Tuesday, March 29, 2011

IU’s Wilson ‘Revs Up’ Hoosiers; Zeller Boosting Resume

Kevin Wilson doesn’t coach soft. This is football, after all, and the meek don’t inherit the earth, they get steam rolled by some nasty son of a buck who eats the meek for breakfast.

Wilson arrives in the Memorial Stadium team room with a voice only a mother can love. Yelling isn’t easy on the vocal cords, but then, Wilson isn’t easy on his Hoosiers. He is revving them up because he knows, no matter how tough he is on them, nothing will match the toughness they’ll face when Ohio State or Wisconsin lines up against them.

Wilson has just had his guys do a lot of after-practicing running. Some of it is for conditioning, some for emphasis. You go full throttle all the time in the Wilson scheme of things or you run. And if the coaches miss it, the practice camera never does. If nothing else, these guys will be really, really fit.

Wilson is talking about what he wants from his running backs. The problem -– he doesn’t have many of them to practice. Darius Willis, Matt Perez, Xavier Whitaker and Antonio Banks are recovering from season-ending knee injuries. That leaves Nick Turner, Bloomigton walk-on David Blackwell, and converted tight end Leneil Himes.

This is not a group that will strike fear in the hearts of Big Ten defenses, although, perhaps, that will change by the fall. No matter. Wilson uses the resources available to him.

“In our offense, we’ll do what you can do. If you want to play running back, you’re going to run it. You’ve got to pass block. You’ve got to pick up blitzes. It’s nice to have a guy who’s also a valuable receiver. All of our running backs can catch. No one is great, but no one is poor. We’ll see in time what the other (injured) guys are about.”

Himes got practice as a fullback. Does that mean the fullback will get a lot of action in Wilson’s offense?

“If he’s good, he’ll play a lot,” Wilson said. “If he sucks, not much.

“That’s the great thing about tight ends and fullbacks. If you’re not good, you don’t have to play. We don’t have to play 4 wides (receivers). You play the best 11.”

Almost every coach says that, but Wilson really means it.

“Maybe we want to play two tailbacks at a time,” he said. “Right now, I don’t know. Maybe your second tight end is better than your third wide out. So you play two tight ends. Maybe the fullback is one of your best 11. So you play the fullback. Right now we’re giving them all a chance to see.”


Unless your mind has been swallowed by the drama involving Kirstie Alley and George Lopez (here’s a hint, it involves a pig reference), you know that Indiana basketball could really use a power inside presence next season.

Hoosier coaches are searching the country looking for somebody to boost the bigs and provide help to veteran Tom Pritchard and highly acclaimed incoming freshman forward Cody Zeller.

The man who knows more about Hoosier recruiting than even coach Tom Crean, Mike Pegram, has reported that Jamari Traylor was on campus. That’s 6-7, 215-pound Jamari Traylor from IMG Academy who is being recruited by Kansas, St. John’s, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Oklahoma state, VCU and Mississippi State.

Yeah, it’s a lot of competition, but there aren’t a lot of quality big men still available, so the heat is on everybody.

Speaking of Zeller, he isn’t resting on his high school state title and mental attitude award. He quickly headed to Chicago to participate in McDonald’s All-American Game practices.

He’ll go against some of the country’s best players in his age group, which will help tremendously in his preparation for next season with the Hoosiers.


Oh, in case you’re wondering, Matt Painter is unlikely to leave Purdue for Missouri. If it was North Carolina or Kansas or Duke, that’s another story. But for a good-but-not-great Missouri program, it doesn’t make much sense.

Purdue will give Painter a raise to put him near the top of a Big Ten salary scale highlighted by Michigan State’s Tom Izzo’s $3 million a year deal. It also will boost the salaries for his assistant coaches and ensure the staff has all the necessary resources to thrive at the highest level.

Figure the situation will be resolved by Wednesday.

Monday, March 28, 2011

For Fred Glass, Indiana Is Poised For A New ‘Golden Age’

There’s a lot going on in college athletics. Coaches are being fired and hired and, in Matt Painter’s case, wooed.

Oh, yes. There’s a little thing called the Final Four set to start in Houston this weekend.

At Indiana, it’s a little quiet from the national perspective, but athletic director Fred Glass wants to change that. Yes, football and basketball have struggled, but prospects are promising. The football team has a new coach with a new approach and, perhaps, a formula for winning. Tom Crean is on the kind of recruiting roll that produces the hope championships are coming.

Those hopes are what Glass envisioned when he took the AD job a couple of years ago after a long, successful run as an Indianapolis attorney and community leader. He wants the Hoosiers to thrive as they haven’t in a generation.

He believes it’s coming, sooner rather than later.

“We have a bunch of micro metrics on where we want to be in terms of facilities, but the bottom line is, and this is why I came to Indiana to do this job, I want to be part of a Golden Age of Indiana University athletics. When I was a student here and looked around, maybe you didn’t have a sense of it at the time, but you had these amazing coaches here. You had Jerry Yeagley, Bob Knight, Bill Mallory and Sam Bell and Hobie Billingsley and Doc Councilman. That was a golden age. I’d like to be part of another Golden Age. We’re acquiring and maintaining the kind of coaching talent to make that a reality. We’re on the launching pad of doing that.

“There’s a general feeling that the athletic department is going in the right direction. That’s at a time when the basketball program isn’t winning, football isn’t winning. We put ourselves in a position to win there. Baseball, men’s soccer, volleyball, track and field, swimming and diving beat Michigan for the first time in 13 years. I think we’re on the cusp of entering a new Golden Age of Indiana athletics. My goal is that in five years that’s more apparent by Big Ten championships, national championships, and so forth.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

IU Football Goes Full Throttle; Zeller Obvious Mr. Basketball Pick; Will VCU Win It All?

Kevin Wilson talks like he coaches -- fast. He’s not into long, drawn out sentences when clipped phrases will do just fine.

The man charged with bringing victories back to the Indiana football program made his reputation on running offenses that could beat you with pace as well as talent and scheme. It wasn’t an accident. He prepared his players to play at a speed defenses couldn't handle.

“You can train speed because you need to run,” he said. “You can train physicallness because you need to hit. It’s a physical game. It’s a fast game. You train that.”

Wilson runs his spring practices with that in mind. It’s an early taste of what the Hoosiers can expect when August camp rolls around.

“We’re doing a lot of work,” he said. “We’re active learners. We’re not passive in what we’re doing.”

Wilson wants the Hoosiers going full speed, which is fine. However, coaches are putting in new plays and new approaches and that, by definition, will turn full speed to half speed. No matter. The coaches keep pushing.

“As we’re putting in schemes,” Wilson said, “the players are thinking. The best way to slow somebody down is to make them think. It’s a double-edged sword. We put in new plays and they think. Now they’re slower. We want them to go faster. It’s tough, but all in all, I’m pleased. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m not discourages or frustrated. We’ll keep plugging along.”

And just in case that plugging misses something, Wilson will hold a walk-on tryout on Tuesday, April 19, at Memorial Stadium. If you’re interested, contact Mark Deal at mrdeal@indiana.edu by April 8.

For those who have yet to give up the football dream despite being on the wrong side of 30, well, you have to be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours at IU in Bloomington to try out.


Is there any doubt that Cody Zeller will win Indiana’s Mr. Basketball?

Well, there’s always doubt until the results are in, and the state of Indiana has a lot of strong candidates this year, but when you factor in everything, Zeller should be the runaway winner.

The Washington senior standout thrives just as much off the court as he does on. He has a 3.99 grade point average, ranks second in his second class, is very much involved with the community and just won the Class 3A mental attitude award.

Oh, yes, he led the Hatchets to their third state title in his four years while averaging 24.1 points and 13.3 rebounds. He rates as the nation's No. 20 player.

Other Mr. Basketball contenders are Indianapolis Pike’s Marquis Teague (rated as the nation’s No. 2 player by Rivals.com), Gary Wallace’s Branden Dawson (No. 13), Indianapolis Lawrence North’s Michael Chandler (No. 47) and Bloomington South’s Dee Davis (No. 120).


Be honest. How many of you projected a Final Four of Butler, VCU, Kentucky and Connecticut?

This reflects that fact that this year there never was a truly dominant team in college basketball, although Ohio State certainly looked like one the way it steamrolled through the Big Ten tourney and first two NCAA tourney rounds.

Connecticut is the highest seed to make it, at No. 3. It has been on a roll since winning the Big East tourney by winning five games in five days. But then, so has VCU, which has won five NCAA tourney games, one more than any other team, because it made the 68-team field as a play-in-game qualifier. Kentucky also has surged by winning the SEC tourney to get momentum heading into the NCAA event.

Finally, there’s Butler, which might not have made the field if it hadn’t won the Horizon League tourney title.

So who will win the whole thing? On paper, you’d have to go with Connecticut and stud guard Kemba Walker. On heart you’d have to go with Butler, which doesn’t know how to quit. On tenacity VCU would get the nod given the way it has thrived inside and out. As far as Kentucky, it has really come together the last month of the season.

Add it all up and the choice is as obvious as a Charles Barkley comment -- VCU will win it all.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Zeller Thrives; Ferrell Leads; Butler Does It Again

It’s a great time to be a Zeller.

Cody led Washington to the Indiana 3A state title with a 61-46 victory over Culver Academies Saturday night at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse, then won the Trester mental attitude award.

Older brother Tyler has helped lead North Carolina into today’s Elite Eight showdown against Kentucky in Newark, N.J., for a berth in next weekend’s Final Four in Houston.

You figure parents Steve and Lorri are putting in some heavy travel miles.

Washington (24-4) won its second straight state title and third in the last four years, and fourth since 2005. It has seven state championships, second in Indiana history to Muncie Central’s eight.

The 6-10 Cody was a monster (in a good way) with 20 points and 18 rebounds.

“Their size affected our play,” Culver coach Mark Galloway said. “Zeller was blocking shots and changing shots.”

Cody has three state titles to best the two by Tyler (2005 and 2008) and the one by oldest brother Luke (2005).

Cody’s mental attitude award was just as impressive. He ranks second in his senior class of 159 students with a grade point averge of 3.99 while taking the toughest classes Washington offers. He also finds time to volunteer at Camp Illiana and Habitat for Humanity, participates annually in the Dr. Seuss “Read Across America” program in area elementary schools and is an active member at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

Is solving America’s dependence on foreign oil next?

“Cody deserves to be the Trester Award winner,” coach Gene Miiller said. “He is an outstanding young man and player. He is also a great student and has high character.”

Miiller coached the Hatchets to their last three state titles. He’s the ninth coach in state history to have coached at least three state champions. The Zellers played a huge roll in that.

“They were all very coachable and they work very hard,” he said.

Cody will take that work ethic to IU starting this summer. Figure the No. 1 key for him is to get stronger. The sooner he gets to Big Ten-ready strength, the sooner he’ll thrive for the Hoosiers.


Another future Hoosier, Indianapolis Park Tudor point guard Yogi Ferrell, also won a state championship on Saturday. Park Tudor edged Hammond Bishop Noll 43-42 for the Class 2A title.

Ferrell had 14 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals. He didn’t light up Conseco Fieldhouse with his shooting well (he was 6-for-15 overall, 1-for-5 from three-point range) but he ran the show well enough to produce a championship to go with last year’s runner-up finish.

Park Tudor was led by freshman Trevon Bluiett’s 21 points and eight rebounds. He scored the winning points. Yes, the Hoosiers have offered him a scholarship.

Ferrell is part of IU’s Class of 2012 that figures to rate as the nation’s best.


Does watching Butler play make you yearn for the time when Indiana will display the same tough-minded, crunch-time-thriving effort?

Of course it does.

That the Bulldogs should be in their second straight Final Four is amazing. They do not overwhelm with talent, although they have good players. They are smart; they execute the game plan; they rebound; and they play defense.

Oh, yes. They play with maximum effort and never quit. They trailed by 11 points to an athletically superior Florida team deep into the second half and still managed to win in overtime.

They get this from their most veteran players as well as their least experienced ones.

Experts figured losing Gordon Hayward to the NBA ended any national title hopes, and they were right until about early February, when Butler started a roll that has carried it to Houston.

Can this team actually win a national championship?

Don’t bet against it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hoosier Secret – Why Crean Rocks in Recruiting; Is IU Best of All Time

What is the secret to Tom Crean’s recruiting success? How has he been able to lock up so much in-state talent in the last nine months or so?

First, he’s done it the right way. He follows the rules. If he’s uncertain about something, he checks with IU’s compliance department before he acts.

In other words, he does what Bruce Pearl didn’t do.

Then, he works his tail off. He starts early with very young players and pitches a Cream ‘n Crimson dream.

In-state high school and AAU coaches have noticed. How could they not? You get Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington in the Class of 2011; Ron Patterson, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Perea, Yogi Ferrell and Peter Jurkin in the Class of 2012 (could Hamilton Southeast standout Garry Harris be next?); Collin Hartman and Devin Davis in 2013; and James Blackmon and Trey Lyles in 2014 (all these guys either play high school ball in Indiana, or play for an Indiana travel team); and the buzz is almost loud enough to knock Butler off the hot-topic list.


“That’s what the Indiana Nation has wanted from their basetball coach -- the ability to lock up the local talent,” Indianapolis Lawrence Central coach J.R. Shelt said. “Tom has embraced that. He’s gone out of his way to get in the gyms, not only the high school gyms, but I know he’s been at the AAU practices as well. He’s covered all the bases with these guys. He’s done all his research. That’s what fans want from the head coach at Indiana.”

All this high-level recruiting will turn Hoosier practices into war zones. Playing time will be precious. Either Crean will have one of the deepest teams in the country, or a lot of people will be grumbling about playing time.

Crean has sought practice competition from the day he got the Indiana job. It will make players better if they embrace it rather than fight it.

Specifically, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls will be seniors, and Zeller will be a sophomore, when the Class of 2012 arrives. You would figure those three would be sure starters. Ferrell, as the only true point guard on the roster, has a great shot to start right away. The athletic Perea (he’s the class’s top-rated player, at No. 10) would likely fill IU’s other pressing need -- a strong inside physical presence. That leaves everybody else battling for time. It will be survival of the fittest.

You wish Crean would open a few of these practices so everybody could watch. Not only would it fuel fan interest to a fever pitch (the Hoosiers aren’t selling out Assembly Hall, afterall), it also would help the young guys prepare for the crowds they’ll face in games, particularly in Big Ten play.

But that’s a debate for another day.

Anyway, Shelt understands this whole competitive practice situation. He’s passed insight on to Hollowell, who will experience it first hand.

“The thing I tell my players is when you’re at a college, the coach’s job is to recruit someone better than you. That’s his job. If you win 20 games one year you want to win 22 to 25 games the next year. You don’t do that without getting better players. Older players understand that. It’s the older players’ job to kick the young guys in the teeth and make them play. Get them ready so hopefully they do take their spot or at least contribute to the win. Take it from there. That’s the nature of high-level ball.”

That leaves the absolute, bottom-line nature when you get past the hype and potential and blue-chip accolades -- win.


If you were voting, which team would you pick as the greatest ever in college basketball?

The obvious choice for those who bleed Cream ‘n Crimson would be the 32-0 IU team from the 1975-76 season. It remains the last undefeated squad in college history.

However, you could argue that the 1974-75 team was better -- until All-America Scott May broke his arm. Those Hoosiers crushed people until Kentucky edged them in the Elite Eight. The ’76 team had to win several nail-biters.

The Sporting News, lacking Hoosier spirit, picked IU as the third best team of all-time. The publication picked the 1966-67 UCLA as No. 1 with the 1972-73 UCLA squad as No. 1.

Here are the rest: No. 4 North Carolina (1981-82), No. 5 San Francisco (1954-55), No. 6 UNLV (1990-91), No. 7 North Carolina State (1973-74), No. 8 Duke (1991-92), No. 9 Georgetown (1983-84), No. 10 Kentucky (1995-96).

Do you have some better choices? Let us know and we’ll run your comments/suggestions.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here’s Why Hollowell Will Thrive At IU; As For Watford ...

So why should we think Jeremy Hollowell is going to be an outstanding college player?

For starters, because he can play defense. How do we know this? Let’s give Lawrence Central coach J.R. Shelt a chance to make the point about his junior swing man.

“He’s a phenomenal defensive player,” Shelt said. “He plays 31 minutes (out of 32) for us and, yes, there are times he’s not as intense as we would like. But when we played Pike in the county tournament, Marquis Teague was lighting us up. Jeremy said, let me guard him. When a 6-8 guy says, let me guard the No. 1 point guard in the country and does a good job of it, that says something.

“I watched him play last summer in AAU. His team was playing Dayton and a guy from Dayton was destroying their post player. Jeremy asked if he could guard him and he did a good job in the post. The kid wants to win and will do whatever it takes to do that.”

The 6-7, 200-pound Hollowell fits the profile of what IU coach Tom Crean wants in a player, which is why he spent three years recruiting him. First, Hollowell is a stud -- a guy ranked No. 23 by Scout.com and No. 39 by Rivals.com who averaged 18.9 points and 7.1 rebound while shooting 40-percent from three-point range this past season for Lawrence Central. Second, he has what Shelt calls a “winner’s mentality.”

It helps that Hollowell might not be finished growing.

“He’s just 16, so he’s young,” Shelt said. “The potential is there for him to grow another inch or two. He can gain 20 or more pounds easily.”

Hollowell’s commitment to IU won headlines for the Hoosiers Thursday even as Butler was playing in the Sweet Sixteen. That shows the amazing drawing power of the Cream ‘n Crimson program despite the three worst seasons in program’s history.

Hollowell is part of a Class of 2012 group that just might rank as the nation’s best by the time everything is finalized. He will join Indianapolis Broad Ripple guard Ron Patterson (ranked No. 78), LaPorte La Lumiere power forward Hanner Perea (No. 10), Indianapolis Park Tudor point guard Yogi Ferrell and North Carolina center Peter Jurkin (No. 127).

If you want another reason to be optimistic about Hollowell joining the Hoosiers (he can’t sign until November’s signing period), consider where he’s made the biggest improvement since arriving from high school.

“It’s his mentality,” Shelt said. “When he came here he had just turned 14 and he was a little immature.

“His skill has picked up. Everybody wants to be a guard. As a freshman he said, Hey, if I’m going to make waves in this game, I have to work on my skill. Last year he shot in the mid-20 percent from 3-point line. I said, ‘Jeremy you know where they stick guys who shoot 20 percent from the arc -- they stick them in the post.’ This year he came back and shot over 40 percent.

“He is willing to work on his weaknesses. That’s an attribute that not all kids have. It takes a humbleness to do that. He’s like, ‘Coach said I can’t do this. I need to do it.’ That’s a great attribute to have, and he has it.

“When he came here as a freshman, a lot of his buddies were starting. He wasn’t. I had a kid, Marcus Jackson, who was a 6-5 athletic phenom. Jeremy played behind him. He didn’t pout. He just worked every day, worked his tail off. He went at Marcus every day. Some kids didn’t want to guard the kid. He was such a physical presence. Jeremy wanted to guard him every day. It made him better. If somebody tells him he can’t do something, he’s going to get it done.”

Hollowell is determined to be part of the class that brings Indiana back to its national championship-winning ways.

“I’ve got big dreams, big goals,” he said. “I love to win. I love to play basketball. It’s my main focus in life.”

Now you know.


Yes, there are all sorts of rumors about sophomore forward Christian Watford set to transfer. A lot of this is due to the fact he changed his Facebook city to Birmingham, which happens to be his hometown.

Does it mean anything? Who knows? He’s a teenager with all the volatility that age group can bring. Read something into the change at your own risk.

There was a buzz during the season that Watford was unhappy (it was a buzz that first surfaced during his freshman year). Well, when you lose as much as IU has lost the last couple of years, nobody is happy. Coaches are ticked; players are grumpy and practices ain’t fun. Does that mean Watford will transfer or guard Matt Roth, who is set to graduate in three years and set to attend graduate school at IU, will leave the program? No. It could happen, but it doesn’t have to happen.

What does have to happen?

The Hoosiers have to get better. Even more, they have to win. It's time for the losing to stop.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

IU Football -- All Work No Play Not Wilson Way; Hollowell Decision Almost Here

College coaches don’t get much time off. It’s the nature of the business. You coach the guys you have, recruit the guys you want to have, devise ways to get better, make sure everybody is doing the job in the classroom and everywhere else.

Sometimes, though, you need a vacation. So when IU went on spring break, so did the football coaches.

What did coach Kevin Wilson do?

“I did nothing,” he said. “It’s the first time off since August 3rd. I just did nothing. I was mad I had to come back. I enjoyed it. Coaches are just like the kids.”

No, this doesn’t mean Wilson has gone lazy since becoming a Hoosier millionaire. But sometimes a guy needs to get away from work. Like Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Wilson wants coaches who have lives and families. He understands that non-stop work can take away from what’s important.

“Sometimes it’s good to get away from work,” he said. “Working till midnight doesn’t mean we’ll get better. It’s about getting the job done and doing it well. Sometimes the guy who gets up early works for the guy who doesn’t get up early.

“I’m not into being lazy, and I am into good work, but sometimes you need a break. Players need breaks. Coaches need breaks. We need breaks from each other. The great thing about our strength staff is they get to coach them sometimes instead of us. There’s a lot of give and take.”

As far as spring break …

“It’s designed to get coaches back with their families. Some families moved. Families had to adjust. I wanted to get those guys a chance to be dads again. Go on a date with their wives. Right now I’m their date. They didn’t like that too well. It’s nice to gt their date back.”


Sometime this afternoon Indianapolis Lawrence Central’sJeremy Hollowell will make his college choice on where to play basketball. His finalists are Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State and Cincinnati.

The 6-7 Hollowell is a versatile player who will benefit from a program that can develop his considerable skills. He’s not as polished a player as Cody Zeller, but he’s still good enough to be considered a top-40 prospect in the Class of 2012.

Indications remain that by late this afternoon he will be a committed Hoosier. Put him with Hanner Perea, Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson and Peter Jurkin and you have one of the nation’s best classes. It’s hard to say it will be the best given there’s still plenty of time for Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and the usual suspects to rake in prime-time talent.

Still, this is the kind of class that championships are built upon. At least, that’s the plan.


Indiana has had one winning football record in the last 10,000 years. Wait. It only seems that way. The Hoosiers have had one winning record and one bowl appearance since 1994 and that came in 2007 with a 7-6 record and an Insight Bowl appearance.

Wilson is committed to changing that starting next season. That sounds great to the players and great to athletic director Fred Glass, who hired Wilson to get IU back to winning like it did when Bill Mallory was running the football show. Glass doesn’t, however, have a timetable for when Wilson has to start winning.

“I don’t have a litmus test with so many wins will be considered a success,” Glass said. “I think that’s a fool’s game. So many different things can happen. You’ve got to be able to evaluate any program in the context of what’s going on. So the short answer is no (he doesn’t have a timetable). The longer answer is we’ve given Kevin a seven-year contract on purpose. We want to give continuity a try at Indiana. We haven’t done that in a long time (IU has had six difference coaches since 1996). Continuity can be a key to success here in football.

“If you talk to Kevin, he says he’s a win-now guy. He’s not telling these seniors it’s a four-year process. I want to win next year. That sounds good to me. Let’s see how that works out.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

IU Football Goes Thud In A Good Way; Hoosier Deep Throat Missing, But Not Hollowell

Indiana didn’t hire football coach Kevin Wilson to be a knucklehead. He wants the Hoosiers tough and physical and relentless, but he doesn’t want them knocking each other into the training room, or worse.

So in Practice No. 3 on Tuesday afternoon, under a gun-metal gray overcast sky, the Hoosiers put on the pads for the first time under Wilson and thudded, but didn’t thump. They hit, but didn’t destroy.

“You have to learn how to strike, how to hit,” Wilson said. “You’re not trying to beat your team up. We’re trying to stay off the ground. You try to get a lot of work, but the rolling of ankles, the rolling of knees, is how you get injuries.

“You’ve got to learn how to practice. You’ve got to learn how to practice hard, practice fast, practice physical, but you’ve got to be smart.”

On Memorial Stadium’s artificial turf, Wilson practiced what he preached. So did his coaches. Doug Mallory, the safties coach and co-defensive coordinator, pulled safty Chris Adkins when the player got a little too enthusiastic with his hitting.

“You don’t take a cheap shot on a guy because the quarterback is late with a throw,” Wilson said. “You don’t dive to make a block because you’re gonna roll on somebody’s ankle. We’re learning how to play with effort and toughness, but also learning how to be an intelligent practice player. There’s a little give and take. Three practices in we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s going well.”

Wilson spoke in a raspy voice that sounded as if someone had taken sandpaper to his vocal cords. He doesn’t coach with soft words. He’s animated and has no time for half speed.

So when players were doing agility drills (high stepping through a rope ladder lying on the ground) his favorite expressions were -- “Let’s go!” and “Faster.”

“I yell a lot,” he said. “Positive encouragement.”

And if his voice breaks, well, there’s always sign language. One way or the other, Wilson will get his message delivered.


Is Tom Crean about to do it again? Is the Indiana basketball coach’s recruiting mastery in the Class of 2012 about to land him another in-state standout?

All signs point to Lawrence Central swingman Jeremy Hollowell picking the Hoosiers. A press conference is set for Thursday afternoon at the high school.

Hollowell is a top-40 player nationally. The 6-7 junior averaged 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds this past season. He’s narrowed his list to the Hoosiers, Purdue, Ohio State and Cincinnati.

We tried to get confirmation from Hoosier Deep Throat, but just got a message saying he was practicing driving Indy Cars with Donald Trump, who has been invited to drive the Indy 500 pace car for May’s Greatest Spectacle in Racing. So we’ll just have to go with instinct and say Hollowell will be a Hoosier.

That means he’ll join what will be one of the nation’s best classes -- shooting guard Ron Patterson, power forward Hanner Perea, point guard Yogi Ferrell and center Peter Jurkin.

Go ahead and forget about the last three years. It’s all about the future.


IU’s most pressing basketball need right now is getting another inside player for the Class of 2011, somebody big and strong and capable of rebounding and defending the paint. Somebody like, say, IMG Academy’s Jamari Traylor.

He is 6-7 and 230 pounds and extremely athletic. He is not an offensive whiz, but that’s okay. He can jump, block shots, rebound and defend.

Indiana has a lot of stiff recruiting competition, which is what you’d expect given there aren’t a lot of uncommitted quality big men left. Kansas, Oklahoma State, VCU, Mississippi State and St. John’s also are in the running.

IU also is taking a look at 6-9 power forward Demario Hines out of a Texas junior college, 6-9 forward Ibrahima Djinde out of Huntington Prep in West Virginia and guard Maurice Aniefiok, also out of Huntington Prep.

None of these guys are considered among the nation’s top-10 remaining players in the Class of 2011, but as long as one of them can provide what the Hoosiers need, who cares.

In case you've forgotten because you're too absorbed with the Bruce Pearl firing, Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington are signed for the Class of 2011.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Indiana Basketball; Zeller Progress; Brewer Prospects And Caring Counts

There is crying in basketball. There has to be. It’s a game of passion and effort.

NCAA tourney pressure exposes all of it -- good and bad.

Pitt’s Nasir Robinson cares. Because of that he hurts as you read this. He’ll likely hurt for a long time. And it’s why he almost certainly will be successful in the long-term.

In the short-term, he cries. A TV image burns of Nasir in a devastated Pitt locker room taking responsibility for failure.

Nasir is the Pitt Panther who inexplicably fouled Butler’s Matt Howard to cost his team a shot at victory Saturday. Who knows? The Bulldogs might have won in overtime anyway. What we do know is Nasir’s foul with less than a second left in regulation enabled Howard to hit the winning free throw in a 71-70 Butler victory.

Pitt earned a No. 1 seed in part because of its ferocious rebounding. Nasir was part of that. In the end, he was trying to make a play, get a rebound and deliver a victory. He did, for the wrong team, and he’ll have to live with that. Hopefully, he grows from it. Odds are high that he will.

The cliché is fatigue makes cowards of us all. It also sometimes sucks off judgment. Add pressure and sometimes you do what you normally never do.

We all fail. We all screw up. We all don’t do it on national television and have it replayed again and again.

This is true reality TV and not the cartoonish variety you see from Housewives of LA or The Apprentice. Sometimes you get Butler’s unexpected run to the national title game. Sometimes you get Nasir’s heartbreak. It’s why the three-week-long NCAA tourney is the most compelling event in sports.


Yes, we know everybody is different, and one player’s development won’t necessarily mirror that of another.

Still, consider Tyler Zeller, who has become a major factor for North Carolina’s Sweet 16 team and how that might provide a glimpse into what’s in store for Cody Zeller and Indiana.

Tyler, a junior who is listed at 7-foot and 250 pounds, is second on the team in scoring (15.0 points) and rebounding (7.1). He shoots 54.3 percent from the field.

In his first two years combined he averaged 7.1 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Yes, that’s a major jump. Tyler had 23 points and five rebounds as the second-seeded Tar Heels (28-7) held off Washington 86-83 Sunday.

If Cody shows that kind of improvement during his time with the Hoosiers, look for some big-time winning starting around 2013.

That’s the college future. In the high school present Cody has a chance to surpass his brothers if Washington (23-4) beats Culver Academies (19-6) in Saturday’s Class 3A state title game at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse. Luke was part of the Hatchets’ 2005 title team. Tyler was also on the 2005 team, and joined with Cody to win it all in 2008. Cody led Washington to last year’s state title.

Cody had 23 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks in leading Washington over out-gunned Batesville in Saturday’s semistate game.


If you believe NFL veteran Gil Brandt, and you should because he’s been around the league since the dawn of time, former IU offensive lineman James Brewer has positioned himself to be a late third-round to early fourth-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft.

In most years that would mean the 6-8, 320-pound Brewer would soon be a very rich guy. Not Peyton Manning rich, but a lot better off than most.

But this isn’t most years. The NFL is in shut-down mode because of a dispute between owners and players. So while teams can draft players, no one can be signed until the lock out is resolved. Who knows when that might be?

Still, Brandt wrote on NFL.com that Brewer helped himself at IU’s pro day earlier this months in front of scouts from 18 NFL teams. He also had a private workout with the Browns, Brandt wrote.

IU is developing a rep as a producer of NFL-quality offensive linemen. Last year Rodger Saffold was a second-round pick of the St. Louis Rams and started 16 games as a rookie.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Butler Thrills; Cody Delivers; Could Indiana Coach Say Goodbye?

Remember when Indiana played like Butler? When it won big games, NCAA tourney games, through sheer will.

Yes, luck has played a part in the Bulldogs’ two tourney victories that propelled them into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

Hey, did Butler really commit a dumb foul in the final two seconds, only to have Pitt commit an even dumber foul that let the Bulldogs escape with an improbable 71-70 victory?

You’d better believe it.

Still you don’t have five NCAA tourney victories by two or fewer points in the last 10 years (two more than any other team), as Butler has done, just through luck. You do it with smart play, poised play and attention to detail.

Butler is the third team in NCAA tourney history to beat a No. 1 seed before the Final Four in consecutive years. Last year it upset No. 1 Syracuse in the Sweet 16. On Saturday night it stunned No. 1 Pitt in the Round of 32.

This was no fluke. Butler shot 46 percent against Pitt’s fierce defense. It only committed six turnovers. It did everything it needed to give itself a chance.

And then, as usual, the Bulldogs made the most of it. They have won seven of their last eight NCAA tourney games and if Gordon Hayward’s half-court bomb had been released just a fraction softer last April, they would have beaten Duke in the national title game and been 8-for-8.

No matter. Butler has made the Sweet 16 in four of the last six years and has won 11 straight games. Now it will face Wisconsin in New Orleans.

Butler isn’t Indiana, but it’s the closest thing Cream ‘n Crimson fans have these days. The Bulldogs have players such as Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack who have a knack for drama. Howard has scored the winning points in both of the Bulldogs’ tourney victories. Mack set a school record with 30 points against Pitt, but did commit the late foul that nearly cost Butler a victory.

They aren’t Hoosiers, but then again, they are. That counts for something.


Could Tim Buckley be on his way to Northern Illinois?

It’s possible. The Indiana assistant coach is reportedly a finalist for the job that opened when Ricardo Patton was fired after four seasons, including a disastrous 9-21 showing this year, 5-11 in the Mid-American Conference.

Buckley has a lot of MAC experience from his days at Ball State. He was the head coach there for six seasons and compiled a 143-139 record.

Buckley came to IU with head coach Tom Crean three years ago. His in-state contacts have been a big reason why Crean has loaded up on in-state talent.

Buckley was an assistant under Crean at Marquette for a year. He also was an assistant coach at Iowa.

The other Northern Illinois candidates, according to ESPN Chicago, are Purdue assistant coach Paul Lusk, Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti and South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy.


As a reader astutely pointed out, Washington only had to beat Batesville on Saturday to make the state finals. In a brain dead moment, I reverted back to the days of one-class Indiana high school basketball when teams played two games in the semistate, and two at state. Those days are gone, much like my ability to beat my son in arm wrestling.

Anyway, Cody Zeller led the Hatchets over Batesville Saturday, 66-48. They will face Culver Academies in next Saturday’s Class 3A state title game at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse. Culver (19-6) advanced by beating Columbia City 51-49.

Also, Indianapolis Park Tudor point guard Yogi Ferrell was a one-man basketball force while leading his team past Forest Park and into next Saturday’s Class 2A state title game. Ferrell had 25 points and seven assists in the 57-45 victory. Park Tudor (25-2) will play Hammond Noll (26-0) for the championship.

Ferrell is a key part of Crean’s Class of 2012. Why? Because he’s a true point guard, something the Hoosiers don’t have and likely won’t until he shows up in Bloomington.

IU’s bid to return to national relevance centers on two key positions -- point guard and post player. The Hoosiers will get Zeller next year, but he likely won’t be an imposing inside presence that immediately averages a ton of rebounds and dominate games with defense. IU needs a power forward with power and it is scouring the junior college ranks to find one. The problem -- there really isn’t anybody like that.

Also, recruit D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 19 points and four assists, but that wasn’t enough for Indianapolis North Central (22-3) to get past Bloomington South in Class 4A semistate action. South (25-2) won 76-66.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On Bruce Pearl, Cody Zeller And Indiana Wrestling

Does Bruce Pearl have a future at Tennessee?

The odds don’t look good. He’s admitted lying to NCAA investigators. He broke NCAA rules. He’s served an eight-game suspension, forfeited $1.5 million in salary and is working without a contract.

Oh, yes. His Volunteers (19-15) got hammered by Michigan Friday, 75-45. They lost eight of their last 12 games.

Athletic director Mike Hamilton said earlier in the week that “the jury is still out” on whether Pearl will return. He apologized to the coach for the timing of his remarks, which created a distraction this week in preparing for the Wolverines, whose unique style of play makes them a challenge in the best of times.

Still, Pearl has had a successful six-year run at Tennessee with six straight NCAA tourney appearances, three Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight. He said he wants to return as coach. The NCAA has yet to rule on possible sanctions.

If Pearl gets the boot, he almost certainly will land at another school, although a lower profile one. That assumes that NCAA sanctions aren’t so servere as to make him toxic to colleges, as happened to former IU coach Kelvin Sampson.

We should know soon.


Can Cody Zeller lead his Washington team into a shot at yet another state championship? It has, after all, won three state titles in the last six years.

We’ll find out today in semistate action. Washington (22-4) has to beat Batesville (18-6), and then either Culver (18-6) or Columbia City (19-5) to advance to next week’s state finals.

Zeller is the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year and the likely Indiana Mr. Basketball winner. He averages 24.1 points and 13.0 rebounds.

Oh, yes. He’s signed with Indiana and will head to campus some time this summer.

IU coach Tom Crean has wrapped up this three-day studio work for TruTV for the NCAA Tournament in part so he can check out Zeller’s semistate opportunity.


IU picked up a pair of All-America wrestlers with 197-pound Matt Powless and heavyweight Ricky Alcala clinching the honors at the NCAA meet in Philadelphia. Powless (38-7) will wrestle for seventh place today. Alcala (31-10) will finish no worse than sixth.

All five of Alcala’s matches have gone into overtime with Alcala winning four of them.

That gives IU 76 All-Americans in program history. Duane Goldman has coached 25 of them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On NCAA Tourney Upsets, Jeremy Hollowell and Jim Tressel

Are you like us? Did your NCAA tourney pool bracket include Morehead State beating Louisville, Richmond beating Vanderbilt and Princeton nearly upsetting Kentucky?

Yes, we have yet to miss a game as we roll on in what will be a huge financial bonanza and…

Wait. We were dreaming. Our bracket is busted in just one day.

It’s why we have pools but love the tournament. It’s great entertainment and the kind of reality TV that doesn’t force Donald Trump and the Bachelor on you.

Soon, very soon, Indiana will be back in the NCAA tourney business. Until then, well, there’s always Butler to root for. The Bulldogs once again showed they have some magic in March. Will it last to the national title game? Almost certainly not, but at least they’re fun to watch.


Lawrence Central’s Jeremy Hollowell is tired of all this recruiting stuff. It happens to the best of them and this 6-7 junior is among the best in the Class of 2012. He’s ranked No. 37 nationally by Scout.com and is coming off a high school season in which he averaged 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 41 percent from three-point range.

Hollowell has narrowed his choices to Indiana, Purdue, Cincinnati and Ohio State. He wants to make his decision before his AAU season begins next month.

IU has already leaned up in the Class of 2012, but you can never have enough studs because, as IU has proven, you never know when somebody might get hurt. Also, you can never have enough good shooters who can rebound.


Jim Tressel did the right thing. He’s decided to sit out Ohio State’s first five football games next season for his role in the scandal that rocked the Buckeye world. He didn’t participate in five of his players selling memorabilia and accepting donations on tattoos, a violation of NCAA rules, but he did fail to tell school officials about it for nine months.

That was a big problem and a violation of his own contract with the university. Ohio State had originally suspended him for two games and fined him $250,000. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Tressel decided to make it five games, the same span as his players will have to sit out.

That means he’ll miss Akron, Toledo, Miami, Colorado and Michigan State.

If the NCAA had any teeth, it also would make Ohio State forfeit its bowl victory, but that’s a debate for another blog.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TV Opportunity Finds Crean in Atlanta; Drouin A Stud; Mike Davis Struggles

What is it about Indiana coaches and TV?

First there was Lee Corso going to ESPN and becoming one of America’s best-loved college football analysts.

Then Bob Knight made the move to ESPN after his Hall of Fame coaching career was over. Oh, in case you missed it, he’s not a fan of Michigan’s Fab Five.

Then Dan Dakich, already a hit with his Indy sports talk radio show at 1070 The Fan, got his shot at the Big Ten Network and then ESPN. He is thriving whether it’s in the studio or working games as an analyst.

Oh, and as a reader just reminded us, Gerry DiNardo analyzes Big Ten football for the Big Ten Network. He also has his own radio show in the Chicago area.

Now Tom Crean will get his shot courtesy of Turner Broadcasting, CBS and the NCAA Tournament. You can see him, however on TruTV, which will broadcast some of the early games.

What is TruTV? Well, it will never be confused with the Food Network, but that's about all we could figure out.

Anyway, Crean would much rather be coaching in some postseason event, but that didn’t work out. He’s set to do studio work in Atlanta starting with tonight’s play-in games at Dayton that feature USC against Virginia Commnwealth and Texas-San Antonio against Alabama State.

Crean will work with analysts Seth Davis and Steve Smith, plus host Matt Winer. He’ll also do games on Thursday and Friday before returning to Indiana to check out Indiana high school semistate action that includes Washington’s Cody Zeller and Indianapolis Park Tudor’s Yogi Ferrell. Zeller will start at IU this summer. Ferrell is part of the heralded Class of 2012.

Crean will get to talk basketball, which he loves. He’ll get to offer expert opinions on many of the 68-teams in the field, which means he’s had to do a lot of research and preparation.

He loves that, so it’s all good.

Seth Davis already has tweeted that Crean will be great.

This is huge exposure for Crean and the Hoosier program. Figure pretty much every young basketball player in the civilized world will be watching. If it helps Crean land even one standout recruit, it will be worth it. And even if it doesn’t, it will be worth it.


Derek Drouin is a stud. Sure, he might not look like the guy in the Old Spice Commercial, but when it comes to high jumping, nobody does it better.

Drouin was named National Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. He’s the first Big Ten athlete to ever win the award, and it comes after winning his third NCAA championship -- two indoors and one outdoor.

This season Drouin jumped 7-foot-7.75 to crush the competition at the indoor championships in Texas. That broke the Big Ten record and is the third best ever recorded indoors by a college athlete. He’s the first back-to-back indoor national champ since USC’s Jesse Williams won in 2005 and ’06.

“Derek is a true competitor and a genuinely good person who cares as much about our team’s success as his won,” IU coach Ron Helmer said in a university release. “You can’t help but want him to succeed and his competitive effort never disappoints.”

Douin is a junior from Canada (he also set the Canadian high jump record), which means he can win three more NCAA titles (two outdoors and one more indoors). He has been remarkably consistent. Four times he cleared 7-foot-5 during the indoor season.

For the record, that’s four more times than we have.


In case you missed it, Mike Davis made his NCAA tourney coaching debut for Alabama-Birmingham Tuesday night as part of a play-in game against Clemson. Yeah, it took him five seasons after leaving Indiana, and his team made it as a controversial choice over teams such as Colorado and Virginia Tech.

No matter. UAB was in while Alabama and Auburn were not. Now it was up to the Blazers to prove their worthiness.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a great performance. The Blazers had eight turnovers and seven points in the first eight minutes and fell behind by 18. TV commentators talked about how well prepared Clemson was for UAB’s offensive sets and how the Blazers didn’t seem to have a Plan B or C or anything.

That seemed a little harsh.

UAB eventually found some offense, mostly be hitting three-pointers and pushing the pace, and closed to within eight, but never got the defense going, mostly because Clemson was far too strong.

The Tigers rolled. The Blazers headed home.

This was not the one and done Davis, the Conference USA coach of the year, had hoped for.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Big Ten Ready For Big Postseason Run

Admit it. Even though Indiana is again a postseason basketball no-show (three straight years if you’re counting), this is still one of the most exciting times of the year.

March Madness rocks.

If nothing else, you can dream big about hitting big in your NCAA tourney bracket pool.

Important safety tip -- if you are a college coach, administrator or employee, DO NOT admit you are in a pool. It’s possible this could be considered gambling and a NCAA violation. We’re not telling you to lie. We’re just saying, keep it secret, like you would the fact that you watch Celebrity Apprentice and can’t believe David Cassidy got fired.

How do we know this?

We admit nothing.

Anyway, while coach Tom Crean and his staff are hitting the recruiting trail, eight Big Ten teams are about to see what kind of magic they can make this March.

How will they do?

Let’s take a look.

First, do you know the answer to this trivia question -- What is the Big Ten record for most victories in a single NCAA tourney?

And if you do, what is the answer to this second question -– Ohio State is the No. 1 overall seed in this tournament. Who and when was the Big Ten’s last overall No. 1 seed?

We’ll answer those questions in a moment.

Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State are among the 68 teams in the NCAA tourney. That ties the conference record set in 1999 and tied in 2009. The only conference to do better is the Big East. Eleven of its 200 teams made it.

Wait. Sorry. The Big East doesn’t have 200 teams. It just seems that way.

Northwestern made the NIT for the third straight year which ties its longest postseason streak. Someday the Wildcats just might do enough to make the NCAA tourney.

Minnesota, which collapsed at the end of the season, didn't get a bid to join IU and Iowa in March misery.

When you count those eight Big Ten teams you get 72.7 percent of Big Ten teams participating in postseason play, the best in the country. That tops the Big East, which had 11 of its 16 teams make it. That’s 68.8 percent, not that we’re counting.

The Big Ten has at least eight postseason teams for the second time in three years, and fourth time in the last decade. The Big Ten has twice had nine teams make postseason play -- 2006 and 2009.

Oh, consider Michigan State, which barely snuck into the 68-team field as a No. 10 seed. The Spartans are in the NCAA tourney for the 14th straight year, the longest active run in the Big Ten and the third-longest run nationally.

Are we impressing you with our Big Ten knowledge? Okay, fine. How about some more, courtesy of the Big Ten release.

Big Ten teams have combined for at least nine victories in each of the last two tournaments, and in three of the last four. They’ve had postseason records of at least .500 in 12 of the last 13 years.

Ohio State, as we know, is a No. 1 seed. Purdue is next at No. 3. Wisconsin got a No. 4. Michigan is a No. 8 seed going against No. 9 Tennessee. Illinois is a No. 9 seed and, in one of those NCAA tourney quirks, plays No. 8 UNLV coached by Lon Kruger, the former Illini coach. Penn State and Michigan State are both No. 10 seeds.

So, again, how will Big Ten teams do? That requires deep insight that we’ll provide in the next blog. All we can say it, bet the house, baby.

Anyway, here are those trivia question answers:

The FIRST trivia answer is 15 victories set by Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota in 1989. Illinios and Michigan both reached the Final Four, with the Wolverines winning it all.

The SECOND trivia answer is Illinois in 2005 was the No. 1 overall seed. The Illini lost only twice all year -- at Ohio State in the regular season finale and against North Carolina in the national title game.

So now you know -- just like David Cassidy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

IU Basketball -- Crean Gets Good Seat for Harris Vs. Smith-Rivera

Neither Tom Crean nor Tom Izzo was about to let Big Ten tourney losses mess up their recruiting.

Both were at Indianapolis’ Hinkle Fieldhouse Saturday night to check out Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris in action against North Central’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera in a regional showdown.

Crean had plenty of time for this given the Hoosiers’ Thursday loss to Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney. That ended their season. Izzo’s Michigan State squad also lost to Penn State, but that was in Saturday’s Big Ten tourney semifinals. He was able to make the short drive from Conseco Fieldhouse to check out the action.

What did they see?

Harris, despite battling leg cramps, had 21 points against North Central to follow his 22 points in a Saturday morning regional victory over Center Grove. However, that wasn’t enough to overcome Smith-Rivera’s 37 points to lead North Central to the championship.

Both Izzo and Crean are recruiting Harris, who is also a strong football player who might wind up choosing that sport (can you sat Notre Dame). The junior is uncommitted. He’s ranked 24th nationally in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com. Pretty much every major school in the Midwest and beyond has offered him a scholarship. Those include Purdue, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Michigan State isn’t recruiting Smith-Rivera, but IU is. Crean has offered a scholarship. Smith-Rivera also has offers from Purdue, Ohio State, Tennessee and Louisville, among others.

Cody Zeller, IU’s main guy in the Class of 2011, led Washington (22-4) to victories over Evansville Bosse and Corydon Central to advance to next Saturday’s semistate against Batesville (18-6).


Indiana’s Derek Drouin is the man once again in the high jump. He won his third NCAA title by clearing 7foot-7.75 at the national indoor meet in College Station, Texas. He just missed breaking the college record of 7-9.14.

It’s the 140th time a Hoosier has won a national championship. Drouin helped the Hoosier men finish sixth in the team standings.

IU also got a third from Andy Bayer in the 3,000 meters. It’s the second straight year he’s finished third at the nationals. His time of 8:04.70 was .05 out of second and 1.01 seconds away from first. He anchored the distance medley relay to a second-place showing.

Also, Faith Sherrill finished fourth in the shot put at 56-foot-0.5. It was Indiana’s best finish in the event since 1989, when Angie Ryker and Katrin Koch went 1-2.


It pays to coach football. Really, it does. Sure, there’s a measure of job insecurity if your team doesn’t win, and the hours can be brutal, especially during the season. But you can make pretty good money and Indiana, at long last, has joined the big boys.

No, it won’t rival Alabama or Ohio State, those guys are men, but it’s doing much better. Kevin Wilson is making $1.2 million a year to bring winning back to the program. Athletic director Fred Glass gave him $2 million for his staff, basically double what former coach Bill Lynch got.

The highest paid assistant coaches are co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler. They’ll each make $300,000. That, too, is basically double what last year’s co-defensive coordinators (Brian George and Joe Palcic) made.

Co-offensive coordinator Kevin Johns will make $250,000. Rodney Smith, the other co-offensive coordinator, will make $240,000. Offensive line coach Greg Frey is at $220,000.

That tops the $200,000-plus club. Mark Hagan, the former IU linebacking stud, will make $180,000 to coach the defensive tackles.

Defensive ends coach Brett Diersen will make $160,000 followed by running backs coach Deland McCullough ($150,000) and cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby ($150,000). Strength coach Mark Hill will make $160,000.

Friday, March 11, 2011

IU Needs More Than Zeller To Turn Program Around

Cody Zeller is not a savior. Tell yourself that. He will not be Jared Sullinger and dominate the Big Ten next year. He won’t overpower defenses with his size and strength, won’t force double-team dilemmas that will leave good shooters such as Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford plenty of three-point looks.

Zeller is not a ready made NBA guy, a one-and-done player in the mold of Sullinger or even Eric Gordon. He has to build his strength and body, develop a warrior mindset. Figure that he will

He will arrive in Bloomington this summer with room to grow, which is as it should be. He will have significant impact, but do not expect him to carry the weight of Hoosier hopes that next season will be the dawn of Indiana’s return to glory. Yes, he’s a McDonald’s All-America, but he will need inside help, which leads to the obvious question -- where will it come from?

Tom Pritchard is the most logical candidate. He is 6-9 and 250 pounds and, when he doesn’t foul, is IU’s best inside defender. He will be a senior and, in essence, a four-year starter and that should count for something.

“Foul trouble hurt me all year in certain games,” he said. “The team needs me out there on defense. It’s something I always have to work on.”

Neither Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco seems to be an inside answer. Elston has more of an all-around game that doesn’t lend itself to in-the-paint banging. Capobianco seems more suited for a Mid-American Conference team than a Big Ten power.

Both could transform themselves in the off-season into inside beasts. Will they? Logic suggests no, but sometimes will can overcome that.

“I have to stay away from injuries,” Elston said. “I’ve been battling knee injuries here and there, but everybody has dealt with something. We have to get bigger and stronger. We’ve got to battle. That’s all it comes down to. You have to want to get the ball down there. You’ve got to want to score. You’ve got to try hard to get better at different moves.”

And then Elston taps into the message coach Tom Crean has pushed since he arrived in Bloomington three years ago. He knew his early Hoosier teams would lack talent, but they could make up for it with non-talent factors, starting with toughness and effort and tenacity.

Next season IU will be among the Big Ten’s most veteran teams. Pritchard and Verdell Jones will be four-year starters. Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls will be three-year starters. Oft-injured Maurice Creek, if he can return to full health and stay there, offers impressive potential. Freshman Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey got invaluable experience this season because, Crean has said, they have uncommon work ethics.

The Hoosiers have to become more athletic (recruiting is key for that) and better rebounders and defenders. But in the end they have to play with uncommon passion and purpose. If they do, a winning record and NIT opportunity are possible, perhaps more given the Big Ten can’t possibly be as strong with so many good players graduating.

If they don’t, well, we’ve seen that before.

“We have to fight every day,” Elston said. “Everybody has to leave it on the line. We have to do it day in and day out to achieve what we want to achieve. We’ve got to fight.”


Ben Chappell will never remind anybody of, say, Michael Vick. He will never terrorize defenses with his speed. Still, now that the former Indiana quarterback is healthy after a beating of a season, he just might earn himself a shot on a NFL roster.

Chappell was among the players participating in IU’s pro day in front of around 14 NFL scouts. He was leaner (down to 224 pounds after a high of around 250) and far fitter. He’d spent the off-season working out in Arizona with Oakland Raiders quarterback Charlie Frye. Chappell needed off-season foot surgery to fix an injury that basically left him unable to condition last season. Still, he finished as the most accurate quarterback in school history.

His accuracy and intelligence (he was close to a 4.0 student) give him an edge. Is that enough for a team to take a shot at him? Perhaps. But as Jamarcus Russell and Vince Young have proven, superior athleticism isn’t enough to become a NFL quarterback.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hoosiers Packing For Strong Big Ten Tourney Run

Tom Crean isn’t packing light. It’s about belief, you see. Think positive and positive things will happen, even in the grueling gauntlet known as the Big Ten tourney, and if that sounds too much like New Age blather, well, when you’re 12-19 and seeking a good finish to a disappointing season, you go for any edge you can get.

“You pack for four days,” Indiana’s coach says about the trip to Indianapolis. “You talk all that talk. You talk about starting 0-0.”

Indiana opens against Penn State tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse and it hopes for something special. No last place team has ever won this event, although No. 11 seed Illinois did make the title game before getting squashed by top-seeded Michigan State in 1999.

Only one team has won four games in four days to earn the Big Ten’s automatic NCAA tourney bid. That was sixth-seeded Iowa in 2001 when Luke Recker (yes, the former Cream 'n Crimson standout) led the way.

So what does it take to win four games in four days?

Crean isn’t sure. He’s never done it at IU or at Marquette.

“I’ve done three games in three days, but I don’t think you can look at it that way. If you even remotely get ahead in a conference tournament beyond the game that you’re in, you’re asking for trouble. Too many things can happen.”

Barring upsets, the Hoosiers would have to beat sixth-seeded Penn State, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 2 Purdue and No. 1 Ohio State to win and earn the automatic NCAA tourney bid. It is the worst possible draw, which is what you’d expect for a No. 11 seed.

The goal would is to win it all. Looking ahead is not an option.

“So many of these things come down to the concentration level of being able to go to the foul line and make plays,” Crean says. “Understand what people are trying to do to win games. Having that confidence.”

It’s tempting to look past Penn State and consider the possibilities, but Crean won’t go there.

“If you spent that time preparing your team to get better and preparing for that game, then you eliminate some of that confusion.

“It would be like, you know, we’ll see this on Friday, so let’s work on it. Or, that could happen Saturday, let’s put that in. If you do that, you could give your team a recipe for disaster. If I had a team that just won the league or would be a lock to get into the NCAA Tournament or be one of the top seeds, I might view it differently.”

How different?

“There were times at Marquette when we knew at the beginning of the week we wouldn’t have enough time for something that Cincinnait or Louisville did,” Crean said, “so we might put that in early in the week. But those were times I knew we were in the NCAA Tournament. Or, at least, felt like we were in.

“I certainly don’t feel that here. Truly it’s getting ready for Penn State. The only Wisconsin tape I’ve seen is when Penn State played them. There’s been no jumping ahead.”


How do you know if you have great college basketball players on your roster?

For Crean, it’s as simple as explaining quantum physics.

Of course nobody, not even physicists, can explain that, but that misses the point.

“The greatest measure of a player, the way to determine who the best players are, is what happens when you go from four points down to up four in a close, hotly contested game deep into the game situation,” Crean said.

At this point of the season, IU doesn’t need great players as much as solid performances. Specifically, it needs to play individual defense well enough to avoid team defense. In other words, if you keep your man in front of you, help defense becomes unncecessary.

“It’s about individual defense and not having to help as much,” Crean said. “It’s doing our work early whether that’s being in the post or taking angles away on drives. When the team defense is constantly called upon, we’re not quite as good and athletic in dealing with some of these rotations against the better teams.

“There is an old saying -- guard your yard. I don’t use it. I know (North Carolina coach) Roy Williams uses it. That’s what you have to do. You stay with your man. That’s the biggest area.

“The second thing is we’re missing open shots, close shots. We’re not finishing great. We’re missing shots we have made and can make. We keep trying to put ourselves in situations where we’re not talking about what we’re not doing. We’re trying to get there.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Indiana Football -- Go Hard, Play Fast and Defend

Spring football debuted early under new coach Kevin Wilson.

The Hoosiers practiced on Tuesday and are set to do it again Thursday. Then they’ll go on spring break and return for the rest of the practice sessions. Previously spring practice didn’t start until after spring break.

While plenty of attention was paid to the new uptempo offense (Wilson ran one of the nation’s best attacks while at Oklahoma), defense remains a key to IU’s prospects of having a winning record next season. Under co-defensive coordinators Mike Mallory and Mike Ekler, the Hoosiers look to be aggressive.

Right now, everything is new. Players were told to go hard and if they make a mistake, and they will, do it at full speed.

Ekler said he saw a lot to be encouraged about.

“We saw the effort and communicataion from the first snap to the last snap,” he said. “The communication in each snap got better. The execution improved along with that.

“We’ve got a ton of stuff to clean up, but it’s a fun process. These guys want to be great. Our job is to hold them accountable and to teach them.”

IU is set to mix man and zone pass coverages. It will blitz. It will fake blitzes and drop into coverage. It will do, Ekler said, whatever it takes to disrupte offenses.

“We’ll be very multiple,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of different tweaks to it. We want to keep offenses off guard. They won’t know what we’re in. That’s the object of every defense. That’s our goal. We want to be multiple, but simple.”


Wilson isn’t a coach who likes his players standing around. The NCAA limits players to 20 hours of football a week and Wilson wants to maximize every second of it.

As a result, in Tuesday’s practice debut, IU ran two scrimmages instead of the more traditional one while the rest of the team watched. Wilson also pushed the pace to maximize the number of reps.

“We’re trying to get more snaps,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of huddles going. Everyone is getting in there. You learn more.You’re not just standing around, but physically doing it, mentally doing it instead of watching.

“It’s tough in practice. You need to be fair to the defense. We know where the ball is going to be spotted because we script it. It’s all written out, so it’s actually a little faster than a game. Sometimes that’s not fair. You’ve got to make it fair for the defense, but at the same time you’ve got this thing called the 20-hour rule. That means we’re going to do as much as we can in a little time.

“That’s the worst rule they made for the players because they get no rest. We just practice.”


Tailback Darius Willis is not ready for contact. Will he be this spring? Probably not, but the Hoosiers don’t need their leading rusher now. He is still recovering from last season’s knee surgery. He participated in some drills Tuesday, but was wearing a walking boot and was limited.

Willis also is dealing with a protective order from a Monroe County Circuit judge from an alleged domestic assault against a female IU student. Willis has not been charged with a crime. At the moment, the student has not pressed charges.

As a result, Willis has not faced any team sanctions. Wilson said he’ll wait to see what happens in the legal process before doing anything.

“Technically, I don’t know what’s going through the court, so we’re just trying to see what the legal folks do,” he said. “Then we’ll wait and see if we have any school or athletic department or football sanctions. We’re just waiting to make sure we have all the facts and legally, everybody’s story. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

IU Basketball Shut Out; Crean Lists MVP Criteria; Knight Fired

By now you probably know that Indiana got zero recognition in the Big Ten men’s basketball honor parade. No player earned as much as honorable mention recognition, the result of a last-place 3-15 conference record.

Purdue and Ohio State dominated the awards, which is what you’d expect from the league’s top two teams.

The Boilers’ JaJuan Johnson beat out the Buckeyes’ Jared Sullinger for Big Ten player of the year honors.

Who did IU coach Tom Crean vote for in the MVP race? He declined to say during this week’s Big Ten teleconference (voting was done via a secret ballot), but did list his MVP criteria.

“What goes into that is that it doesn’t matter about the position or the age,” he said. “Do you impact winning and do you make your teammates better? Do you allow your teammates to have a level of confidence they otherwise wouldn’t have because you’re in the game. It’s not about numbers or statistics.”

Other MVP candidates included Penn State’s Talor Battle, Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor and Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore.

“There are a lot of different ways people could go in this league,” Crean said before the awards were announced. “I’d be shocked if it’s not one of the closer votes. There are so many good players in this league.”

The voting tally was not announced, so we don’t know how close it was.

IU will test Battle’s MVP worthiness on Thursday night when the Hoosiers (12-19) play Penn State (16-13) in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse.

The winner moves on to play third-seeded Wisconsin on Friday.

The loser goes on spring break.


Here is the All-Big Ten team as chosen by league coaches:

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
E’Twaun Moore, Purdue
Jon Leuer, Wisconsin
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin

Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
William Buford, Ohio State
David Lighty, Ohio State
Talor Battle, Penn State

Demetri McCamey, Illinois
Darius Morris, Michigan
Draymond Green, Michigan State
John Shurna, Northwestern
Michael Thompson, Northwestern
Jon Diebler, Ohio State

Mike Davis, Illinois
Melsahn Basabe, Iowa
Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Jeff Brooks, Penn State
Lewis Jackson, Purdue
Keaton Nankivil, Wisconsin

Jereme Richmond, Illinois
Melsahn Basabe, Iowa
Aaron Craft, Ohio State

Delvon Roe, Michigan State
David Lighty, Ohio State
JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin

JaJuan Johnson, Purdue

JaJuan Johnson, Purdue


Aaron Craft, Ohio State

Matt Painter, Purdue


* Multiple honorees due to tie


Coaching is a cut-throat business. Win and everybody loves you. Lose and you’re gone.

It happened even to Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, the all-time leader in coaching victories.

Now, it’s happened to his son.

Pat Knight was fired after going 50-60 in just over three years as the Texas Tech head coach. The Red Raiders were 13-18 this season, 5-11 in the Big 12. His best record was last year, when Texas Tech went 19-16 and reached the NIT quarterfinals.

In a twist, Knight will coach his team through this week’s Big 12 tourney. And if the Red Raiders would manage a huge upset, win the event and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney, well, wouldn’t that make for an intriguing job-hunting process?

Knight played at IU from 1991-95. He was a scout for the Phoenix Suns, an assistant coach for the CBA’s Connecticut Pride and a coach in the U.S Basketball League and the International Basketball Association. He also was an assistant at Indiana and Akron before joining his father at Texas Tech, and then replacing him.

Texas Tech lost seven games in the last minute this season. Knight talked about how he, like his father, ran a clean program that graduated its players and instilled discipline.

As former IU football coach Bill Lynch discovered, that’s not good enough.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Indiana Faces Huge Big Ten Tourney Challenge

So the Big Ten tourney draw is out and Indiana got Penn State in its Thursday night opener. This is not the end of the world. That will only come when Bob Knight stops swearing on national TV (more on this in a moment).

The Hoosiers (12-16) actually have a shot at winning this game, which can’t be said for the rest of their potential draw. The Nittany Lions (16-13) are not the Monsters of the Midway or Ohio State. They have one great player in Talor Battle and a couple of good ones in David Jackson and Jeff Brooks and, at times, Andrew Jones.

Yes, Penn State won the only meeting between these teams by a 69-60 score back in late December, but that’s so long ago as to provide no useful reference point. Still, if IU can figure out how to play defense, specifically against three-pointers (Penn State went 8-for-17 from that range with Jackson and Battle combining for seven of those baskets), it can win this game.

Wait. The Hoosiers haven’t figured out how to play consistent defense all season, so why should they start now? That’s a good question and to accept that they can means buying a really powerful pair of Cream ‘n Crimson glasses.

All indications are that IU players are ready for spring break. They certainly don’t say that, but their performance over the last month, particularly the stinker they had Saturday at Illinois, suggests that the end can’t come soon enough for them.

Which really puts them on par with the rest of Hoosier Nation.

Still, the Hoosiers did play well enough to beat Illinois and Minnesota, and nearly beat Michigan State in East Lansing. They can beat Penn State.

Seriously, they can.

If they do, they will have to play third-seeded Wisconsin on Friday, which means facing Jordan Taylor, who burned them for 39 points in Assembly Hall last week. At one time IU owned Wisconsin, but that was before Bo Ryan showed up with his swing offense and sticky defense (which turned into a mess at Ohio State Sunday, but that misses the point). The Badgers seem too fundamentally sound to lose to IU, but stranger things have happened this season, like Iowa upsetting Purdue.

If IU gets past Wisconsin it will be playing its third game in three days. It would likely play second-seeded Purdue on Saturday. The Boilers are driving for a top-two NCAA tourney seed, and still have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed. The Hoosiers have nobody to match up with JaJuan Johnson, and nobody quick enough to stay with point guard Lewis Jackson. And we haven’t even mentioned E’Twaun Moore, who averaged 21 points in two games against IU this season.

If Indiana upsets Purdue, it almost certainly will have to play Ohio State in Sunday’s finals. That’s the same Ohio State team that blitzed Wisconsin on Sunday by a 93-65 score by making a NCAA record 14-of-15 three pointers.

Jon Diebler is now the hottest shooter in America. He’s 17-for-20 on three-pointers in his last two games. Freshman center Jared Sullinger might be the best player in the country, and he went for 22 points and eight rebounds against Wisconsin.

So there you have it. IU needs four wins in four straight days at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse. Three of those will be against top-10 teams. So secure those Cream ‘n Crimson glasses a little tighter and relax because no matter what really happens, you’ve got the best view in the house.

Oh, final thing. Bob Knight earned a bit of notoriety when he swore on national TV as part of a College GameDay bit in which he jokingly referred to “chicken (bleep) defense.

Yes, we know. Bob Knight swearing. It’s shocking.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hulls’ Indiana Free Throw Record Is A Big Deal

Jordan Hulls has his place in Indiana history. He might have it for all time. He has done what Calbert Cheaney, Steve Alford, Jimmy Rayl, Damon Bailey and everybody else in Indiana’s tradition-rich history couldn’t do.

The sophomore guard has made a school-record 41 straight free throws. It’s taken him 22 games and three months to achieve, which reflects a level of consistency seldom seen in college basketball -- or any basketball.

And yet, Hulls and IU coach Tom Crean treated the record with all the excitement of your family telling you they’d just changed the smoke alarm battery.

Hulls down played it so much after Saturday’s loss at Illinois it was almost like he didn’t know about it. Crean, in fact, insisted he didn’t know.

Yes, that seems to push the bounds of believability, but then, in the aftermath of an eighth straight defeat (and perhaps the worst team performance of the season), individual success meant little. You go 12-19 (ensuring a third straight 20-loss season, the worst stretch in program history) and nothing looks good.

Crean, an intensely competitive man who absolutely hates losing, looked like he wanted to stuff the guy who asked about it in a garbage can. He did not (he’s far too classy for that), but he spit out a comment:

“I didn’t know that. That’s great. Congratulations to him. He’s an excellent foul shooter.”

Who did ask about the record? We did. Why? Partly because it is a major accomplishment, partly because we get tired of asking about the the never-ending shoddy defense and losing ways.

Almost as much as Crean tires of talking about it.

Crean is driven to get this team playing to its potential and this program back to winning championships. A free throw record is of no relevance in that.

Hulls, also a fierce competitor, puts winning over individual glory. If his 4-for-4 free throw shooting had produced a victory over the Illini, he might have enjoyed talking about the record. But after this kind of loss and his own abysmal field goal shooting (he went 0-for-7), Hulls, too, looked like he wanted to stuff the dude asking it in a garbage can.

“It’s a good deal,” Hulls said, “but we didn’t get the win. It’s great, but I don’t …. It’s just tough.”

Who asked Hulls about it? We did. Who knows? Maybe we’ll ask Charlie Sheen about it next. Somebody needs to talk it up.

Pat Graham had the school-record record of 38 straight free throws during the 1990-91 season. Keith Smart had 37 straight in the 1987-88 season. Jimmy Rayl and John Ritter made 32 in a row. Alford had a streak of 31 straight.

Hulls does not get to the line a lot. He did go 8-for-8 against Northwestern (the IU single-game record for perfection is 18-for-18 by Ted Kitchel against Illinois in 1981), but Hulls also had nine games when he didn’t attempt a single free throw.

In case you’re curious, Hulls is 52-for-57 for the season (35-for-35 in Big Ten play). That’s a 91.2-percent rate. IU’s record is 92.1 percent (116-for-126) by Alford during the 1984-85 season.

Hulls is not among the Big Ten leaders because he hasn’t gone to the line enough. Iowa’s Matt Gatens is listed as the conference leader at 86.4 percent (70-for-81).

As far as Saturday’s game, Illinois won 72-48 by holding IU to a season-low in points. The Hoosiers left their game in Bloomington. Check that. Illinois ripped it away from them.

You can blame some of this on a brutal 36-hour turnaround from the Wisconsin loss that was too much for a reeling team beaten down by losing, although the Hoosiers didn’t.

“That’s no excuse,” Hulls said. “That didn’t bother us. We’ve got to play better.”

Here are the facts. Even with a month’s rest IU wasn’t going to win at Illinois on its Senior Day. The Illini finally played like the top-15 team it had been in December. The Hoosiers played like the last-place team they are.

Some day that will change. Say it 15 times while watching a tape of Keith Smart’s title-winning shot against Syracuse.

That day can’t come soon enough.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Indiana Whirlwind -- No Guy, Shaved Head, Top Coach, On To Illinois And Sex

Guy-Marc Michel never got a chance to show was he could do. He remains a 7-foot shot-blocking enigma who someday, coach Tom Crean insisted, will play in the NBA.

“It’s a great disappointment that we had to bring Guy to you in this way,” Crean said.

Michel appeared in Thursday night’s Senior Night activities because Crean wanted to honor him. Crean is a classy, caring guy, and while Michel never played for the Hoosiers, that doesn’t mean the coach didn’t appreciate his efforts.

The NCAA ruled Michel permanently ineligible before the season began for two reasons -- he took his first college course in 2006 (thus starting the five-years-to-play-four-seasons rule) and because he briefly played on a club team in France that had pro players. Michel apparently never took money or signed with an agent, but because of the way the NCAA views international players and their situations, it didn’t matter. He was ineligible.

“For reasons that are still shocking,” Crean said, “he never had the opportunity to play with us. Not many would have stayed with us knowing they’d never get the opportunity to play. We knew we had a guy who would play in the NBA someday. If he continues to work, there is zero doubt he will play in the NBA and maybe end up playing for somebody like a Doc Rivers.”

Rivers, the Boston Celtics head coach, was in town to support his son, Jeremiah, a senior guard for the Hoosiers.

Michel likely would have provided the inside defensive presence IU needed. With him it might have won three or four more games, which would have positioned it for a NIT berth.

Instead, well, there’s always next year.


Fred Glass is going bald to help raise money to fight cancer. Indiana’s athletic director will shave his head to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research. Glass was go under the razor on March 11 in Indianapolis.

St. Baldrick has raised more than $94 million since 2000 with its head-shaving events.

“I am honored to become a proud St. Baldrick’s Foundation shavee,” Glass said in a university release. “It’s an honor to bring awareness to such a worthy cause.”

Glass will shave his head to honor 14-year-old Joey Chamness. He’s the son of Chuck Chamness, a St. Baldrick’s board member and a friend of Glass. Joey was diagnosed with cancer when he was 8 and is now cancer free. Also, Glass is friends with Mike and Patrice Schroeder. They had a son, Michael, who died at age 12 from brain cancer.

A year or so ago, we were told we’d look exactly like Brad Pitt if we shaved our head. In the interest of fair play, we told Fred the same thing. He, too, will soon look like Brad.

No, we don’t feel guilty.


Football coach Kevin Wilson might have had some early trouble retaining assistant coaches, but he’s had zero trouble in targeting good ones.

Take, for instance, one who stayed. Kevin Johns is considered the Big Ten’s top wide receivers coach according to Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting and sports site.

Johns coached the previous seven years at Northwestern, the last five as the wide receivers coach. He also worked as the passing game coordinator as well as recruiting coordinator and, earlier, running backs coach.

The job he did there impressed Rivals.

“One of the game’s underrated coaches … Johns consistently took overlooked wide receivers and turned them into some of the Big Ten’s most productive pass catchers: Eric Peterman, Zeke Markshausen, Jeremy Ebert, Ross Lane and Andrew Brewer among them.”

At IU Johns will work as co-offensive coordinator in addition to coaching the receivers. Given that receiver is the team’s strongest position, lot for this group to make a huge impact.


Indiana has arrived in Champaign ready to fight the good fight. Will that be a winning one?

You already know that answer.

The Hoosiers are winless away from Assembly Hall this year and have one just one true road win in Crean’s three seasons.

No matter. Crean is focused on one thing -- winning at the other Assembly Hall.

“I’m looking for guys who are absolutely committed to doing everything they can do defensively and on the boards and believing that they can win,” he said in a university release. “Each game is a new opportunity and that is how we approach it.”

IU faces an Illinois team that is as talented as any in the Big Ten other than Ohio State. The Illini have size, experience and one of the conference’s best point guards in Demitri McCamey. When they are clicking, they are as good as any squad in the country.

That is the atomic bomb issue for the Illini -- they so rarely have clicked this season. At 18-12 overall, 8-9 in the Big Ten, they rate with Michigan State as the conference’s most under-achieving teams. They’ve already lost at Indiana and to a really bad Illinois-Chicago squad in Champaign.

That gives IU a chance. It isn’t a big chance, but it’s there.

Illinois, meanwhile, faces must-win pressure. The Illini know they can’t afford another home loss -- to a 12-18 team mirred in a seven-game losing streak -- if they want to make the NCAA tourney.

“They are playing to get into the NCAA Tournament,” Crean said, “and I would expect it to be a battle, much like the last four times we have played them. We are going into their building on Senior Day, and it will be an outstanding environment.”

For 15 minutes four days earlier, Illinois picked apart Purdue, the Big Ten’s hottest team, in Mackey Arena. It built a 13-point lead. The No. 6 Boilers rallied to win, but the Illini’s talent was obvious.

“They’re a great team because they pass so well,” Crean said, “they make their shots and they really cover for one another defensively, and I think that’s where the length comes in. When you’ve got great length and the activity of their guards and the pressure that they can cause (puts you in a bind).

“They put five players on the floor that can score. We’re going to have to be really good with our schemes and with our individual matchups. But again, this is never about this guy is going to shut down that guy.

“We have guys that you’ve got to help on and that’s when we’re at our best, when we’re driving and penetrating and getting the ball kicked and reversed. They’re the same way. There are not a lot of guys on that team to cheat off of.”


Are you like us? Did you hear that Brigham Young’s Brandon Davies was suspended for the rest of the season for having premarital sex and wondered, what would happen if that rule was in effect at Indiana?

How many athletes would be shown the door? What about in-state schools, or those in the Big Ten or the country?

Let’s just say that we have been to a lot of college football games at a number of schools where, after the game, players are greeted by girlfriends and their very young children.

While Davies apparently isn’t upset by this decision (he did, after all, sign the honor code that doesn’t permit premarital sex), you have to wonder if there was another way. Couldn’t the Cougars have made him run like a gazillion stadium stairs at 5 in the morning, or told him he was only allowed to date ugly women or made him listen to the Best of Barry Manilow CD for the next month?

Apparently not.

Davis isn’t the only one being penalized. This will almost certainly cost Brigham Young a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney and, perhaps, winning a national title. Davis is a forward who averaged 11.1 points and a team-leading 6.2 rebounds. With him the Cougars were 27-2 and ranked No. 3. Without him on Wednesday they got hammered by New Mexico.

A moralist could say this is the price to pay for having sex outside of marriage. He knew the consquences when he signed the honor code.

A cynic might say athletes have sex all the time, what’s the big deal.

What do you think? Does the penalty fit the crime? Let us know and we’ll run the results.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rivers Finds Perspective In Defeat; IU Braces For Short Basketball Turnaround

Jeremiah Rivers still had his sense of humor. Indiana had lost again to spoil his Senior Night, he’d been among the Hoosiers unable to stop Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor (career-high 39 points) and he could find perspective in misery of a 77-67 defeat.

“The dude is a baller, man,” Rivers said. “He was hitting … you guys witnessed it. It was tough.”

Rivers is a defensive specialist who takes pride in shutting down scorers, but on Thursday night no one on the planet not in the NBA could have stopped Taylor, who was 7-for-8 from three-point range and 10-for-10 from the line. He finished one point shy of the Assembly Hall record for most points by an opponent (Michigan State's Shawn Respert and Terry Furlow had 40).

"Sometimes the basket just gets bigger," Taylor said.

Nearly every Hoosier had a shot at guarding him, but none took it as hard as Rivers.

“I take it personally,” Rivers said. “I was talking a little trash to him. I was trying to get his head out of making shots. I was trying to say something to throw off his shot.”

We offered a suggestion -- maybe you should have told him you loved him.

“I should have. I should have smacked him on the butt and winked at him.”

Rivers laughed.

“The dude is good and their team is well-coached and they have good players. We have to step up. We’ve got to do a better job. That was embarrassing.”

In his last home game Rivers finished with six points, including just his second three-pointer in an Indiana uniform. He added four rebounds.

But it was his role as a defensive stopper that will most define his two-year IU run (he played his first two years at Georgetown).

“He defined his own role,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “He’s a hybrid guard. We have no fear in having him take on a 6-9 guy.

“I don’t know if he’s ever taken an off day here. There’s not a day when he hasn’t come in here. That puts him in a class like all great workers. Dwyane Wade was incredible worker (while at Marquette). Jeremiah is like that. His work ethic is above and beyond what we expect and the rules allow.”


Crean isn’t happy about the short turnaround his Hoosiers (12-18 and losers of seven straight) have before playing at Illinois (18-12). They have a noon tipoff on Saturday (11 a.m. Central time).

Some coaches might not practice. For instance, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody just had his players watch film when they had about 40 hours in a similar turnaround that ended with a win over Indiana at Assembly Hall.

Crean is not that kind of coach.

“We’re playing to win,” he said. “We’re not going to baby these guys. We’ve got to go play. It is what it is. We’ll go to school in the morning. Common sense would say let’s leave tonight, but we’re trying to do what’s best for the student athlete and what best is that they’re in class.

“Where does the student athlete factor in here? We’ll be in school and will practice and that will be it.”

IU guard Jordan Hulls said the short turnaround isn’t a problem. Of course, he’s young and probably bullet-proof.

“It’s unfortunate we have a short turnaround, but we’re all capable of handling it,” he said. “We’ll practice and be ready for Saturday morning.”