Thursday, September 30, 2010

Overton Better Than Woods; IU Better Than Michigan?

Who knew that Jeff Overton was better than Tiger Woods?

Granted, Woods has had, by far, the better career. Woods remains the world’s No. 1 ranked golfer. But for nine months Overton, an unheralded former Indiana golfing standout, has bested Woods on the golf courses of America.

For instance, Overton qualified for the Ryder Cup on his own merits. Woods made it as an at-large pick by captain Corey Pavin. Overton and the U.S. begin Ryder Cup play today in South Wales.

Overton had 10 top-25 finishes, six top-10 finishes and five top-three finishes. He finished second three times, once when Stuart Appleby shot a blazing 59 in the final round to beat Overton by a stroke.

The guy is 27 years old and he’s already earned $7.1 million in his five years on the tour, $3.456 million this year to rank 11th.

Overton has designated $50,000 to IU for use in the PGA of America’s Play Golf America University’s program.

He probably also kisses babies, does his own laundry and asks for directions when he gets lost.


By now you’ve probably noticed that Indiana will host Michigan in a Big Ten football opener Saturday that MIGHT be the program’s biggest game of the century. No wonder the game is projected to be a sellout.

We say “might” because that will only happen if the Hoosiers (3-0) win. Lose and it’s just another missed opportunity for a program that’s had far too many of them over the last couple of decades.

Michigan comes in 4-0 and ranked 19th. It is not a super team, mostly because it has a very mediocre defense. The Wolverines struggle to stop everybody, and Indiana appears to have the offensive weapons, particularly through the air, to hurt them.

Michigan, of course, does have a super offense led by Denard Robinson, probably the leading Heisman Trophy contender right now. He directs a spread attack coach Rich Rodriguez mastered at West Virginia. It’s quarterback friendly in the sense quarterbacks get to run a whole bunch.

That running, by the way, is made easier by a solid offensive line. If the Hoosiers hope to have any chance of stopping Michigan, it has to control the line of scrimmage.

So while we’ve had a lot of talk about the skill players on both teams, it’s IU’s offensive and defensive linemen, the in-the-trench dudes, who will determine whether the Hoosiers get the upset.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Michigan D Is Just What Chappell and IU Need

If you’re Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell, you gotta like what you’re seeing when you watch tape on Michigan.

The Wolverines, and we’re polite here, are the worst defensive team in the history of ranked college football teams. Has there ever been a ranked team with a defense this bad?

Wait. Sorry. It’s past midnight, we have to be up in about four hours, we’ve been up for like 21 straight hours, and we’re grumpy.

Still, Michigan’s defense is bad. It ranks last in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 264.8 yards. It ranks last in the conference in total defense, allowing 400.0 yards. It is next to last in scoring defense at 23.0 points.

This is the kind of defense that gets coaches fired. However, Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez has the magic of his spread attack to thank. Specifically, it’s Denard Robinson directing that attack. As a result, all the issues of the last couple of years (two straight losing records, allegations of NCAA violations over extra hours) have faded from public thought.

Last year as a freshman, Robinson wasn’t ready. He is now, and is on everybody’s Heisman Trophy contender list.

Chappell, of course, doesn’t have to worry about Robinson when the No. 19 Wolverines (4-0) roll into Memorial Stadium. He’s got Michigan’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme to deal with, and while this approach hasn’t stopped anybody, it has put a lot of pressure on opponents.

Given IU’s own defensive vulnerability, does Chappell figure this will be an offensive shootout?

“We’re not worried about scoring a certain number of points. It might be 7-0. You have no idea. That’s why we have to go into this game and really take it one possession at a time because I think it will go back and forth. It always comes down to three or four plays, though, so we’ve got to be ready to make those plays.”

Not many teams play a 3-3-5 defense. It does enable teams to put more speed on the field and given the spread attack dominance in college football, that’s important.

“They have a lot of younger guys on defense,” coach Bill Lynch said. “They’re trying to get more athletes on the field, more guys who can move in space. They’re a good defense.”

Good, of course, is relative. IU (3-0) can punish this defense. In fact, it has to. That’s the only way the Hoosiers can win this game. And if it wants to earn a postseason bid, it has to win this game.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can IU Deliver Big Crowd For Big Game

If ever Indiana needed a sell-out football crowd, Saturday is the day and Michigan is the opponent.

Noise matters. Home field advantage matters. A rock-the-Wolverine atmosphere is crucial.

The first couple of home games featured the kind of opponents that excited only the most zealous of fans. Michigan is different. It is big time. It is ranked, it has a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Denard Robinson and it has a very porous pass defense.

In fact, the No. 19 Wolverines (4-0) have the worst pass defense in the Big Ten, which seems ideal considering the Hoosiers (3-0) have the conference’s best passing offense.

A cynic could say that’s the result of weak opponents, and that would be right, but it is also misleading. IU is loaded at the receiver position. It has one of the Big Ten’s most accurate quarterbacks. The offensive line might not dominate in run blocking, but it’s done the job in protecting quarterback Ben Chappell.

Hoosiers officials, spurred by athletic director Fred Glass, have pushed the envelope in making the game-day atmosphere a major draw. In fact, IU has sold more than 20,000 season tickets for the first time in 13 years.

The total is 21,125, the most since 1997, when IU sold 25,654 season tickets. Indiana also has sold more than 7,000 student season tickets for the first time since 1997.

“I think people are very excited about the direction of our football program,” Glass said in a university release. “They really seem to enjoy the game-day experience at Memorial Stadium. That is reflected in the surge of season ticket sales and the outstanding response by our student body.”

Nothing spurs enjoyment like victory. A win over Michigan might even generate a few poll votes, and when was the last time the Hoosiers experienced that in football. We’re guessing it was in the early 1990s under then coach Bill Mallory.

Anyway, if the Hoosiers really want to make attending home football games a way of Cream ‘n Crimson life they have to beat a team like Michigan, and they have to do it Saturday in the most impressive of ways.

If this is a special team, it’s time to prove it, not with moral victories, not with fighting the good fight, but in being the rudest of hosts by stomping the Wolverines back to where they came from.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Wait -- Crean Gets Another 2014 Commitment

Is it wrong for a college basketball coach to offer a scholarship to a 14-year-old kid?

Is it wrong for so young a player to make one of the biggest decisions of his life?

Are you nuts?

Sorry. We have to ask.

Yes, we refer to IU getting an oral commitment from 6-9 Indianapolis Tech freshman Trey Lyles. It is not binding, of course. He could change his mind. He has plenty of time to second-guess himself.

The same is true of Bishop Luers freshman guard James Blackmon. He, too, has committed to Indiana without ever having played a high school basketball game.

Yes, it sounds a little scary, but there is plenty of common sense involved in such decisions. For Crean, it’s a no-brainer. The guy’s been coaching a long time. He recognizes talent when he sees it. Youth doesn’t hide that.

Lyles is one of the top players in the country for the Class of 2014. So is Blackmon. As of now, they have the only scholarships IU will have available for that class.

Crean has been playing recruiting catch-up ever since taking the Hoosier job in the spring of 2008. One of his strategies was targeting young players in general, young in-state players in particular.

That strategy is starting to pay off.

Yes, taking players so young is a risk. You don’t know how they’ll develop athletically, academically and socially. But if you do enough homework, if you watch them in practice as well as games, if you get to know their families and those they hang around with, you can make a good judgment.

Lyles’ parents wanted him to wait before committing, just in case. The younger Lyles wasn’t interested. He liked Crean, liked his intensity, liked the fact he was known to bring out the best in his players.

Of course, what seems like a good idea at 14 might seem totally different at 18, so a change of heart is possible. Nothing is locked in until Lyles and Blackmon sign national letters of intent. The earliest that could be is November of 2013.

For now, though, this is yet another sign that Crean is on the verge of turning the program around.
Is it wrong for a college basketball coach to offer a scholarship to a 14-year-old kid?

Is it wrong for so young a player to make one of the biggest decisions of his life?

Are you nuts?

Sorry. We have to ask.

Yes, we refer to IU getting an oral commitment from 6-9 Indianapolis Tech freshman Trey Lyles. It is not binding, of course. He could change his mind. He has plenty of time to second-guess himself.

The same is true of Bishop Luers freshman guard James Blackmon. He, too, has committed to Indiana without ever having played a high school basketball game.

Yes, it sounds a little scary, but there is plenty of common sense involved in such decisions. For Crean, it’s a no-brainer. The guy’s been coaching a long time. He recognizes talent when he sees it. Youth doesn’t hide that.

Lyles is one of the top players in the country for the Class of 2014. So is Blackmon. As of now, they have the only scholarships IU will have available for that class.

Crean has been playing recruiting catch-up ever since taking the Hoosier job in the spring of 2008. One of his strategies was targeting young players in general, young in-state players in particular.

That strategy is starting to pay off.

Yes, taking players so young is a risk. You don’t know how they’ll develop athletically, academically and socially. But if you do enough homework, if you watch them in practice as well as games, if you get to know their families and those they hang around with, you can make a good judgment.

Lyles’ parents wanted him to wait before committing, just in case. The younger Lyles wasn’t interested. He liked Crean, liked his intensity, liked the fact he was known to bring out the best in his players.

Of course, what seems like a good idea at 14 might seem totally different at 18, so a change of heart is possible. Nothing is locked in until Lyles and Blackmon sign national letters of intent. The earliest that could be is November of 2013.

For now, though, this is yet another sign that Crean is on the verge of turning the program around.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Conspiracy Theory – Is IU Defense Setting Up Michigan?

Do you believe in conspiracies? Do you see things going on and KNOW there are mysterious forces at work, that appearances hide reality?

Of course you do. The X-Files, after all, was based on true stories (aliens really did land in Roswell, N.M.). So was Lost. And don’t think for a moment that George Lucas got all that Star Wars stuff from just his imagination.

Why do we mention this? Because our suspicious nature has kicked in. We have seen the Indiana Hoosiers struggle defensively against inferior football opposition and something isn’t right. There is shadow amidst substance, intrigue between inconsistent execution.

Are we being set up? Or, more precisely, is Michigan being set up?

We have heard Indiana coach Bill Lynch talk about how this defense has a new personality; that it is motivated by the naysayers putting them down; that the talent is better; the players are faster and more athletic; that this is a veteran coaching staff that knows how to maximize what it has.

And we believe him.

So when the defense reverts to its bumbling ways of the past 15 years, when it can’t tackle consistently, when it lets teams such as Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron put up never-seen-before numbers, something isn’t right.

Was Lynch making that defense stuff up? Was he just confused? Or is there something else going on?

Sure, we could launch a major investigation to infiltrate closed practices and meetings using drone planes and disguising ourselves as, say, Ben Chappell. Granted, we don’t look or throw like Ben Chappell. Somebody might get suspicious to see TWO No. 4s out there, one standing 6-3 and 242 pounds, the other somewhat smaller.

We could hire hypnotists to get Lynch, his staff and his players to tell us what’s REALLY going on.

We could get really desperate and pipe Barry Manilow songs into the locker room and coaches offices until they run out screaming the answers to our questions.

Or, we could piece together the evidence ourselves to come up with the inescapable conclusion -– IU is holding back.

Coaches went with a basic defensive approach against Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron because they could get away with it. But when Michigan shows up at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon, the real Indiana defense will be unleashed. The one that tackles well, stuffs the run, defends the pass and provides unrelenting quarterback pressure. The one that has enough complexity to turn Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson and company into mush. The Hoosiers will disguise everything. They will contain Robinson and hit him so hard that he’ll quit the sport to take up figure skating.

Of course, we could be wrong. Maybe the defense Indiana has displayed so far is the best it’s got. That’s all there is.

If that’s true, then these are going to be an awfully long two months.

We, however, don’t buy it. The truth is out there and come Saturday, we’ll find it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Unbeaten Indiana Sets Sights On Unbeaten Michigan

Okay, Indiana has finished with its football preliminaries. It has whipped Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron. Those teams have combined to win one game. They remind no one -- and we’re being charitable here -- of Ohio State.

Now Big Ten play begins and No. 21 Michigan (4-0) comes to Memorial Stadium and here’s the deal -- the Hoosiers (3-0) are defensively vulnerable. They continue to struggle with tackling. They can't stop the run. They give up big pass plays. They do not make the stops they need to make. All that was evident in their 35-20 win over Akron Saturday night.

Case in point -- Zips quarterback Patrick Nicely had done nothing via the air all season. Against the Hoosiers, he was dangerous (15-for-27 175 yards). If not for a couple of dropped passes, he might have led them to a victory.

Another case in point -- Arkon rushed for 160 yards. It entered the game averaging 115.

Yes, linebacking standout and leading tackler Tyler Replogle (pictured) was out with a concussion, but the Hoosiers should have enough linebacking depth to overcome that against the likes of Akron.

Why are we dwelling on that when so much went right for IU in that game? Because if Indiana can’t solve these defensive issues, it will be in a world of hurt. There will be more October-November misery.

Indiana dominated Akron, which is what it should have done. It was far superior to a winless opponent. But superiority is over. Now it's about execution and heart.

Big Ten play has arrived, the competition ratchets up, and how IU handles that will determine if it goes to a bowl.

Yes Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson tweaked his knee during the Wolverines’ blowout of Bowling Green, but expect him to be ready for IU. He’s a dual threat guy who could beat the Hoosiers by himself if they allow it.

The goal, of course, is that they don’t allow it. That means playing like they haven’t all season. It’s time to show all that preseason talk of an improved defense was legit and not hot air.

It helps that IU has an offense that can match, if not surpass, Michigan’s. If the running game gets a little more productive, it might be the best offense in the Big Ten.

Yeah, that's not an exaggeration.

The Wolverines, by the way, have their own defensive flaws. The Hoosiers have the firepower to exploit that.

What does that mean? Heck, you might see a 55-50 thriller next Saturday. You might see Robinson with his versatility and Ben Chappell with his arm put on the kind of entertainment Memorial Stadium hasn’t seen in, well, maybe ever.

Still, the bottom line is winning. The Hoosiers need to beat Michigan, and at least they go in on a roll. They were never seriously threatened in non-conference play. They did almost anything they wanted on offense against Akron. They made the Zips pay for their strategy of selling out to stop the run and turn IU into a pass-only attack by burying them via the air.

Chappell threw for more than 300 yards for the second straight game. He found every open receiver and there were a ton of them Saturday night.

Indiana was so secure in its ability to hurt Akron in the air that even a fourth-and-10 situation wasn’t enough to stop the Hoosiers from going for it. They made it, by the way, thanks to a 20-yard strike from Chappell to a wide-open Damarlo Belcher.

IU scored one play later to clinch the victory.

So now it’s about Michigan. It’s about getting the kind of marquee victory that can jump start the program. Chappell said he’s excited about the opportunity as he should be. Now it’s time to take advantage of it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crean Pushes His Hoosier Basketball Message

Tom Crean gets it. He really does. He shows up at the IU Auditorium in the wake of a best-of-John Mellencamp music fest and as part of a light-and-Indiana-band entrance adorned in red sweat shirt and tapping into Cream 'n Crimson glory.

He talks IU basketball to the assembled masses (an estimated crowd of a thousand, mostly students) and touches on the key elements of the program’s rich tradition. He mentions nearly every former Hoosier coach but one (see if you can guess who he left out). He shows an inspirational video showing highlights from last season and IU training sessions.

He addresses his philosophy by paraphrasing Vince Lombardi, the symbol of the NFL and a man who radiated toughness just by breathing.

“This is what coaches live by, what pushes them late at night,” Crean said. “Vince Lombardi once said, ‘We will relentlessly chase perfection and along the way catch excellence.

“That’s what we try to do. That’s the level of excellent we aspire to every day.”

Crean doesn’t joke about that every-day stuff. He expects it. He seeks inspiration wherever he finds it and then passes it to his players, whether it’s a Mellencamp song, or a Hall of Fame coach’s half-a-century-old message. Call it the consequence of a two-year victory total of 16.

Crean has put in the off-court time to turn things around. The in-state recruiting has picked up, the returning players have bought into Crean’s style and all the negative preseason publications picking the Hoosiers to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten if fueling their fire. Part of that is because the Big Ten is so strong – Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State are top-10 programs, Illinois and Wisconsin aren’t far behind – that even a very good team could get hammered.

Those are concrete things. What about some of the soul-searching ones?

Let’s take a look.

“There are three things you are in charge of in life no matter what,” Crean said. “The No. 1 thing is you’ve got to be mentally prepared. Winners come in prepared to go to work. There’s got to be a drive.

“Second, you have to be ready to compete. It’s not enough to work hard. So many people work hard. It’s what can you get done? It comes down to competing at a high level on a daily basis. We have to push for that to happen. It makes for hard days. It sometimes makes for hard feelings. It’s hard to get it out of somebody on a daily basis.”

“Third, it’s got to do with an energy and enthusiasm. They go hand in hand. Nobody cares about the problem. Everybody has problems. Your opponents thrive on your problems.”

Like we said. Crean gets it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Even IU's Big Ten-leading Offense Has Concerns

Let’s say you’re Bill Lynch and you’re looking at an Indiana offense that ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring (and No. 10 nationally) at 44.5 points and No. 1 in passing (and No. 20 nationally) at 285.5 yards.

Would you be worried?

Coaches, of course, worry about everything, and if they don’t, we in the media come up with something to make them worry. It’s our way of getting back at them for making as much in a year as we’ll make in our careers.

We at Hoosier Hoopla don’t do that, of course. We’re just revealing a little secret.

Anyway, there is reason to worry because of the Hoosiers’ mediocre running attack. The pistol formation was supposed to fix that. So was getting a talented tailback such as Darius Willis and developing a veteran offensive line that includes guys so big grizzly bears would think twice about attacking them.

And yet, IU ranks last in the Big Ten in rushing, at a measly 127.5 yards a game. That this comes against football lightweights Towson and Western Kentucky is even more troubling.

So what’s the obvious solution –- get Barry Sanders to come out of retirement.

What’s the next obvious solution given the Sanders thing ain’t happening -– be more man than the other guy.

Running the ball is about playing physical. It taps into that be-more-man-than-him philosophy made famous in the Rocky movies. You pound and pound and pound until you break the defense’s spirit.

At least, it’s supposed to work that way. So the Hoosiers are emphasizing that in practice this week. Yes, they have a dominant passing attack. Quarterback Ben Chappell seems to win another award every time he shows up for breakfast. Receivers such as Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner are really good.

But Big Ten teams are going to try to take away the Hoosiers’ ability to pass. So will November’s chilly weather (assuming global warming hasn’t ripped away winter forever). When that happens, and it will, they will have to run. If they do that successfully, they have a chance at the winning record and bowl bid they aspire to.

Oh, yes. There’s one other thing for Lynch to sweat over. The run defense ranks last in the Big Ten at 185.5 yards. That, too, is being addressed in practice.

No team has ever thrived by stinking with the run and against it. That’s a disastrous 1-2 punch. The Hoosiers are better than that. They HAVE TO BE better than that.

If not, it’s going to be another awfully long season.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is Indiana Basketball Ready For Franklin?

Remember when IU used to schedule basketball exhibitions against Marathon Oil, Athletes in Action and the former Soviet Union?

That can’t happen anymore because of NCAA rules. I once knew the reason for the change, but the answer has disappeared along with my knowledge of Latin and algebra.

Anyway, now teams have exhibitions against Division II and III schools, which explains why Indiana will play Division III-program Franklin College on Nov. 3. The game will be shown on, which should not be confused with the Big Ten Network.

IU and Franklin used to play on a semi-regular basis in the first half of the 20th Century. Specially, they met seven times between 1916 and 1935. The Hoosiers won every time. They haven’t played since.

Since joining the NCAA in 1992, Franklin has appeared in five national tournaments, reaching the Division III Sweet 16 in 1999. Before that it was a NAIA power.

The Grizzlies are coached by Kerry Prather, who is starting his 28th season. They are known for their good shooting and led the nation in field goal percentage during the 1999-2000 and 2008-2009 seasons. They also led the nation in three-point percentage (1997-98 and 1999-2000) and free throw percentage (2000-2001).

Yes, that’s a lot of leading.

“I think the more you can involve institutions from the area during the exhibition season, the stronger it makes both programs,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a statement. “We appreciate the efforts of Coach Prather and assistant coach Adam Martin, and are excited to have them on the schedule.”

Franklin struggled to an 8-17 record last season. However, it’s expected to challenge for a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title this year.

“We are very appreciative of Coach Crean’s generous invitation, and I applaud the fact that he has gone out of his way since coming to Indiana to engage the local small colleges to this extent,” Prather said in a university release. “He is a class act building a solid program, and I am confident he is the right man to return IU basketball to a level of perennial national success.”

As for his own players Prather said they see the game at Assembly Hall as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Most of these kids grew up dreaming of playing in Assembly Hall,” Prather said. “They are extremely excited to live that dream for one night.”

Excitement likely won’t produce victory for Franklin, but that’s not the point. It’s about building toward a big season, both for the Grizzlies and for Indiana.

The Hoosiers, by the way, are poised for a dramatic turnaround.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Big Ten Honors IU's Ben Chappell

Today we are looking for a rock-your-world football quote. Who better than Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell, the guy who, for one week at least, was the best offensive football player in the Big Ten.

So was does he have to say after winning Big Ten offensive player of the week for the second time in his career?

“It’s a great honor. We’re going week-by-week, so I guess that means I had a good week. I will try to do it again next week.”

Okay. Maybe Ben missed the memo on exciting quotes. It doesn’t matter. When you complete 32-of-42 passes for a career-high 366 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Western Kentucky, you don’t have to run your mouth.

“He was very deserving,” coach Bill Lynch said. “He played a really good game.”

This isn’t a fluke. Chappell ranks sixth in school history for passing yards (4,504). He’s thrown for at least two touchdowns in six straight games. His four career 300-yard games ties a school record.

Chappell was deadly on third downs. He was 8-for-8 for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Yes, Lynch has noticed.

“There’s no question that we are a very good passing team,” Lynch said. “We knew that in the off-season.”

Chappell also added

For the season Chappell is 48-for-65 (73.8 percent) for 548 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 170.0, which is exceptional.

This is Chappell’s second player-of-the-week honor. He also shared it last year after throwing for 333 yards against Illinois.

Chappell, already the most accurate passer in school history, benefits in part by a strong wide receiver group. That’s huge given the Hoosiers couldn’t get their running game going against a weak Western Kentucky team. Their 100 total rushing yards isn’t nearly good enough.

“I don’t like being called a passing team or a running team. I’ve always thought that you’re at your best when you have balance. Right now we don’t have the balance that we need in our offense.”

What he does have is offense, and that might be just what the Hoosiers need to return to bowl relevance. Saturday is an 0-3 Akron team before Big Ten play begins with Michigan.

Speaking of the unbeaten Wolverines, they will show up at Memorial Stadium with Heisman Trophy-candidate Denard Robinson.

Speaking of Michigan, the kickoff time has been announced as 3:30 and will be televised on ESPNU.

But that is for the future. For now know that, when it comes to playing quarterback at Indiana, nobody does it better than Chappell.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is Hockey In Indiana's Athletic Future?

Today’s earth-shattering question that does not involve the Manning Bowl, Cody Zeller or Boise State football centers on this fundamental issue:

Should hockey be in Indiana’s future?

Say what?

Has somebody been drinking?

Glad you asked.

The short answer is no, hockey should not be in IU’s future. It has plenty to worry about with the 24 sports it has, let alone adding another. It doesn’t have an on-campus ice skating facility, and the Bloomington community ice rink is not suited for a major college team.

The long answer is that Penn State, courtesy of an $88 million gift from a really rich couple, is about to launch its own hockey program.

Nittany Lion hockey will have its own arena, next to the basketball facility, Jordan Center. The new arena will be a multi-purpose facility and have all sorts of bells and whistles. Both a men’s and a women’s teams will be established. It will give Penn State 31 overall sports.

Penn State, in case you don’t know, has had a club hockey team, the Icers, since 1971. It has won seven American Collegiate Hockey Association national titles. We’re not sure what that organization is, but we are sure winning it seven times is a big plus, at least big enough for somebody to donate $88 million.

Did you know that five Big Ten schools play Division I hockey in two different leagues because the Big Ten doesn’t do hockey.

Minnesota and Wisconsin compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. With six conference schools playing hockey, the Big Ten could begin its own hockey league.

Big Ten officials like the idea. They will consider adding a conference hockey championship. Conference rules allow for that kind of championship if there are at least six schools sponsoring a program.

So why don’t the Hoosiers make it an uneven seven Big Ten hockey programs? They do, after all, offer women’s sports in rowing, field hockey and water polo that have no counterparts at the Indiana high school level, or really anywhere in the state. One could suggest that women’s hockey would be a better fit than rowing, that it would draw fans and boost athletic diversity.

Are we suggesting that?

We’re still bruised from the email and phone call beatings by unhappy Alabama and Ohio State fans over our voting Boise State No. 1.

We’ll stick with no comment.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

How Does IU's Chappell Stack Up In The Big Ten

So where does Ben Chappell rate among Big Ten quarterbacks?

Yes, you can point to Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, as so many do, as the conference’s best. Pryor is a dual-threat guy with a wide receiver’s speed and a tailback’s strength. If he’s not always the most accurate passer, he’s certainly not bad.

Chappell is not a mobile guy, but in Indiana’s pistol formation system, that’s no big deal. Nobody is going to ask him to run the option or turn into another Denard Robinson. Not when you’ve got the kind of big-play receivers Chappell has at his disposal.

Take IU’s 38-21 victory at Western Kentucky. Yes, it would have been nice to hold the Hilltoppers under 15 points to get a real feel that the defense is stout enough to handle Big Ten power, and we’ll get to that in a minute.

Chappell, however, was brutally efficient against a pass defense that ranked among the nation’s worst. He was 32-for-42 for a career-high 366 yards and three touchdowns. That’s what you’d expect from the most accurate quarterback in school history.

He’s smart, resilient and likes to throw to the open guy. Against Western Kentucky, nobody got more open than Demarlo Belcher. He caught a career-high 10 passes for a career-high 135 yards and a touchdown. Terrance Turner was right behind him with eight catches for 55 yards.

Chappell looked like Peyton Manning in the first half. He hit 11 straight passes at one point and threw for 230 yards as the Hoosiers took a 17-7 halftime lead. Overall he directed an offense that converted 10 of 12 third-down opportunities and that had to punt only once.

If there’s an offensive concern, it centers on tailback Darius Willis, who rushed for just 30 yards and fumbled in the red zone. He needs to play better, and he will.

As far as the IU defense, it held Western Kentucky to 197 yards over the final three quarters and dominated in the second and third quarters.

The Hoosiers led 31-7 after three quarters, then let up enough to allow the Hilltoppers to roar down the field for two late touchdown drives.

If this is, indeed, a new-era defense, that can’t happen.

So what does this win mean? Western Kentucky has lost a nation’s worst 23 straight games for a reason. It can’t stop anybody. IU (2-0) isn’t about to get any top-20 votes or scare Ohio State.

Still, it won in dominating fashion, which is what it had to do. Next up is Akron and the Hoosiers need a third-straight blowout before Big Ten play begins. Bet the house they’ll get it.

After that, when Michigan and it’s high-octane, Denard-Robinson-led spread attack rolls into Memorial Stadium, all bets are off.

Oh, as for that question about Chappell and his Big Ten rating, put him just behind Pryor and Robinson (both dual-threat guys), and ahead of Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, Wisconsin's Scott Talzien and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins.

Friday, September 17, 2010

IU Needs Decisive Win At Western Kentucky

Once again, Indiana faces stomp-the-opponent football necessity. Bowl aspirations demand impressive non-conference results and the trip to Western Kentucky needs to end in a rout.

That this will not be easy doesn’t diminish the importance. If IU can’t bury a team that has lost 22 straight games, even though it is on the road, it likely will not handle rapidly approaching Big Ten challenges.

Figure Indiana to have some rust after a 16-day layoff. The Hilltoppers are well-tested after trips to Nebraska and Kentucky in consecutive weeks. They are pumped and primed for a home game against a Big Ten opponent, something that has never happened before. It’s a big moment for them, and they likely will play accordingly.

No matter. IU needs to roll and it starts, as you knew it would, with defense. Western Kentucky has a talented running back in Bobby Rainey and a solid offensive line that has blasted holes against a sturdy Nebraska unit.

The Hoosiers have to stuff the run and force the Hilltoppers to pass. Yeah, every defense wants to do that, but it’s an especially good idea given that passing is not a Western Kentucky strength (quarterback Kawaun Jakes averages just 108.5 yards a game).

Jakes doesn’t have many weapons to work with. Sophomore receiver Marcus Vasquez leads with four catches for 63 yards (a 15.8-yard average) and a touchdown.

Indiana, even with a new secondary, picked off three passes in its season-opening win over Towson. Cornerback Matt Ernest returned one interception 56 yards for a touchdown. Safety Mitchell Evans and linebacker Tyler Replogle also had interceptions.

The Hoosiers should thrive against a vulnerable Western Kentucky defense that has given up 49 and 63 points the last two weeks. The Hilltoppers allow 261.5 passing yards and 247.5 rushing yards.

It should be a chance for quarterback Ben Chappell to put up big numbers, for freshly healed receiver Tandon Doss to show why he’s one of the Big Ten’s best, and for tailback Darius Willis to get a nice follow-up to his 102-yard season-opening total.

The unit that should really come up big is the offensive line. It needs to overpower the smaller Hilltoppers, whose biggest defensive lineman is backup nose tackle Rammell Lewis (286 pounds).

Indiana’s starting offensive line goes 306 pounds, 305, 293, 317 and 331.

After this comes Akron, and then the start of Big Ten play with a formidable 1-2 punch of No. 20 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State.

If the Hoosiers expect to handle that stretch, they’d better handle Western Kentucky.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ground-Breaking IU Initiatives, Zeller and Treloar

Fred Glass is a cutting-edge guy. The Indiana athletic director has these ideas, boy does he have ideas, and fires them at a machine-gun pace. Blink and you might miss something. What you won’t miss is the giant “The Spirit Of Indiana, 24 Sports One Team” display on the back of the new mega-million-dollar scoreboard.

It’s Glass’s way of promoting his newest concept that the athletic department is one unit comprised of 24 sports, that it is a place of NCAA compliance, fiscal responsibility, fund raising, gender equity, academics, coaching, facility development and a whole bunch more.

Basically it boils down to doing the right thing in the right way.

Glass also has initiated something called the Athletics Excellence Academy. It’s a student development program that would let athletes to take courses designed to develop them for a productive future.

For instance, a freshman would take classes such as Intentional Advising, Emerging Leaders and Class Experience. A sophomore could take Intentional Advising, Aspiring Leaders and Class Experience. Everybody gets a performance assessment.

In the end, the academy is designed to maximize a student’s physical and mental abilities. Glass calls these initiatives “ground breaking.” He wants them to become a model other athletic departments have to follow.

Glass took the IU job to restore the glory days that include 24 national championships and 139 individual NCAA titles. This is one step in that process.


So if you were Cody Zeller and Roy Williams, Tom Crean and Brad Stevens stopped by your Washington, Ind., house, how would you react?

With caution, it seems.

Zeller’s basketball recruiting saga continued this past week with the arrival of those three coaches. Next up are his official visits to those schools.

Zeller isn’t tipping his hand. He’ll make all the visits and then decide in time for the November signing period.

He’s one of those must-get catches Hoosier fans hold their breath over. He’s a top-20 player who moved into North Carolina’s radar range after some impressive summer travel-ball performances.

Back in the summer, Zeller seemed an IU long-shot, especially when North Carolina started recruiting him. But Crean kept pushing and Zeller, part of the Class of 2011, made the Hoosiers one of his three finalists.

So now they have a chance and if they get him, an in-state bonanza could follow. Then you’d see a huge Cream ‘n Crimson reaction.


Remember John Treloar? He was the OTHER Indiana assistant basketball coach when Bob Knight was fired in 2000.

Well he’s back in coaching business -– sort of. He’s the Phoenix Suns’ new director of player personnel. He previously spent the past two years as the head coach of the NBA D-League’s Erie BayHawks.

Treloar helped coach IU to the 2002 NCAA title game. He also was an assistant coach at LSU and helped the Tigers to the 2006 Final Four. And in an earlier time, he coached Mike Davis when Davis played in the CBA. Yes, that's the same Mike Davis who took over the Hoosiers after Knight's departure.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

IU Focus -- Stop Western Kentucky’s Rainey, Just Win

So Indiana travels to Western Kentucky on Saturday to play a football team that has lost like 22 straight games. It is 0-2 this season. It has scored a total of 38 points, allowed 112 points.

It is, by all appearances, the biggest sure thing on Indiana’s schedule.

And yet, the Hilltoppers have gone to Nebraska, a top-10 team and to Kentucky, a decent team. They are, if nothing else, battled tested.

Does this scare you?

Now Western Kentucky returns home to face Indiana with a not-so-secret weapon: tailback Bobby Rainey. He has rushed for 339 yards and has scored three touchdowns. He burned what last year was a very good Nebraska defense for 155 yards. He added 184 more against Kentucky.

Rainey is not the biggest guy in the world at 5-8, 196 pounds, but that doesn’t matter. He ranks fourth in the country in rushing behind Michigan’s Denard Robinson (227.5 yards a game), Oklahoma State’s Kendal Hunter (207) and Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas (185.5).

Indiana is not typically good against the run. It struggled in that area against Towson in the opener, mostly because it could not contain quarterback Chris Hart.

The good news is that the Western Kentucky quarterback Kawaun Jakes is not a prolific runner. In fact, in two games he’s gained a total of two yards. That’s not a typo. He averages two/tenths of a yard a carry.

Does this scare you?

Of course it doesn’t. Jakes puts up decent passing numbers (20-for-37, 217 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions), but he reminds no one of Peyton Manning.

IU’s defensive game plan seems simple enough –- load up against the run, force the Hilltoppers to throw and life is good.

Will it work?

We’ll find out Saturday.

Monday, September 13, 2010

“Not So Fast, My Friend” – Lee Corso Makes IU Hall of Fame

Has there ever been a more colorful Indiana coach in any sport than Lee Corso?

Yes, Bob Knight generated more attention, good and bad, but Corso was hilarious. Even with bad football teams, and he had several of those, he found a way to entertain. Remember one of his coach’s shows, following a loss, where the camera showed him in a coffin as if he was dead. Then he popped up and said, “We ain’t dead, yet.”

And so the Hoosiers weren’t.

Corso left IU and eventually became one of the most recognizable sports commentators in America at ESPN. But it’s his run at IU, which included a dramatic 38-37 victory over previously unbeaten Brigham Young in the 1979 Holiday Bowl, that has earned him an induction into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Corso went 41-68-2 from 1973-82 that included two winnings seasons. The Hoosiers finished No. 19 in 1979.

Corso also coached at Louisville, Northern Illinois and in the USFL. He’s been an analyst at ESPN since 1987.

“Lee Corso’s induction as a great IU football coach is particularly exciting for me given he led the Hoosiers during my time as a student,” Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said in a university release.

Ironically, Corso was fired in 1982. He found out about that while at Fort Wayne Snider High School recruiting Rod Woodson, who went on to have an outstanding career at Purdue and in the NFL.

Five other former athletes will be inducted, including former basketball standout Steve Green. He was a key member of the 1975 team that went 31-1 and might have won the national championship if Scott May hadn’t broken his arm late in the season.

Green scored 1,265 career points and averaged 14.5 points. He led IU in scoring his last two years at 16.7 and 16.6. He also was co-captain those last two years while earning All-Big Ten honors. He ranks sixth in school history with a 53.8 percent career shooting percentage.

Green was selected by the ABA’s Utah Stars and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. He played a year with Utah and the Spirits of St. Louis before spending three seasons with the Indiana Pacers. He later played a year in Italy before becoming a dentist.

Also inducted were former IU football players Chuck Bennett (1926-28) and Van Waiters (1983, 85-87), women’s basketball player Denise (Jackson) Salters (1981-84) and men’s golfer Wayne McDonald.

Waiters was an all-conference linebacker and second-team All-America who played for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings. Salters is IU’s career record holder for scoring (1,917 points) and rebounding (1,273).

Bennett was an All-American running back for the Hoosiers who later became a high school football coach and athletic director in Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois.

McDonald is the only IU golfer to earn All-America honors twice. He was second at the NCAA tourney in 1969.

The six will be inducted during a ceremony on Oct. 29.

“The strength of this class underscores the rich tradition of student-athletes at Indiana University,” Glass said.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

IU Football -- On Beating Western Kentucky, Stopping Denard Robinson

Are you like me? Did you see Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson destroy Notre Dame’s defense and think, oh no, what’s he gonna do against the Hoosiers?

Granted, you’re not me, and that’s probably a good thing. I’m the only guy in the country who voted Boise State No. 1 this week in the AP poll, and let’s just say I am not popular in Alabama and Ohio, among other places. That’s why I’ve decided to wear a disguise and change my name to some obscure identity like, say, Tiger Woods.

Anyway, Robinson torched the Irish for 505 total yards and three touchdowns. He threw for 244 yards and a TD, and ran for 258 yards and two scores. Not even ex-Hoosier great Antwaan Randle El, as good as he was, put up numbers like that.

IU, meanwhile, struggled to contain Towson quarterback Chris Hart. While the athletic Hart will be hard for anybody to contain (he rushed for 123 yards against IU, threw for 165 more, he’s not in Robinson's league. The guy is suddenly being talked about as a Heisman Trophy favorite.

The good thing is the Hoosiers have plenty of time to prepare for Robinson and the suddenly dangerous Wolverines (2-0), who will be at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 2.

In the meantime there’s 0-2 Western Kentucky to consider. IU (1-0) travels there on Saturday, then hosts Akron in a night game on Sept. 25.

The Hoosiers will have had 16 days between the Towson victory and the Western Kentucky game. They’ve used that time to get a lot of extra work on improving themselves and developing the younger players.

“We’re trying to balance staying in game mode with doing a lot of team reps,” coach Bill Lynch said. “The best thing to do from a conditioning standpoint is to make it like a game, going on long drives of 12 to 14 plays. That taxes the players, particularly the linemen. It is better than just doing wind sprints.

“We’re also doing plenty of individual work where we focus on fundamentals and techniques, particularly with the young kids. We looked at this whole camp, especially these 16 days, to make sure we’re working with the young guys.

“So often this time of year they get banned to the scout team and don’t get much coaching. We’re taking advantage of this break to get a lot of work in with a lot of balance to it.”

The Hoosiers began focusing on Western Kentucky on Saturday. They know they have to play better, especially on defense. With 11 straight weeks of games ahead, with the goal of earning a bowl bid firmly in mind, all things are possible, but only if they defend at a high level.

And if along the way they can figure out a way to shut down Robinson, all the better.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tighter NCAA Enforcement Is Good News For IU’s Crean

The Bruce Pearl mess could be good news for Indiana’s Tom Crean.

Why? Because it’s a sign that universities and the NCAA are getting more serious about all the shady stuff going on in recruiting. For coaches who do it right, and if you know Crean, you KNOW he does it right, this is a good thing.

That means that someday Crean MIGHT be able to recruit on an even playing field. “Might,” of course, is a fluid term considering some coaches and programs will always push the limits beyond what is allowed.

According to reports, Pearl lied to NCAA investigators looking into possible phone call issues involving his Tennessee basketball program. He felt guilty about it and, after a few days, told the truth. Supposedly he lied about minor stuff, although that will come out once the NCAA is finished with its investigation.

In the meantime, Pearl lost $1.5 million of his mega-million-dollar contract (it reportedly averages $2.3 million a year through 2015). Plus, another $500,000 retention bonus also is in jeopardy.

Sure, losing $2 million is a big hit, but it’s not like he’s going to have to live in a van down by the river eating fast food leftovers. The guy will still make $1.4million this year instead of $1.9 million.

Unless Pearl has been investing millions in, say, a time machine, he’s probably in good shape financially. Losing $2 million to him is probably like the average person losing $2,000.

It’s a pain, but not devastating.

His assistant coaches also took financial hits. Pearl and his assistants will have off-campus recruiting restrictions lasting as long as a year. And this is just penalties imposed by Tennessee in an effort to ward off bigger sanctions by the NCAA. IU tried that with former coach Kelvin Sampson and still got hit with more penalties that the basketball program continues to recover from.

Rule breaking goes on and coaches hear about it. They know it’s happening, but knowing isn’t proving. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has gone public with his concerns about the problem, which reflects the feelings of many coaches in the Big Ten and other conferences.

“I don’t think there’s a coach in this country who isn’t concerned,” Crean said. “You could probably go to football with Bill Lynch or Tracy Smith in baseball or Felisha (Legette-Jack) in women’s basketball and hear the same thing.”

Crean said he thinks the NCAA enforcement staff is doing a better job of attacking the problem. Investigators are being more aggressive in checking out elite recruits and elite recruiting, the phone calls they get, the agents and runners they’re involved with, and everything else. Frustrated coaches are being more cooperative and less inclined to follow the good-old-boy, don’t-rat-out-your-fellow-coaches approach.

In recent years the NCAA has come down hard on IU basketball, USC football and Baylor basketball. It’s investigating Connecticut basketball. And a bunch of SEC football programs are facing player-agent problems.

The Pearl issue, just as it was with Sampson, involved phone calls. Specifically, the number of calls coaches can make each week to recruits. Coaches have their home phones and university cell phones. They have to fill out phone logs recording all the calls they made to recruits. That way the compliance department knows what's going on and everyone can stay within the rules.

However, some coaches get other phones, pay-as-you-go phones, that don’t require contracts or anything that could trace the calls to them. They use those phones to make extra calls in violation of NCAA rules. They don't record them on phone logs. Unless investigators can get the phone records of recruits, they’ll have no way to know how much of that is going on.

Still, better-informed investigators can ask better questions, putting more pressure on those coaches flouting the rules. Even if the coaches don’t get caught, the risk of getting caught has increased, which can help reduce the problem.

“There’s an awareness out there (with the NCAA enforcement staff) and I don’t know if I felt it the last couple of years, but it’s there now,” Crean said. “What does that mean? Who knows? We all have our opinions about what we think goes on. We work in an incredibly competitive environment where we’re going against super-competitive people. It’s all about what’s relevant to us, and what’s relevant to us is we want to fight tooth and nail to get the program back to where it has to be, and trust the people in charge of enforcing the rules that they are doing as much as they can with as much backing as they can get.”

Here’s the bottom line -- for those doing the right thing the right way, tighter enforcement is a huge plus. For those cheating, it’s a big problem.

Friday, September 10, 2010

IU's Rivers Faces Fierce Competition

As Indiana’s only basketball senior, as the only one on the roster to play in a Final Four (at Georgetown) and to have a father coaching in the NBA with a world championship on his resume (Doc Rivers with the Boston Celtics), you’d think Jeremiah Rivers’ spot in the starting lineup would be secure.

You’d be wrong.

Competition is the name of the Hoosier game these days and it’s fierce at the guard spot.

Rivers’ prospects were uncertain even before a severe ankle sprain over the summer set him back.

Verdell Jones, Jordan Hulls and Maurice Creek (assuming he’s fully recovered from last year’s shattered kneecap) are likely ahead of Rivers in the IU scheme of things. Veteran Matt Roth (he’s recovered from last year’s foot surgery) and newcomer Victor Oladipo are also in the backcourt mix.

At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Rivers is the biggest and probably the most athletic of the guards. When he transferred after two years at Georgetown, he seemed poised to be the backcourt leader IU needed.

It didn’t quite happen.

You didn’t want him shooting free throws at crunch time. Decision-making could sometimes be a problem. And the kind of follow-me-or-else leadership you need from a veteran player was lacking.

Rivers had no problem getting to the rim. Finishing was another matter.

He had a team-leading 106 assists and a team-leading 41 steals. He also had 86 turnovers. He shot 40.4 percent from the field and was 0-for-5 from three-point range. Add the 57.8 percent free throw shooting and you have a 6.0 scoring average.

For comparison sake, let’s look at the numbers of Jones and Hulls. Are we doing this to stir things up? Of course we are. As long as we do, we don’t have to rake leaves.

Jones had 105 assists and 87 turnovers, which means he was a tad worse than Rivers. He shot 39.9 percent from the field, also worse than Rivers. However, he was 27.3 percent from three-point range (not great, but better than zero) and was a 75.8 percent free throw shooter. As a result, he averaged 14.9 points.

Hulls shot 40.6 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from three-point range. That will earn you lots of playing time, which is why Hulls averaged 25.1 minutes as a freshman. He also averaged 6.4 points. However, his 45 assists against 37 turnovers isn’t quite the ratio you’re looking for.

So what does IU need from Rivers?

“He’s aware of what we need from him,” coach Tom Crean says. “It’s different than what needed in the past. He’s in a fight for minutes. No question.

“I feel bad for him. He had a severe ankle injury right after we got back for the second summer session. He wasn’t able to play. That sets him back.”

For much of last year, Rivers played point guard. Don’t expect a repeat.

“I don’t see him at the point,” Crean said. “He’s got to get defensive rebounds. He has to move the ball. End to end we don’t have any body faster.”

In fact, that speed does give him a chance at a limited point guard role.

“The best way for him is to get a defensive rebound and go,” Crean said.

“He’s got to be an outstanding defender. That’s something he got away from a little bit. I know what he’s capable of defensively. That’s what I expect him to be. I expect him to hold his own. He’ll have to earn his way. That’s not any different than anybody else who has to fight for minutes.”

Rivers, of course, could fight beyond his previous performance. He could become a dead-eye free throw shooter, an outstanding ballhandler and passer, a leader in every sense of the word. He will get his starter shot. If Crean sees in November what he didn’t see last year, anything is possible.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yeagley Seeks To Restore IU’s Soccer Greatness

In case you didn’t notice, Todd Yeagley won his first soccer game as Indiana’s head coach. That puts him exactly 543 Hoosier wins behind his Hall of Fame father, Jerry.

It would take Todd probably 30 years to surpass that total, which is why he is as concerned about that as he is the number of trees surrounding Lake Monroe.

His job is to restore Cream ‘n Crimson greatness and last Sunday’s 5-1 victory over No. 5 UCLA was a great start.

As Todd has said, he doesn’t just want to beat teams, he wants to “bury them,” not because he’s mean and nasty, but because he wants to make the Hoosiers a team to fear again. A little rump kicking goes a long way toward doing that.

There is plenty of work to before IU is again a national title contender, but at least the Hoosiers have an offense. That’s been a problem in the last couple of years and is among the improvements Todd seeks to make. He wants to combine old-school basics with “modern” soccer, which basically means playing with aggression and flair and, yes, beauty. Players are taught to create without sacrificing fundamentals, toughness and resolve.

Todd grew up amidst soccer excellence, then became part of it as a four-time All-American. He played professionally for seven years, then returned as a Hoosier assistant. He spent one year as Wisconsin’s head coach before returning to the Hoosiers last winter.

Counting a 2-1 overtime loss to California, the Hoosiers are 1-1 with a nice mix of veterans and freshmen. They are building something special and the odds are it won’t take long.

Yes, Jerry is part of it, not as an assistant coach, but more of a consultant, someone Todd can seek advice from. That’s as it should be. Jerry built the program from scratch and Todd doesn’t want to lose that connection.

Still, this is very much his son’s program. He calls the shots and will reap the benefits when things go well, the criticism when they go wrong. Figure they will mostly go well. It’s a family tradition, you see.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What To Make Of Zeller’s Official Visits

Once upon a time, all really good southern Indiana high school basketball players went to Indiana. Guys like Calbert Cheaney, Damon Bailey and Steve Bouchie became Hoosiers because of Bob Knight, the program’s tradition and a chance to win national and Big Ten championships.

Then life got more complex and, as we know, Tom Crean arrived to restore order to the Cream ‘n Crimson universe. The best way, of course, would be to go 36-0 and win the national championship.

How hard could it be?

Of course, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, but what COULD happen is that a very significant southern Indiana basketball player might sign with the Hoosiers.

Yes, we’re talking about Cody Zeller, who just might do what older brothers Luke and Tyler didn’t do –- become a Hoosier. Luke went to Notre Dame. Tyler is at North Carolina.

As the world knows, Cody has narrowed his choices to Indiana, North Carolina and Butler. He will decide in time for the November signing period after making his three official visits.

It’s the timing of those visits that provide the best indication of where Cody is leaning. In case that indication isn’t clear enough, we have decided to utilize our years of journalistic experience and keen insight into the way teenagers think tell you.

Any questions before we start?


It's too scary to detail here.


Yes. I was told that if I shaved my head and grew a goatee, I would look EXACTLY like George Clooney.


Not exactly.

Anyway, the 6-10 Zeller is set to visit Butler Oct. 9-11, North Carolina Oct. 15-17 and Indiana Oct. 29-31.

A couple of things about that. North Carolina was not really interested in Zeller until July, when this Washington High School standout played at a very high level on the AAU circuit. Coach Roy Williams noticed and the recruiting scene altered because, well, Williams and the Tar Heels are tough to turn down.

So Zeller hasn’t, at least not yet.

Butler might have had a chance before last spring’s Final Four run. Now it’s a program all recruits have to consider. Yes, that means Zeller.

The Bulldogs’ surprising surge to the national championship game provided a game-changing boost to recruiting. It showed that a small school does have a shot at a national championship –- and landing big-time players.

Zeller’s visit to North Carolina comes on its annual Midnight Madness. This is, and we can’t state this enough, not a coincidence. The pageantry surrounding this kind of event to kick off college basketball practice can overwhelm your average recruit.

Zeller, of course, is not average.

Thus, IU gets the last crack at him, and this is very good. You want to make a lasting impression. Be the last thing on his mind before he makes one of the biggest decisions of his life.

No matter what happens, figure Zeller will make the right decision.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crean Made Wise Choice In Offering Blackmon

By now you know that James Blackmon Jr. has committed to play basketball at Indiana even though he’s barely started his freshman academic year at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers High School.

That means IU coach Tom Crean offered a scholarship when Blackmon was, in essence, an eighth grader.

Is that too soon?

Is it a gamble?

Not necessarily.

For most players, that’s too early to tell if they have Big Ten-caliber talent, work ethic, desire and maturity, on the court and in the classroom. They need a couple of years in high school to develop. Case in point, Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris, a Class of 2012 standout who made a big jump last spring and summer.

For some players, for special players, you know they’re going to be good. LeBron James was probably Big Ten ready at age 10. Alan Henderson showed Big Ten-caliber talent before high school. So did former Bishop Luers standout Deshaun Thomas, now a freshman at Ohio State.

Crean likely projects the 6-2 Blackmon will be an instant-impact player as a college freshman, so why wait. He knows Blackmon comes from a quality high school program. The same is true of Blackmon’s Spiece Indy Ice team. Blackmon’s father, James Sr., was a high school All-America out of Marion who thrived at Kentucky and was a fifth-round NBA draft choice of New Jersey, so talent runs in the family.

The younger Blackmon can shoot and handle the ball. As a coach’s son, he’s fundamentally sound and has a strong basketball IQ. He’s projected as a top-10 guy in his Class of 2014. His father thinks he could grow another couple of inches.

Father and son still play one-on-one games, with James Sr. having a one-inch height advantage.

“I have to get really physical to beat him,” the elder Blackmon said. “In a game most of the time they would call those fouls, but if I don’t play that way, I’m pretty much (out-gunned) against him.”

In the highly competitive world of recruiting, you’d better know who the good young players are. Crean has said players become prospects once they become seventh graders, although coaches can’t start actively recruiting them until their sophomore years.

Crean began an emphasis on evaluating young players almost from the first day he arrived in Bloomington. While other college coaches were looking at Blackmon, Crean was the only one to offer a scholarship.

That paid off with a commitment. We’ll know in about five years if it will pay off in performance.

Was it a gamble? Perhaps, but a smart one.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wide Open – Hoosiers Continue To Compete For Starting Jobs

Bill Lynch is not heartless. He really isn’t. Indiana’s football coach is not trying to torture his players or elevate their stress levels.

But he’s also a realist. He wants to win, NEEDS to win, and that will only come by playing the best guys at their best positions.

The Hoosiers’ 51-17 thrashing of Towson solidified nothing in terms of the depth chart. Starting jobs are still up for grabs all over the place and the 16-day gap before the next game, a Sept. 18 trip to woeful Western Kentucky, will be like a mini training camp in which players continue battling to prove themselves.

“My initial thought is (starting spots) are still open,” Lynch said. “I watched a continuous copy (of the Towson win) and saw everything from the flow of the game to and all the special teams and everything. I didn’t see anything that clearly showed itself because I don’t think that would be fair to anybody, especially the guys who might have been playing for the first time.”

Competition includes the field goal battle between veteran Nick Freeland and redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald, the offensive line, linebackers and the secondary.

“I want to make it competitive all season,” Lynch said, “but I certainly think by the time we get to the Big Ten season (all the staring positions would be set).”

Keeping the competition open means more guys will get reps, which builds depth as well as ensure the best players play. That should pay big dividends in November, a month in which the Hoosiers have traditionally struggled.

“We’ve tried to take a big-picture look at this thing all the way since spring practice in terms of it’s a long season, a 12-game season,” Lynch said. “We want to be as good as we can be all the way through November. All those things will be taken into consideration as we go through the next few weeks.”

Those next few weeks also include a Sept. 25 home game against Akron before Michigan comes to Memorial Stadium in a huge game for IU’s bowl hopes.

Because of the bye week, Lynch is giving his players the weekend off.

“We’ll practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in very much the same mode we practiced at camp,” Lynch said. “We’ll give them Friday off because that will be a big recruiting day for our staff. We’ll practice again on Saturday morning and get a good head start on Western Kentucky.

“I’m glad where we’re at. I know we’re going to get better. I’m happy we have an off week where we can work on some things before the grind of playing 11 straight weeks begins.”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hoosier Basketball Recruit Commits, IU Football Rules

The signs are unmistakable. Tom Crean is showing he really is a recruiting dynamo. Indiana is headed for a football season to remember.

And was that REALLY Cody Zeller at the IU-Towson football game?


Welcome to the compelling drama that is, and forever shall be, Hoosier sports.

First, Crean got his first commitment for the Class of 2014 (yes, that IS four years away) when Bishop Luers freshman guard James Blackmon orally committed. It’s not binding until he signs, which can’t happen until November of 2013, but it shows Crean's emphasis on youth is paying off.

The high-scoring Blackmon, the son of the former Kentucky basketball standout who is now the head coach of Bishop Luers, is considered one of the nation’s best freshmen. He isn’t the only REALLY young guy to get an offer from Crean. Trey Lyles, a 6-8 freshman forward from Indianapolis Tech, also got an offer from IU, but hasn’t accepted it.

The 6-11 Zeller, meanwhile, is ranked 20th nationally by, a national recruiting service. His other two finalists are Butler and North Carolina. He’ll visit all three schools in October and will then make a decision.

Blackmon, Zeller and Class of 2012 standout point guard Yogi Ferrell were at Thursday’s Indiana win over Towson. They fact Zeller and Ferrell were there (so was Crean, who continues to do a great job supporting other sports) guarantees nothing, but does keep alive Hoosier hopes something will, perhaps soon.

When it comes to football, IU has apparently met the five criteria necessary against Towson to suggest a special season. It found out how the Alabamas of the college football world live with its 52-17 victory.

Those criteria were, as determined by an absolutely accurate earlier blog, 1) win by at least 25 points, 2) rush for at least 150 yards, 3) quarterback Ben Chappell completes at least 60 percent of his passes for at least 200 yards, 4) hold Towson to less than 100 rushing and 150 yards passing, and 5) get accused of running up the score.

Okay, the Hoosiers didn’t quite make those numbers, but that was because they basically played the entire roster in the second half. It’s hard to hold intensity when you dominate so thoroughly.

Chappell was 16-for-23 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. A couple of drops kept him under 200 yards

Perhaps the best thing was that the Hoosiers messed up enough to provide plenty of practice coaching points. The biggest sin was allowing Towson quarterback Chris Hart to go all Antwaan Randle El on the defense for 123 rushing yards and 165 passing yards. Towson rushed for 227 yards overall and that can’t happen. The defense has to be stouter than that. If it isn't, all those winning record hopes and bowl qualifying opportunities will be smashed.

Its next shot at getting it right comes Sept. 18 at Western Kentucky.

Hey, at least we answered the biggest question of the month -- who’s the backup quarterback? That would be Dusty Kiel, who got in early in the third quarter and went 1-for-5 for 21 yards.

Two of the biggest off-season points of emphasis were third-down performance and red zone efficiency. IU held Towson to just 4 of 16 on third downs (25 percent), about half of what it allowed last year. The Hoosiers were 6-for-6 in red zone scoring chances, although a couple of those were field goals and that has to improve. Still, it gives coach Bill Lynch plenty to be optimistic about.

“They want to be a good team. They know they made some mistakes (against Towson). They want to get better and get after it.”

Wanting is great. Doing is better.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

IU Locked Into Future With New Divisions

Fred Glass is a forward-thinking guy. While others enjoy the status quo, Indiana’s athletic director pushes the envelope, from fireworks displays leading to Thursday night’s football season opener against Towson to a video showing bison stampeding through Memorial Stadium to any ideas the promote the athletics department in general, football in particular.

So with the Big Ten announcing its realignment into two six-team divisions, Glass is locked into the future, and that includes the 2011 and 2012 Big Ten schedules. In 2011, the Hoosiers open with home games against Penn State and Illinois.

“I’m sure our fans will be excited,” Glass said. “I’m also pleased that the Old Oaken Bucket game remains as the regular season finale for IU and Purdue.”

After a month of consideration, the division results are in and challenges await. Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois are in one division. Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern are in the other.

Purdue and IU will still meet at the end of the regular season. So will Ohio State and Michigan.

“It’s great to see that our traditional rivalries are respected in the new divisions,” IU coach Bill Lynch said in a university release. “We look forward to years of competitive football and showing the country why the Big Ten is the best conference in the nation.”

The Hoosiers will have to face that best every season. Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin have been the Big Ten's top teams in recent years. They do avoid Nebraska in the first two seasons of the new format.

IU had a big say in figuring out the new divisions. Indiana President Michael A. McRobbie chaired the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors that unanimously accepted the two-division format that was proposed by conference athletic directors.

“We felt they did a very good job of preserving storied rivalries while maintaining a competitive balance across the conference,” McRobbie said in a release. “We’re convinced these new alignments will bring even more excitement and interest to Big Ten football competition.”

Interest is good, winning is better, and that job, of course, falls to Lynch. Here is a look at what IU will face in the next two seasons:

2011 Big Ten Schedule
10/1 Penn State
10/8 Illinois
10/15 @Wisconsin
10/22 @Iowa
10/29 Northwestern
11/5 @Ohio State
11/19 @Michigan State
11/26 Purdue

2012 Big Ten Schedule
9/29 @Northwestern
10/6 Michigan State
10/13 Ohio State
10/27 @Illinois
11/3 Iowa
11/10 Wisconsin
11/17 @Penn State
11/24 @ Purdue

Challenging? You'd better believe it. And by 2015, when athletic directors hope to add a ninth conference game, it will be even more so.