Thursday, December 22, 2011

Look Out Big Ten, Here Come the Unbeaten Hoosiers

So what do we make of the Indiana Hoosiers?

They are 12-0 and ranked No. 17. They are the Big Ten’s only undefeated team. Only two conference schools are rated higher –- No. 2 Ohio State (11-1) and No. 13 Wisconsin (10-2).

They also are one of six remaining undefeated schools nationally. The others are No. 1 Syracuse, No. 4 Louisville, No. 6 Baylor, No. 9 Missouri and No. 22 Murray State.

IU has one more non-conference game, but that’s not until Feb. 22 against North Carolina Central. It will be, without question, an Assembly Hall victory.

So what do we make of these Hoosiers?

They’re a bit banged up, for one thing. Nothing that suggests season-ending problems, but Will Sheehey has a sprained ankle, Derek Elston a surgically repaired nose and Verdell Jones a tweaked hip. This will test the Hoosiers’ depth, but then, so can foul trouble.

This has the makings of the best Cream ‘n Crimson squad since the 2002 team reached the national title game, although that 25-12 group –- coached by Mike Davis and led by Jared Jeffries, Tom Coverdale and Dane Fife -- didn’t peak until the NCAA Tournament.

Kelvin Sampson’s second and final IU team had Final Four potential with future NBA players Eric Gordon and D.J. White, but it also had some questionable characters who failed to understand the importance of academics, good attitude, fitness and representing the university well.

Oh, yes, there were the phone-call violations the resulted in Sampson’s late-season resignation. Indiana lost four of its last five games, flamed out in the opening round of the NCAA tourney, and finished 25-8.

These Hoosiers are nothing like that. They represent the best of Cream ‘n Crimson ideals. Their victory over Kentucky showcased what college sports are supposed to be about.

Are they a Big Ten contender?

Why not?

Will they beat out Ohio State, the overwhelming favorite if Jared Sullinger stays healthy?

Probably not.

Are they a Final Four team?

We don’t see it, although a Sweet Sixteen appearance is possible, with the second round most likely.

Here’s what we know.

IU has the Big Ten’s second-best big man after Sullinger in Cody Zeller. It has an all-conference forward in Christian Watford. It’s got senior backcourt leadership from Jones (who might finish among the top 15 scorers in school history). It has a sharp-shooting guard in Jordan Hulls who doesn’t miss free throws (the one he missed Thursday night against Maryland Baltimore County was a once-a-year rarity) and rarely misses three-pointers. It has two of the most athletic guards in the Big Ten in Victor Oladipo and Sheehey.

It has a decent bench with Sheehey, Elston, Tom Pritchard, Remy Abell and Matt Roth.

Most importantly, it has a defensive resolve and overall tenacity honed from three years of sanction-caused misery. It is as hungry as any team in America.

And thanks to this 12-0 start, it is very, very confident.

So many things are possible.

The Hoosiers have as tough an opening to Big Ten play as you could have with a game at No. 19 Michigan State, then home games against Ohio State and No. 20 Michigan, all in eight days. Okay, all three could be on the road (Ohio State has the nation’s third-longest home winning streak at 28), but not even the most sadistic schedule maker would do that.

If IU goes 2-1 in that beginning, it has a conference-winning chance. A 1-2 mark would keep it in the hunt, especially if the win is against Ohio State. Going 0-3 is too big a hole with road trips to Wisconsin, Purdue (which has the nation’s fourth-longest home streak at 25 straight) and Michigan looming.

A 3-0 start against that schedule, by the way, is unrealistic, but then, so was a win over Kentucky.

For now, though, bask in the Christmas-is-coming glow of a non-conference job well done and the realization that, no matter what the Big Ten might bring, fun is back in Indiana basketball.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

IU Basketball – Sweeping the week, and more

How many shots should Cody Zeller take in a game?

How many free throw attempts should Jordan Hulls take in a game?

The correct answer –- as many as they possibly can.

Zeller has become the Big Ten’s best big man this side of Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. He can run, score, rebound and take cheap shots without flinching or acting like a fool. He tied his career high by taking 14 shots, and making eight, while scoring a game-high 21 points in the win over Notre Dame. He averages 15.6 points and shoots at a 66-percent clip. He should take between 15 and 20 shots a game.

Hulls went 2-for-2 from the line against Notre Dame, which makes him 13-for-13 for the season and extends his school record to 54 in a row. He hasn’t missed in over a year. In an ideal world, he would take about six free throws a game. Check that. In an ideal world, he'd take 20 free throws a game, but that's not realistic, and we're all about realism.

ABSOLUTELY TRUE FACT NO. 1: Did we mention that we once beat Hulls in a free throw shooting contest?

ABSOLUTELY TRUE FACT NO. 2: Did we also mention we have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy?

But we digress.

If you check the box of the Notre Dame game, you’ll notice IU had 16 offensive rebounds. That’s more than twice as many as the Irish (seven) and reflects coach Tom Crean’s emphasis on the little things that matter.

Here’s what he had to say about it.

“(Offensive rebounding) is huge for us. We’ve spent a lot of time on rebounding, whether it’s a break-down drill or a live 5-on-5 situation. Guard rebounds have to be huge for us.”

Against Notre Dame, Hoosier guards Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Verdell Jones and Remy Abell combined for eight offensive rebounds and 22 total rebounds.

“Victor and Will had five offensive rebounds and that’s good, that’s progress,” Crean said. “Those two have to be very good on the offensive glass. That keeps balls alive. That’s an area we know we’ve needed to get better. We are getting better at it, especially in the last three weeks. Still, we have a ton of room for improvement as we get into the Big Ten.”

The Big Ten comes after Christmas. First comes tonight's game against Howard (3-8) and Thursday night's game against UMBC (1-9). Here’s the bottom line – IU will sweep the week.

And then the REAL season will begin.


Want to know why the Hoosiers won’t take Howard and UMBC lightly?

Because Crean won’t allow it. He wants good, strong, energetic practices, and then play to match if not surpass it. If not, well, we’ll let Crean tell you that.

“If there comes a day when there’s not energy we’ll start over later that night,” Crean said. “It’s not a complicated process. This is not where we have anybody in the program who is above having to get better every day.”

Crean has done this in previous seasons. So far he hasn't done it this season, and almost certainly won't because these Hoosiers have the maturity and experience to do what needs to be done.

So now you know.


We learned this secret about Crean while covering the Crossroads Classic in Indy:

He speaks in tongues.

Okay, it was really a kind of coaches’ code, in which Crean shouted instructions using mysterious terms usually found on self-destructing tapes that end with the promise that should we be caught or killed, the Secretary of Defense will disavow any knowledge of our existence.

Seriously, we didn’t know what Crean was saying, all we knew was he looked hyper intense saying it.

And then the Hoosiers responded.

IU stormed back from an early nine-point deficit against Notre Dame, mostly because it defended Notre Dame into some of the worst offense this side of the two-handed-set-shot era. The Irish missed 16 straight shots at one point. That’s hard to do. You’d figure that something would fall in just by chance.

You’d have figured wrong.

It wasn't the most stylish win in Hoosier history, but it was a win and propelled them to a 10-0 start. That hasn't happened since 1989. That's all the style that matters.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Remember When – Hoosier Classic Becomes Crossroads Classic

Once upon a time, Indiana, Notre Dame, Purdue and Butler gathered in Indianapolis to play basketball and yea, verily, it was good.

Then it was called the Hoosier Classic. It was a two-day event played at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. It went from 1947-51 and from 1957-59.

IU won it four times. Butler won twice. Purdue and Notre Dame won once each.

Indiana shut it down by stopping its participation in 1960. The event disappeared.

Now it’s back in a new form called the Crossroads Classic. Okay, actually it’s called the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic and it will be held Saturday at Indianapolis Conseco Fieldhouse.

Purdue will open things with Butler. Indiana and Notre Dame will follow.

ESPN2 will be there. So will CBS. So will a sold-out crowd.

Yeah, it’s a big-time event at a big-time facility.

It should be a lot of fun, perhaps enough to warrant more than the two years the four schools have signed on for.

Purdue coach Matt Painter is on record as saying he hopes it becomes an annual tradition. Indiana coach Tom Crean isn’t quite as committed, although he probably will be.

“I’m anxious to see it,” Crean said. “The No. 1 thing when (the idea) came up was, Would it be a big deal? Every team has had a week off, so there is some time for a lead-up to it.

“Would it sell out? Would TV be partnered in and locked it? The fact you have CBS, with (announcers) Ian Eagle and Bill Raftery (for the Purdue-Butler game) and us with ESPN’s Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale –- all those questions are answered.”

Crean would like to see the final results after next year’s event.

“After it has been played a year or two, we will look at it and see if we want to continue this or do we want to change the format,” he said. “I will be in those conversations when (athletic director) Fred Glass brings them to me, but I won’t bring them up unless there was something that didn’t make sense.”

That doesn’t figure to happen.

“There are no fears whatsoever,” Crean said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”


There was one criticism heard in the aftermath of the Kentucky victory, and it came with the subtlty of a James Harrison tackle -- Get Cody Zeller the bleeping ball.

The Hoosiers inability to get Zeller the ball inside down the stretch againt Kentucky contributed to the Wildcats’ end-of-game rally.

It wasn’t like IU wasn’t trying, Crean said, but Kentucky’s length and athleticism made it difficult.

Still, Crean added, “We’ve gotta do a better job of getting it in. But that was one of the hardest teams that we’ve ever seen, that I’ve ever seen as a coach, to get the ball entered in. That’s not an excuse, that’s just a fact. We do have to do a better job of getting the ball in and we have to do a better job of getting him the ball at different times in the clock.”

Beyond that, Zeller has to demand the ball more, both in word and action.

“Holding his seal,” Crean said. “Be more vocal. Continue to create angles. His teammates need to go into it a little bit earlier, but the window against the best teams in pick and roll, the window against the best teams in post feeding, the window against the best teams in getting your shot off, it’s very, very small. When it’s there, you’ve gotta take advantage of it.

“The angle of the pass, the timing of the pass, the quickness of the release of the shot, the better the team you play, the more the margin for error goes up and the more your details and technique have gotta be great. And there were times the other day that it wasn’t.”

Figure Zeller will get the ball plenty Saturday against Notre Dame.


Yes, Maurice Creek uses pre-game time to do some shooting drills. Does that mean the oft-injured guard is healing from his torn Achilles tendon faster than expected? Could he even have a chance to play by the end of the season?

No, Crean said.

“He’s the pre-game act where he goes out there and starts drilling 3s,” Crean said. “He’s not ready to do shooting drills with us, but I saw him yesterday shooting in Cook (Hall) with both shoes on, so he’s not in the boot right now in practice, which is good. But it’s not anytime soon before he’d be in drills or anything like that.

“It’s good for him. Think about how hard that is. He’s such a great teammate and he’s locked in. Two years ago, he was putting 31 (points) on Kentucky. It’s fun to watch him mature and grow up and take of what he can take care of.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Need A Ticket for IU-Notre Dame Game? We Can Help -- Sort Of

Do you need another IU basketball fix and can only get it by watching a game? Are you anxious and ready to buy a ticket so you can watch the now No. 18 Hoosiers (9-0) beat up vulnerable Notre Dame (7-4)?

Then you’re in a bind because Saturday’s game, part of a doubleheader that also includes Purdue (9-2) and Butler (4-6) in the first Crossroads Classic at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse, is officially sold out.

“Officially” doesn’t mean you can’t get tickets. It just means you’ll have to spend a lot more for them. We went online and were able to find tickets for $119 each. They weren’t the greatest, but then, there really isn’t a bad seat in Conseco Fieldhouse, not like there are in the upper reaches of Assembly Hall.

Or, you can wait to the day of the game, and take your luck trying to get tickets from scalpers, who are always looking to make a deal.

What is the best way to get the best deal on tickets?

We here at Hoosier Hoopla are glad to provide an answer.

Here is an absolutely true story from our experience covering the Big Ten football title game. We were walking from the garage to Lucas Oil Stadium and ran into a college-age couple looking to get some tickets. There were two scalper dudes trying to make an offer the couple couldn’t refuse.

Here is the way the conversation went:

SCALPER DUDE 1: “I got you right here. Two tickets, $60 each. You can’t get anything cheaper. It’s the best deal you’re gonna find.”

SCALPER DUDE 2: “Let me tell you, that’s a great deal. You can’t pass up a deal like that.”

GUY: “I don’t know.”

SCALPER DUDE 1: “I’m telling you, these are great seats. It’s a great deal. If you won’t take it, somebody else will.”

SCALPER DUDE 2: “He’s right. It’s a great deal.”

GUY: “I tell you what. We’ll pass and see what we can find closer to the stadium.”

SCALPER DUDE 1: “Hold on. You’re killing me. Okay, $40 each. These are great tickets.”

And so the deal was finalized.


So who do you think was the best IU football freshman this season?

The easy answer would be quarterback Tre Roberson, who provided a badly needed spark for an offense that struggled to score.

But while Roberson earned some love from, as in honorable mention status, it’s safety Mark Murphy, linebacker Chase Hoobler and offensive lineman Bernard Taylor who got the best awards.

Murphy was second on the team with 77 tackles, including a team-best 44 solo. He had one interception and it was big –- he returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. He added one tackle for loss and four pass breakups.

Murphy showed his versatility by starting three games at weak-side linebacker before switching to safety.

Taylor played in 11 games, and started the last 10 at left guard. He only allowed three sacks in 295 pass attempts.

Hoobler, redshirt freshman, totaled 48 tackles, including 23 solo, with two sacks, five tackles for loss, and one foced fumble.

Taylor and Murphy made spots on the BTN (Big Ten Network), and Yahoo Sports all-freshman team. Hoobler got all-conference recognition from and Yahoo Sports.

Roberson and kick returner Shane Wynn got honorable mention recognition by the

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Polls About To Be Very Good For IU Basketball

Sometime Monday afternoon, the polls will come out and Indiana will be ranked for the first time since 2008, when Eric Gordon and D.J. White led the charge despite the imminent fall of the Kelvin Sampson era.

The Hoosiers earned it with a pulse-pounding 73-72 victory over No. 1 Kentucky that suggested, far more than the previous eight blow-outs, that the program was regaining its tradition-rich mojo.

The game was won with heart, effort, drama, passion and a bit of luck. It was everything you want in college basketball, which certainly wasn’t the case in the Saturday rivalry game between Xavier and Cincinnati.

So IU is 9-0 with its biggest victory in a decade. It almost certainly will be 12-0 when Big Ten action begins in a couple of weeks.

So what does this say about the team and the program?

“It says we have a lot of good players,” says freshman Cody Zeller, one of the best of them. “As a team we can do a lot of great things.”

Does that greatness mean the Hoosiers are back to the juggernaut they once were?

“I don’t know what ‘back’ means,” Zeller says. “I know we’re playing well. Hopefully it keeps on going.”

Here’s what we do know. IU went toe to toe with an impressively talented team and beat it. The most obvious reason was junior forward Christian Watford, who was huge with a game-high 20 points, stifling defense and the game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer that will go down as one of the more remarkable shots in school history.

But it was a lot more than that.

Coach Tom Crean scrapped his play-the-bench philosophy. Every starter played at least 30 minutes. Key reserve Derek Elston didn’t play at all, in part, Crean said, because he’d hurt his back earlier in the week, mostly because of a coach’s decision.
Did the Hoosiers get some breaks? Absolutely. The Wildcats were just 10-for-17 from the free throw line, missing the front end of a bonus, and another free throw, in the final 19 seconds.

Will Sheehey bounced in a three-pointer that hit everything but one of IU’s five championship banners. Kentucky shot-blocking monster Anthony Davis played just 24 minutes because of foul trouble, and some of those fouls might not have been called if the game had been anywhere other than Assembly Hall. UK leading scorer Terrence Jones played so poorly (four points and six turnovers) that coach John Calipari said the Wilcats got “absolutely zero” from him.

And then, most dramatically, the Wildcats’ youth and the pressure of playing their first true road game of the season in one of America’s loudest and most intimidating facilities surfaced when they failed to foul in the final seconds when they had two fouls to give.

Why didn’t they foul?

“I have no idea,” UK guard Doron Lamb said. “I made a mistake.”

Added Calipari, who had ordered his players to foul multiple times during a timeout: “I have no idea what went through their minds. Maybe they thought, ‘I’m not fouling, time is going to run out.’”

In the end, the Hoosiers made their own breaks. They overcame their previous vulnerability by beating the Wildcats at their own offensive rebounding game, totaling 14 to the visitors’ 10. They didn’t blink under pressure, going 14-for-17 from the line and 9-for-15 from three-point range, including 7-for-9 in the second half.

Good teams find ways to win, and these Hoosiers, we’re learning are a very good team.

They just have to keep it up.


As you probably know by now, Indiana lost its quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith when Smith left to join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Smith has coached under Rodriguez for years, most recently at Michigan, so the decision wasn’t a surprise.

Here’s what coach Kevin Wilson had to say in a university release:

“We appreciate Rod’s efforts with us this season,” Wilson said. “We’re sorry to see him leave and wish him and his family the very best. Rod has a long-standing relationship with Coach Rodriguez and we understand his decision.

“As we move forward, we’ll take our time to find the fit for our coaching staff that will keep our program headed in a positive direction.”


Matt Weaver of, who is wrong about as often Daniel Moore delivers tomahawk dunks against Kentucky, has reported that IU has picked up its 20th football commitment in Rapheal Green, a 6-5, 325-pound offensive lineman from San Antonio, Texas.

However, Green told Weaver he might end up playing on defense at IU. We’ll got out on a limb and figure he’ll be a run-stuffing inside lineman. The Hoosiers certainly need size and strength up front to stop the running, something they couldn’t do in this past 1-11 season.

Missouri, Colorado, Houston, New Mexico, New Mexico State and North Texas had reportedly offered scholarships, while LSU, Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Baylor were interested. That’s some pretty impressive interest.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Say It Ain’t So -- Will Calipari End IU-UK Rivalry?

Would John Calipari REALLY want to blow up one of the great rivalries in college basketball history?

Apparently so.

Yeah, just when IU is getting good again (it is 8-0), the Kentucky coach wants to scrap a really good thing.

The teams meet Saturday at Assembly Hall.

Those who believe in conspiracy might smell a little fear, but that seems out of character for a coach who has long been known for fearless scheduling.

Still …

Calipari continues to insist he has to tone down the non-conference schedule to accommodate a possible expanded SEC slate (officials are considering adding two more conference games to 18) and the fact the No. 1 Wildcats (8-0) have more year-to-year player turnover than any other program in the country.

Well, as far as the player turnover, whose fault is that? Calipari brings this on himself by recruiting and then signing one-and-done guys. He doesn’t have to sign top-10 players. He could go for guys, say, No. 60 to No. 100. They’d stay for four years and the turnover would stop. Now, maybe he’d win a few less games, but at least he wouldn’t have to rebuild every year.

That won’t happen, of course.

Anyway, Calipari has a poll on his website to see which of the traditional non-conference rivals -– IU, Louisville and North Carolina -– should be dropped.

At the moment, 69 percent of those responding pick the Hoosiers to go. North Carolina is next at 23 percent. Louisville comes in last at 8 percent.

Nothing is etched in stone. Indiana and Kentucky have played 54 times in a series that started in 1924. The Wildcats have won 31 times, including 16 of the last 20 meetings, and three straight.

Calipari was asked about the schedule during a press conference this week. Here’s what he had to say:

“Let me again state this. We want to play a great schedule, but because our roster turns over more than any other team in the country, maybe ever, we can’t be locked into six games (he’s including the Champions Classic and the SEC/Big East Challenge). You just can’t do it.

“I know people may get mad. You can get mad. That doesn’t affect me in any way. But you can’t be locked in. Playing Kansas or UCLA vs. this or that team, does it really matter? It doesn’t matter.

“I can schedule in August, when I know what my roster is and get seven unbelievable programs to play us. I can do that.

“I have to protect the program. I cannot set up our players for failure.

“Look, I’m one of the originals who said, let’s bring it. I don’t care, let’s play. What time? Midnight –- I’ve done it. Noon or 11 or 10 o’clock? I’ve done it.

“The point is, in the situation we’re in, you can’t lock into seven games. No one in the country does it. Duke doesn’t do it. North Carolina doesn’t do it. UCLA and Kansas don’t do it. No one does it.”

And now you know.

But do you buy it?


Indiana has its best chance at beating Kentucky since Eric Gordon and D.J. White joined forces in December of 2007. The Hoosiers are 8-0 and blowing everybody out, although no one expects that to happen Saturday in Assembly Hall against the No. 1 Wildcats.

They’ve won the last three meetings by an average margin of 18 points.

Still, Calipari sounds concerned.

“This is going to be a hot, contested game. We know it. Hopefully we are ready.

“We’ve had some good practices. I asked my staff last night, ‘Do you think I pushed our guys enough?’ They said, ‘Yeah. Yeah.’ I said, if I haven’t, we will see.”

Hoosiers, Wildcats and Mr. Controversy

Welcome to the Mr. Controversy Show. We aim to provide the kind of provocative content that will raise blood pressures, stir passions and incite the kind of passion normally reserved for Chelsea Handler gatherings.

Accuracy, you see, is sometimes SOOOO over-rated.

Today we’ve come to Indiana in anticipation for Saturday’s epic game against No. 1 Kentucky. This will be a nationally televised chance for the Hoosiers to show whether their 8-0 start marks the beginning of a return to national relevance or reflects good, old-fashioned patsy scheduling.

All that’s well and good, but we want drama, intrigue and dirt –- you know, the kind of truth you get from a Kim Kardashian special.

We remember several years ago, when the Hoosiers played Kentucky in football and a Hoosier player said the Wildcats played dirty. Ahh, the excitement that generated! Those were the days, when real men didn’t eat quiche, they called each other names. We can’t wait for the trash talking and bad mouthing to begin.

We show up at the Assembly Hall media room ready for press conference action. In walks Jordan Hulls and Cody Zeller, who seem as verbally dangerous as Mr. Rogers.

Oh, no. We’ve got a bad feeling about this.

EDITOR’S NOTE -– The questions have been changed to reflect a WWE feel. Truth sometimes has to be altered for the common good. Mr. Controversy will provide what America wants to hear. The player answers, however, are the player answers.

Q: Guard play could be a Wildcats weak link. Do you target that because you know they will break?

HULLS: We just have to keep doing what we have been doing all year - get deflections and have constant pressure with our hands all over the ball. If we do that and play team defense and play help-side defense and not let him get in the lane because he is really good at throwing lobs and things like that. We have to keep that to a minimum and let our on-ball pressure create our offense for us."

MR. CONTROVERSY: The guards are going down, just like the Wildcats.

Q: You guys have gone through a lot of crap the last couple of years. Are you tough enough to kick some Wildcat rump?

HULLS: "I would say we have come a long way over the past couple years. But even two years ago, we prepared the same way with the same intensity. This is a different team and a new year and we feel good about what is going on and we are working hard in practice every day. Yes, we are more mature than my freshman year."

MR. CONTROVERSY: Our time is now. Kentucky is toast.

Q: Forget that line about treating every game the same. Students are so jacked up they want to camp out in the cold. How badly do you want to smoke these guys?

HULLS: “Yes, everyone is real pumped up for the game, of course. They are ranked No. 1 in the country and are coming into our hometown so people are really excited about it. But it is just a basketball game and we are really excited to get this going. It is going to be a fun atmosphere for sure and we are really excited about the fans and their support."

MR. CONTROVERSY: Kentucky is toast.

Q: How do you stay calm considering this is the biggest game of your lives, and everything you do will be magnified, scrutinized and remembered for all time? Win and the most gorgeous women on campus will have their ways with you. Lose and your mothers will disavow your relation to them.

HULLS: “We are preparing for this game as we have every other game. As far as the fan base, everyone on campus is buzzing a little bit. But we are mature enough to keep our composure and take it one game at a time."

MR. CONTROVSERY: To quote Lloyd Bridges in the movie, “Airplane,” Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.

Q: Cody, you get to match up against Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who is like 7-7 and 360 pounds. He’s blocked like a thousand shots already. What’s up with that?

ZELLER: “He is definitely a great player. I played against him quite a bit in the summer last year. But I have played against a lot of good players already this year -- guys like Andrew Smith (Butler) and North Carolina had a few good guys inside. I think each game I am just trying to improve and this will just be another step for that."

MR. CONTROVERSY: I’m gonna stuff him like he’s a Thanksgiving turkey.

Q: What’s it like playing the No. 1 team in the country in your building?

ZELLER: “I'll tell you after the game on Saturday. I have never experienced it so we are just going to prepare for it like any other game. The fans are excited but inside the locker room and on the practice court we are going to prepare just like any other game."

MR. CONTROVERSY: It’s gonna be better than dating Jennifer Lopez.

Q: You’ve DATED Jennifer Lopez?

Mr. CONTROVERSY: You ask too many bleeping questions.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Deep Conviction – Hoosier Deep Throat Says Wildcats Are Toast

We got the call, as we knew we would, just after midnight.

It was Hoosier Deep Throat. He was hard to hear because of a grumpy voice in the background, a voice we would have recognized if we weren’t so focused on the news that scientist had discovered a world with basically the same temperature as earth, which means life might be out there hundreds of light years away, which means maybe the Storm Trooper outfit we still have hidden in the closet from our teenage days might one day be fashionable again and …


We managed to understand that Hoosier Deep Throat had big news about Saturday’s Indiana-Kentucky basketball game and wanted to meet us at a secret basement location in a secret level of the Wells Library.

“Just follow the torn blue pieces of a Kentucky t-shirt,” he said with more glee than an adult male should have.

So we did. The shirt pieces led down some stairs to a brown door marked –- DANGER NO ADMITANCE -- that was wedged open by a tattered blue stuffed Wildcat that looked like it had been chewed by a pitbull. We went down more steps, into a cigar-smoke-filled room lit by a single, flickering light bulb, past a wall that listed the scores of every Indiana victory over UK, until we came to a shadowy closet the light couldn’t penetrate.

Inside, was the glowing end of an expensive Cuban cigar. Somewhere behind that end was Hoosier Deep Throat.

EDITOR’S WARNING: Hoosier Deep Throat uses raw language normally reserved for Metallica concerts and Bob Knight soliloquies. Brace yourself.

“I got the scoop,” Deep Throat said. “The Hoosiers are going to attack the (bleep) out of Kentucky on Saturday. They’re going to the rim and those (BLEEPING BLEEPS) won’t know what the (BLEEP) hit them. The Wildcats are going to be in SUCH foul trouble Calipari’s gonna be crying to the refs like a baby!”

“Calm down,” we said. “Take your time.” We didn’t want him working himself into some kind of seizure.

“CALM DOWN! Are you (bleeping) kidding me? Do you know how (BLEEPING) big this game is. Given what’s happened the last three years, this might be the biggest game in the program’s history. Students have been camping out for days outside Assembly Hall to be first in line for good seats. They wanted to pitch tents, but the air heads at IU, who continually screw up good PR opportunities, told them no. You think they’re calm!”

“How on,” we said. “IU officials resolved all that. They gave the students vouchers so they could be first in line as long as they gave up the camping idea. Deputy athletic director Scott Dolson said it was done for their safety and to ensure they were focused on academics. Finals are next week.”

Deep Throat puffed rapidly, as if he was sending smoke signals.

“What did the students think about that?” he asked.

“I think some were disappointed. I think they wanted to camp out in this cold weather.”

“I think students are tougher than what officials give them credit for,” Deep Throat said.

While Deep Throat talked, we heard that voice in the background. This time we recognized it. It was Bob Knight during a recent ESPN segment. When asked by Digger Phelps about IU’s unbeaten start, Knight said this time of year a lot of teams are undefeated because of easy scheduling. He never mentioned Indiana. It was a not-so-subtle shot by a man not known for subtly. The tape was being repeated over and over again, as if Deep Throat was using it to fire himself up even more.

“Kentucky basically only plays seven guys,” Deep Throat said. “Seven guys! Foul trouble is gonna kill them faster than you can say, ‘(Bleep) the BCS. The Oklahoma State football team got screwed!’ God, I can’t wait!!!”

What looked like drool dribbled to the white tiled floor. Deep Throat was apparently frothing at the mouth, either from excitement or rabies. We weren’t sure we could tell the difference.

“Did you hear his radio show?” Deep Throat asked. “Oh, we’re gonna kick (BLEEP)!”

“Whose radio show?”

“Tom Crean’s, you idiot. He wants his guys to kick (BLEEP), and they are nasty enough to do it!”

Deep Throat tossed what was left of the cigar on the floor, stomped it into oblivion and lit up another. Waves of brown smoke rolled toward us like a tsunami.

“I think what he said was he wanted his players to block out by putting a full body on a Wildcat and not an arm or just part of a body,” we said. “In other words, rebounding will be big.”

“Don’t give me that politically correct crap. He said he wanted to kick some (BLEEPING BLEEP!) And it’s gonna happen!”

We nodded without conviction. We knew the odds of an IU victory were slim. Kentucky’s roster is loaded with future NBA players. The Hoosiers have one right now in Cody Zeller, although others might develop into pro potential.

UK coach John Calipari maximizes his talent. Love him or hate him, he wins big and often, thriving with great recruiting and developing players in the short time he has them.

Crean talked about the challenge on his radio show when he said, “They're a very difficult team, no question. They're highly athletic. It's a big rim team. Everything starts with how you protect the rim.”

This isn’t new. Since the early 1990s, Kentucky has had the athleticism edge over the Hoosiers.

“Indiana’s going to have to defend like it hasn’t in years,” we said. “And Crean said it will have to push the pace. Going slow won’t work.”

“You’re God-damn right!” Deep Throat said with a ferocity that made the drool understandable. “Everybody has to buy in and go. If not, Crean has will sit their (bleeps).”

Crean has often talked about his depth this season, reiterating on his radio show that, “My best friend, as much as I love my family, as much as I like my coaches, is the bench.”

Yes, the bench helps because, as Knight famously once said, it sends a message to your rump which in turn sends a message to your brain to play harder and better.

Will that help against Kentucky? Certainly. Will it make a difference? Perhaps.

Logic suggests the Wildcats will win by eight or so points, but logic doesn’t always win games. Heart means something. Home crowds mean something. The ability to respond under pressure means something.

“What are you thinking?” Deep Throat asked, his tone suggesting where he’d stick his cigar if we gave an incorrect answer.

We hesitated.

“That the Hoosiers are gonna kick some (bleep),” we said, conviction giving way to prudence, and Deep Throat’s laughter echoed through the basement like an Assembly Hall cheer.

And then, he was gone.

Tents Or Not, IU Students Ready For Kentucky; A $50,000 Gift

When Tom Crean talks, student listen.

The problem -– university policy is so out of touch, you wonder if officials still get their news from Walter Cronkite.

Who’s Walter Cronkite?

If you have to ask, you’re way too young, but here’s a hint –- he didn’t date Jennifer Lopez.


Anyway, Crean said on his radio show Monday night that if students want to get a good seat for Saturday’s Kentucky game, they had better camp out early. Some students took him at his word and started camping out on Tuesday.

Yes, in case you’re wondering, it’s cold in Bloomington this week, which followed near biblical rains that flooded parts of the state. But students, who understand that goods seats for this game rival the importance of say, taking the LSAT, aren’t phased by lousy weather.

So they broke out chairs, tents, food and other stuff to survive for basically four days before university police made them break it up because it violated some university policy.

Other universities do this kind of thing all the time for big games. Duke, for instance, has Krzyzewskiville to honor coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has turned the Blue Devils into the New England Patriots of college basketball.

This is as big a game as the Hoosiers have had since, perhaps, Duke showed up inn 2005. IU is 8-0 and playing like its ready for a return to the national stage. Kentucky is ranked No. 1 and aiming for another Final Four berth despite being one of America’s youngest teams.

Student passion is big in Hoosier prospects. You don’t want anything messing that up.

Figure IU officials will lighten up. After the last three years of basketball hell, plus football as you don’t want to see it, it’s time to have fun again.

Even in the cold.


The IU-Kentucky game is so big, it’s even worth $50,000 to the Play Golf America University program courtesy of former Hoosier golfer Jeff Overton.

Overton has that kind of money to give because of his pro success that includes being a member of the 2010 Ryder Cup. Play golf America University is designed to teach and engage students in the game of golf through PGA pro instruction and other programs. Overtone will give a check to Hoosier golf coach Mike Mayer and Bob Kessler, the Department of Kinesiology Program director.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Here’s How Indiana Can Beat Kentucky

Are you like us? Do you see Kentucky as the most vulnerable No. 1 team in the history of college basketball and that the Wildcats will come to Assembly Hall on Saturday and get their fannies …

Hold on!

For a second Hoosier Deep Throat took control of the keyboard, and this 8-0 Hoosier start has warped his perspective. He’s back smoking cigarettes in some shadowy corner of an IU parking garage. We’ll get his thoughts in a future blog.

For now we are once again in charge of what you are reading. We see the big picture and it starts with the fact Indiana has a HUGE opportunity on Saturday.

Top-ranked Kentucky will visit Assembly Hall and this is not the Second Coming of the veteran 1976 Hoosier juggernaut, the last college basketball team to finish unbeaten.

Still, this is a very talented team.

The Wildcats are 8-0 and directed by a coach, John Calipari, who knows how to recruit studs and maximize their talent. But they have plenty of youth and inexperience (this is basically a freshman and sophomore squad), and have yet to play a true road game.

Let’s repeat that. Assembly Hall will be UK’s first game in front of a hostile crowd. And if enough of the 17,000-plus fans sure to pack the facility are loud enough and energetic enough and intimidating enough, the Wildcats impressive array of talent might buckle.

“Might” is the key word.

IU, by comparison, already has a pair of road victories, the most of any Big Ten team. It is battle tested and pumped because this is the game that could show, better than any poll, the program is back to national relevance.

Understand Kentucky has been tested, most recently by a fiercely talented North Carolina team. The Wildcats hung on for a 73-72 win in Rupp Arena.

Other than that, UK has rolled. It’s won two games by 10 points (including one against Kansas), and the others by 22, 24, 38, 48 and 50 points.

Calipari has again loaded up on top-10 talent that plays above the rim and in the fast lane. Darius Miller is listed as a 6-8, 235-pound GUARD, for goodness sakes. Where else do you see that other than in the NBA?

Kentucky has got 6-9, 252-pound Terrance Jones (15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds); 6-10, 220-pound freshman Anthony Davis (12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds); 6-7, 232-pound Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12.1 points, 7.1 rebounds). Don’t forget Marquis Teague, formerly of Indianapolis. He averages 10.3 points. Sharp-shooter Doron Lamb averages 14.4 points.

Davis, by the way, has 36 blocks in eight games. Jones, the SEC player of the week, has 20. UK has 87 as a team, which is basically 11 game.

Indiana, by comparison, has 33 blocks.

That’s right, three fewer than Davis.

The Wildcats block shots, alter shots and make opponents wish the NCAA would bag the 35-second shot clock and bring back the four-corner stall.

Of course, that ain’t happening. You want to beat the Wildcats, you have to take it to them.

You know something. IU can do that.

It has talent, although not enough to match Kentucky. No matter. It has the home court advantage and a confidence generated from its 8-0 start and comeback victory at North Carolina State. It has tough-minded players who play defense and push the pace. It has a hunger born from three years of basketball misery.

Believe us, that will mean something.

So what do the Hoosiers have to do to win?

Let’s take a look.

1) The Hoosiers have to defend like a date with Jennifer Lopez is at stake and …

IMPORTANT FACT: Okay, at 40, JLo is probably too old to interest college players, but did you SEE her last music award show performance and ...

SECOND IMPORTANT FACT: Sorry. Hoosier Deep Throat snuck back in. He’s gone again and won’t interrupt. We promise. Anyway, IU needs at least 60 deflections to have a chance.

2) Rebound the bleeping ball. IU has to block out, carve out space, as assistant coach Tim Buckley likes to say, and consider every missed shot a birthrite. It doesn’t have to win the rebound battle, although that would be nice, but it has to stay close.

3) Take care of the ball. The Hoosiers have been good about turnovers all season. They are going to play fast, maybe faster than they have all season because of the athletes they’ll be facing. They can’t let that speed cause them to waste possessions.

4) Shoot at least 45 percent from the field, which is worse than what they shoot for the season. That includes making their share from three-point range. They also need to score from inside even though the Wildcats have enough shot-blockers to field two NBA teams. IU will get some shots blocked. Big deal. It has to attack the basket, draw fouls and get to the line.

5) Make free throws. In an ideal world, Jordan Hulls would shoot every free throw. The guy hasn’t missed in a year. Seriously. He’s made a school-record 2 million in a row and …

Sorry. It’s really 52 in a row. Still, Hulls didn’t take a free throw against Stetson last Sunday, and has only taken 11 all season, which is just 11 more than we’ve taken. Reserve guard Remy Abell, for goodness sakes, has more free throw attempts (12) than Hulls.

He needs to get to the line more.

Repeat that -– he needs to get to the line more.

That’s all there is to it. If the Hoosiers do these five things, they beat Kentucky, jump into the national rankings, restore Cream ‘n Crimson glory and save the world from Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh. Then they can concentrate on achieving something that's REALLY difficult:

Getting a date with Jennifer Lopez.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Feeling the love – Hoosiers Making Basketball Fun Again

Remember back in the day, say in October, when Hoosiers such as Christian Watford talked about making the NCAA Tournament and that seemed, well, overly optimistic given the last three lousy seasons?

Well, Watford might have been dead-on right.

More and more Indiana looks like a team capable of skipping the NIT natural progession and getting NCAA opportunity.


Glad you asked.

The glow of the North Carolina State victory is still bright. The Hoosiers blasted off to a great start, took the Wolfpack’s best shot, then delivered the knockout.

They did because freshman Cody Zeller played to his considerable hype in the second half, when all great players are at their best, and Christian Watford played like one of the Big Ten’s best.

Mostly, though, they won because Jordan Hulls was a stud. He hit TOUGH shots, he made all his free throws (as he always does) and delivered the kind of leadership you need on the road.

This has been the perfect non-conference schedule for Indiana. It opened with some easy games to build confidence and chemistry. The degree of difficulty gradually increased. Now it has two marquee games against No. 1 Kentucky and banged up Notre Dame, then ends with a soft run of Howard and UMBC before a brutal Big Ten opening of at Michigan State (when IU hasn’t won in like a thousand years), then hosting No. 2 Ohio State (which just crushed Duke) and No. 14 Michigan.

The Hoosiers play 13 non-conference games, including one against North Carolina Central in late February which they will win by 60 points. At worst, they will be 11-2, probably 12-1 and possibly 13-0.

Let’s say 11-2. At this point a 9-9 Big Ten record is VERY realistic. So that makes them 20-11, with a chance to win at least one Big Ten tourney game. That makes the NCAA tourney attractive, and given their national TV draw, well, let’s just say things are looking very good.

And if they manage to beat Kentucky and Ohio State, they might be a top-5 team by the end of the month.

Heck, they might even be No. 1 and …


Suddenly, Cream ‘n Crimson fans have reason to love college basketball again.

One last thought. IU has won all seven games by double digits, the first time that’s happened by a Tom Crean-coached Hoosier team. It was won going away, it was won on the road and it was won when on the brink of being blown out. It is competing as it hasn’t since the 2002 national runner-up postseason.

Yeah, there’s a lot to love about IU basketball.