Monday, February 28, 2011

Hall of Famer Knight Still Making a Big Basketball Impact

Bob Knight did it his way. He still does. Sure, he doesn’t coach anymore, although you’d never know it when he works as an analyst during games, giving his opinions on what coaches should do in key situations.

Talk about pressure. Woe to the coach who chooses a different way.

Knight is a member of the media, although it’s on his terms as part of the ESPN crew. He reports on the news rather than makes it.

Except for now. He is heading into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011.

It’s a no brainer. If ever there was a coach who deserves Hall of Fame recognition, it’s Knight, as much for his charisma and controversy as for his brilliant work. He won three national titles, Olympic gold, 11 Big Ten titles and 902 games, more than any other male coach in history, although that record will be surpassed soon by Duke’s Coach K.

He won at Army during a time when the last thing many athletes wanted to do was commit to military service (it was the heart of the Vietnam War era). He won huge at Indiana and had significant success at Texas Tech. He won four national coach of the year awards.

Knight played collegiately at Ohio State, although he wasn’t much of a player, especially when compared to standouts such as John Havlicek. He has spoken several times to current Buckeyes coach Thad Matta, including recently when Matta sought help in improving his defense. Knight provided suggestions and even a drill.

“We talked about more than defense, just coaching philosophies and different things,” Matta said. “I grew up idolizing him as a coach. He’s a man who is truly passionate about the game and it being played the right way.”

Knight is one of eight members of the Class of 2011. Veteran coach Eddie Sutton, who won 804 games and took four different schools to the NCAA Tournament (Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State), made it.

So did players such as Chris Mullin of St. John’s, who was a member of Knight’s 1984 gold-medal-winning team, plus the 1992 gold-medal-winning Dream Team. He scored more than 2,400 career points in college and led St. John’s to the 1985 Final Four. He was a two-time Big East player of the year.

Virginia’s Ralph Sampson (the three-time national player of the year) made it along with North Carolina’s James Worthy (the 1982 national player of the year) and Michigan’s Cassie Russell (He led the Wolverines to two Final Fours, including a 1965 title game loss to UCLA, and averaged 27 points and nine rebounds for his career).

The induction ceremony is set for Nov. 20 as part of a three-day event that includes the CBE Classic featuring Notre Dame, Georgia, California and Missouri.

Still, no one is likely to demand more attention than Knight. In his prime, he was the most compelling person in sports. In so many ways, he still is.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

IU Basketball -- Mercifully, The End Is Near; Track Success

Let's just get this Indiana basketball season over.

Why prolong the pain? The Hoosiers need a break, a lot of off-season individual work (can you say defense?) and some new players (thank heaven for Cody Zeller).

As for what's left of this season, well, at least we know, courtesy of guard Verdell Jones, that Indiana is tired of losing basketball games.

The problem is, there isn’t much the Hoosiers (12-17 with a six-game losing streak) can do about it. The make too many mistakes and the Big Ten is way too strong.

Losing at Ohio State 82-61 Sunday wasn’t a surprise. The Buckeyes (27-2) are aiming for a Big Ten title and will be ranked No. 1 today in the wake of Duke’s loss at Virginia Tech.

Still, IU’s poor shooting has become a major problem on top of defense that has been, to be diplomatic, erractic. Yes, Ohio State’s defense was a factor, but the Hoosiers missed enough open looks for three games. They wound up 20-for-52 (38.5 percent). The shooting woes even affected guard Jordan Hulls, who entered the game shooting 50.9 percent from the field. He was 1-for-9.

Jones was the scoring leader with 14 points, but was just 4-for-10 from the field. Christian Watford added 12 points, but was just 3-for-9. He had five turnovers.

This puts IU at 3-13 in the Big Ten. Yes, that is last in the conference. Iowa also is 3-13, but has the tiebreaker by sweeping Indiana.

The Hoosiers host No. 12 Wisconsin Thursday night and play at Illinois Saturday afternoon. They have no momentum and no real shot at winning either game. Right now it looks like they would open next week’s Big Ten tourney play against Penn State, but that depends on what happens this week.

The merciful thing is, at least Indiana’s season will be over by next week.


Indiana’s women’s basketball team also has had a season to forget. It's reward is getting to open with Purdue on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse.

The Hoosiers finished 9-19 during the regular season, 3-13 in Big Ten play to get the No. 10 seed. Purdue went 19-10 overall and 9-7 in the conference and are the No. 7 seed.

Michigan State is the No. 1 seed. It went 13-3 in conference action and 25-4 overall.

IU has won this event once – in 2002.


IU got four individual winners en route to a runner-up finish in the Big Ten men’s indoor track meet at Illinois. It was the Hoosiers’ best team performance since winning in 2005.

Derek Drouin won the high jump, Andrew Poore won the 5,000 meters, Andy Bayer won the 3,000 meters and Kind Butler won the 200 meters.

The Hoosiers finished with 104.5 team points. Minnesota won with 117.333

Also, IU’s women’s track team finished fifth at the Big Ten indoor meet. Faith Sherrill won the shot put and finished fourth in the weight throw. Emma Kimoto tied for fourth in the high jump. Monique Riddick took second in the shot put.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

IU Football In Hurry For Success; Basketball Hoosiers Face Huge Challenge

Patience is for losers. At least, it is when you’re trying to turn Indiana into a football winner. New coach Kevin Wilson has no desire for a slow-and-steady approach, a message he’s delivered to his players.

And in case they thought he was kidding, winter workouts proved he and his staff meant business.

“It was like, let’s go, let’s go,” offensive lineman Justin Pagan said. “They weren’t trying to ease us into it. They said, ‘We’re trying to win games now.’ That was fine. That’s how we were in the locker room.”

New football strength coach Mark Hill sets the tone. The Hoosiers run five days a week and lift four days a week. Several of the sessions start at 5:45 a.m. Hill says he makes sure he’s there an hour early.

“I want to make sure I’m not looking sleepy as well as my staff,” Hill said. “When we hit it, we hit it rolling. I’m running everywhere. I tell them if we’re not running fast enough, we’re run it again. We do live demonstrations. We’re always on the go.”

Players said they were shaken when former coach Bill Lynch and his staff were let go, but they adapted. So when defensive line coach Mark Hagen (a former IU standout who had spent the last decade coaching at Purdue) called Adam Replogle shortly after taking the job, the defensive tackle was ready to listen.

“That’s when I was like, I’ve moved on. He’s a great coach. His resume is unbelievable.”

So is the new staff’s enthusiasm, Pagan added.

“They’re excited about us and where we can go and our ability. I can see the change. You see the change of how people are now. It’s a whole different aura.”

The difference includes diet. IU has brought in a nutritionist to educate the players on eating well. Training table has become more than just a place to load up on meat. There’s a strong emphasis on eating vegetables and fruits. Yes, it sounds like something our mother would tell you, and there’s a reason for it.

“We can control what they eat with two meals (breakfast and dinner),” Hill said. “At training table I can walk right around the corner (from the weight training facility). Guys are wrapping up work outs around the same time. We have 60 to 70 percent of the guys eating dinner or breakfast at the same time. I can see what they have on their plates. I’ll critique them. If I know you’re trying to cut your body fat down and I don’t like what you have on your plate, I’ll tell you.”

The players hear it. Do they follow it?

“They’re receptive to it,” Hill said. “Our chef said, ‘I’ve noticed guys are starting to be a little more picky about what they eat.’ That’s great. They’re listening.

“I’m always around. We weigh them every day. All we can control is what we see. We hope when they leave us they’re doing the things they need to do, nutrition-wise.”

It’s a you-are-what-you-eat philosophy. Eat like a winner, play like a winner. It is really that simple? Not exactly, but it’s a good way to start.


IU plays at Ohio State on national television today.

Are you ready? More important, are the Hoosiers?

IU, after all, is 12-16 with a five-game losing streak. Second-ranked Ohio State is 26-2, unbeaten at home, and steaming toward a Big Ten title, and a lot more. The Buckeyes can’t afford a loss or a letdown.

Every way you look at it, the Hoosiers are in big trouble.

“We will have to play mistake-free and make the most of our opportunities on offense,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a university release. “We have to move the ball, make the extra pass and take the best shot possible each time down the floor.”

It’s a blue print for success. The problem? Ohio State isn’t about to let the Hoosiers do it, especially at Value City Arena.

“When we have played with toughness and resolve,” Crean said, “we are a different team, home or on the road. We have to play with trust and belief in one another. We have to play with controlled confidence.

“Defensively, they have so many weapons that we are going to have to be active with our hands, move on the pass to disrupt what they want to do and contest every shot. We can’t allow them to be active on the offensive glass.”

In the end, one team will dictate to the other. One team will assert its will. That almost certainly will be Ohio State.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Grand Indiana Finale – Start The Freshmen; Wilson Now Tweeting

So what should Tom Crean do these last few weeks before Indiana takes an unwanted spring break?

For starters, why not start Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey the rest of the way.

What does Indiana have to lose? Against this murderer’s row of a closing schedule, it likely won’t win again until next November. Plus, it’s regressing. Last year the Hoosiers won four Big Ten games, three more than the previous season. This season they’re like to finish with three, with arguably a better team.

So start the freshmen. Keep them in as long as they play hard and with passion. Yes, playing smart would be a big plus. The more experience they get, the better.

Sure, Oladipo shows signs of hitting the wall. A long season can wear on anybody, let alone a freshman not used to these many games, this much intensity, and so many quality opponents.

Still, let him play through it. It’s the best way to build that toughness the Hoosiers will need for future seasons.

Sheehey had a career-high 14 points against Purdue, added 12 against Iowa, and averages 5.7 points in Big Ten play. Oladipo averages 7.9 points and 52.7-percent shooting in conference games.

Both make a lot of freshman mistakes, but if you’ve seen the Hoosiers play, you know mistakes aren’t a freshman monopoly. They’ve spent the season proving they’re the worst defensive team in America, one guaranteed incapable of consistently making plays down the stretch, and there’s no reason to expect that to change now.

So what kind of starting lineup are we talking about? Senior Jeremiah Rivers hasn’t been the same since missing some free throws at Michigan State. He’s not defending at a shut-down rate and he certainly isn’t an offensive juggernaut. Let him come off the bench.

Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford need to start. Put them with Oladipo and Sheehey, and add either Tom Pritchard or Verdell Jones to round out a starting five, and see what happens, starting with Sunday’s matchup at No. 2 Ohio State (26-2). If they struggle, so what? That’s part of learning and growing. It’s not like IU (12-16 with a five-game losing streak) actually has a chance at the upset.

Here’s the deal. Under coach Thad Matta Ohio State is 117-10 in Columbus. No other Big Ten team has won as many home games since the 2004-2005 season, not even Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan, who loses about as often at home as Crean sits during a game.

The Buckeyes are 35-1 at home in the last two seasons. Who is the only team to beat them in that span? Purdue last year.

Even worse for Hoosier prospects, Ohio State has to keep winning to win the Big Ten championship (it has a one-game lead over Purdue with three to play), so there’s no chance for a letdown. The Buckeyes will come out with guns blazing. They will punish IU inside with Jared Sullinger, blitz from the outside with William Buford, David Lighty and Jon Diebler (the most prolific three-point shooter in Big Ten history), and roll big.

The Hoosiers’ only hope is for Ohio State to get into major foul trouble. It basically plays a seven-man rotation so if IU can get to the Buckeyes’ bench, it has a chance.

Of course, given this game is at Ohio State rather than at Assembly Hall, there’s almost no way that happens.

This is just Round Two of the most brutal closing schedule in college basketball. The Hoosiers lost to No. 8 Purdue on Wednesday. They also have No. 12 Wisconsin on Thursday, although at least that game is at Assembly Hall. They finish at Illinois.

Crean has tweeted his displeasure at the fact IU will host Wisconsin with a 9 p.m. tipoff, then play at Illinois 36 hours later. Is it unfair? Absolutely. Will it make a difference? No. The Hoosiers haven’t won on the road since Tut ruled Egypt. They’ll likely lose to the Illini no matter what time and day they play.


First there was Crean on the Internet. Now Kevin Wilson has joined the social media age. IU’s new football coach will have his own Twitter account. You can check out what he has to say, in bite-size chunks, of course, @IUCoachWilson. He also will participate in something called Lexy, which sounds like the mate of Lassie, which it is not.

Lexy, as we now know from an IU media release, is a “new entertainment medium” that provides “free on-demand personalized audio clips that listeners can get on any phone by dialing 877-FI-LEXY (877-349-5399) or by going to”

The release described Lexy as a “privately-owned company on a mission to deliver through the authenticy of audio a dynamic, interactive aural network of ideas, information, arguments, entertainment, rants, raves, news and stories.”

And if it mixes in a few Elvis clips along the way, all the better.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For Indiana Football, Pain Equals Gain

Justin Pagan has big hair. Maybe it's a Sampson thing. The Biblical Sampson and not the phone calling one. You know, the hairier the stronger.

It's a brave new football world for Indiana’s senior offensive lineman, and the rest of the Hoosiers.

For one thing, Pagan looks fitter and leaner, and that is no accident. New strength coach Mark Hill is very, very serious about his goal to upgrade strength and explosiveness.

Sure, Pagan will never have a career as a horse racing jockey, but he will be better suited for IU’s uptempo attack planned by new coach Kevin Wilson.

He’s made the ultimate sacrifice for an offensive lineman -- he’s watching what he eats.

“I’m definitely not eating as much McDonald’s as I used to,” he said. “Now maybe it’s a weekend reward where I’ll do it one day a week. It’s way different than it was before.”

Defensive lineman Adam Replogle has made an even bigger sacrifice -- he’s stopped eating chocolate chip cookies.

“I’m a sucker for those,” he said.

On Thursday we got an invitation into the winter workout sessions designed to boost the Hoosiers into Big Ten contention. At Memorial Stadium’s state-of-the-art training facililty, we saw big men lifting big weights. Guys were groaning, grunting, pushing while doing lunges with dumbbells in each hand that weighed anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds each. It was the no-pain, no-gain approach and it works.

“You can rest, but you can’t take a break,” Pagan said. “It’s like in a game, where you rest between plays, but it’s not a timeout. You do a set, you wait and then you’re right back at it.”

Hill didn’t mess around after he was hired, starting from Day One. There are 5:45 a.m. sessions. There are five days of running (a combination of speed and agility) and four days of lifting.

“After the first week everybody was like, ‘Oh, man. I don’t know about this,’” Pagan said. “Your legs were weak. All the muscles you never knew you had were sore. It took a little time to get past the general shock. Once we got past it, we saw the results. It’s proven. It works, so let’s keep it going.”

Added Hill: “I want them to be leaner, faster, in shape, bigger and more muscular. We’re closing out six weeks of the program and I’ve noticed tremendous improvement. They bought into what we’ve tried to do. I’m trying to echo the message Coach Wilson has said -- to finish, to stay strong, to get better and stay together.”

It sounds good now. Come spring football, which starts in less than two weeks, we’ll start seeing if sound translates into reality.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

IU's Basketball Future, At Least, Looks Encouraging

Indiana’s future met Indiana’s present and didn’t blink. This is good. This is encouraging.

So while the Hoosiers continue to freefall their way into the Big Ten basketball basement, recruits continue to feel the Cream ‘n Crimson love.

No, IU’s 72-61 loss to rival Purdue didn’t shake their resolve, and they got to see it up close and personal. They sat right behind the Hoosier bench Wednesday night. It just made them more determined to help get the program back to national relevance.

Who are they? Try Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington, who are signed and set to play next season, plus 2012 commitments Ron Patterson and Yogi Ferrell, plus 2012 recruit Jeremy Hollowell.

Patterson even tweeted Ferrell his thoughts on future IU-Purdue games.

“2012 will be our year, bro,” Patterson tweeted.

A cynic would worry about what might happen next year, but let’s not go there now. Instead, consider that the Hoosiers (12-16) once again put themselves in position to win late and once again found a way to lose.

Blame poor inside shooting (IU missed five straight 1-footers at one point) and erratic defense, especially in the first half.

“We played hard and we competed,” coach Tom Crean said, “but we weren’t as smart as they were. We made too many mistakes, especially in the first half, defensively. We couldn’t get over the hump. When we were missing close shots, they would come back and make something.”

IU trailed by as many as 13 points early in the second half, twice closed within three points, and couldn’t make the plays it needed to make down the stretch.

Yes, this has been a common theme in what almost certainly will be a third straight losing season. No wonder why Crean looked so drained.

“We had our chances,” he said. “We felt like we were going to come back, and we did. You look at the stat sheet and it’s a very even game except for the points off turnovers (18 for Purdue, seven for Indiana). There’s such a big difference there.”

Here’s what IU has left. It plays at No. 2 Ohio State on Sunday. It hosts No. 12 Wisconsin on March 3. It plays at Illinois, with a most unwelcome noon start, on March 5.

It is a most unwelcome finish. But then, that’s true of these last couple of weeks, and of these last couple of years. It will get better. Why? Because the future, as it sat and watched, is so promising.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can Indiana Upset Purdue? Why Not?

Logic suggests Indiana will lose tonight against No. 8 Purdue.

And if it was a math or numbers test, it would be right. The Boilers (22-5) would smash the Hoosiers (12-15).

But it is not a math test. It’s a college basketball game rich in rivalry passion, a program steeped in championship history. This is an emotional contest, a huge opportunity, and attitude is everything.

So Indiana has a chance. Forget the Northwestern debacle and all the other gut-wrenching defeats. This is about spoiling Purdue’s Big Ten title prospects. The Boilers already trail Ohio State by a game and a half. One more loss would almost certainly ensure the Buckeyes, and not Purdue, will will the Big Ten.

IU would love to do that.

The Hoosiers will absolutely play better than they did against Northwestern. The Wildcats hypnotized them with a numbing series of passes and cuts. Purdue has a different system. It is predicated on full-court pressure defense, and relentless motion offense led by All-America candidates JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. Moore is coming off a career-high 38 points in an upset victory over Ohio State last week. Johnson is probably the Big Ten’s best player (yes, better than Buckeye freshman sensation Jared Sullinger).

All this ensures Indiana will be amped and jacked.

Crean gave IU an early Sunday morning practice and all indications are it got the Hoosiers’ attention. But we won’t know for sure until tonight.

Here’s a main point. Crean didn’t to it to brutalize and punish his players. He did it to get them to understand that anything less that fully focused defense and effort is unacceptable.

“It’s how you utilize (that practice)," Crean said, "and it was a matter of coming in here and really making sure that we understand what we have to get better at and how it’s measured daily in the sense you have to practice, but the intangibles are the biggest difference. It’s the emotion you play with. It’s the ability to play through mistakes. It’s the ability to help each other through a mistake. It’s the ability to understand time and score and possession by possession and we just need to get that.”

Crean has been fooled before by the Hoosiers, who almost always practice well, but don’t always play well, particularly with defense.

“They’re workin on that preparation and they continue to work on it," Crean said. "I hope they all understand that this is a tremendous opportunity for them. The challenge speaks for itself, but the opportunity is what they’re going to create or not create. That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing.”

Fans are jacked. Students started camping outside of Assembly Hall Tuesday afternoon. The Stripe Out promotion asks fans to wear either white or red shirts depending on where they sit in Assembly Hall.

For Indiana to upset Purdue it has to, as Crean puts it, string stops together. The Boilers need to go minutes without scoring. It needs a big shooting game from Jordan Hulls. It needs Christian Watford to play like he did at Michigan State a couple of weeks ago. It needs to secure the ball against Purdue’s attacking defense. It needs, well, a total team effort.

“Let’s face it, we are going to have to make some shots,” Crean said. “We are going against one of the best defensive teams in the country. We have to make shots and they don’t make it easy to get those.”

Coaches will tell you it’s important to treat every game the same. Players offer the same line. That no game is more important than any other.

Here’s the key: They lie.

Rivalry games mean more. They just do. Yes, you want to beat everybody you play, and upsetting a No. 1 Ohio State would be huge.

Still, nothing is better than sticking it to a rival.

“You see more emotion in (rivalry) games, but not as much in practice,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Guys really want to win.”

Or, as Crean put it:

“When you have a lot of emotion, and I don’t mean emotional, I mean when you have a lot of emotion and when you have that spirit of toughness and grinding things out, it can make up for a lot of things.”

Can that make up for a season of disappointment? No, but it could help jump start the Hoosiers to a strong finish. Logic tells you that, as well.

Monday, February 21, 2011

For Indiana, Is It Back To Africa? Can It Rock Purdue? What's Up With Illinois?

Are you like us? Do you see where Indiana is looking at another recruit from another country and start to get that queasy, oh-no-not-again feeling?

IU tried two guys from Africa and it didn’t work out. It tried a guy from France via Martinique and that didn’t work out.

Now comes word that Tom Crean, the man with the non-stop motor and travel budget, is taking a look at swingman Maurice Aniefiok, who is in West Virginia, but is originally from Nigeria.

Aniefiok is 6-5 and 220 pounds. He is athletic. He can probably leap over tall buildings and out-run speeding trains.

Can he play basketball? If so, this could be great because IU could use some inside muscle. As a reader noted, he is a guard, but at 220 pounds, he has the physique and strength to go inside. Hey, the Hoosiers have tried Jordan Hulls at the 4 spot, and he's listed at 6-foot and 175 pounds. In Crean's system, the more roles you can handle, the better.

Aniefiok averages 13 points for Huntington Prep out of West Virginia. He’s been offered by Mississippi and is getting looks from West Virginia and Southern California.

Crean attended a practice on Monday. Assistant coach Bennie Seltzer showed up at a game last week.

With center Guy-Marc Michel out of eligibility, IU could use another big man, or at least somebody who could occasionally mix it up in the paint, play some defense and grab some rebounds. Heck, maybe even alter or block a few shots.

Could Aniefiok be that guy -- at least some of the time? Who knows? But Crean and his staff aren’t sitting around waiting for Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington to show up next year. If they can get some inside help, or help in general, it’s all good. And if they can’t, well, it never hurts to look.


Purdue is coming to Assembly Hall on Wednesday night, which means at least one team will be playing defense.

Yes, the No. 8 Boilers (22-5) have positioned themselves for a second straight Big Ten title because of their rib-rocking defense, a quality Crean continues to try to develop in his squad. Someday, you figure, it will come. In fact, there have been times this season when it has come, but not often enough.

Still, put the Boilers in Assembly Hall and the Hoosiers (12-15) are likely to find inspiration. They will defend as if their scholarships depend on it.

Hey, who knows? They might even get the upset.

One thing is certain -- they can’t afford to repeat the defensive disaster they had against Northwestern. If they do, they’ll get carved up.

“That level of play is not acceptable,” Crean said. “It’s not going to be acceptable even remotely close on Wednesday night.”


Crean is not happy and it has nothing to do with the Hoosiers’ defense.

That’s progress, isn’t it?

The Big Ten has told IU that it has to play at Illinois on Saturday, March 5 for a noon tipoff. It has to host Wisconsin Thursday, March 3, with a 9 p.m. start.

That’s not much of a turnaround, especially given teams are supposed to get two days to prepare for each game. Sometimes, though, with all the complexities of TV, rules are bent.

Crean tweeted what he thought of that schedule: “I am okay with 1 day in between games on occasion, but 36 hours? In a rivalry game? That defies rationalization.”

It’s hard enough these days for the Hoosiers to win. That kind of schedule could make a guy think a conspiracy was at work.

What’s next -- that the dude who starred in the X-Files will officiate the game?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

IU Old School -- Crean Seeks Return To Toughness

Tom Crean wants to go old-school. You know, tap into the spirit that made Bob Knight and Gene Keady successful.

NCAA rules won’t allow it, which makes it easier on the Hoosier players. Does it make them better? Guess it depends on your point of view.

To recap -- Crean was very unhappy about his team’s defense in Saturday's lethargic loss to Northwestern. This is not a surprise. The Hoosiers have spent a ton of time on this area and have yet to find the necessary consistency.

Crean has had enough. He likes his guys, he really does, but he can’t stand the way they sometimes play defense. So he wanted to address it right after Saturday’s game, or several hours later, but because of NCAA rules, he had to wait until 7:30 Sunday morning.

“If the rules weren’t set up right now for it to be so soft for players after this where you could practice that night or practice at midnight the next day, that’s exactly what we would be doing,” he said in the post-game press conference. “But we will be here at 7:30 in the morning guarding and continuing to get this thing where it has to be on the defensive end. Just continuing to search for people who have a mindset of what it’s going to take defensively. And if it’s not good enough at that point, we’ll come back and do it again.”

Years ago the NCAA had no rules about this, so coaches could be a little tougher on players who didn’t play to expectations.

Flash back to November of 1993. The Hoosiers had lost out in the Elite Eight to Kansas, a nemesis back then, to finish 31-4 the previous spring. Stars such as Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham were gone, but Damon Bailey and Alan Henderson were back. Much was expected.

IU opened the next season at Butler on a Saturday afternoon and was upset 75-71. Knight wasn’t happy, especially since the Hoosiers had a week off before playing No. 1 Kentucky. So when the team returned to Assembly Hall, he ordered the players into the locker room to get ready to practice.

Then he found out NCAA rules prohibited teams from practicing after a game. So, according to legend, he had the players wait hours in the locker room, until it was one minute past midnight, and then they practiced. He had a week of brutal practices and, at the end, Bailey told the team, in so many ways, we’re not going through this stuff again. The Hoosiers responded by upsetting Kentucky 96-84.

Then there was Keady, who had promised his players a great meal at the Beef House, one of the state’s top steak restaurants, if they played well at Illinois. The Boilers played badly and lost. Keady, according to legend, threw out all the good food, made his players eat hotdogs, then practiced them when they returned to Mackey Arena.

It worked for them. Chances are it would work for Crean, but these are more sensitive times and the era of extra practice has gone the way of head-butting players. Crean will follow the rules, but he won’t back off on the players.

“It’s my responsibility. There’s no question about that. And there is absolutely no accepting the way we defended in those first 20 minutes. That doesn’t excuse free throws not going in. It doesn’t excuse turnovers, but we have to go to … as we build to win we have got to have a defensive mindset. When we’ve had it, we’ve been pretty solid. When we haven’t we have a first half like we did (against Northwestern).”

For Crean, it’s about players holding each other accountable for their defense. It becomes a collective will not to let the other guys down.

Purdue comes to Assembly Hall Wednesday and the Hoosiers have to be in a lock-down defensive mode. The Boilers almost certainly will be. They are still in the hunt for a Big Ten title and they have to win their final four regular season games to have any chance at catching Ohio State. They will be ready with their rib-rocking defense. IU will have to match that or it will get embarrassed.

And if that means going old school, well, nobody said this program restoring stuff was easy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Phasing In Indiana Football, Wilson Style

Sleeping in isn’t part of the Kevin Wilson build-a-football-program plan. His Hoosiers have 5:45 a.m. workouts designed to steel them for what is to come.

“They’re rocking and rolling five days a week,” he said.

Wilson rolled into a media session Saturday evening shortly before Indiana stunk up Assembly Hall in a 70-64 basketball defeat to Northwestern. It was sort of a state-of-the-program session that was strong on generalities given basically all the Hoosiers can do right now is condition, lift and eat.

Speaking of eating, IU is hiring a nutritionist to ensure the players are eating healthy enough to maximize all their work. Figure fruits and vegetables are in, crème filled donuts are out.

Nobody said winning football was finger-lickin’ good.

Indiana also is in the process of hiring a couple more strength coaches to reach the NCAA maximum of five.

You see, Wilson said, Indiana’s administration really is serious about having a winning football program. You can’t have a Cadillac team with a Focus budget. The administration is committed and the results will show it.

A cell phone rang from the assembled media and Wilson quipped it was serial caller Kelvin Sampson. It was not (although we never actually heard the caller), but it was a humorous moment for a here-are-the-facts setting. Wilson remains an all-business guy, but more and more as he gets comfortable in this head coaching role, his personality emerges.

But that misses the main point which is all about turning the Hoosiers into winners fast. Let somebody else build or rebuild or restore. For Wilson, it’s about winning now. He’s pushing to improve the conditioning level and the passion it will take to turn the Hoosiers into consistent winners.

“As far as gauging where we are, they’re buying what we’re selling,” he said. “They’re drinking our Koolade. I like that.”

He likes the fact the team has speed, which is something that can be trained and developed. Speed, like Einstein’s most famous theory, is relative. A 4.7-second 40-yard dash time in the first quarter might not turn heads. That same time in the fourth quarter just might. Like wise if a 4.6 time in the first quarter fades to a 4.9 time in the fourth, that’s bad.

“You can develop it,” Wilson said. “We need to recruit it.”

He’s in Phase 1 of a 4-Phase process (winter conditioning, spring ball, voluntary summer workouts, preseason camp) and he’s eager for spring practice when football can actually enter the equation.

But first he is once again looking for an assistant coach and he insists this one will stick, that he isn’t worried just because four assistants left shortly after being hired, that it’s a sign of the times and that the moves were in their best interests. He said they were quality coaches and he will hire another one.

“I’m not one to hire buddies,” he said. “I think we put together a strong staff. That’s evident based on where they went. Some are up-and-coming young coaches.”

All that translates well, but the No. 1 priority is building belief -- in the system, the approach, the coaches, the potential. IU has basically spent more than a century proving its football futility. That can change. It has to change and it starts with perception.

“We’re just trying to get them to have a good attitude,” Wilson said. “There doesn’t seem to be a good attitude internally or externally. It’s about how we’re perceived. How we perceive ourselves. It’s the way you approach work in June and July when it’s voluntary. Somebody is voluntarily winning and losing. We’re moving the way winners do.”

And if some sleep gets lost along the way, so be it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Combative Hoosiers; Purdue Also Loses Assistant; Creek Progresses

On a day when the Colts released always injured safety Bob Sanders and IU trustees voted on a housing rate increase (oh, no, in THIS economy), we got another look into Tom Crean’s best basketball coaching motivational tool.

“Your voice can be strong,” he said. “Your ideas, your game plan, can be strong. But sometimes the most important strength a coach has is that chair. And that is part of it.”

The Hoosiers haven’t played in a week and they used some of that time to work forward Christian Watford back into the rotation. He even showed off the scar rising about the back of his surgically repaired left hand.

Coaches also used the week to further develop what Crean called a more “combative” mindset.

“It’s a learning process. It’s not like they’re not trying to. They aren’t struggling with playing hard. They are struggling with understanding just where they have to be constantly. And then you get guys thinking too much.”

Thinking is fine, but in a fast-paced game such as basketball, sometimes you have to read, react and go.

Northwestern (15-10) comes to Assembly Hall tonight and the key is not to go full-throttle, but to be patient. That’s why IU practiced for 35-second shot clock drills. Freshman Will Sheehey said if the Hoosiers messed up after 34 seconds, they had to start all over again.

There will be no starting over tonight. Indiana will try to defeat a team that already has beaten it once. It must guard against three-pointers (no Big Ten team shoots 'em like Northwestern), play transition defense and, for goodness sakes, do NOT give up back-door cuts. Doing do so means being ready by the opening tip. If IU (12-14) is to have any hope at a postseason bid, it has to beat the Wildcats.

“We are going to have to play excellent defense and not let their switching defenses, their combination defense, their 1-3-1 zone, disrupt us from being on the attack,” Crean said.


In case you thought Indiana was the only football program losing recently hired assistant coaches, it’s now happening to Purdue.

DeMontie Cross was hired as the linebackers coach on Jan. 25. Less than three weeks later, he bolted for Wisconsin.

IU coach Kevin Wilson has said it didn’t bother him that four assistant coaches left the program for more high-profile jobs. Purdue coach Danny Hope didn’t quite go that far.

“There has been a tremendous amount of turnover in college coaching this year, and we are seeing what I consider an unprecedented number of coaches accept a job and leave soon after for another one,” Hope said. “DeMontie wasn’t here long enough to make a difference. We will get to work immediately on finding someone who will. Great groundwork has already been laid in the hiring process, and we will continue our search for the right coach.”


Maurice Creek will not be making any miracle comeback from knee surgery this season. The timetable remains next year. For the sophomore guard.

“He’s progressing,” Crean said. “He can shoot X amount of free throws every day. He can’t be on the court doing exercises, but he’s around every day. He’s gaining as much knowledge of the game as he can. He’s strengthening his knee and building his body. Trainers are pushing him and getting his body stronger. He’s at a time period where he can do that.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

IU Golden Age; Lynch Returns; Dickerson Honored

Everybody knows this has not been the greatest period of athletic success in Indiana history, specifically when looking at football and basketball. It certainly bothers athletic director Fred Glass, who is committed to turning things around faster than you can say, Cody Zeller will hit the IU campus next June.

Glass insists he wants to be a part of a new “Golden Age” of Indiana athletics. He was an IU student when Hall of Fame coaches such as Bob Knight, Jerry Yeagley, Sam Bell, Doc Councilman, Hobie Billingsley and Bill Mallory were cranking out championships. He sees the coaches he has on staff now as having the potential to produce similar success.

“We’re acquiring and maintaining the kind of coaching talent to make (another Golden Age) a reality,” Glass said. “We’re on the launching pad of doing that.”

IU has had strong success this year in men’s soccer, baseball, volleyball, track and field, swimming and diving. That’s great, but football and basketball are the major catalysts for the overall athletic department. They drive everything else.

Glass said IU is on the “cusp” of entering another successful run in all sports.

“My goal is that in five years that’s more apparent by Big Ten championships, national championships, and so forth.”

It’s a heck of a goal, and half the fun will be in the attempt. You know what? Beating Northwestern Saturday night would be a great way to start it off.


Bill Lynch went with the people who wanted him. Why wouldn’t he? It’s the perfect scenario. He returns home, in a manner of speaking, to Butler where he once was a stud athlete. Now he’ll spearhead fund raising, with a top priority renovating historic Hinkle Fieldhouse (estimated cost -- $10 million).

A cynic might say that’s almost as much as IU will pay new football coach Kevin Wilson, the man who replaced Lynch, but this isn’t the time for cynicism.

Lynch will become associate athletic director of development for Butler. He will work under athletic director Barry Collier. The two played basketball for Butler in the 1970s.

Lynch was a standout quarterback for the Bulldogs. He was a three-time Indiana Collegiate Conference player of the year. He ranks second in school history with 5,909 passing yards. He also was a captain on the basketball team.

Lynch was an assistant football coach at Butler for seven years, and then the head coach. He led the Bulldogs to four conference championships and a 36-12-3 record. He also served as an offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois, the quarterbacks coach for the U.S. Football League’s Orlando Renegades, the quarterbacks coach at IU under Bill Mallory.

He had a 100-97-3 record as a head coach, including stops at Ball State (37-53), DePauw (8-2) and Indiana (19-30).


Today’s hot question -- Would you like to be Alex Dickerson for a day? To answer that means first answering an even more important question – Who is Alex Dickerson?

For those too focused on basketball and football, here’s some quick background. Dickerson is one of the best college baseball players in the country. We know this because he’s one of 50 players across the nation recognized as candidates for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award. The award, sponsored by Major League Baseball, goes to the nation’s top amateur baseball player.

Oh, yes. Dickerson plays for IU. Boy, does he play. As a sophomore he hit .419 with 24 home runs, 75 runs batted in, 19 doubles and an .805 slugging percentage. His 38 career homers rank nine shy of the school record. He starts the season with a 17-game hitting streak.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Even Without IU, Big Ten Basketball Race Has Intrigue

Forget, for just a second, that Indiana is out of the Big Ten basketball race.

Yes, we know it's hard, but remember, this too shall one day pass.

Instead, focus on the race itself because in the next couple of days it could be over, or could get really, really interesting.

Ohio State remains in control. It is 12-1 in the conference with two less losses than anybody else. It has a top-seven rotation that is scary good. It has great shooters in William Buford, John Diebler and David Lighty. It has the nation’s best freshman big man in Jared Sullinger. It has one of the nation’s best freshman point guards in Aaron Craft. It even has shot-blocking veteran Dallas Lauderdale, who seemingly has been around since Bob Knight played in Columbus.

Yes, the Buckeyes stumbled at Wisconsin, but everybody does that. They bounced back to beat Michigan State Tuesday night and have a chance to knock Purdue out of the race with a win Sunday at Mackey Arena.

And consider Wisconsin. Bo Ryan is one of the top coaches in America. Sure, he wins with good players, but his roster is not dominated by Parade All-Americans. He gets top-100 players to buy into a philosophy of swing offense and keep-the-guy-in-front-of-you defense.

These Badgers are shooting over 80 percent from the line for the season. That’s amazing. Granted, two guys -- Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor -- take most of those free throws, but still, it’s good enough to lead the nation. They also lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game and assist-to-turnover ratio.

Taylor might be the best point guard in the nation. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 4-to-1, the nation’s best. To put that in perspective, if you average 2-to-1, you’re a stud. If you are at 3-to-1, NBA teams want to talk to you. Taylor’s numbers are mind blowing. Plus, he can score and hit big-time shots at big-time moments.

The Badgers play at Purdue tonight. Both teams are 9-3 in the Big Ten. A win keeps Wisconsin within range of Ohio State. A loss pretty much knocks it out of the race.

If Purdue wins tonight and upsets Ohio State on Sunday, it will be a game back with four games remaining.

So here’s what the remaining schedules are like for the three contenders:

Ohio State: at Purdue, host Illinois and Indiana, at Penn State, host Wisconsin.

Wisconsin: at Purdue, host Penn State, at Michigan, host Northwestern, at Indiana, at Ohio State.

Purdue: host Wisconsin, host Ohio State, at Indiana, at Michigan State, host Illinois, at Iowa.

As for the Hoosiers, well, they could be a huge spoiler given they play all three contenders one more time each, with Purdue and Wisconsin at Assembly Hall.

And some day, perhaps as soon as next year, they won’t be spoilers any more. They’ll be contenders.

Monday, February 14, 2011

IU Basketball – Igniting Hair, Playing Scared and the Marquis de Sade

In the Tom Crean scheme of things, it’s okay to play scared -- as long as it’s done with purpose.

Does that seem confusing? It’s not. Sometimes fear can be a great motivator. You just have to control it, use it.

Crean was talking about Indiana’s road woes. Yes, it’s a seemingly never-ending problem. The Hoosiers have just one true road win in Crean’s three seasons. They’ve lost 18 straight times away from Assembly Hall.

Still, they’ve come close, especially the overtime defeat at Michigan State.

While addressing that issue during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference, Crean brought up fear.

“There has got to be a tinge of fear that leads to a collective toughness. Not a tinge of fear that leads to comfort or play as usual. We’re not good enough to do that.”

What Crean wants IU to do sounds like it comes straight out of a Marquis de Sade manual, not that we admit to knowing what that looks or sounds like.

The Marquis, in case you didn’t know, was famous during the late 18th Century for doing and writing some not very nice things while living in France. It’s where we get the term “sadism,” and, no, it doesn’t mean, “watching IU play basketball on the road.”

Anyway, Crean talks about the Hoosiers having to play with a higher level sense of urgency, like somebody “took a lighter to their hair” and set it on fire. “We have to play with that edge,” he said. “That’s how we have to be.”

Crean could actually TRY that. Bring out a lighter and starting igniting players’ hair during a timeout. It would be a great motivator and great spectacle, although it would probably break a few sportsmanship, legal and ethical rules.

Go figure.

So, for now, Crean is left with words instead of action.

“We have got to have that our-hair-is-on-fire mentality that we are just going to play all out.”

IU has plenty of time to develop that mentality. It doesn’t play again until Saturday night against Northwestern. And since Crean’s practices are closed and lighters are easily concealed …

Hey, we’re just sayin.’

After that it’s a brutal finish of Purdue-Ohio State-Wisconsin-Illinois, with Ohio State and Illinois on the road.

Oh, no.

Maybe the Hoosiers don’t need a lighter. That closing schedule should be more than enough to scare/ignite them.


It’s almost more than an IU basketball fan can take -- a chance to watch 2012 super recruit Hanner Perea play in Bloomington right before the Hoosiers putting whupping on Northwestern and …

Okay, when it comes to IU basketball, no victory is assured. Northwestern did beat IU last month.

But Perea, at least, will play when his LaPorte La Lumiere team plays at Bloomington South Saturday afternoon. The 3 o’clock tipoff will allow fans to see that game, then head to Assembly Hall for the 7 o’clock tip-off between the Hoosiers and the Wildcats.

South has won 45 straight home games. It is 17-2 on the season. La Lumiere is 13-7.

The 6-8 Perea is still raw, but he’s developing. The main thing is he’s very athletic. Put him on a frontcourt with Cody Zeller and it’s easy to get excited. A lot of work is required to turn that excitement into results, but that’s another topic for another day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tough Guy – Indiana’s Watford Shows He Has The Right Basketball Stuff

So what is Christian Watford's ceiling? How good can he become by the time he leaves Indiana?

Perhaps the best indicator is not the impressive numbers he's put up but the toughness he's shown the last month or so.

Take the 21 points and five rebounds he had against Michigan State while playing with a busted left hand. He came back after surgery to fix that hand and led the Hoosiers in scoring with 14 points in 22 minutes at Michigan last Saturday, and was a huge part of a rally that nearly turned defeat into victory.

Coach Tom Crean has talked about Watford’s potential and how he will push the 6-9 forward to reach it. Well, it looks like, however hard Crean pushes, he can’t match how hard Watford pushes himself. He not only came back from surgery about as fast as humanly possible, but he thrived in hostile road conditions.

Watford wasn’t cleared to play until Friday, but being cleared and being ready to play aren’t necessarily the same thing. Watford had a live practice on Friday and again on Saturday morning. It’s important to note that IU’s Saturday morning session wasn’t just a put-up-a-few-shots-and-talk-about-the-game-plan session. It was active and rigorous and it let Crean and his staff know that Watford was ready.

“He really wanted to come back,” Crean said. “That is a big part of this because he couldn’t do anything with his hand. Hopefully this is good for him in the sense this like getting a week and a half vacation right in the middle of the Big Ten season…

“He did all the things to get him ready and it just came down to that healing process.”

Team doctors and trainers did what they could to accelerate that healing, and Watford did everything he could to follow their instructions. The fact the injury came to his non-shooting hand helped.

Remember, Watford is a guy who basically averages 17 points and six rebounds a game. As a freshman his numbers were 12.0 and 6.0. He's shooting better overall (43.0 percent from 37.5 percent), from three-point range (38.9 percent from 31.9 percent) and from the line (83.5 percent from 80.0 percent). His assists are way up (31 from 18) and his turnovers are down. He isn't blocking quite as many shots, but that's because he's playing more of a perimeter role this season.

Oh. Watford rivals Jordan Hulls for the Hoosier you most don't want to foul. Hulls has made 30 straight free throws.

With Watford back and Verdell Jones recovered from his inflamed knee the Hoosiers are back at full strength. Check that. They are back as much as they can be without Maurice Creek, who is out for the season after knee surgery. Still, this will help down the stretch.

IU (12-14) has five more games remaining, three at home. None of these games will be easy. Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin are at home. Ohio State and Illinois are on the road.

Winning will require effort and tenacity. It also will require following the game plan. Crean said the strategy against Michigan was to attack the rim. The game started and IU launched a couple of three-pointers.

Granted, the Wolverines’ defense dictated some of that, but opposing defenses always try to dictate. You can’t let that happen. With Watford back, maybe the Hoosiers can do more dictating of their own.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

IU Receiving Recruits Are Big Ten’s Best

So how good a football recruiter is Kevin Wilson. It’s hard to know for sure other than you can’t judge him on this class. That’s true for every first-year coach. You get hired and you’re in scramble mode to retain some of the recruits from the previous coach and try to find new ones -- either guys who haven’t committed or guys who are committed.

In fact, Wilson and his staff talked to several in-state high school players who had already committed to other programs to see if there was any interest in the Hoosiers. At that late date, mid January, there was not.

Still, they took a shot.

Wilson’s first class ranked with that of Purdue and Northwestern at the bottom of the Big Ten rankings. Of course, with nine conference schools ranked in the top 50 nationally, that doesn’t mean IU’s class lacks talent.

In fact, analyst Mike Farrell rates IU’s group of receivers as the best in the Big Ten. The main reason is Shane Wynn, a dynamic playmaker out of Cleveland. In high school he was coached by Ted Ginn Sr., the father of Ted Ginn the former Ohio State standout now in the NFL.

Wynn was a late get, which means credit goes to Wilson and his staff more the previous coach Bill Lynch and his staff.

At 5-7 and 165 pounds, Wynn isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he’s shifty and elusive and a great returner. In fact, he returned nine kicks for touchdowns as a senior. Rivals rates him as the No. 62 receiver nationally. He’s very fast. He’s won two straight state track titles as a member of Glenville High School’s 800-meter and 400-meter relays.

Still, Wynn wasn’t the highest rated state of Ohio receiver. That honor went to Cody Latimer of Dayton. He played receiver and defensive back in high school. At 6-3 and 205 pounds, he’s in more of the big-receiver mold IU has targeted in recent years.

As a senior he caught 42 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for 372 yareds and six TDs. On defense he had 89 tackles and four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He’s rated as the. No. 49 receiving prospect nationally.

IU also signed receiver Jay McCants out of Cincinnati. At 6-4 and 195 pounds, he also plays basketball. He caught 34 passes for 413 yards and six TDs last season.

So what exactly did Rivals’ Farrell have to say about IU’s receiver group?

Glad you asked.

“Indiana’s last-second grab of Glenville stuff Shane Wynn puts it over the top ans he’s teamed with Cody Latimer… Wynn’s high ranking in the receiver category puts Indiana over the top.

The Hoosiers didn’t rate nearly as well at the other positions according to Farrell. Their next highest-rated position was at defensive tackle, linebacker and defensive back. They rated sixth in the conference.

So what does all this mean? We’ll know in a couple of years when we see these guys in action.

Friday, February 11, 2011

With Or Without Watford, IU Faces Big Opportunity

So here is assistant coach Steve McClain, ready to join the Indiana Hoosiers on their trip to Ann Arbor, contemplating the challenge that is Michigan basketball.

Yes, this is the same team IU smacked down in Assembly Hall last month, 80-61.

Check that. It is not the same team.

It is better.

Since that loss the Wolverines have won at Michigan State and at Penn State. They have beaten Iowa (IU knows how difficult THAT is) and Northwestern.

Suddenly they are 15-10 overall, 5-7 in the Big Ten, and pushing toward NCAA tourney bubble status. Whether or not they make the field starts with winning the games they are favored to win. Today that will mean Indiana.

Michigan is not Ohio State, but it played the Buckeyes tough in Columbus, something Purdue couldn’t do. In fact, that’s its only loss in the last five games.

“They’re a young team and they’ve continued to get better as the year goes on,” McClain said. “And when you play someone a second time, people make adjustments.”

The Hoosiers (12-13) have their own postseason hopes and if those hopes are fading, they are not extinguished. They need to win this game and they know it. That means a lot of things, and start with defending Michigan’s three-point attack.

Coach John Beilein loves to put perimeter shooters on the court. When they are hitting, and they’ve been hitting lately, they are hard to beat. The challenge becomes even more difficult when they get a big game from freshman center Jordan Morgan. He had 27 points against Northwestern earlier in the week.

“They’re a team that puts four shooters on the floor almost all of the time,” McClain said, “so you’ve got to, in transition defense and half-court defense, always know where those shooters are and where their shots are going to come from.”

Michigan has three players with at least 103 three-point attempts. IU has one -– Jordan Hulls. The Wolverines have 591 three-point attempts. Indiana has 431.

The most dangerous shooters are Darius Morris, Tim Hardaway and Zach Novak. Morris, the point guard, not only scores at a 15.4-point pace, but averages 7.1 assists.

“In our game here,” McClain said, “we did a great job of being there on the catch.

“They’ve got very good shooters and they’ll get it off quick if you’re not there. In the game here we did a great job of finding them.”

That reflects a strong defensive improvement in the last few weeks. It’s the reason, McClain said, why the Hoosiers have played better.

“We’ve found a way to defend,” he said. “We’ve found a way, when we’ve struggled to score, to continue to defend and rebound, and keep ourselves where we have a chance to win. We’ve continued to get better defending the basketball. That’s helped us have the opportunity to win Big Ten games.”

Some day you figure IU will overcome the burden of road losing. It’s only won one road game in coach Tom Crean’s three seasons. It’s time to change that and this game is the Hoosiers’ best shot at doing that until next year (the other remaining road games are against Illinois, Ohio State and Penn State).

And in some reason for optimism, forward Christian Watford, IU’s leading scorer and rebounder, might be healthy enough to play after missing the last several games with hand surgery. That would be a huge boost.

The word out of Assembly Hall on Watford’s status was that there was no word. Either nobody knew, or nobody was saying.

Regardless, the Hoosiers have a big opportunity. Let’s see if they can make the most of it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Memo to IU Football – Pick Coaches Who WANT To Be There

It’s a joke, right? Somebody is playing with the Hoosier Nation.

There is no way, NO WAY, IU loses a fourth assistant football coach in less than two months.

And yet, here it is. Jemal Singleton, who was just hired to be the Hoosiers’ running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, is heading to Oklahoma State to coach, well, who cares. He’s leaving the Hoosiers after barely having time to have eaten a meal in Bloomington.

The actual time is eight days, not that we’re counting.

Singleton joins Brent Pease (returned to Boise State), Corey Raymond to Nebraska and Jerry Montgomery to Michigan as assistants who have moved on fast.

That leads to the obvious question -- who’s next?

Sure, you can put another spin on this that new coach Kevin Wilson brings in guys other schools wants, so at least he’s hiring good coaches. Hopefully he’s this good in recognizing player talent.

But the retention rate stinks. There's no way to know if this is unprecedented, but it's certainly unusual.

Maybe Wilson picks guys who can’t honor their word. Or, maybe he’s so demanding that guys run for safety before the pressure really ratchets up.

At some point you start wondering if maybe the assistant coaches who are staying aren’t that good. Otherwise, they’d have left, too.

Perception becomes reality and when you have coaches bolting before they’ve even coached a practice, it’s a huge negative for a program trying to prove its Big Ten and national relevance.

Here’s the deal. Wilson can’t win at IU unless he gets guys who WANT to be at Indiana, who appreciate what the university has to offer. That’s true of players as well as coaches. You need guys who are are loyal to the program; passionate about it; committed to it. If you get coaches who can’t wait to go somewhere else, whether that’s in a week or a month or a year, you’re in trouble.

IU needs continuity in its head coach. It also needs continuity in its staff. That’s crucial for recruiting and for developing players already in the program. Heck, it's crucial for team morale. What are the players supposed to think when coaches keep running out on them.

Let’s repeat this -- the Hoosiers need good coaches who want to be at Indiana. It’s that simple.

But, as is true of so many things around IU athletics these days, nothing is simple.

Guys will leave for better offers and opportunities (it’s part of the profession), but it’s important to make Indiana a destination program and not just a stop over to somewhere else.

Sure, the Hoosiers have struggled in football over the years, but this looms as an unwanted first. It can’t continue. IU athletic director Fred Glass told the Bloomington Herald Times he’s “tired” of it, but that he doesn’t see a bigger problem.

Still, this wasn’t what school officials meant when referring to a new era in Indiana football.

Former coach Bill Lynch took heat about the quality of his staff, but at least those guys stuck around.

Before Wilson hires a new running backs coach, or any other coach from now on, he needs to make sure the guy is committed. If he’s not, move on. In fact, Wilson should have that conversation with the remaining assistant coaches. This revolving door stuff is, to be diplomatic, not helpful. To be frank, it’s a disaster and an embarrassment. It has to stop.

It has to stop now.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Even In Loss To Purdue, Indiana Has The Look

Indiana fought the good fight. More and more it does that. It plays with the effort and passion necessary to win. That it doesn’t execute well enough when it matters most remains a problem, but a solvable one. This isn’t quantum mechanics. Tom Crean and company can and will get it done. The signs are everywhere you look that the Hoosiers are building toward something special.

Yes, it was evident even in IU’s 67-53 loss at Purdue.

There’s bad news here. For the first time all season, Indiana has a losing record, at 12-13. You figure it won’t be the last time. Not with the grueling run the Hoosiers have coming up, starting with Saturday’s trip to Michigan. Not with the burden of a two-game losing streak and the uncertain healthy of standout forward Christian Watford.

Maybe he's back for Saturday's game at Michigan. More than likely, he won't.

But don’t let that diminish what the Hoosiers did in the very unfriendly to Cream ‘n Crimson confines of Mackey Arena.

Freshman Will Sheehey was more than ready for his rivalry game debut. He had a career-high 14 points, 12 in the second half when he carried the bulk of the Hoosiers’ offense on his slender shoulders. That was enough to impress Purdue coach Matt Painter.

“Athletes have something at the end,” Painter said. “Will Sheehey had something at the end.”

Remember when Jordan Hulls had the reputation of being too slow to hang with elite Big Ten guards? Guess what? The rep is wrong. Hulls was more than quick enough to deal with super-quick Boiler guard Lewis Jackson, plus big guard Kelsey Barlow. He had 13 points and also impressed Painter.

Painter made a big recruiting push to get Hulls when he was starring at Bloomington South. But Hulls chose the Hoosiers.

“We wanted to get him,” Painter said. “We recruited him for three years.”

Hulls doesn’t look like a Big Ten guard. He’s slender and small. He looks like he should be baking bread rather than breaking down defenses.

Do not be deceived.

“At first instinct he doesn’t pass the look test,” Painter said, “but he’s a winner. He’s a competitor. He makes those daggers.”

IU will need all the daggers it can get in the next month if it is to finish the season on a rush. That means playing unconventional, coach Tom Crean said.

“Every game is a different game plan when you have a team like ours,” he said. “We can’t just come out and run this on offense and play this on defense and everything will be all right. We have to mix. We have to do different things.

“I thought for most part we did that (against Purdue).”

What IU didn’t do was thrive at the end -- again. It was just 1-for-12 from the field in the last five minutes and missed its last nine shots.

“When the game is hanging in the balance that’s when you have to be your smartest,” Crean said. “You have to be at your toughest. You’ve got to communicate the best. That’s when your best basketball has to be played.”

At times, such as against Illinois and Minnesota, the Hoosiers did that. When that becomes the norm, look out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Here Are Indiana’s Football Coaching Answers; Can Hoosiers Win at Mackey?

So what kind of assistants did Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson get?

How about a young guy, a military guy and an intern guy.

What does that mean for Hoosier football players? The hope is they are developed into studs who will bring the program back to the Bill Mallory glory days, and perhaps more. The reality is we won’t know for a couple of years -- assuming these coaches stay around that long.

By now you know Jemal Singleton (pictured left), Brett Diersen (center) and Brandon Shelby (right) are the final -- Wilson hopes! -- pieces to his coaching staff. Each brings a unique background, as we’re about to discuss. Singleton will coach the running backs and serve as recruiting coordinator. Diersen will handle the defensive ends. Shelby is in charge of the cornerbacks.

Oh, for those seeking conspiracy or drama in the fact three of Wilson’s assistants bolted after just a few weeks on the job, well, as far as we can tell, there is no deep, dark secret. It’s just three good coaches who got better offers and took them. An optimist would say that shows a lot about Wilson’s ability to pick good assistants. A pessimist would say, bull!

We’ll let you make your own call on that one.

In a quick summary of the newcomers, Singleton coached running backs at the Air Force Academy, Shelby coached cornerbacks at Louisiana-Monroe, and Diersen was a defensive intern at Nebraska, which at first doesn’t sound promising.

So let’s start with Diersen. No, he is not some 22-year-old greenhorn who only got the job because of some secret information he has on Wilson. Diersen spent the last three years as a defensive line and special teams intern at Nebraska. He also helped with the team’s strength and conditioning program. The Cornhuskers went to three straight bowls during his time there thanks to one of the nation’s top defenses. He’s been around excellence. He knows what it takes.

Can he recruit and develop it? That’s the million-dollar question Wilson and his whole staff must answer.

Anyway, Diersen might have been the most seasoned football intern on the planet. He previously coached the defensive line at Minnesota State University-Mankato. He had the same job, plus coached defensive backs, at Wisconsin-Stout. He also was the recruiting coordinator and assistant strength and conditioning coach. Before that he coached the defensive line, outside linebackers and special teams for the Universty of Dubuque. That all happened after a strong collegiate career at Huron University in South Dakota. He was a three-year all-conference defensive end and a four-year Dean’s List student.

In other words, he’s a bright guy with, potentially, a very bright future. Defensive co-coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler recommended Diersen. Wilson passed on him the first time. Not this second.

“He will be in sync with those guys coming from the exact same system they are going to implement,” Wilson said in a university release. “He has a strong special teams background and will a good compliment to (assistant coach) Mark Hagen there and on the defensive line.”

Now let’s take a look at Shelby. As the cornerbacks coach at Louisiana-Monroe, his starters combined for 97 tackles and three interceptions last season. Before that he was the secondary coach at Portland State. In 2008 he coached the defensive backs at the University of San Diego. Three of his players earned all-conference honors.

The connection with Wilson comes from Oklahoma. Shelby was a stud defensive back there and earned All-Big 12 honors for football and academics. As a Sooner senior he tied a school record for defensive backs with four sacks. He then became a defensive assistant at Oklahoma.

Wilson was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator during Shelby’s time there.

“I have a great relationship with Brandon from his playing days at Oklahoma,” Wilson said. “I think very highly of him as a person and a coach. He had a great high school career, a great college career, and is off to a great start in his coaching career. Brandon places a great focus on academics. He is very intelligent and has a tremendous future in this business.”

That leaves us with Singleton. He played running back at the Air Force Academy in the late 1990s and coached there for the last eight years after fulfilling his military obligation. In the last four years under Singleton the Falcons ranked in the top-10 nationally in rushing every time. Last year they averaged 306.5 yards rushing to finish second in the country.

Also, in 2007 the Air Force’s Chad Hall rushed for 1,478 yards and earned All-America honors under Singleton.

After graduating Singleton was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas as a public relations officer. He returned to the Air Force Academy and spent time as the executive officer for the athletic director. He’s the son of a retired Air Force sergeant and was born in Turkey.

“I like what we are getting in Jemal,” Wilson said. “I like his background. I have a great appreciation for what he did at the Air Force Academy. Jemal is coming from an academically-oriented and tough-minded environment. His kids are mentally strong and when looking at his rushing attackes through the years, the numbers speak for themselves.”

For the record, here is Wilson’s staff:

Doug Mallory - Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Mike Ekeler - Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
Mark Hagen - Defensive Tackles/Special Teams Coordinator
Brett Diersen - Defensive Ends
Brandon Shelby - Cornerbacks

Kevin Johns - Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Rod Smith - Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Greg Frey - Offensive Line
Jemal Singleton - Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator


In case you’re in a Super Bowl stupor from all the blown national anthem singing, botched seating and cheesehead euphoria, IU plays at Purdue tonight.

It would be a huge, huge victory for the Hoosiers if they could manage the upset. However, don’t count on it. The Boilers have one of the nation’s best big men in JaJuan Johnson, and soon-to-be-2,000-career-point-guy E’Twaun Moore. Plus they have the Mackey Arena advantage which has helped make them unbeaten at home this season.

It would be a huge challenge if IU was at full health. It is not. Christian Watford is almost certainly out with his broken hand. Verdell Jones is battling an inflamed knee, although at least he is playing now. Most of the Hoosiers are dealing with the kind of bumps and bruises you’d expect in Big Ten action.

“We have to have a rebounding mentality first and foremost,” coach Tom Crean said in a university release. “Our defense has to become a positive for our offense. We have to attack and get to the free throw line. Defensively we have to communicate and help, and not allow them to get the type of plays that will raise the intensity of their crowd to another level.”

So what does that mean? Can the Hoosiers win at Mackey?

We’ll know that answer tonight.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Are IU’s Football Coaching Changes Reason To Worry?

So here was Kevin Wilson, pushing the silver-lining message about his revolving door of an assistant coaching staff. You know the drill. He hires a coach, coach stays about two weeks, then bolts for another program.

This has happened three times in the last two months.

That’s three times the norm for a brand new staff.

Is this a problem?

Yes and no.

You want to bring in quality assistant coaches. The three coaches Wilson hired -- Brent Pease, Corey Raymond and Jerry Montgomery -- all left for quality programs. Pease returned to Boise State because he got a promotion. Raymond left to go to Nebraska. Montgomery left for Michigan.

All three of those programs are among the elite of college football. Nebraska and Michigan are two of the top programs in the history of college football. So when your coaches leave for those programs, you know they are good.

They just never got a chance to prove it at Indiana.

While Wilson will never be confused with, say, Lee Corso for his funny sayings, he does have a dry sense of humor. So he offered this comment on losing the three coaches:

“We have three football coaches leaving IU with an unbeaten record, unblemished. How often has that happened?”

Okay, it doesn’t quite rank with George Carlin’s classic “Seven things you can’t say on TV” comedy bit, but that’s not the point. He wasn’t hired at $1.2 million a year to make people laugh. He needs to win football games.

The Hoosiers are looking for stability as they move on from the Bill Lynch era. Stability is just as important in the staff as it is in the head coach. Wilson understands this, but he also understands that each coach has to do what’s best for his family. He said he has no anger toward them. They got a better opportunity. Well, Indiana is a good opportunity -- at least, that’s the plan -- and other coaches will take advantage of it.

“We won’t recruit a dead-weight guy,” Wilson said. “Some of these guys are young and up-and-coming coaches. I want coaches who are good. If somebody else wants them and it’s in their best interests to move on, go for it. If it’s better for you then it’s better for me.”

So Wilson brought in a guy from Nebraska’s staff, Brett Dierson, to handle some of the defensive line duties. Brandon Shelby, a cornerbacks coach from Louisiana Monroe as well as Portland State, San Diego and Oklahoma, will coach the same position at IU. He and Wilson have a connection because Shelby was an All-Big 12 defensive back for Oklahoma while Wilson was the offensive coordinator there.

Finally, Jemel Singleton is the new running backs coach. He came from the Air Force Academy.

The good news about all this is IU has been so busy with recruiting that the staff hasn’t focused much on football, spring practice and next season’s preparations. All that starts today -- with a complete staff.

Now the players might be a little confused right now, but all that will clear up in the next few weeks. Assuming, of course, nobody else leaves.

In the meantime, Wilson insists everything is in good coaching shape.

“I’m pleased with where we are. I don’t think we’re disjointed.”

That’s good because in a league that just got a lot tougher with the addition of Nebraska, being disjointed is the last thing the Hoosiers need this offseason.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guarantee Falls Flat, Just Like the Hoosiers

Okay, we messed up. We let Crean 'n Crimson optimism get in the way of reality.

So much for guarantees and Indiana basketball.

So much for opportunity.

Indiana blew a big, big chance. Postseason prospects might have gone along with the lost victory against Iowa.

Yeah, Saturday’s 64-63 loss to Iowa hurt that much.

Remember the euphoria that followed the Assembly Hall victories over Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota? Those were replaced by glum faces on fans not quite sure that what they had seen had really happened.

It had.

It was like going to dinner with your significant other expecting an engagement announcement and find out that other was marrying your best friend.

It was a joke, right? A mistake.

Then you looked at the Assembly Hall scoreboard that did not lie:

Iowa 64, Indiana 63.

You looked at the record. The Hawkeyes are just 10-13 with two victories over the Hoosiers. On paper, at least, they are the weakest team IU will play until next non-conference season.


“Turnovers at end killed us,” guard Jordan Hull said. “To see it go away ...

“We never thought we would lose. We had that mindset. You have to have that mindset. Defense didn’t work out for us.”

We’ve heard this before about IU and defense, and while there were MAJOR inside breakdowns (Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe totaled 20 points and 13 rebounds) on Saturday, you could argue that the three turnovers down the stretch that the Hawkeyes converted into four points were the real back breakers. Oh, there was that offensive rebound Iowa got off a missed free throw that allowed it to score four points in one possession.

All that gave Iowa that one thing you never want to give a reeling opponent:


IU had everything it needed -- a 10-point second-half lead, momentum, a raucous Assembly Hall crowd, all sorts of end-of-season possibilities.

All it had to do was hold on.

That was asking too much.

Now comes Tuesday’s trip to No. 11 Purdue, which is unbeaten at home this season. IU is winless away from Assembly Hall.

Oh no.

“We haven’t even thought about that yet,” Hulls said.

For most of Saturday's game, it couldn’t have gone better. Check that. Yeah, the Hoosiers could have built a 20-point lead, but 10 should have been enough. They just needed to make a few more defensive stops, a few less turnovers, hit one end-of-game shot.

That, too, was asking too much.

Still, there were highlights. The Minnesota victory became the Tom Pritchard show. Now it was time for freshman Will Sheehey to have the game of his life. And for a while, he did. He had a career-high 12 points, including a monster dunk that showcased his passion and athleticism.

Another freshman, Oladipo, had 12 points in 20 minutes.

Hulls was a scoring machine with a career-high-matching 24 points, but his three turnovers against one assist hurt.

And if you forgot about back-up point guard Daniel Moore, well, so did the Hawkeyes when his steal off an in-bounds pass and assist to Derek Elston for a layup produced IU’s first and only double-digit lead mid-way through the second half.

It could have been a back-breaker.

It was not.

There was regression. Foul trouble limited Pritchard to no points, five rebounds and two turnovers in 26 minutes as a follow-up to his monster Minnesota performance. Verdell Jones went 1-for-9 from the field for two points. He did have five rebounds, two assists and no turnovers. But it was he, rather than Hulls, who took the last shot.

You might wonder why Hulls didn’t take the last shot. He was, after all, 10-for-17 from the field for those 24 points. Jones was struggling and wasn’t completely healthy from his inflamed knee that sidelined him for three games.

Coach Tom Crean twice called a timeout to set up a potential winning play with Iowa clinging to that 64-63 lead and 13 seconds left. The first might have worked, but the Hoosiers were too slow running it. Afraid they wouldn’t get a good shot, Crean called a second timeout and designed another play full of options depending on Iowa’s defense. It could have gone to Hulls off a screen or Jones off a ballscreen or Sheehey posting up or Oladipo on the baseline.

Why not set up a play specifically for Hulls? Because that’s not the way Crean does things, either on last plays or in his overall offensive and defensive strategy. He likes options and variety.

“I don’t really get caught up in this guy has to have it at the end,” he said.

Hulls was the last Hoosier Iowa wanted to get the ball, and they defended that last play (with man defense) accordingly. And the way it worked out, Jones got the ball with five seconds left and took an open jumper from 15 feet. It was a very makeable shot.

Really, that's all a coach can do in that situation. His job is to give his players a good shot. Their job is to make it. Would Hulls have made it if he had taken the last shot?

We'll never know. Here's what we do know -- Jones missed. Oladipo tipped the rebound. It missed.

So IU falls to 12-12. The defeat is a huge blow to its postseason hopes. It travels to Purdue on Tuesday and Michigan on Saturday without momentum. It is so beat up Crean said he's unable to have a full-bore practice because there aren’t enough healthy bodies. That’s not likely to change soon. Forward Christian Watford and his busted hand might be ready for Michigan, Crean said, but more than likely it will be the week after that.

It seems grim. It IS grim, but it is not hopeless.

“It’s definitely very frustrating,” Oladipo said. “We’ve got to bounce back. If we play defense every game, we’ll be fine.”

We’ll see how fine they are on Tuesday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sure Cream ‘n Crimson Thing – IU Beats Iowa; Hoosiers Get NFL Combine Shot

We can guarantee you two things about Saturday’s game against Iowa:

1) Christian Watford won’t play.

2) Verdell Jones won’t play 30 or more minutes.

3) Indiana will win.

Okay, math isn’t our strong point. There’s a reason why we’re in the media and not, say, designing the space shuttle replacement.

Anyway, Watford is still recovering from last Tuesday’s hand surgery. Coach Tom Crean said the earliest he could be back is next Saturday at Michigan, which would be a huge boost in what looms as a winnable road game, perhaps the most winnable of the Hoosiers’ four remaining road games.
“Next Saturday would be a very outside, remote possibility,” Crean said. “We’re very hopeful that it would be the week after that. It could go deeper. It’s too early to tell. The surgery is too fresh, it’s too recent. We’ll have to see how it heals. But we do expect him back. It’s not like it’s a season-ending injury.”
Jones played 17 minutes in the upset win over Minnesota Saturday and scored 12 big points. Crean said he’ll try to limit the junior guard’s minutes to around 17 minutes again as he continues to recover from an inflamed knee.

“When I say it’s day to day, I’m not being evasive,” Crean said. “It’s just a matter of how he feels and how he continues to progress and rehabilitate. I wouldn’t expect much more.”

As far as the Hoosiers (12-11) beating Iowa (9-13), well, they are playing too well and the stakes are too high to lose. Yes, the Hawkeyes have won the last three meetings and pounded IU 91-77 two weeks ago in Iowa City. Yes, they did just thump Michigan State by 20 points on Wednesday after jumping out to a 30-8 lead.

Still, they’re 9-13 for a reason. They haven’t done well on the road and that’s not going to change today.

The Hoosiers understand their postseason prospects depend on this game. They will have the Assembly Hall advantage and, so you know, in the last week or so tickets are becoming must-have items again. Demand is up, at least for those below the balcony, so look for a lot of fan-fueled energy.

Yes, that will make a difference. Will it be easy? No. But then, as a wise wrestling coach once told us before making us do, like, 200 windsprints, nothing worthwhile is.

“Our team knows the task at hand with Iowa,” Crean said. “They’re a really good team. I don’t think we had to see the Michigan State game to have that etched in our minds. But when you watch them play Michigan State, the way they attacked them, you see it again. We’ve got to be really good in so many difference areas.”

IU will be good.



It’s good news for offensive tackle James Brewer, and receivers Tandon Doss and Terrance Turner. All three former Indiana football players will get their shot at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later this month. They received and accepted invitations to the annual event, which gives scouts and coaches from every NFL team to evaluate prospects.

Brewer played in the recent Senior Bowl. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season, when he only allowed two sacks.

Turner played in the recent East-West Shrine Game. He finished his IU career with 143 catches (sixth in school history) for 1,436 yards and four touchdowns. He’s the 17th Hoosier to surpass 100 career receptions and 1,000 career receiving yards.

Doss got up his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. He had 63 catches for 706 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He also had 1,016 kickoff return yards, 49 punt return yards and rushed for 163 yards. He ranked fifth nationally by averaging 175.8 all-purpose yards a game.

In other football news, coach Kevin Wilson has named his new cornerbacks coach. It’s Brandon Shelby from Louisiana Monroe. He replaces Corey Raymond, who was on the staff for about a month before going to Nebraska.

Shelby has a connection to Wilson given he was an All-Big 12 defensive back for Oklahoma from 2001 to 2004. Wilson was the offensive coordinator at Oklahome before coming to IU.

Shelby coached for one year at Oklahoma. He also spent one year at San Diego, one year at Portland State and one year at Louisiana-Monroe.

Don’t forget the two other hires Wilson has made in the last week -- Brett Dierson as a defensive line coach and Jemal Singleton as the running backs coach. Dierson replaces Jerry Montgomery, who also was at IU for about a month before leaving for Michigan.

That means that Wilson has finally, finally, wrapped up his assistant coaching staff.

That assumes, of course, that nobody else leaves.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can IU Make The NIT? Wilson’s Take on Football Freshmen

Do you wake up feeling all tingly? Does the air seem warmer, the day brighter and the economy better?

Of course you do and it does. You’re a Hoosier fan and suddenly hope is everywhere you don’t see someone talking about the weather, the Super Bowl and the best beard in sports.

In case you missed it, Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel has a beard to die for, unless you’re his wife, who already has bought him the razor to shave it off with. He has, daringly, ignored her not so subtle hint. He’ll wait until after the Super Bowl to deal with it.

But we digress.

Suddeny Indiana basketball is hot. The Hoosiers have won their last two home games, both against ranked teams (Illinois and Minnesota) and nearly won at Michigan State.

It seems the more guys get hurt, the better they play. That makes you wonder how much further they can take this next-man-up approach.

Anyway, now comes the thought that maybe they can make the NIT, which seemed a realistic goal at the start of the season before they bumbled their way through late December and most of January.

It took a whupping at Iowa to finally convince them to buy into Tom Crean’s coaching, and since they did, they are fun to watch. They still mess up some, but they play hard, make plays and make you think a return to glory is just around the corner, perhaps as soon as next year.

Hey, why not this year, starting with the Big Ten tourney and …

Hold on. Take a deep breath. Let’s not get carried away.

IU is 12-11 and basically needs four more victories to clinch a postseason berth. The Hoosiers have eight regular-season games left. Finishing 16-15 entering the Big Ten tourney would almost certainly land them in the NIT.

How likely is that?

Let’s take a look.

IU has four games at home and four on the road. Two seem unwinnable -- at No. 11 Purdue and at No. 1 Ohio State. Given the fact the Hoosiers haven’t won away from Assembly Hall this season and have just one road victory in Crean’s three seasons, the other two road games (to Michigan and Illinois) are huge hurdles.

Still, IU has beaten both of those teams already. It wouldn’t take a miracle to win at least one of them.

The home games are against Iowa Saturday, Northwestern Feb. 19, Purdue Feb. 23 and Wisconsin March 3.

The way the Hoosiers are playing now, they’d be favored to beat Iowa and Northwestern, and will push Purdue and Wisconsin hard. Going 3-1 against those teams is realistic. So if they could get just one road win (Michigan seems the most likely), they’ll reach that magic No. 16.

And if they do that and get hot in the Big Ten tourney, well, in case you’ve forgotten, the Big Ten’s automatic NCAA tourney bid goes to the conference tourney champ.

Anything is possible. So go ahead and enjoy that tingly feeling. It just might last a while.


Kevin Wilson won’t wait on the future. He doesn’t want his players to wait, either. He’ll play the best guys and as far as redshirting freshman, that’s the last option.

“My thing is competition is a great deal,” he said. “We can redshirt all we want, but we have guys getting up early every day running and lifting and practicing hard. You’re asked to stay in the summer and workout, and if you never play, it’s frustrating.”

Former coach Bill Lynch’s approach was that if you’re a freshman and are good enough to start and play a lot, you play. Otherwise, you redshirt and concentrate on getting bigger, stronger and better, plus get a solid academic base. He believed a roster full of five-year players was the best way for a school such as Indiana go.

Wilson doesn’t disagree with that, but he wants to raise the stakes for everybody, from freshmen to seniors. Everybody gets a chance. However, if a freshman isn’t ready, he won’t play.

“I didn’t make a guarantee to any of these guys that they would play,” Wilson said. “I guarantee we’re going to put some good guys around them, and academically we’re going to put everything in front of them to get their degree.

“Football comes back to them. My goal is every freshman plays until he shows he can’t. That increases the competition and I think it increases their athletic ability. I think socially they do better. I think academically they do better.

“All players like to play, so we’ve challenged them all to do everything they can. I’d like to play guys, but if they can’t play, we’re not going to waste a year.”