Monday, January 31, 2011

IU Football Makes Late Recruiting Push; Watford Out?

It’s not official, but it looks like new football coach Kevin Wilson is set to sign 20 players on Wednesday, the first day of the official signing period.

Wilson and his new staff got seven new commitments in the last two weeks, including five on Sunday.

The highest rated are Michael Hunter, a three-star (out of five) defensive back out of Louisiana, and Bernard Taylor, a three-star defensive tackle (listed at 6-2 and 281 pounds) out of Michigan.

Technically, Taylor is a re-commit. He originally picked the Hoosiers, backed out when Bill Lynch was fired and then committed again after an official visit.

The other new commitments are Illinois offensive lineman Peyton Eckert (6-6 and 285 pounds, two stars), Ohio offensive lineman David Kaminski (6-4, 275, no stars), Florida offensive lineman Gregory Lewis (6-5, 300, two stars), Florida defensive tackle Adarius Rayner (6-2, 260, two stars) and Florida defensive tackle Bobby Richardson (6-3, 265, two stars).

This shows a big push into the speed states of Florida and Louisiana. That gives you an idea of the Hoosiers’ commitment to improve the overall team speed. Wilson will run an uptempo offense and an aggressive, attacking defense. Both require fast, fit, athletic players.

Yes, there are no in-state players among the latest commitments. That likely reflects the lateness of the recruiting push caused by the coaching change and transition. All of the top in-state players had already committed to Indiana or other programs.

IU’s highest-rated recruit remains Zach Shaw, a four-star linebacker out of Ohio landed by Lynch and his staff.

Overall the class has 11 three-star players, seven two-star players, one four-star player and one unranked player.

Also, Ralston Evans a 6-4, 275-pound offensive lineman from Indianapolis Arlington graduated early from high school and has already signed a national letter of intent. He has a three-star rating and a No. 9 ranking in the state.

If you believe in national rankings, this class rates among the worst three in the Big Ten. According to, Ohio State has the Big Ten’s best recruiting class, at No. 11 nationally. Big Ten newcomer Nebraska is next at No. 15. has Ohio State at No. 4 and Nebraska at No. 24.


Could Indiana lose another basketball player to injury?

Perhaps. Forward Christian Watford banged up his wrist and knee during Sunday night’s overtime loss at Michigan State. Coach Tom Crean said during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference that “it’s possible” those injuries could become a problem.

“We’re in the midst of (evaluating) that right now,” he said.

Losing Watford and his team-leading 17.0 scoring average and 5.8 rebounding average would be a big blow given IU already is without guards Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones because of knee injuries. Watford was coming off the best all-around game of his college career. He played through both injuries at Michigan State and totaled 21 points and five rebounds.

“Yesterday was the most competitive from start to finish that I’ve ever seen him,” Crean said.


It’s possible the nasty weather that is hitting Indiana and the rest of the Midwest could cause Wednesday night’s Minnesota game to be postponed.

Kit Klingelhoffer, IU’s assistant athletic director for game management, will stay in touch with Minnesota officials, referees and the state police to ensure everybody can get to Bloomington safely. The worst part of the storm –- a mix of ice and snow -- is expected to hit Tuesday night through Wednesday.

The final decision would be made by Indiana, Minnesota and the Big Ten office.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Indiana Basketball – Thrill Meets Agony Meets Hope

There are no moral victories. Not in this return-Indiana-basketball-to-glory quest. You either do, or do not.

The Hoosiers did not at Michigan State.

Still …

Hope comes amid pain.

Thrill comes with overtime defeat.

If you’re a Hoosier fan, if you bleed Cream ‘n Crimson, you are sad. You might have spent Sunday night screaming at the TV, hoping that your passion should shoot through the airwaves and somehow energize the team. You might find it hard to sleep until Minnesota comes to Assembly Hall Wednesday and Indiana gets to do it all over again. That’s okay. Why? Because you have reason to care again. The program is no longer spinning in mediocrity.

The 84-83 loss at the Breslin Center is proof of that.

You can win a lot of games with this kind of effort and focus and intensity. Indiana almost certainly will, if not this season, certainly in future ones.

Hope is a wonderful thing.

IU (11-11) did so many things well Sunday night. It shot well (55.2 percent in regulation), defended tenaciously, rebounded with purpose. It got production from its injury depleted bench.

It made just enough mistakes to lose. Or, depending on your perspective, the Spartans (13-8) made just enough plays to win.

Yes, we have seen this before in tough losses at Minnesota and at Wisconsin, among others, but this took it to another level. This was the most painful and exhausting. You could see if from the hunched-over expressions on players from both teams when it was finally over.

Still, you lose by one on the road in overtime while battling the demons generated by 20 years of Breslin Center futility and the now 0-9 record outside of Assembly Hall, and you’ve accomplished something.

Perspective would be different if this was, say, Ohio State, a veteran team with the kind of inside-outside talent and recent history of prime-time success champions are made of.

That’s not Indiana.

Not yet, anyway.

You look for improvement beyond the won-loss record. If the Hoosiers build on this defeat, learn from it, it becomes a benefit. You can always turn negatives into positives.

Yeah, that’s getting old. It’s much better to build from winning. Good teams are at their best in big moments. Struggling teams blink.

Indiana blinked.

Jeremiah Rivers missed a couple of late free throws that might have won it in regulation, but don’t blame this on him. He’s become an 88 percent free throw shooter, improving his percentage 30 points from the previous year. Who does that? He wasn’t the only Hoosier missing free throws. He made plenty of big plays along with his 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.

So did Christian Watford, who finished with 21 points and played through a banged up knee and hand. So did Jordan Hulls, who wasn’t supposed to be quick enough to handle elite Big Ten guards, but who has more than held his own. Against the Spartans, he had 17 points. Oh, he hasn’t missed a free throw since early December. So did Victor Oladipo, who came off the bench to go 5-for-5 and total 11 points. So did Matt Roth, who hit four three-pointers and totaled 12 points (four times his season average). So did Tom Pritchard, who had seven rebounds against the burly Spartans.

One final thought. Does any Big Ten team want to play Indiana right now, especially in Assembly Hall?

We think not.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No Conjecture – IU Faces Basketball Buzzsaw

Indiana faces a buzzsaw tonight at Michigan State. That much is certain.

Anything else is mere conjecture, which should not be confused with conjure, which is what happens when you read too many Harry Potter books in too short a period of time.

Not that we’re admitting that.

Anyway, we offer the big question -- can the Hoosiers win at the Breslin Center? The big answer -- sure, if they play like they did against Illinois and the Spartans continue their mostly cold-shooting ways.

Michigan State will play desperate. Its postseason depends on it. The Spartans are 12-8 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten, and the NCAA tourney is no longer a given. Losing at home to Indiana would be a huge blow to its at-large-bid prospects.

Everybody keeps waiting for Michigan State to kick it in gear like it does every winter. But that might not happen this time. The Spartans have plenty of talent even with guards Chris Allen and Korie Lucious booted from the program for being, well, knuckleheads. But they don’t play like Tom Izzo teams of old. He points to poor shooting, which is true. They also might have had their confidence shaken from too many losses during too tough a non-conference schedule.

That, too, is conjecture.

From IU’s perspective, who cares? It just needs another win and Michigan State is vulnerable. It would be better if this game was at Assembly Hall, where the Hoosiers (11-10 could tap into the fan frenzy that helped make last Thursday night so special, but they don’t get the chance. This is the only regular season meeting and it comes at the Breslin Center, which means having to face the Spartans’ rowdy student section and a two-decade run of failure there.

As a former Spartant assistant coach under Izzo, Indiana coach Tom Crean is well aware of Breslin’s intimidating atmosphere.

“It will be as tough an atmosphere as there is in the country,” he said in a university release. “We’ve got to get up there and shut out everything as much as we can, except having conversations with one another. It’s not like you’re going to ignore (the crowd noise), but you have to do your best to work through it.”

Struggling or not, Michigan State still poses a major challenge with its rugged play, rebounding excellence and push-the-pace style.

“They are a tough and fast team that hits the offensive boards as well as anyone we will see,” Crean said. “With their speed, we will have to be at our best with our transition defense. We are going to have to have a rebounding mentality.”

The Illinois victory still resonates with IU, especially with the way it played in crunch time after a season of late-game fades. That will boost Hoosier prospects.

“We have been very focused,” Crean said. “I like our energy. You can talk as much as you want about what you need to do to close games, but no words can replace the experience of doing it.”

Don’t expect guard Verdell Jones to play. He figures to miss his third straight game with a knee injury. All Crean would say was, “He is making progress and we will see how things are after we travel.”

What -- you were expecting the secret of eternal youth?

Losing Jones means losing his 12.9 points, but IU has the firepower to make up for that. Sure, you probably know that Christian Watford averages 16.8 points and Jordan Hulls averages 10.5 points. Did also know that six players (Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Derek Elston, Will Sheehey, Tom Pritchard and Bobby Capobianco) shoot at least 50 percent from the field.

Granted, Pritchard and Capobianco average only a combined 3.2 points, but that misses the point that Crean’s drive heavy offense works.

“That shows me we don’t take bad shots that aren’t in the rhythm of what we do,” Crean said. “We will have to be smart and patient and get the best opportunity each possession.”

They also have to defend like their scholarships depend on it. You don’t need conjecture, or the ability to conjure, to figure that out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Do Real Hoosiers Cry? You Bet, And For Good Reason

Admit it. Did you tear up a little when Indiana stunned Illinois, when it finally won a big-time game against a ranked opponent?

Yes, the Hoosiers did upset Pitt last year in New York City as part of the Jimmy V Classic, but the Panthers weren’t ranked at the time. The Illini were ranked Thursday night, at No. 20. They came in with as much talent as anybody in the Big Ten not wearing Ohio State jerseys.

No matter. IU won and the victory has the makings of a season changer. Make that a program changer. The big key -- maintaining the consistent excellence and toughness that made it happen.

The cynical will dismiss this because that is their nature. And, with all the losing and bone-headed hires Indiana has seen lately, cynicism is understandable. Just don't bring down those who, at last, have hope again that a turnaround is coming.

Indiana won the old-fashioned way -- with tenacious defense and timely plays, including a game-winning basket from Tom Pritchard, the guy who seemingly had forgotten how to score. Maybe this basket enables him to resurrect his freshman form, when he seemed a player on the rise with a solid offensive future.

“We had to be on top of every facet of the game,” coach Tom Crean said. “We have to be good offensively. We had to be good defensively. We had to be good at timeouts. We had to be good in transition. We got better at rebounding.”

Hey, did you notice that the Hoosiers were 11-for-11 from the free throw line? They haven’t been perfect there since going 7-for-7 against Ohio State on Feb. 10, 2008.

Crean was so pumped he was celebrating with fans in Assembly Hall’s South Lobby after the game. Why not? His last win over a ranked team had come while he was at Marquette. It was an 89-79 victory over No. 14 Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament.

The Hoosiers can relate. Their last victory over a ranked team came on Feb. 19, 2008, when they beat No. 14 Purdue 77-68 in Assembly Hall. They were ranked No. 15 and coached by He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

The last time an unranked IU team beat a ranked squad came on Jan. 31, 2007, when it upset No. 2 Wisconsin 71-66 in Assembly Hall.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Hoosiers will get another upset chance Sunday when they play at No. 25 Michigan State.

Make that soon-to-be-ex-No.-25 Michigan State.

After Iowa, everybody seemed to be calling out the Hoosiers. That’s part of the major college sports deal. There’s a lot of passion, a lot of caring. When you win, it’s wonderful. When you lose, it stinks.

Right about now around the basketball program it smells like a brand new Ferarri, not that we know what a brand new (or even an old) Ferarri smells like.

Christian Watford understands the passion. He’s played under it for nearly two years and faced the criticism from his own coach and others -- that his effort doesn’t always match his talent. In the end, the best motivation comes from within and your own buring desire. It’s not a fear of failure, but a hatred of losing so that you’ll do everything within the rules (sportsmanship matters) to win.

In fact, that’s exactly how IU beat Illinois. Sure, the Illini have not played to their talent level, mostly because they play soft. That’s a style the Hoosiers have been familiar with this season.

But not against Illinois. On that magical night (remember when Assembly Hall magic was the norm and not the exception?) Indiana played with passion and fire and toughness. It was a bruising, physical game and the Hoosiers thrived in it.

In the end, they were rewarded for it.

“All the hard work you do and all the competing pays off,” Watford says. “This is what we’ve been working for. We finally put it together. It gives us a lot of confidence.”

Confidence is crucial for a program trying to learn how to win again. The fact the Hoosiers handled the end-of-game heat, while the more experienced Illini did not, bodes well for the future.

“Being able to make those kind of plays in crunch time is going to be big for us,” guard Jordan Hulls said. “We’re looking forward to doing that in the future.”

The future starts Sunday.

“We know Michigan State will be tough,” Watford says, “especially after losing to Michigan.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

IU Finds Basketball Glory; Rivers Is No Batman

Jeremiah Rivers knew he wasn’t Batman. This was a good thing although he admitted that he wouldn’t actually MIND being Batman. The crime fighter does have cool gadgets, a cool cape and a knack for saving the world.

Still, being an Indiana Hoosier is good enough these days, and oh how happy these next couple of days will be. IU has finally beaten a ranked team. It stunned No. 20 Illinois 52-49 Thursday night and if the score had a dead-ball era feel to it, nobody is complaining. Heck, this hasn’t happened in Cream ‘n Crimson circles since Kelvin Sampson was the coach back in 2008 and his soon-to-be-imploding Hoosiers upset a ranked Purdue squad in Assembly Hall.

No wonder students stormed the court in a post-game celebration that made you remember a Cream ‘n Crimson era when nobody stormed this court because big wins were commonplace.

They haven’t been for a while, although coach Tom Crean insists that will change. Given what IU just did, you have to believe him.

In the meantime consider Rivers. The senior guard has become a defensive specialist. His role is not to run the offense or score much. He’s basically an offensive facilitator whose main job is to lock down the opposing team’s best offensive threat unless that threat is named Jared Sullinger, the Ohio State super freshman center who already has won more Big Ten freshman and player of the week awards than most universities do in a decade.

Anyway, Rivers drew the Illini’s Demetri McCamey who, until Thursday night, had the look of the Big Ten’s best point guard. Rivers turned him into Mr. Irrelevant. McCamey scored just six points (nine below his team-leading average) on 2-for-11 shooting. McCamey had three assists and five turnovers.

Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Rivers was not available when Illinois had its last chance to force overtime. Why? Because he was knocked silly by a screen while trying to guard McCamey. Rivers staggered to the sideline as if he had blindsided by a James Harrison knockout tackle. Harrison, for those not into NFL thrills, is the oft-fined (and very unfairly fined) linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers known for his concussive hits.

Rivers was fine after the game. He knew his name; knew he was not Batman; understood the significance of the victory.

“I just got rocked and for a few minutes I was dizzy,” he said. “I was seeing double. I prayed for it not to be a concussion. I prayed I could regain focus.

“I was guarding McCamey full court. They hadn’t set a screen like that all game. I was surprised.”

Rivers’ huge role in the upset was only partially reflected in a stat line in which he totaled two points, a team-leading six rebounds, three assists, two turnovers and three steals in 32 minutes.

“That was the epitome of what Jeremiah Rivers is all about,” Crean said. “He’s not about stats. You put his speed and strength and toughness with that mindset, a lot of good things can happen.”

A lot of good things did happen Thursday night for an 11-10 team that seemed poised for another winter meltdown in the seemingly never-ending quest to restore the program’s glory.

IU won for a lot of reasons and perhaps the main one is that it followed Crean’s main instruction almost to perfection:

“Let’s be locked in and locked down.”

And so the Hoosiers won and it was significant. It could even be season saving.


These guys played some solid defense. The key is to make it a habit, and the first place to start is Sunday at suddenly reeling Michigan State. The Spartans are as vulnerable as they’ve ever been under Tom Izzo. Indiana has a chance in the Breslin Center where they haven't won since George Bush the elder (thanks to the reader for the help!) was president.

We’ll address that more in a future blog.

Anyway, crunch time execution is a marvelous thing when done right. It’s agony when screwed up.

Indiana had spent most of the season messing it up. On Thursday night, it forced Illinois to mess up. Leading the Illini wrong way was center Mike Tisdale, whose crucial turnover happened on a really bad pass with 16 seconds left and IU clinging to a one-point lead.

This could be a turning point -- if the Hoosiers sustain and improve on this performance. There are five home games remaining (Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin) and IU has a shot to win at least three of them if it keeps playing like this. Maybe it wins at Michigan since it’s already beaten the Wolverines at Assembly Hall. Maybe it wins at Michigan State.


“This gives us some confidence we can do it (play defense) against high-level teams,” Crean said.

If they do, anything is possible, even Rivers thriving as Batman.

Yeah, we know. Work with us here.


You might have noticed the tremendous improvement in the look and the design of this blog. Yes, after a year of torturing readers with our own unique design talent, which ranks on par with our inability to swim and dunk baskets, we have gone cutting edge. Credit goes to Aaron Hockemeyer, an award-winning Fort Wayne web designer, a graduate of IPFW and a “lifelong Hoosier.” He has the expertise to make this blog, or any web site, eye catching, visually appealing and something you can’t help but be drawn to.

For this we say a huge thanks.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Seeing Red -- Indiana Hopes To Stun Illinois

The theme is red. Not crimson. Red. Keep that in mind. Indiana wants Assembly Hall glowing in red tonight (as in fans dressing in red), much like Illinois’ Assembly Hall glows in orange.

The Illini roll into town with plenty of talent and if they haven’t always played to the level of that talent (they’re 14-6 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten), that doesn’t mean they won’t.

The Hoosiers (10-10, 1-6) want to make sure it doesn’t happen to them.

First, coach Tom Crean needed to ratchet up the intensity. He wanted to make sure the effort level that proved so costly at Iowa wasn’t duplicated. Now there are no sure things in sports, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try and Crean is, if nothing else, a coach who tries very, very hard. No coach in America works as hard on the sidelines, and he’s trying to develop a program that surpasses his energy and passion.

So that means more full-throttle practices. Crean increased the intensity this week and we’ll see tonight if it pays off.

“We’ve had a couple of good days to be able to get our legs back underneath us and have some standard-setting-kind of practices that we needed to have again” he said. “It wasn’t like we were having bad practices at all, but it’s always important when you come off a situation where you didn’t play nearly as well as you could have, but it’s not coach-driven, that it’s player driven. We’re starting to grow into that.”

Crean has seen signs of this in the past, only to have the Hoosiers revert to substandard play. Is he worried it will happen again?

“I don’t worry in the sense that when we bring our practice to the court, we have a chance against everybody and we’re going to play pretty well in the way that they’re competing. We just have to learn to be consistent.”

Consistency will have to come without Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones, who are still out with injuries. Creek is out and Crean would only say about Jones that he’s making progress and working with the medical staff every day.

As far as the rest:

“A lot of things have to go right for us right now," Crean said. "When you take people out of the lineup like we did the other day, you’ve got to make your open shots. You’ve got to get to the foul line. Our transition defense and our one-on-one defense, especially straight-line drives, were very poor. We regressed in that area and we’ve certainly tried to focus on that the last few days.”

IU will need all the focus it can get against Illinois and its dynamic point guard, Demetri McCamey. He averages better than 15 points a game. He has almost a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. What does that mean? McCamey just might be the Big Ten’s best point guard, although he’ll get arguments from, say, Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.

“He won’t be denied,” Crean said. “I think that’s probably the best thing. He plays the game a lot of different ways. It certainly looks to me that he’s as excited by the pass as he is the shot. When he gets in the mode that he’s not going to be denied, whether it’s running the offense, getting to the basket in ball screens, getting to the basket in a one-four low, he is extremely hard to guard.

“The thing they’re doing so much more that’s different even from last year is they’ve got three guys in transition who are constantly baseline screening. They’re running a double-screen basically on the baseline so (McCamey) can get right into that high pick and roll and create a lot of havoc with that.”

IU doesn’t need havoc.

What does it need?

You know that answer. A victory. Specifically, a victory over a quality opponent. Last year the Hoosiers beat Pitt. This year IU's best win is over Michigan, which isn't saying much.

If the Hoosiers can upset a top-25 team, as Illinois is, then maybe a turnaround is closer than people think.

And then the red light at Cook Hall will reason have a reason to glow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Indiana Basketball’s “Fugitive” Defense; Brewer Looking Good

To understand the mood of Hoosier Nation in the wake of IU’s basketball demolition against Iowa, and losses in eight of the last nine games, let’s turn, for just a second, to the movie, “The Fugitive.”

Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones starred. Jones, in fact, won an Academy Award for his role as a federal marshal trying to track down Ford, who played a doctor (Richard Kimble) wrongly accused of murdering his wife.

Ford escapes from jail and tries to find the real killer of his wife, a one-armed man. At one point Ford and Jones briefly meet. Ford tries to explain to him that he is innocent and didn’t kill his wife.

“I don’t care,” Jones said.

And so we have the mood that more and more dominates Hoosier fans. They know about all the problems and sanctions from the Kelvin Sampson era. They understand the program had to be gutted and rebuilt from scratch. They recognize the bad luck and injuries that have staggered the team over the last 13 months.

More and more, they don’t care.

They want to see victories, improvement, hope.

Three straight years of unprecedented losing can do that to people.

Guard Maurice Creek has had two knee surgeries in the span and is likely out for the season. That’s turned a guy who once had All-Big Ten potential into a spectator. Seven-foot center Guy-Marc Michel, a junior college shot-blocking transfer, was ruled permanently ineligible for professional issues stemming from his time in France. He was brought in to be the strong inside presence the Hoosiers lacked. Without him, the inside game is, well, weak.

Now, guard Verdell Jones, an all-conference-caliber scorer, is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

This would be enough to rock an established program, let alone one that is still trying to get there. Plus, the Hoosiers are trying to win in what looms as the nation’s strongest conference, although the Big East makes a strong argument for that honor.

Here’s the truth -- IU was struggling even with Creek and Jones. Why? Because of bad defense, particularly inside. Coach Tom Crean made defense a major point of emphasis in practice before the season. The Hoosiers have continued to emphasize it. Occasionally, such as against Michigan and Wisconsin, it pays off. Mostly, though, it remains a disaster.

Why? That’s hard to say given practices are closed. Maybe the Hoosiers just don’t get it. Maybe the defenses (IU mixes man and zone) are too complicated for them. Maybe Crean isn’t pushing the right buttons or teaching it well enough. Or, maybe, the players are just lousy on defense and the second coming of Bob Knight and John Wooden couldn’t get through to them

The bottom -- or so we can hope -- arrived in last Sunday’s loss at Iowa. The Hawkeyes, a lousy offensive team, basically scored 30 more points than their average against IU. They dominated physically. They were tougher, stronger and meaner.

The Hoosiers submitted and whether it was because of injury, ineligibility, inexperience, road woes (see Purdue at Ohio State for how bad that can get) or confusion over what is their real astrological sign, nobody cares. Fans just want to win. Forget about getting back to the championship glory days for right now. There’s a yearning for a few more victories to feel good about the program and to get a sense that, yes, it is moving in the right direction.

As we said before, Thursday against Illinois would be the perfect time to start.


Don’t be surprised if former IU offensive lineman James Brewer ends up going in the first couple of rounds in April’s NFL Draft.

Brewer is in Mobile, Ala., practicing for the upcoming Senior Bowl. A ton of NFL scouts are there and, according to, Brewer is looking very strong. That’s not surprising. They guy is like 6-7 and well over 300 pounds. He was, by far, the Hoosiers’ best offensive lineman last season.

Anyway, here is what SI (that’s Sports Illustrated in case you didn’t know) had to say about Brewer:

“Brewer pulled off a dominant performance on the first day of Senior Bowl practice and quickly established himself as the best blocker at the event. He looked big and powerful during morning weigh-ins then played that way in the afternoon. Brewer moves well on his feet and also annihilates opponents once he got his hands on them. He was never beat today and drew praise from coaches on a number of occasions."

If this is true, and if the NFL avoids a lockout (a big if), Brewer could be a wealthy young man in a couple of months.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Best Thing For Indiana Basketball -- Beat Illinois

In the last couple of weeks IU has lost Verdell Jones and Maurice Creek to injury, and you’d better believe it hurts. It cost the Hoosiers 20 points and five rebounds a game.

Those are just numbers. But it’s so much more than that.

Creek we’ve known about for a while. He recently had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right patella and is almost certainly done for the season.

Jones was a surprise. He didn’t dress Sunday at Iowa because of swelling in his knee. In terms of what happened, coach Tom Crean addressed it during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference.

“We think it might have started bothering him a little in the Michigan game (on Jan. 15), but it wasn’t anything that stopped him from playing at a high level,” Crean said. “Thursday morning, he tweaked it a little bit, but he played through it, and it started to bother him more in the Wisconsin game. I’m not sure if he got bumped or hit it during the game, but you could tell it was different, especially in the second half.

“He was moving a little more gingerly in the second half, even though he continued to play at a pretty high level. Friday, we didn’t practice him, even though we really didn’t practice as much as we walked through. He went through that, but then we determined with the swelling that we probably needed to have an MRI.

“Saturday was the day that we pretty much knew he was not going to be available to us on Sunday.

“It really is one of those situations right now that we’re just going to have to wait and see. There’s really not a timeline on it. He’s going to rehabilitate as much as possible. They’ll continue to treat it and we’re in an indefinite period.”

How much did not having Jones against Iowa hurt? Well, the Hoosiers did score 77 points, which is more than their season average. But as a junior and a three-year starter, Jones provides on-court leadership that would have helped on the road.

“(Against Iowa) it showed that we didn’t have Verdell’s leadership,” Crean said. “We missed his basketball abilities. There’s no doubt about that. But we really, really missed the fact that his leadership wasn’t there.”

IU’s biggest problem at Iowa was lousy defense. The Hawkeyes scored almost 30 points more than their season average in beating the Hoosiers 91-77. We want to be diplomatic here, but Jones is not a defensive stopper. He will not be remembered for his shut-down-the-other-guy ability. Not having him is not the same as, say, Purdue not having Chris Kramer last season.

Crean said the Hoosiers played “soft” and “that can’t happen.”

He’s right, but the fact remains that it did, had happened before and almost certainly will again. Crean has mentioned that IU has worked on defense from Day One and to still sometimes look so bad while trying to play it is, well, very disappointing. The Hoosiers have put in too much time and energy into defense to play it so poorly, not matter who is hurt.

Still, and we can’t say this firmly enough, it is going to get better. Crean will turn things around. But it really, really needs to be sooner rather than later. Otherwise it will start getting ugly.

We’ve seen what happens when ugly and Indiana mix. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t good. And the best cure, really the only cure, is to start winning. After a while, nobody cares about who’s hurt, who’s young and how bad a coaching choice Kelvin Sampson was.

People just want to win -- period.

Thursday against Illinois would be a great place to start.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

For Indiana, It's Basketball Blues, Football News

Let’s face it. Next season can’t come soon enough for Indiana basketball.

By then Maurice Creek might be fully healthy, the Hoosiers might finally figure out how to play consistent defense and Cody Zeller will be around to help ignite a program turnaround.

For now, though, we have to endure another train wreck of a season.

The Hoosiers lost to a bad Iowa team, 91-77 on Sunday, to move into a last-place tie with the Hawkeyes and Michigan. The defense reverted to its earlier why bother ways. Verdell Jones has an inflamed knee, missed the game and no one knows when he might return. Jordan Hulls was sick and throwing up before the game, which explains why a guy shooting 57 percent from the field and 51.4 percent from three-point range would go 1-for-8 and 1-for-5.

This drops Indiana to 10-10 overall and 1-6 in the Big Ten. It can’t win on the road (14 straight losses). It can’t make crunch-time plays.

Let’s not kid ourselves. This is a bad basketball team. It might win two more games the rest of the season, even if Jones returns along with his 12.9 scoring average.

It might.

You’d like to think that at least the Hoosiers would be showing improvement that would suggest a brighter future and there are signs of that. They did beat Michigan. They did push a very good Wisconsin team hard.

Even at Iowa, there were positives. Forward Christian Watford scored a career-high 30 points. It’s the most points scored by a Hoosier since Creek had 31 against Kentucky last season. Watford also was 7-for-7 from the line.

Coach Tom Crean wasn’t happy with Watford’s defense, but when your team gives up 91 points to one of the Big Ten’s poorest scoring teams, you’re not going to be happy about anything.

Forward Derek Elston had 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for his first career double-double.

Guard Matt Roth came off the bench for 14 points and three assists.

Still, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Now the schedule really gets brutal. It plays three top-25 teams in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan State, hosts Iowa, and then travels to No. 12 Purdue.

Yeah, it could get ugly. Like we said, next season can’t come soon enough.


Indiana is down to 15 football verball commitments now that four-star defensive back Raymon Taylor has dropped the Hoosiers and committed to Michigan and new coach Brady Hoke.

Taylor told the Detroit Nets that he was swayed while making an official visit that included standout quarterback Denard Robinson.

Taylor had originally committed to IU, then backed off when Bill Lynch was fired. He was set to go to Michigan, then backed off when Rich Rodriguez was fired.

At least the Hoosiers still have one four-star recruit holding firm on his commitment: linebacker Zach Shaw of Ohio.

In the meantime, new coach Kevin Wilson is pushing hard to complete a class he hopes is a mix of instant-impact guys plus players with big upsides. For instance, there’s 6-7, 275-pound offensive tackle Mike McQueen of Ohio. He played football as a freshman, skipped the new two years and then played last season. He’s big and athletic and has the kind of potential a staff can develop.

A staff like, say, Indiana’s.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Iowa Gives IU Best Road Win Opportunity

If statistics mean anything, this is Indiana’s best chance to win a road game until next season.

Iowa is last in the Big Ten with a 0-6 record. It is only 5-5 at home, just 7-11 overall. It has a new coach (Fran McCaffery) and a new system that is year or two away from clicking.

The Hoosiers (10-9, 1-5), meanwhile, pushed Wisconsin hard at the Kohl Center on Thursday night. That must might be the Big Ten’s toughest place to play. If they can do that, they can win this game.

Will they? Given the fact they are just 1-23 on the road under coach Tom Crean, and have lost seven of their last eight games, the odds are not favorable.

But today’s game isn’t about odds. It’s about performance and execution and doing what needs to be done, especially at crunch time, which has become this team’s biggest Achilles heel.

So what’s it going to take? Here are some of Crean’s thoughts as supplied by the sports information staff:

“(This) is an opportunity for our team to get better. I think each week during the Big Ten season we have taken steps, but we certainly are by no means a finished product. I’m sure Iowa will be ready to play in front of their home crowd.”

Iowa is led by guards Matt Gatens (13.2 points), Bryce Cartwright (10.9) and Eric May (10.3). The Hoosiers can’t let them get into a rhythm and play in their comfort zone. They need to do exactly what they did to Wisconsin -- jump to an early lead. Then they need to do what they failed to do against Wisconsin, throttle with second-half defense.

“I think our mindset is improving,” Crean said, “and we have a better understanding that the effort we put forth on defense will translate into better opportunities on offense. I like our aggressive approach. We can’t settle for quick shots unless they are high percentage. We know Iowa wants to get out in transition. We can’t allow them easy opportunities off of our missed shots.”

Iowa beat the Hoosiers last year. Crean hasn’t forgotten.

“Last year Iowa opposed their will on us physically as well as any team we played. We cannot allow that to happen. Our intensity and concentration has to be at its best.”


A reader commented that quarterback Dusty Kiel is more than a drop-back quarterback and had the high school stats to prove it. We checked and he’s right.

As a senior at Columbus East in Indiana, he threw for 3,172 yards and 35 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,126 yards and 14 touchdowns, and averaged 7.3 yards a carry.

Edward Baker-Wright, by comparison, threw for 1,757 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior at Jeffersonville in Indiana. He rushed for 850 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Look for some intense spring competition between the two.

Indiana Football: Quarterback Battle and Recruiting Drama

Here’s a shock -- Kevin Wilson wants to win right away. He wants a winning record and bowl appearance next season. A lot of things have to happen to do that, but the No. 1 thing is finding a Big Ten-caliber quarterback.

Ben Chappell and his record-setting accuracy are gone. IU has a pair of inexperienced guys in Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel (pictured). Wright-Baker is a dual-threat quarterback. Kiel is a drop-back player.

The Hoosiers also are bringing in Indiana Mr. Football Tre Roberson, a dual-threat quarterback from Indianapolis.

Rod Smith (pictured) is the new quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator. He’s from the spread offense of Rich Rodriguez, working with him at West Virginia and Michigan. He’s coached a couple of outstanding dual-threat guys in Pat White of West Virginia and Denard Robinson of Michigan.

Is a dual-threat quarterback crucial to Indiana’s offensive hopes?

“You like them, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “You use what you have in your arsenal. We have the ability to mold the offense to the quarterback. We’ve said that everywhere we’ve been. We’ve been fortunate to have dual-threat guys. If we have it here, we’ll do it. If we have more of a drop-back guy, we’ll fit the offense around him and fit his strengths.”

Moving forward, what does Smith look for as he recruits quarterbacks?

“I want a kid who is accurate, tough and smart. A kid who is a winner. Then when you get around him, can you tell if he’s a leader? A lot of things go into it. Everybody has their different philosophies on how that guy can mold into your offense. That’s what it is – lot of time our offense is quarterback centered.”

What does that mean for next season? It’s going to be an awfully interesting spring and August camp.


Recruiting drama has hit the football program. Why? Because new coach Kevin Wilson and his staff have apparently decided that some of the high school players who committed to Indiana under former coach Bill Lynch aren’t good fits for the Hoosiers’ new offensive and defensive schemes.

This isn’t a shock. It happens all the time when a new coach with a new philosophy arrives. The problem comes because IU athletic director Fred Glass had earlier said all scholarship offers would be honored.

According to a story by Dustin Dopirak of the Bloomington Herald Times, defensive tackle Shafer Johnson said Wilson told him his scholarship offer was being pulled. The story also mentioned defensive tackle Donte Phillips and offensive tackle Jalen Schlachter as possibly having their scholarship offers pulled.

Glass told Dopirak that it was a misunderstanding. The scholarship offers still stand.

So what does this mean? Wilson wants the best players for his system and has probably identified some, but lacks the scholarships to make them offers. He also believes some of the committed recruits won’t cut it in his program. Better to cut them loose now rather than waste scholarships on them.

However, this is tough on the recruits who believed they were wanted and needed, and now have to scramble to find another school. With signing day almost here, most college programs have already locked up their classes.

In the end, Wilson might have to take some of these players. If so, they’ll get a chance to prove him wrong; that they can thrive in his system.

The bottom line -- Wilson was hired to win, and he needs quality players to do it. And if that means some returning players also will have to move on, well, the buzz is some veterans can’t handle Wilson’s new, rigorous conditioning program. They’ve quit, which is freeing up more scholarships.

That, too, is typical. The sooner all this settles, the sooner Wilson can get the players in place to do what he needs to do. He means business. So does his staff. They’re here to turn the program around ASAP and sometimes that means playing hardball.

Nobody said this was going to be nice and easy.


If Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel is right, IU is in good shape with Wilson. Mandel gave IU an "A" for hiring Wilson. Only one other hire got an "A" out of the 21coaching changes at the major college level.

Mandel said Wilson "brings the experience of having spent the past nine years working for a perennial BCS contender (Oklahoma). He has Big Ten and Midwest familiarity from his time at Northwestern and Miami (Ohio). And he's an acclaimed offensive coordinator who will maximize Indiana's underrated skill talent."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shoot Or Else – Hulls Hurts Badgers, IU Can’t Beat Them

It’s time for Jordan Hulls to be on a shoot-or-else leash. The guy is too accurate to be deferring. Yes, he’s a point guard, which means he’s supposed to run the offense and get the ball to the scorers.

The problem is, though, he just might be the best scorer. Christian Watford and Verdell Jones have higher averages, but that’s just because they shoot more.

In Thursday’s 69-60 loss at No. 18 Wisconsin, Hulls scored 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting, 2-for-4 on three-pointers. That’s no surprise. He shoots over 50 percent from the field and from beyond the three-point arc.

Coach Tom Crean wants Hulls to be more offensively aggressive. Hulls understands, but he also wants to get other players involved. So sometimes, he just disappears as far as scoring.

Against Wisconsin, he scored 10 of Indiana’s first 14 points, then didn’t score again until the second half.

That can’t happen.

To be fair, it was a season-high in shot attempts for Hulls. He hadn’t taken more than nine attempts in any game. The seven baskets were also a season high.

Still, he ought to take at least 15 shots a game. Make it a condition for starting. Granted, Hulls can’t launch bombs all over the court or without regard to the offense, but he has to be more aggressive.

Hulls has scored in double figures in seven straight games, averaging 13.3 points in that stretch. He averages 10.3 points for the season.

Anyway, the Hoosiers (10-9 overall, 1-5 in the Big Ten) gave the Badgers (14-4, 4-2) all they wanted. They jumped to leads as large as eight points, moved the ball well, shot well (51.0 percent), battled to a rebounding draw (26 to 26) and only committed seven turnovers on the road.

They seemed to play decent defense, but Wisconsin still shot 49 percent from the field. They had no answer for guard Jordan Taylor (28 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and forward John Leuer (20 points), but that’s true for most teams.

It’s been nine years since Indiana beat a ranked team on the road. That’s another indication of how far the program has fallen, and it started during the Mike Davis era. The Hoosiers also are 1-23 on the road under Crean.

But you know what, you can see they’re getting closer. Yeah, this has been a season-long pattern. Play well enough to be competitive, but don’t make the crucial crunch-time plays to make a difference. This time Indiana missed five straight shots and committed two turnovers down the stretch to give Wisconsin the cushion it needed.

Still, it suggests better days are coming. Remember, IU has done this without 7-foot center Guy-Marc Michel, who will never be confused with Bill Walton, but who would have provided a solid inside defensive presence. It also didn’t have Maurice Creek, who underwent surgery to fix a stress fracture in his right patella. It likely won’t have him back until next season.

Another the Hoosiers who will make up Creek’s 8.3 scoring average is Jones. He had 15 points against Wisconsin and became the 42nd player in IU history to surpass 1,000 career points.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No Looking Back -- Creek Ready For New Role

Feel sorry for himself? Maurice Creek has no time for such nonsense. He has knee surgery to undergo (set for this afternoon), rehab work to complete and a team to help inspire.

In fact, it’s already started.

Once Creek and trainer Tim Garl broke the news to the players that the stress fracture to Creek’s right patella (kneecap) would require season-ending surgery, he went from player to motivator. The goal -- get the Hoosiers to continue the form that helped them beat Michigan last Saturday.

“We need to play strong and stay together,” Creek said. “We have to play these games like they’re our last games. You never know what can happen. Unfortunately another injury has happened to me. But we can play with the energy and fire we played with in the Michigan game. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Tonight might not be the best time to test that. IU plays at Wisconsin, which is almost invincible at the Kohl Center. But for a moment that takes second billing to Creek’s latest bit of bad luck.

Here’s a flash from Crean -- this latest injury will not, repeat, will not, rob Creek of his NBA potential.

“Nobody feels he won’t be able to come back,” he said. “I’ve challenged everybody make sure his right leg can stay longer.”

Crean said he believes that if Creek hadn’t gotten hurt last season (he was the nation’s top freshman scorer at 16.4 points) or this year, he would likely have been positioning himself to leave after this season for the NBA.

That won’t happen now, but it might some day.

“My desire is still there,” Creek said. “That’s my goal, to get to the next level. Whatever it takes, that’s what I’m going to do.”

For now, that’s a back-burner issue. The important thing is getting Creek back to full health.

“With surgery and rehab we know we have to do everything we can to get him back that much quicker than before, mentally and no just physically,” Crean said. “He’s prepared to have surgery and then the hard part will kick in. We’ll help every step of the way.”

Crean was adamant that this injury was less severe than last year.

“It’s not the same severity,” he said. “The MRIs are completely different. The injury is completely different. The knee didn’t start to swell until Sunday afternoon. It’s not close to what he had to deal with before.”

Last year’s fractured kneecap required totally immobilization that resulted in severe muscle atrophy. Creek struggled with the grueling rehabilitation and the nagging doubt that he’d re-injure the knee. Crean said they’d been dealing with that fear issue, which is why he held a Friday night extra session for Creek.

“It was like, we’re going to bulldoze this. No more worrying about things. We’ve got to get this guy back. He has so much talent. We have to push him through this. He was shooting at such a high level. To me it was like, it was right there.”

And then it wasn’t.

Some have suggested that Creek should have been redshirted or shouldn’t have been put back into the Michigan game, even if it was only for a few seconds.

But that’s not what the facts warranted. Creek’s left knee was healthy, although loss of leg strength remained a problem. He seemed fine. There was no way to foresee this injury.

“We have an incredible medical team,” Crean said. “I don’t second guess a thing.”

That’s a moot point for Creek.

“I’m trying to get both knees strong. I want to be 100 percent in both legs. I’ve got trainers to do that. I’ve got a lot of time ahead of me.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting Strong – Indiana’s Hill Making Changes to Suit Fast Football

Mark Hill didn’t take the Indiana football strength and conditioning job to ease into things. He’s here to blast the Hoosiers out of the limbo they were in between Bill Lynch’s firing and Kevin Wilson’s hiring. Wilson hand picked him -- sending Mark Watseka to more of an administrative role while handling the Olympic sports -- to produce a program in line with his uptempo approach.

“I would take over football like (Je’Ney Jackson) took over basketball,” Hill says. “He’s totally in charge of them. I’m totally in charge of football.”

Hill worked with Wilson at Oklahoma, then refined his approach at Minnesota and Arizona. He joined the Hoosiers on Jan. 7 and immediately went to work.

“It’s not an ease-in process,”he said. “We have to change things to fit the style of program that I run. The style that Coach wants is what I do.”

What does Hill do?

“It’s about conditioning and nutrition,” he said. “Guys have to be in top condition. We start with nutrition and work our way up. Guys will lift and get bigger and stronger. We’re about training football players to be better football players. We want our skill guys to be fast. We train for speed and explosiveness. We want our linemen to be big, strong, but agile. Everybody has to be in shape.”

Wilson prefers a no-huddle, uptempo offense that can wear out defenses. That means everybody on offense, even the 300-pound linemen, have to handle that pace. The same is true with what will be an attacking defense under Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler.

“Our offensive guys have to be in optimial shape to do that,” Hill said. “Coach Mallory and Coach Ekeler will bring hard-hitting, flying-around defense. There will be a lot of pursuit to the ball, so guys will have to be in shape to run all day and play quality defense.”

IU brought in a nutrional consultant and dietician last week to talk to players about eating right.

“We’re showing them the fundamental elements that will help them succeed and get their bodies right,” Hill said. “They got their body fat and body comp tested. A lot of them weren’t as happy after that as they were when they walked into the room because there’s some realization there. There’s also a goal. The sky is the limit. This is where we’re at, but this is where we’re going to be.

“I talked to them about how to get there. I know how to get guys there. When they get to the point where they’re eating right and their bodies are transforming, it will help them on the field to be better players.”

The transition from Lynch to Wilson, plus the fact IU didn’t make a goal game, affected the returning players’ workout program.

“We didn’t go to a bowl game and it had been a while since we’d had a structured workout,” Hill said. “Voluntary workouts without a strength coach are different that ones with one.

“I have noticed a lot of guys coming in on their own, but Coach Wilson let them know it will be vastly different than what they’re used to. It’s not a knock on the past. We’re all different. But there will be an acclimatio period. It won’t be easy. We’ll get through it and get better. Guys will buy in quick and it will help them in the long run.”

IU’s new facilities, which includes the largest college weight room in the country, makes Hill’s job easier.

“These facilities are top of the line,” he said. “There’s nothing where you have to say, I need this to get better. We have everything we need.”

Hill was once a standout receiver at Tennessee-Chattanooga and if you think that limits him from working with, say, linemen, think again.

“My philosophy is high energy, developing the whole player and athlete, and training football players.

“Am I big on lifting? Absolutely. Am I big on conditioning? Absolutely. I stress speed and training and core training and nutrition. I get guys ready to go on every level. I don’t specialize in one positon. Just because I played wide receiver doesn’t mean I’m only good with skill players. My staff is high energy. We bring an unbelievable passion to the program that these guys feed into.”


How long will Maurice Creek be sidelined? Is it for a couple weeks, a month or the rest of the basketball season?

Nothing is sure except that coach Tom Crean has tweeted on his Twitter account that Creek, a sophomore guard, will have surgery on Thursday to repair the stress fracture in his right patella. Given that these type of stress fractors usually don’t need surgery to heal, given that Creek fractured his left patella (kneecap) last year and needed surgery to fix that (and still isn’t all the way back), it’s hard to know what his status is.

Maybe it’s best to focus on the players IU does have available for Thursday night’s very, very, very challenging game at Wisconsin, guys such as Victor Oladipo, Jeremiah Rivers, Matt Roth and Will Sheekey. The Hoosiers haven’t won there since 1998. They’ve never beaten a Bo Ryan team at the Kohl Center. That’s not surprising given that Ryan is 72-6 at home.

But this isn’t about Ryan. It’s about IU playing the kind of consistent defense that will give it a chance to pull off the upset, and then take advantage of that chance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bad Indiana Basketball Break; Sherrill Has Faith; Brewer Goes Bowling

The word came and it sounded like a bad joke. Maybe British bad boy comedian Ricky Gervais had somehow wandered his way into Hoosier Nation trying to spoil the positive vibes from Indiana’s first Big Ten victory as he had the Golden Globes show.

Sadly, it was no joke. Coach Tom Crean announced on his Monday night radio show that Creek, a sophomore guard, was out “indefinitely” with a stress fracture on his right patella (kneecap). He’d missed the entire Big Ten season last year with a fractured left patella.

Creek was hurt near the end of Saturday’s victory over Michigan. He went up for a fast-break layup and landed awkwardly. At the time it didn’t seem serious.

By Monday night, that had all changed.

“You can’t imagine how big a blow it is to him,” Crean said on his radio show. “It’s a tough, tough situation and I hope everyone will think about him and say a prayer for Mo and his family.”

Creek had spent the last 13 months trying to regain the form that made him one of the most explosive players in the country. He’d led all freshmen with a 16.4-point scoring average when he hurt his knee. The injury required surgery and total immobilization of his leg, which caused major muscle atrophy. He likely wouldn’t have regained his explosiveness until next season, and perhaps longer than that.

Now, however, all bets are off. It’s uncertain if Creek will need surgery again or if the knee will heal with rest and rehabilitation.

Creek was averaging 8.3 points. He’d started the first 13 games of the season, but had become a reserve in Big Ten play. Victor Oladipo and Jeremiah Rivers had supplanted him in the starting lineup.

Still, he had scored 12 points at Minnesota while grabbing five rebounds in 24 minutes. He had scored in double figures six times, with a high of 19 against Evansville in December.

But it was obvious he had lost some quickness and explosiveness. Crean had repeatedly said that it would take time for Creek to regain his form.

That was reflected in his accuracy. He was shooting 38.9 percent from the floor and 31.7 percent from three-point range. Those were the worst numbers of any Hoosier seeing significant action. Last year he shot 52.7 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from three-point range.

Still, there were signs that he was getting close to last year’s form.

“This is our guy, and he’s right there,” Crean said during the radio show. “It just felt like it was really, really close to breaking for him.”

Something did break, only it wasn’t what the Hoosiers wanted or expected. In time, this will pass. Perhaps he will still become the player he’d hoped he’d be. It’s just going to take patience and, perhaps, better luck.


Is Indiana’s Faith Sherrill the best shot putter in the world?

The junior is if you look at the early track and field numbers. Sherrill has the top two throws in the world this season. Yes, that season is less than three weeks old, but it’s still impressive. So impressive, in fact, that she’s been named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week for the second straight week.

Sherrill set a Lambert Fieldhouse record with a shotput of 17.92 meters (58-9.5 foot) to lead the Hoosiers over Purdue last Saturday. It’s the second best throw in the world this season behind her throw from the previous week to win the Indiana Open. That throw of 59-0.75 shattered the Big Ten record by 2 ½ feet.

IU track coach Ron Helmer said more records could be in Sherrill’s future.

“Faith has shown that she is a great athlete,” Helmer said in a university release. “It was great to see her respond to raised expectations after her first big throw. If she can continue competing at a high level consistently this season, she has the ability to do special things.”

Indiana, by the way, routed Purdue.


Indiana offensive tackle James Brewer will participate in the 2011 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 29. Brewer was an honorable mention All-Big Ten choice this past season. He started nine games at right tackle and allowed two sacks.

Brewer earlier received IU’s Don Howell Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award, given annually to the team’s top offensive lineman. He started his last 21 games.

Brewer will be one of 12 Big Ten players to play in this annual bowl.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wilson Will Have Big Say In New IU Offense

Is three better than one?

Indiana will put that to the offensive test next football season.

In essence IU will have a tri-offensive coordinator look. Head coach Kevin Wilson will direct things, with Rod Smith and Kevin Johns providing plenty of input. Both are listed as co-coordinators.

If that sounds confusing, well, give it time to sort out. Wilson has basically just wrapped up putting together his new coaching staff, and most of their time is directed toward recruiting. The only position left to fill is running back coach and that announcement could come at any time.

Anyway, what seems like a three offensive coordinator approach is sort of duplicated with the defense having co-coordinators with Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler. That’s a lot of titles, but don’t think it implies a lack of organization. There is, Wilson said, a chain of command.

“I don’t think we’ll be dysfunctional,” he added.

The titles were done as much for resume building as for official duties.

“Some of that’s a little bit for some title,” Wilson said. “It was to get some guys here and for career opportunities. Some days when someone’s not here and we need another leader. There is some chain of command. We’re not all kind of equal.”

Wilson has had an extensive background as an offensive coordinator, highlighted by stops at Northwestern and Oklahoma. At least early on, he’ll be the main offensive coordinator as well as coach the tight ends and all the other duties associated with being the head coach.

“I’ll be a bit more involved with the offense initially just making sure of the logistics and communications,” he said. “Someone’s going to be in charge and offensively starting out it’s going to be me. We’ll delegate who’s going to be a play caller if it’s me or someone else or who’s got final say.”

Wilson enjoys calling plays. When he helped out with Oklahoma’s bowl win over Connecticut earlier this month, he didn’t call the plays and he realized how much he missed it. He’s had experience in calling plays from the sideline and the press box.

“We’ll see how it works,” he said.

No matter what happens, it will be a group coaching effort. Johns also will coach the receivers, a position he held at Northwestern. He previously was a graduate assistant under Wilson at Northwestern. Smith also will coach the quarterbacks, which is what he did at Michigan and West Virginia.

“Kevin is awfully bright,” Wilson said. “He’s a little more like me (offensively) because he’s been around me a little more. Rod has been a coordinator. They’ll both be good.”

On defense, Mallory will start out calling the plays.

“We’re going to work from the back to the front,” Wilson said.

All this sharing of titles and responsibilities could turn into a huge disaster unless all the coaches are on the same page. Wilson said that won’t be a problem.

“They’re all good people. I don’t think there’s a lot of egoes. I think everybody checks that at the door. Hopefully it’s going to be a group that works together and collectively gets better.”

Most of the assistant coaches either worked together or worked in similar systems.

“It took some time to put this together,” Wilson said, “but that was on purpose. There’s a lot of dynamics involved. I wasn’t going to force the issue. I had to wait until some guys played through the bowl scenarios.

“I like the continuity we’ll have. There’s a little Big Ten flavor. There’s some youthfulness. I’m very pleased with the way it came together.”

The staff has another couple of weeks to focus on recruiting before football signing day. In the meantime they’ve begun a new off-season program under new strength and conditioning coach Mark Hill designed to duplicate much of what is done at Oklahoma. The idea is to ratchet up the fitness and intensity to ensure the Hoosies can handle the uptempo offense and aggressive defense they’ll be using.

How will it work?

Will look at that in an upcoming blog.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hope Lives -- Indiana Beats Up Michigan

Are you like us? Did you bet the kids’ college fund that Indiana would beat Michigan thanks to defense?

Okay, we might be stretching the borders of truthfulness about our betting habits -- we don’t bet because losing hurts too much -- but not the fact IU has finally figured out how to win.

Now there is hope.


The Hoosiers are no longer winless in the Big Ten. They have momentum entering their grueling road week, first at Wisconsin (oh no), then at Iowa (looking good).

All thanks to Saturday night’s 80-61 win over Michigan at Assembly Hall.

So where has this defense been all season? Suddenly the Hoosiers were communicating and rotating and, yes, helping. The paint was no longer a visitor-friendly zone. Granted, the Wolverines weren’t Ohio State, but they had nearly upset the No. 2 Buckeyes and No. 3 Kansas in the last week. They had weapons and a three-point happy offense, and the Hoosiers neutralized them.

Okay, maybe Michigan choked on a few layups, but let’s not down play IU’s effort. It swarmed everywhere, disrupting Michigan’s offense into a 36.4-percent shooting mess, 29.2 percent on three-pointers. Given that the Hoosiers had been allowing Big Ten teams to shoot over 50 percent from the field, over 51 percent from three-point range, this is heady stuff.

“Our players understood that it began with what our defensive transition was going to be like because of how well (Michigan) pushes the ball up the court,” coach Tom Crean said. “They did an excellent job with that.”

Suddenly IU is 10-8 and -- yes, we’ll say it -- six wins away from postseason eligibility.

“It was really important because they earned the victory,” Crean said. “We were close in some of the other (games) as of late, especially at Minnesota. We know we squandered a tremendous opportunity at home with Penn State. We didn’t play well last Sunday against Northwestern, and it’s a week to either sit and stew about it, or a week to get better. That’s exactly what we did.

“They were very confident going into the game. I know I was. I told the coaches, if we don’t make defensive mistakes and really get the ball where we think we can get it in this game, obviously you have to make shots, I didn’t feel we were going to lose the game. The players are the ones who carry that out, and they did an excellent job.”

Excellence started with Christian Watford, who had his third double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Verdell Jones had a game-high 24 points on 9-for-10 shooting. Jordan Hulls had 13 points and never missed a shot – he was 4-for-4 from the field, 3-for-3 from three-point range and 2-for-2 from the line.

There was a brief scare when Maurice Creek banged his right knee (not his surgically repaired left knee) after making a layup in the final two minutes. He sat on the floor for a couple of minutes while the medical staff checked him out. He walked off the court with a slight limp, but seemed fine. Coach Tom Crean gave no post-game indication there was a problem.

Michigan gave its best Savvanh State impression. It couldn’t do anything right, mostly because Indiana wouldn’t let it.

“It’s tough on the road playing a team that was very, very hungry,” coach John Beilein said. “Indiana played really well. We couldn’t stop them.”

Maybe thank the students who returned from semester break and brought their rowdy cheers with them. Yes, they might offend a few sensibilities with some of their chants, but you can’t fault their energy.

So what does this mean? Understand the win came against a team that has lost five of its last six games. Michigan (11-7 overall, 1-4 in the Big Ten) is not the second coming of Ohio State, although even the unbeaten Buckeyes are finding themselves on the edge these days. See what Penn State nearly did to them on Saturday.

Still, it’s a reward for all the Hoosiers’ hard work. It offers hope that maybe, just maybe, they are ready for a big roll to really jumpstart the rebuilding effort.

All they need to do to prove it is win Thurday night at Wisconsin.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Say What? A Quiet Crean, Determined Hoosiers Brace For Michigan

Tom Crean kept it terse. Indiana basketball practice was over, game film was about to be watched and the Hoosier coach didn’t have much to say about his team.

Michigan was different. He talked about Michigan, tonight’s opponent at Assembly Hall.

“One thing they’ve become right now is the best transition basketball team in the Big Ten,” he said. “I haven’t seen anybody who runs like they run. They throw it ahead. They’re a gang-rebounding team, which we’re working harder to become. They get out and play fast on the break. They’ll get some 3s in transition. They move the ball well.”

But when it came to the state of the Hoosiers, Crean was uncharacteristically quiet. This is a coach, after all, who normally talks at a machine-gun pace with plenty of insight and deep thought.

“We’ve had a good week,” he said.

A six-game losing streak and an 0-4 Big Ten start can do that to the most talkative of coaches.

And then, when addressing to the keys to beating Michigan:

“We need to play well. Certainly it begins with transition defense. That and the keys you’d have in any game.”

Okay, it’s not the quotes to base a Pulitzer-winning story (hey, we still have the dream), but that isn’t Crean’s concern. He’s trying to figure out a way to get the fading Hoosiers to play winning basketball. He knows the formula: good ball movement, sharp cuts and passes, defensive communication, win the 50-50 balls, play with passion and urgency and attention to detail.

It’s getting the players to do it for 40 minutes that has become the challenge.

Crean had earlier talked about looking forward to the week of practice to fix the problems that keep popping up like the chicken pox.

So how did the week go?

“We worked to get better,” he said. “We tried to examine everything we thought we could get better at. We put some keys out there to what we think it should be. That’s what we spent time on.”

At least IU gets to play at home with the students back from semester break. That means a livelier, rowdier crowd certain to say things that will push the bounds of sportsmanship.

“We’ll have a great crowd,” Crean said. “That will help. The students being back … that’s excellent. There should be a lot of energy in the building.”

Michigan is 11-6, but has lost four of its last five games. Normally that would mean the team is struggling. But look at who the Wolverines have played. They’ve lost to No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Kansas and No. 8 Purdue. They’ve also lost at Wisconsin, which almost never loses a road game now that Bo Ryan is the coach.

They lost to Kansas in overtime. They lost to Ohio State by four points.

“I think they’ve been playing pretty well for a period of time,” Crean said. “They’re like anybody else. They go through runs and lulls. It’s all how they respond to them. They are a very solid team. There’s no doubt about that.”

Oh, Michigan also shoots more three-pointers (an average of 24 a game) than any Big Ten team. This is a potential problem given IU allows opponents to shoot 51.4 percent from three-point range in conference play.

Running the Wolverine show is sophomore guard Darius Morris. He averages 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

“He’s doing a good job of finding cutters and rollers, post-ups and shooters,” Crean said. “They mix defenses pretty well.”

With a 9-8 record, IU has zero margin for error if it is to have any shot at the postseason. Yes, we know that’s unlikely given it has to win seven more games this season to be eligibile (unless it wins the Big Ten tourney title and the automatic NCAA Tourney bid). Heck, the Hoosiers will be favored -- maybe -- to win one more game this season, when they host Iowa.

But that’s a debate for another day.


IU basketball could help new football coach Kevin Wilson with recruiting. Eleven recruits are set to be on campus this weekend and will almost certainly show up at the IU-Michigan game. They include quarterback Tre Roberson from Indianapolis (the 2010 Mr. Football award winner), wide receivers Cody Latimer and Jay McCants, defensive end Jake Reed (he’s from Columbus, Indiana), linebacker Zach Shaw and athlete Raymon Taylor.

Shaw and Taylor are four-star (out of five-star) prospects. Taylor is considered a soft recruit. When former coach Bill Lynch was fired, he opened up his recruiting. Michigan has made a big push. He’s also looking at Illinois and Iowa.

Who knows? Maybe if the Hoosiers win tonight, Taylor will pick the Hoosiers.

Anyway, Wilson is expected to talk to the Assembly Hall crowd tonight.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back In The Saddle -- Wilson Can’t Get Away From Offensive Coordinator Role

Okay, Kevin Wilson tried not to be the offensive coordinator. He really did. His plan as Indiana’s new head coach was to run the program and not micro-manage the offense.

Then he got his first curve, which happens to those who coach the Cream ‘n Crimson football program. Brent Pease lasted two weeks as Hoosier offensive coordinator before heading back to Boise State to run the Broncos’ high-powered attack.

So Wilson went to Plan B. He named Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith as co-offensive coordinator along with Kevin Johns, the Northwestern receivers coach who earlier was hired to coach IU receivers.

But then, because Wilson has directed some of the nation’s top offenses while at Oklahoma and Northwestern, he decided he will have a larger offensive role -- at least at the start.

“I will be more involved with the offense initially, and in time we will determine how we call games,” he said in a university release. “I will make sure it starts out with my involvement and those guys splitting the workload that I can’t do.”

So who exactly is Rod Smith? Well, he coached at Michigan for the last three years. The year before that he coached quarterbacks at West Virginia. At both places his boss was Rich Rodriguez, who was just fired after three years at Michigan that included some of the worst defenses in the history of the Wolverines’ storied program. Along the way Smith worked with top outstanding quarterbacks in Denard Robinson of Michigan and Pat White of West Virginia.

Wilson also brought in another Michigan coach, Greg Frey, to handle the offensive line. Frey was the offensive line coach under Rodriguez for the last three years. He also coached the offensive line at West Virginia and at South Florida.

“Coach Wilson is going to get this thing headed in the right direction,” Frey said. “I look forward to getting to work.”

Finally, Jerry Montgomery was hired as the defensive tackles coach. He spent the last two years at Wyoming, the previous three years at Northern Iowa. He also was a three year starter at defensive tackle at Iowa.

“We have deliberately taken time with our hires to make sure we get the right fits, not just coaching backgrounds and pedigrees, but getting the right people to make up a cohesive unit,” Wilson said. “We feel the staff has come together in a very positive manner.”

Mark Hagen was originally hired away from Purdue to coach the defensive tackles. He will now handle defensive ends. Corey Raymond will coach the corner backs. Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler will handle the co-defensive coordinator duties.

“I had previous relationships with Rod Smith and Greg Frey having built some of our past offenses with Coach Rodriguez and having continued to visit and study with those guys,” Wilson said. “It is going to be a natural transition for both of them. They are well-versed in the no-huddle style and know how to coach it.”

Wilson had never met Montgomery before.

“Jerry is the one guy on staff I didn’t personally know, but like six of our assistants, he has a Big Ten background. Jerry was a great player at Iowa. He came highly recommended. When we met him, he lit up the room.”

Lighting up the room is one thing. Igniting the Hoosiers to play winning, bowl-making football is something else.

“I am thrilled to come back to the league,” Montgomery said. “I’m optimistic about the things we can accomplish here. The facilities are awesome. I think we will be successful.”

For all sorts of reasons, the Hoosiers can’t just THINK about being successful. They have to do it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Coaching IU Football Has Its Perks

So what do you get when you’re the new head football coach of a Big Ten school?

Well, if you’re Kevin Wilson, you get a seven-year contract (actually a Memorandum of Understanding) with a base salary of $500,000 and the ability to make more on the discretion of athletic director Fred Glass.

You also get $600,000 for marketing and promoting. That includes speaking engagements and conducting media interviews. You get a benefit stipend of $100,000 for stuff such as social club memberships and a vehicle for your wife. You get a car and get to keep the money earned by any coaching camps. If you leave before the end of the contract you have to pay the university $500,000.

There are other perks such as membership to the IU Golf Course and IU Tennis Center, eight football and eight basketball season tickets and a personal Adidas family clothing allowance of $10,000.

How do we know all this? Because the Bloomington Herald Times filed a Freedom of Information request to see Wilson’s deal. He’s making about twice what former head coach Bill Lynch made.


It looks like James Hardy is back in the NFL.

Sort of.

According to FoxSports, Hardy, the former IU All-America receiver, has signed a future contract with the Baltimore Ravens. That means he can’t play in Saturday’s AFC playoff game against Pittsburgh, but will have a chance to play next season.

Hardy, who holds Hoosier records for career touchdowns, catches and receiving yards (and he did it in just three seasons), was cut by the Buffalo Bills in September. He’s been a free agent ever since, with no takers, although the Indianapolis Colts did take a look at him.

Hardy played two seasons for the Bills and caught 10 passes in 16 games.

For IU Hardy had 191 catches for 2,740 yards and 36 touchdowns. He left school after a junior season in which he caught 74 passes for 1,075 yards. He was Buffalo’s second-round pick in 2008.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Deep Thoughts – Should IU Get Defensively Simple?

Here’s a thought, as snow buries Bloomington and, perhaps, the rest of Indiana’s fading postseason basketball prospects:

Is it time for the Hoosiers to go defensively simple?

By that we mean pick one defense -- man, zone, something -- and stick with it the rest of the season. No changing game to game or during games. Nothing complex. Do one thing and do it relentlessly right, like Mariano Rivera’s cut fastball.

We say this recognizing we are not now, nor will we ever be, a paid basketball coach. Although, if someone wants to take a shot on us at, say, a million dollars a year, we would accept.

Heck, we’d take half a million dollars.

But we digress.

As we analyze IU’s basketball season gone wrong (which means we get to thinking, and that can be a dangerous thing), the No. 1 glaring weakness is defense. The Hoosiers (9-8 with a six-game losing streak) make too many mistakes, especially since Big Ten play began. There are lots of reasons for this, the No. 1 being the quality of the opponents. Teams spend a lot of time sharpening their offenses and attacking opponents’ weaknesses. They know what to exploit and, certainly in the case of Ohio State, have the athletes to do it.

Against such intensity, the Hoosiers have to be dialed in every second. As soon as they hesitate or forget or just mess up, they pay.

Nobody pays as much as they do against three-pointers.

In Big Ten play teams shoot 51.4 percent from three-point range against Indiana. That is not a typo. Penn State and Minnesota stink on three-pointers and they lit up the Hoosiers. You could put the Seven Dwarfs out there (okay, to stay within the rules, the Five Dwarfs) and probably do a better job. And here’s the deal -- IU has been working on its defense for three months to put up that kind of number. THREE MONTHS! Maybe the Hoosiers should stop working on it. Seriously, could it be any worse?

Perhaps the best solution is to go to a man defense, keep it simple in terms of help and switches, and don’t change no matter what. That could keep the confusion and breakdowns to a minimum.

In theory, anyway.

Yes, we know, we might not know what we’re talking about. Imagine that, a sports writer not knowing what he’s talking about. Or, IU might not have the talent to make that work against every team, but does it matter anymore. Just work on a few things -- like moving your feet to keep the guy in front of you -- and get really good at it.

Here’s one thing we absolutely know -- what’s happening now ain’t working.


Today’s big Hoosier mystery -- did Derek Elston intentionally trip Northwestern’s Alex Marcotullio during Sunday’s 93-81 loss? Should he be punished for it?

TV replays suggest maybe he did. Officials called him for an intentional foul. Crean said during his coach’s radio show, when asked about it by a caller, that he had reviewed the tape. Elston said it was not intentional. Crean said he believed him. He also said Elston’s foul was nothing like the intentional foul committed by Devan Dumas against Michigan State in 2009 that resulted in a suspension. Elston will not be punished for it.

“I brought it up to him,” Crean said. “He stayed with the same thing. He said he didn’t do it intentionally. I know exactly what it looks like. I told him the same thing. When I looked at it, the referee had a good view of it. I didn’t argue it.

“In comparison to (Dumes’ foul), I don’t think there is a comparison because there’s no question that was intentional. I wasn’t surprised by it. In this situation, it would be highly out of character for Derek to be dishonest or do something of that nature in a negative way…

“I discussed it with him. The last thing I’m going to do is break down a trust by accusing a player of something that he says he didn’t do on purpose. I’m not trying to put my head in the sand. That’s the way it is.”


Okay, what’s up with Tom Dienhart, the guy who seems to be getting every assistant coaching hire in America in advance.

This time he’s saying that Jerry Montgomery, a 31-year-old defensive line coach from Wyoming, is coming to Indiana as its new defensive ends coach.

Who’s Montgomery?

He’s coached at Wyoming for two years. Before that he coached the defensive line at Northern Iowa for three years. Before that he spent three years as a defensive tackle in the Arena Football League. Before that he was a three-year starter at Iowa.

Yes, that’s a lot of threes in his bio. And consider that new coach Kevin Wilson has three more offensive assistant coaches to hire, including a new offensive coordinator. Does the Number Three have some kind of deep symbolic meaning that could portend future IU football success?

Perhaps, but that’s too deep for us. We’re too busy getting ready to help Crean with his practice drills.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hoosier Happenings -- Crean Up, Belcher In, Pease Out

The buck stops with Tom Crean. He understands. He doesn’t dodge it. He knows his Indiana Hoosiers are not playing to their potential -- the record of 9-8, 0-4 in the Big Ten should be 11-6, 1-3 -- and the solution can only come from work, effort and attention to detail.


That’s a luxury for coaches whose teams are on winning streakes. Except, when you’re a coach, sleep is never guaranteed because there’s always something to worry about.

Crean and his staff got back late from the Northwestern loss, IU’s sixth straight, and went to right work. You watch film and look for ways to help players perform better. It’s not quantum physics, but if it was easy, a lot of guys would be making $2.3 million a year, as Crean is.

Crean spends a lot of time devising game plans that can work if the players carry them out, if they’re where they are supposed to be on defense and offense and, oh yes, on defense.

Apparently the players make it work during practice. We say apparently because practices are closed. Things get more complicated during games when opposing talent, pressure and fatigue all become factors.

During Monday’s Big Ten teleconference Crean was asked if the players are getting the message, if they are understanding what he wants them to do.

“I don’t think we’re playing consistently yet in this stretch of games,” he said. “Of course it’s going to fall back on me with that. I totally get that part of it. It’s not like we’re not doing these things in practice. It’s not like I would go back and change many of these game plans for how we want to attack. I’m not sure where you’re coming from on the question, but that’s how I view it in the sense that we have guys who want to win. We have guys who have very good attitudes.We’re just not carrying it out on the court for 40 minutes.”

On Saturday night IU will get its next shot at 40-minute execution against Michigan (11-5 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten). Yes, the Wolverines almost upset No. 3 Kansas, but that was at Crisler Arena. This is at Assembly Hall and it is a winnable game so, as we’ve said before, win it.


Kevin Wilson gets to start all over again with his offensive coordinator. Given all the coaching changes going on around the country, he might have to wait to make sure the next guy really, really wants to be at Indiana.

Some people will take shots at Brent Pease for leaving after less than two weeks as a Hoosier, but sometimes life throws you unexpected curves. Pease got a chance to return to Boise State with a raise and a promotion (from wide receiver coach to offensive coordinator). His family doesn’t have to move. He gets to be part of a program that is a nation’s-best 61-5 over the last five seasons.

All this because Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who had been with the Broncos for 10 years and seemed happy where he was at, decided to take the co-offensive coordinator job at Texas.

Pease was set to work with Wilson on what certainly would have been a wide-open, diverse attack. That’s still likely Wilson’s plan, so he’ll bring in somebody with a similar background.

Psst. Rich Rodriguez is available.

Sorry. Only kidding, although given the twists and turns of of 21st Century sports (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat; Seattle upsetting New Orleans; Urban Meyer retiring while Joe Paterno continues), anything is possible.

Anyway, the Hoosiers got some good football news with Damarlo Belcher’s decision to pass on the NFL Draft and stay for his senior year. Belcher led IU in receiving last year (78 catches for 832 yards). His catches also led the Big Ten. He has a chance to pass James Hardy as the school record holder for career catches and receiving yards.

Hardy has the record with 191 catches for 2,740 yards. Belcher has 164 catches for 1,939 yards. At 6-5 and 215 pounds, Belcher has NFL size, but needs another year of seasoning. He seems likely to get it under Wilson’s pass-friendly system.

“I believe it is in my best interest to return for my senior year,” Belcher said in a university release. “One of my goals is to earn my degree. This gives me the opportunity to accomplish that. I’m also excited about what we can achieve as a team. I look forward to playing for Coach Wilson and getting back to work with the rest of my teammates.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oh No! IU’s Season Starting To Look A Lot Like the Last Two

It has to end, doesn’t it? Surely, Indiana won’t go winless for the Big Ten basketball season.

The Hoosiers, and we don’t know how to say this diplomatically, are basketball IQ challenged. They don’t play smart defense. Check that. They do in spurts, but can’t sustain it. Maybe it’s fatigue or mental softness or immaturity or coaching or misaligned planets. It doesn’t matter.

It just would be nice if for one game -- one game! -- IU could play a complete 40 minutes against a quality opponent.

Whatever happened to progress, when a six-win Indiana team became last year’s 10-win squad and suddenly a NIT bid for this season seemed probable.

It disappeared faster than you can say, “Oh, no, not again!”

Suddenly the Hoosiers are 0-4 in the Big Ten with no good feeling that a victory is coming any time soon.

Take the Northwestern loss. The Hoosiers got burned repeatedly by back-door cuts when they weren’t getting burned from beyond the arc. Yes, this is to be expected given the Wildcats are very good at the whole Princeton offense thing. But this is not a one-time deal. IU has spent the last two-plus weeks displaying the kind of defensive vulnerability that lends itself to long losing streaks.

At six straight losses and counting, the Hoosiers (9-8) are building to a very long one. They spent the first 30 minutes against Northwestern (10-4) in a brain fog, and the fact they cut a 24-point deficit to eight had as much to do with Northwestern losing its edge as it did IU fighting to the end.

That’s a shame because, at least offensively, the Hoosiers are making progress. Against Northwestern they shot 46.6 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range and 84.0 percent from the line. On the road they had 13 assists against seven turnovers. They even won the rebound battle, 36-33. That’s good. That should be good enough to win, and it would have been if they could ever learn to play defense.

Northwestern shot 49.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. You can’t win on the road, or in grandma’s backyard, allowing those kind of numbers.

Coach Tom Crean talked about a lack of defensive discipline and immature play, especially in the first half when the Wildcats built a double-digit lead. He wants the Hoosiers to play with a sense of desperation, which they did in the second half while trying to mount a furious comeback.

Forward Christian Watford was a first-half no-show (zero points), a second-half contributor (17 points). That can’t continue. He has to be consistent for 40 minutes and he has to rebound better, although he did get seven rebounds against Northwestern, most of them long after the game was decided. Maybe that means spending more time in the paint or more effort or just maturing. He is still just a sophomore and far from a finished product, but that’s no reason for not playing with passion and energy.

The Hoosiers did get offensive balance with freshman Victor Oladipo scoring 13 points, sophomore Jordan Hulls getting 12 and junior Verdell Jones adding 10.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

Indiana has basically a week to get it right. It doesn’t play again until Saturday night when it hosts Michigan, which just missed upsetting No. 3 Kansas on Sunday.

Is that enough time to grow up and play winning basketball?

It has to be.