point for the likes of Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Butler.

Baker has a world of talent packed into his 6-2, 190-pound frame (doctors believe he could get to 6-6 before he’s done growing), but it won’t mean anything without the right approach.

That’s where Wilkerson can help.

“He’s very fortunate that for the better part of his life he got to see some of the failures and troubles that I had. It’s like giving you all the answers to the test before the test even begins. You already know you’ve got to do A, you’ve got to do B, you’ve got to do C before you get to D. It’s helped him a tremendous amount. Hopefully he can build on what he’s started.”

Baker would like to build an impressive high school career and it starts with good health. He missed all of his freshman season because of a broken tibia in his right leg. As a result, all his acclaim has been built on the travel circuit.

He returned to the court last month for the first time in half a year and scored 27 points. He had 28 points in Team Southern Indiana Red’s 68-61 victory over Club Elite Friday night at IU’s Cook Hall. He has much to learn, much to improve, and mixing high school opportunity with travel team experience will accelerate the process.

“He has not played a high school game yet, so he’s very anxious,” Wilkerson said. “He’s chomping at the bit to experience that.”

Baker said he sees himself as a shooting guard, although, “If it comes down to me playing point guard, I will, but I’m more comfortable with shooting guard.”

As far as his outside shooting … well … comfort comes and goes.

“If it’s there, I’ll take it. If not, I’ll go to the bucket.”

Wilkerson provides insight on college and opportunity. He does not, however, push the Cream 'n Crimson cause.

“I tell him the positives and negatives, and then he has to make his own decision. I support whatever decision he makes.

“We walk a lot. A lot of times we just talk about life. It’s important that he understands there are two separate issues -– there’s Darryl Baker the basketball player and Darryl Baker the person. He’s got to separate the two.”

If he does, there are no limits.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Indiana Basketball, Recruiting, Attendance and Megan Fox

Do you live and breathe college basketball recruiting?

If given a choice between a date with Megan Fox and a chance to watch, say, Cody Zeller, play in this weekend’s adidas May Classic in Bloomington, do you break out the scorebook because you’re going to keep track of every shot?

Well, before you get into recruiting hyper drive over the 213 AAU teams set to compete this weekend, consider that most of the big games (which means games involving Zeller’s Indiana Elite U-17 squad) will be played at Assembly Hall or Indiana’s new Cook Hall.

Does this give Hoosiers coach Tom Crean a recruiting edge? Heck, yes. Anytime you can get players on your campus, even if it’s in a non-recruiting setting, it helps.

And for all the talk about how much the Hoosiers have struggled the last two years -- and when you win just 16 games in that span, struggling is a kind description – you’d never know it based on attendance.

Yes, IU didn’t average a sellout this past season, but it did average 15,296 in 17,000-plus Assembly Hall, which ranked 11th in the nation. That was an improvement of five spots over the previous season.

For the record, the Hoosiers are the only Big Ten program to rank in the top 16 in attendance in each of the last 39 seasons.

Yes, Crean was appreciative.

“It’s easy to see that the fan base at Indiana, without question, is the most loyal in the country,” he said in a university release. “Their energy and support is playing a big part in our efforts to restore the championship tradition here at IU.”

That support included six sellout crowds.

A big reason goes to athletic director Fred Glass, who never saw an idea he wouldn’t consider implementing. That included selling Assembly Hall balcony seats for $5. It wasn’t a universally popular decision among IU officials, but it worked. And if you’ve ever sat in one of those seats, you’d understand the importance of bargain pricing.

Anyway, IU ranked second in attendance in the Big Ten behind No. 6 Wisconsin (17,230) and ahead of No. 12 Illinois (14,870) and No. 13 Michigan State (14,759). Kentucky led the nation with a 24,111 average.

All those other teams, by the way, had winning records. At 10-21, IU wasn’t even close to a winning record. Imagine what the Hoosiers will do when they return to their winning ways.

And they will, by the way. Perhaps as soon as next season.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is Indiana Up For The Boston College Basketball Challenge?

So now we know that Indiana will play at Boston College in next season’s annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

What does this mean?

For starters, Boston College went 15-16 and tied for eighth in the ACC last season. That was enough for the Eagles to tell coach Al Skinner to take a hike. So he’s gone and Steve Donahue, the former coach at Cornell, is now in charge.

Boston College is set to return 11 seniors and juniors. IU returns all five starters from a 10-21 team.

Basically, this is a winnable game for the Hoosiers, although because it will be at Boston College, it will be a more challenging one.

“Boston College has one of the most experienced teams and they are battle tested,” coach Tom Crean said in a university release. “Our players will have the opportunity very early in the season to compete against a nationally prominent program away from home, much like the Pitt game last year.”

For the record, IU beat Pitt at Madison Square Garden last season.

“I have a lot of respect for (Boston College’s) new coach, Steve Donahue, who brought his Cornell team to Assembly Hall two years ago," Crean said. "It will be an exciting matchup.”

How good a coach is Donahue? Cornell won 29 games last season and reached the Sweet 16.

IU and Boston College have played three previous times. The Hoosiers won in 1983. Boston College won in the 1994 and ’96 NCAA tourneys.

Just in case you care, Purdue will play at Virginia Tech. The Boilers were 29-6 last season. The Hokies were 25-9 and have the ACC’s leading scorer in Malcolm Delaney (20.2 points).

IU and Purdue will both play on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

The marquee matchup will feature at pair of Final Four teams in Duke and Michigan State. The game is at Duke.

The Big Ten is the defending champion in this 12-year-old, made-for-TV event. It won 6-5 last year. Road teams won six of the 11 games. Seven games were decided by seven or fewer points.

Absolutely True Facts About Big Ten Expansion

Do you believe in conspiracies?

Of course you do.

Do you believe the truth is out there if you can get past all the cover-ups initiated by secret government agencies that insist there was no Roswell Incident or captured alien spacecraft, just weather balloons?

Sure you do.

So now we hear about a supposed email sent by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany that squelches reports that the conference has offered Notre Dame, Nebraska, Missouri and Rutgers membership into an expanded Big Ten.

In fact, the supposed email supposedly says, no team has been offered anything.

What’s next –- word that Big Foot is a myth?

We seek answers. Here are the facts. From these we can find the truth:

FACT – Big Ten officials set a 12-to-18 month timetable to consider expanding the current 11-team conference.

FACT -- Big Ten athletic directors are set to meet in Chicago next week.

FACT -- Football and basketball coaches will be in Chicago.

FACT -- Faculty reps, Delany and noted conspiracy director Oliver Stone also will be there.

CLARIFICATION – Big Ten officials denied Oliver Stone will participate. Michael Corleone denied he had his brother in law killed. And we the only ones who see the connection?

Anyway, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the AP that next week’s Chicago meeting is just a regularly scheduled annual gathering, that nothing about expansion would be decided, although there might be an update from a consultant regarding expansion.

Of course Smith would say that. Why? Because he’s one of THEM.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kaczmarek Sees IU Football Potential

You think you know Indiana football? Truth is, you don’t know jack about it unless you’ve bled for the Cream ‘n Crimson cause, unless you’ve paid with sweat and effort and sacrifice, unless you’ve endured heartbreaking losses and heart-lifting victories.

So you see the Hoosiers under coach Bill Lynch and figure it’s time for a change, and to hell with the two years remaining on the contract and the instability that has rocked the program since Bill Mallory was coldly shown the door.

You look at the records of 3-9 and 4-8 the last two years and see failure.

Ken Kaczmarek sees opportunity.

Who’s Kaczmarek, you ask? He was Indiana’s first-ever All-America linebacker while part of the 1967 Rose Bowl team and if it didn’t lead to NFL glory (he was cut in training camp by the Minnesota Vikings), it did give him the foundation to have a hugely successful business career on the national and international front.

He’s back in Bloomington now, has been for the past eight years or so, and he’s very much involved with the university as well as the athletic program. He knows IU football misery (3-8-1 in his first two years) and glory (a 9-2 Rose Bowl season). He understands what it takes to build a winner.

Kaczmarek sees the Hoosiers under Lynch and recognizes the improvement and the potential. He understands the improved recruited -– boosted in part by the state-of-the-art North End Zone Facility –- that has enabled Lynch to already have eight verbal commitments.

“I know they are turning the program around,” Kaczmarek says from his Downtown Bloomington investment firm office, “and I’ll tell you why. Lynch is getting better athletes. Look at what we had six years ago and what we have now. There’s no comparison. These kids can play.

“They had some bad breaks last year or they would have had a winning record. This year physically we’re so much better. I don’t know if we’ll win more games, but these are good, solid kids. Young men, really.”

In fact, they’re good, solid kids who need to win because the better the football program is, the healthier the overall athletic department is. Kaczmarek believes Lynch is the right man for this job.

“I think Bill is doing a good job. The program has been down for so long. The last thing we need is another coaching change. If we do that it will be 10 more years before we get it turned around. We need some stability. You’ve got to give a guy a chance to really build this.”

Athletic director Fred Glass understands this. He wants Lynch to succeed. In two years, one way or the other, we’ll know if Lynch is, indeed, the right man for the job.

And then everybody will know jack.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big Ten Expansion Would Benefit IU

In case you’ve just spent the last month stuck in Europe because of the never-ending erupting Iceland volcano (we’re not going to try to spell its name, let alone try to pronounce it, but to understand how long this could last, its last eruption went from 1821-1823), Big Ten expansion is back in the news.

Reality, however, is less certain.

A Kansas City radio report stated that the Big Ten has offered Nebraska, Missouri, Notre Dame and Rutgers the chance to join the league. This isn’t backed by facts because nobody in the know is saying anything.

Nebraska and Missouri are members of the Big 12 Conference. Rutgers is in the Big East. Notre Dame is a Big East school in basically every sport except football, which is independent.

Nothing is official yet, but it sure makes for plenty of intrigue. Because if it’s true and those schools accept (Notre Dame remains a long shot), college athletics will never be the same.

Why? Because that would mean the Big Ten would ratchet up to a 16-team league (yes, it would still have to find one more team –- Pitt, Syracuse and Connecticut are strong possibilities), make a gazillion dollars from its Big Ten Network and maybe even figure out how to win a football national championship (the SEC has won four straight).

Notre Dame officials are adamant that they want to stay independent in football. The Big Ten wants Irish football in the worst way.

In the past, that meant a stalemate, but that was before the super-conference threat emerged. If the college landscape changes enough -– say a Big 12-Pac-10 merger, the SEC taking Texas, the ACC taking the best Big East leftovers after the Big Ten is done raiding -– Notre Dame might have to buck tradition and give up its football freedom.

Big Ten presidents and chancellors are set to meet in June to discuss expansion.

What would this mean for Indiana? Basically, more money. Expansion would give the Big Ten Network more clout, more access to East Coast markets and, ultimately, more dollars.

Without Big Ten Network money, IU would be in a world of hurt right now. With it, the Hoosiers are building new facilities, upgrading programs and keeping up with all their competitors.

More, you see, is definitely better.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New Hire Boosts IU’s Commitment to Excellence, Compliance

When it comes to following NCAA rules, Indiana takes no chances. Case in point -- athletic director Fred Glass has turned to the NCAA for his new compliance director.

Yes, hiring Julie Cromer away from the NCAA isn’t as glamorous as getting the nation’s No. 1 ranked basketball or football player, but don’t underestimate the importance. You can bet Glass didn’t. He wants to make sure the mess that all but wiped out the basketball program courtesy of former coach Kelvin Sampson and failure-to-monitor glitches won’t be repeated.

So he brought in Cromer to replace the retiring Mary Ann Rohleder as senior associate athletics director for compliance and administration. She also will be the senior woman administrator and the sport administrator for men’s and women’s soccer.

If that sounds like a lot to do for one person, well, it is. Cromer won’t be bored.

“We are thrilled to have lured Julie from the NCAA,” Glass said in a university release. “Beyond her nationally recognized expertise in compliance, governance, certification and many other areas, she is smart, thoughtful and has great judgment. She will be an integral part of our team.”

Cromer has been with the NCAA since 1999 and dealt with compliance, financial aid, recruiting and eligibility since 2003. She managed the Academic Progress Rate (APR) programs that were part of recent academic reforms.

“During the last decade academic reform has been a focus of our organization,” NCAA interim president Jim Isch said. “Julie Cromer has played a major roll in that effort.”

Cromer also worked as an assistant athletic director at Wright State and was the director of compliance for the Horizon League. She beat out nearly 50 applicants and two other finalists.

Rohleder was originally set to retire earlier, but stayed around to ensure the department was in good compliance shape and to help Glass adjust to his job as athletic director. She will leave in July after 17 years at IU.

“I can’t thank Mary Ann enough for delaying her retirement to help us get off to a good start,” Glass said. “She is the consummate professional. I have relied greatly on her counsel.”

Added Cromer: “As I observed Mary Ann Rohleder’s leadership of the compliance office, I have been impressed with the department’s commitment to integrity.”

Cromer’s duties will include ensuring IU follows all the rules, plus supervising strength and conditioning, sports medicine and recruiting, as well as overseeing the soccer programs.

Her No. 1 priority, of course, will be to keep the Hoosiers far, far away from any more sanctions, phone call irregularities and anything else that will reflect badly on the athletic department and the university.

Let’s face it. Her NCAA background is a huge plus for a university that now boasts the Big Ten’s second-largest compliance department. If Glass has to spend more money on compliance and less on athlete development (academically and athletically), well, this, too, shall pass.

In the end, IU wants to return to its roots -– winning the right way.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Officially A Hoosier -- Michel Does Have An Offensive Game

Yes, there are people out there who doubt the wisdom of Indiana signing 7-1, 265-pound junior college player Guy-Marc Michel.

They wonder if he is another project in the mold of seldom-used Tijan Jobe and Bawa Muniru, if he too will get lost in coach Tom Crean’s system, if he can adapt to the rigors of Big Ten basketball despite having played basketball for just five seasons.

The truth is no one knows until Michel gets to Bloomington, practices and plays a few games. This past season at North Idaho he averaged 7.1 points and 7.3 rebounds. He led the Scenic West Athletic Conference in blocked shots and ranked 16th nationally among junior college players by averaging 3.1 blocks (the advantage of having a 7-8 wingspan). He led the SWAC in blocked shots both seasons at North Idaho.

Oh, yes. He helped lead North Idaho to a 27-5 record. Being a winner is among the attributes Crean values in his players.

Michel also was a member of the under-20 French National Team as a native of the Caribbean island of Martinique. According to the official IU release, he was “widely considered to be one of the top prospects in Europe.”

Finally, Michel was an honors student at North Idaho and speaks three languages.

So what does Crean think of Michel, who is the third player to sign with the Hoosiers (the others are guards Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey?

“We feel fortunate to add a student athlete with the presence and size of Guy,” Crean said in a university release. “He automatically upgrades our program on the defensive end with his shot blocking and post defense. We also feel he will help us with defensive rebounding and help defense.”

As far as concerns about Michel’s offense, Crean wasn't publicly worried.

“Offensively he wants the ball with strong post-ups. I also see him being able to pass out of double teams. We feel he can shoot it up to 15 feet. His upside is exciting. Once he gets in top shape, I think he will be prepared to help us.”

New assistant coach Steve McClain was instrumental in signing Michel. As a Colorado assistant coach, McClain recruited Michel to come to Colorado. He kept up the recruiting after being hired at IU.

“I am glad Steve is the relentless recruiter that he is because this is another example of him going against the grain to find a real prospect,” Crean said. “I know how excited Steve is about Guy. We all feel the same way.”

Of course, it’s easy to say that in May. We’ll see if the Hoosiers still feel excited in, say, February.

Friday, May 7, 2010

McClain's Indiana Impact Surfaces With Michel Signing

So what do we make of IU signing 7-1 junior college center Guy-Marc Michel?

For one thing, it shows that new assistant coach Steve McClain is making an early impact.

McClain was recruiting Michel to Colorado. When he moved to Indiana, he convinced Michel to check out Bloomington. Michel did and signed. He’ll have two years remaining.

Michel, a native of Martinique, will remind no one of, say, Shaq. He averaged 7.2 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for North Idaho Community College this past season. He’s only played basketball for five years. He is far from being a polished offensive player.

But he does have a 7-8 wingspan. He does rebound and block shots. If he can just run and wave his arms and jump, like three inches, he will be an imposing inside factor

IU, in case you haven’t noticed, needs inside factors.

The Hoosiers also have a shot at 6-10 forward Kevin Noreen of Minnesota. It’s uncertain how well he plays defense, but the guy can certainly score. He averaged 38.2 points this past season. He’s scored 4,086 career points.

Suddenly this Class of 2010 (remember guards Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey) is looking awfully interesting. No, not Kentucky interesting, but enough to suggest this MIGHT be a decent follow up to last year’s top-20 recruiting class.

Of course, entering Year Three of the Tom Crean era, the 20-loss seasons need to end. This is a good way to help that happen.

Also, the competition to land ex-Ohio State guard Walter Offutt just got tougher now that Ohio is offering him a full ride. Offutt would have to walk on at IU because Big Ten rules prohibit league teams from offering scholarships to players who transfer to another Big Ten school.

Offutt told the Indianapolis Star’s Jeff Rabjohns that it’s 50-50 between IU and Ohio. He’ll visit Ohio this weekend and make his decision next week.

Finally, are you like me –- are you glad IU has reportedly bagged the idea of signing ex-Tennessee big man Emmanuel Negedu (his heart condition –- the dude had a pacemaker implanted in his chest -- was deemed too risky by Indiana’s administration). In other words, doctors said he could play, but the powers that be said, it’s not worth it.

Negedu has the right to play and schools have the right to say you can’t play here. Let somebody else take the risk. More than likely, somebody will. You just hope for a happy ending.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flavor of the Month Recruiting Isn't Tom Crean's Style

The word is Tom Crean is upbeat these days, and why not? He has an absolutely spectacular new practice facility (Cook Hall) to show off to recruits. He has a bunch of recruits coming to visit Indiana in the next couple of weeks. They range from players who could join the team this fall to ones set for the Class of 2013. Some are big guys, most are guards (hey, Crean loves guards) and all are designed to get the Hoosiers back to winning big.

If you want specifics, they include forward Kevin Norween, Indianapolis guards Devin Davis, Gary Harris and Ron Patterson, and a whole bunch more.

Yes, Crean has his critics who are unhappy that he isn’t cleaning up on elite players in the manner of, say, John Calipari. Some wonder why he pursues a guy with a heart condition (Emmanuel Negedu) or why he can’t get the best in-state talent (have they forgotten Jordan Hulls was Indiana Mr. Basketball of 2009 and Derek Elston was an Indiana All-Star in 2009) or why his incoming freshman class rates near the bottom of the Big Ten or how much longer will this unprecedented losing continue.

Winning, of course, would soothe the toughest critics. Getting an elite player (can you say Washington’s Cody Zeller?) would boost excitement and prospects. Settling on a definitive style of play would make it easier on players.

So what is Crean looking for? He wants confident players, talented players, tough-minded players who do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

“Confidence can go one of two ways,” Crean says. “You can be very confident in what you’re going to do and not budge. There’s not a lot of flexibility because you believe so much in what you’re going to do. Or, you have the confidence to be very flexible. You want to add to things that fit us. You recruit players who can provide another set of eyes, who know what toughness looks like, who know what a tough mindset looks like.

“I’m not talking about the flavor of the month because a kid puts up 38 points in an AAU game. I’m talking about guys who have a substance that wins.”

In other words, guys like the state is producing in eye-popping numbers for the classes of 2011, 2012 and beyond.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

IU President Needs To Make Call on Negedu

What would you do if Emmanuel Negedu wanted to play for your college basketball team? That’s the same 6-7 athletic superstar who, at 225 pounds, combines a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash with a 40-inch vertical leap, the guy who was once a top-20 prep prospect, the guy who could help fill an inside need.

Here’s what you do if you’re Tom Crean and you really want him –- you let your athletic director and president make the call.

Why? Because as those in the recruiting world know, Negedu has one very big problem – a heart condition called ventricular fibrillation. It’s something that, under the high stress of major college ball, could kill him.

Again, that’s COULD, not WOULD. Still, that’s a huge risk.

First, though, a little background.

Last September, after a workout with his Tennessee team, Negedu’s heart stopped. It just shut down. He collapsed.

Medical personnel revived him with an electronic defibrillator. Doctors put in a pacemaker that monitors his heart and would shock it back if he has another episode.

Negedu didn’t play last season. Tennessee officials said they’d honor his scholarship, even if he wanted to get a post-graduate degree, but that he wouldn’t play again. He seemed fine with that –- until he got a doctor to clear him.

He wanted to play. Tennessee said no way, so he’s been seeking a school that will give him a shot. Former IU coach Kelvin Sampson once recruited him. Negedu said thanks, but no thanks. Now, things have changed. This Nigerian native has a Bloomington connection because he came to the United States via the A-Hope program run by AAU coach Mark Adams, who also directs the highly regarded Indiana Elite program based in Bloomington.

Crean is apparently considering bringing Negedu to IU. Negedu would have to be cleared by the school’s medical personnel. But even if he is, there would always be a risk. Crean couldn’t afford to push him too hard in practice for fear of another episode. And the stress and exertion in playing games could cause a problem.

You would think the potential for tragedy would far out-weigh any possible playing benefit.

And yet, Crean hasn’t said no, which doesn’t mean it will be yes, but it does create potential controversy.

The impression is only a desperate team and coach would consider playing Negedu. And when you’ve lost 20-plus games for two straight seasons, the worst stretch in school history, desperation can set in.

Negedu would certainly sign documents absolving IU of any responsibility if tragedy struck, but that might not clear the university in case of a lawsuit. The Hoosiers already have Dr. Larry Rink, a Bloomington cardiologist, on staff, but might have to add another heart specialist to avoid liability.

On one hand, if a kid wants to play, if he’s been cleared by doctors to play (you’d better believe Rink would be unbelievably thorough in his evaluation of Negedu), why not let him play. It’s his life. It should be his choice, even if it is clouded by youthful visions of invincibility.

On the other hand, does any university want to face the consequences if something bad happens? Negative publicity would be off the chart, especially if the tragedy occurred on national TV. Every game would be full of worry about what might happen. That’s why Tennessee refused to play him. It was too risky. It would not be in Negedu’s best interest, or that of the Volunteers.

That’s why Crean can’t make this call. It has to come from the ultimate university higher power.

Of course, Crean could just drop the idea and focus on 6-10 Kevin Noreen and 7-1 Guy-Marc Michel.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Does Butler's Basketball Success Up Recruiting Pressure On IU?

We’re a few days away from college basketball underclassmen declaring whether they’re in the NBA for good (thus forfeiting their remaining years of eligibility) or returning to college.

Butler’s Gordon Hayward is likely to skip his final two years, even though with him the Bulldogs will be national title contenders. Why leave early? Because he’s projected to be drafted between No. 10 and No. 20. First-round draft picks receive guaranteed contracts worth millions of dollars. It would be hard to pass that up.

What does this mean for Indiana? Nothing on the surface. The Bulldogs will still recruit players who fit their system, school and philosophy. So will the Hoosiers. Sometimes they’ll butt heads. Sometimes not.

But Butler’s national runner-up finish gives it the kind of elite profile that, if sustained, could add to the recruiting competition IU already faces from Purdue, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Yes, Indiana coach Tom Crean has noticed.

“I think this is what you to remember about Butler -- 14 of the last 16 years they have been over 20 wins. Butler over the past few years and you would have to say this about Purdue too, they took a lot of Indiana's identity. They are winning the way that Indiana has won. That's a credit to them because they have done that for a long time. Purdue has done it for a long period of time. We've got to continue to get that identity back.”

Crean understands the pressure, criticism and impatience. He gets paid very well to return the program to elite status. It comes down to getting the right fit.

“That’s what having tough people who understand how to make you better does,” Crean says about the recent success of Butler and Purdue. “They’re relentless in their pursuit of character. They know it’s a kid’s game; you have to relate that way. At the same time you have to be the adult who makes them better. Those parents trust you to make their kids better. It’s such an instant gratification society, college sports in general, especially basketball. You have to show (players) how they’re going to get better every day even it they don’t want to do that.”

It’s about effort and out-working the other guy, about doing unto others as they DON’T want done to themselves because there’s a great good at work here.

“That’s the identity we’re looking for,” Crean said. “I’m a fan of Butler, but I was a fan long time ago. I’m a fan of Purdue and it started when I was in the Big Ten (at Michigan State). The conference always came down to Purdue and Indiana. You started with that. You’d see how Purdue played a team. Then you’d see how Indiana did it. That’s what we want to get to. It’s taking time. It’s going to take more time.”

Nobody wants to hear need-more-time talk after consecutive 20-loss seasons, the worst stretch in school history, but it’s the truth. And as much as fans hate hearing it, Crean hates saying it.

“Everybody tells me have to have patience,” he says. “I can’t do that. Perspective is what I want. Perspective to what has happened. Perspective to go as hard as you can every day to make it better.”

Crean is determined to make it better. Every day, he gets a little closer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Indiana Basketball Faces BIG Recruiting Week

It’s a potential big week for Indiana basketball –- literally.

Kevin Noreen, all 6-10 and 220 pounds of him, is set to visit IU this weekend. He has the kind of high school numbers to suggest instant impact, which is EXACTLY what the Hoosiers need inside.

High school stats, of course, guarantee nothing, especially when they come from the Class A level in Minnesota. Still, they suggest potential.

Noreen averaged 38.2 points and 16 rebounds while leading his high school team to the state title this past season. He set state records with 4,086 career points (by comparison, Damon Bailey has the Indiana high school record at 3,134) and 1,899 career rebounds. He’s smart (a 4.0 student), in demand (Northwestern, Marquette, Providence, Oklahoma, Colorado, Boston College, St. Louis, Washington State, UTEP and Virginia Commonwealth have offered scholarships) and loves puppies.

Check that. We don’t know about the puppies, but we do know Noreen has the potential to boost the inside game.

Also still in the mix is junior college big man Guy-Marc Michel. He’s a 7-1, 265-pound project with a 7-6 wingspan and only about three years of experience in basketball. He used to play soccer.

The fact coach Tom Crean already has had two international projects (Africans Tijan Jobe and Bawa Muniru) in his first two seasons would suggest he doesn’t need a third (Michel is from the Caribbean island of Martinique), but it’s not about suggesting as it is producing. And if Michel can produce, he’ll be worth the gamble.

All of this is part of the process in restoring the program. It starts with getting better players and includes developing them. Crean insists he and his staff are well versed in getting players to reach their full potential. For most recruits, that means a shot at the NBA.

“I want to swing a stick that’s realistic around here,” Crean said. “Realistic means we can get you to that (playing in the NBA). We have one of the great traditions of all time here. Look what happens after you leave this program. The only school that can rival it is North Carolina.”

That is, of course, a very public pitch to recruits –- play at IU, get better, get drafted, get rich, get generous. Is it enough to lure the program-changing recruits?

We’ll know more in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

IU's Crean Preferred 96-Team NCAA Tourney Field

We don’t know exactly what the newly expanded 68-team NCAA tourney will look like, but we do know one thing:

Indiana coach Tom Crean wanted a 96-team field.

“I would love to see it get into the 90s,” he said. “I’m excited about that. I didn’t think there was a possibility it wouldn’t once that became public, but it is what it is.”

Back in March NCAA officials openly pushed expanding the 65-team field to 96, which would have created first-round byes for the top 32 teams. But in the end, officials settled for adding just three more teams. That would create an opening-round game in each of the four regionals. The idea was to take away the negative image of the play-in game that resulted by adding a 65th team to the field in 2001.

The logistics of when, where and how these four opening-round games will be played will be determined in the two next months.

So what does Crean think of all this?

“Any time you enhance something, make it better, that’s great. It’s hard to look at the NCAA Tournament and find any flaws in it. It’s a great event. The pageantry of college basketball is unmatched. I don’t think getting into the 90s would have hurt it.

“I love seeing the tournament. It’s an unreal feeling when you’re in it and a miserable feeling when you’re not. Very few things in life bring that emotion constantly. The tournament brings it out.

“I hope they don’t turn these new games into play-in games. I don’t think that’s right. If you’re looking at adding teams it should be the teams that should have gone next. Put the three or four bubble teams in and let them go play.

In an ideal Cream ‘n Crimson world, IU will be one of those bubble teams that get in next year. And if that seems doubtful after consecutive 20-plus-loss seasons, remember, it’s spring, when all things are possible. Don’t believe it? Then consider that IU relief pitcher Chris Squires, a senior who hadn’t had an at bat since his senior year in high school (Fort Wayne Canterbury), singled in the winning run to beat Purdue in extra innings Saturday.

Sometimes good things really do happen to those who wait.