Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On IU Transition Defense, Sheehey Setting Hair Style Tone

So should the Indiana Hoosiers be worried about the defense entering the last eight games of Big Ten play?

Is Will Sheehey's new hair style -- or lack of it (we don't have a new photo that reflects it) -- about to take over the roster?

Are you kidding?

First things, first.

Iowa is a decent offensive team, but it reminds nobody of, say, Ohio State or Michigan State or, yes, IU.

Against the Hoosiers, the Hawkeyes were a scoring juggernaut. They shot 63.0 percent from the field, 79.2 percent in the second half, and totaled 89 points. It was 13 more points than they had scored in any previous Big Ten game.

Why the success?

The short answer is IU defense. The longer answer is IU transition defense. The Hawkeyes ran at will and with arrogance. They attacked and attacked without hesitation, in part because they like to do it, in part because the Hoosiers couldn’t stop it.

The only reason Iowa lost was because its defense was terrible, which reflects a season-long problem, and because of the Hoosiers’ offensive excellence. They love to run and they have multiple weapons to take advantage of it when they do run.

IU goes on the road this week to Michigan and Purdue. Bet the house those teams will run at the Hoosiers at every opportunity. Wisconsin didn’t do it because that’s not the Badgers’ style. They thrive on grind-it-out, possession-by-possession play, especially at home.

Most teams prefer a faster pace. They will attacked IU’s vulnerability until it shows it can stop it or until opponents break the 100-point barrier.

So how can the Hoosiers stop opponents’ fast-break basketball?

One way would be a lineup change.

Coaches treat questions on lineup changes and player minutes with the enthusiasm of discussing their use of Viagra. Tom Crean was not excited to discuss his reasons for not playing Jordan Hulls much in the second half against Iowa.

During the post-game press conference, Crean was asked about that playing time. Specifically he was asked about tweets, referring to the BTN broadcast, that suggested Hulls didn’t play because he was hurt.

Here’s how it went:

Q: Is Hulls okay, Tom?

Crean: What kind of question is that?

Q: There were a couple of tweets that said on the Big Ten broadcast they said he was hurt and that’s why you held him out.

Crean: No. Come on. He’s fine. He’s fine. It wasn’t his best day. He’ll be fine.”

QUICK NOTE: When Crean answers a question with, “Come on,” it usually means he doesn’t like the question.

Later, Crean repeated that Hulls wasn’t having his best game and the matchups favored playing others. In fact, it mostly centered on defense. Hawkeyes were repeatedly blowing by him, not because he wasn’t trying, but because he lacks the lateral quickness to stop penetration. This is nothing new. Good Big Ten guards, and basically every conference team has at least one really good guard, will exploit that.

That means Wednesday at Michigan, figure that whoever Hulls is guarding will attack the basket. Either Hulls will stop it, or he’ll be back on the bench. You might see Verdell Jones, Sheehey and Victor Oladipo playing a lot together. Matt Roth, who WAS sick, should get more than the four minutes he played against Iowa.

Sheehey, by the way, got his first start of the season. He had 10 points and four rebounds, and played solid defense. Crean was asked if Sheehey will start in the future.

“I’m not sure. It’s what worked (Sunday). I feel like we have seven starters, so I’m not married to anything. So much of it right now is based on matchups, personnel, combinations, and things of that nature.”

Crean also was asked about the fact IU won by 14 points with Iowa shooting 79 percent in the second half.

“I’ll worry about that later,” he said. “I’m glad we got the win.”

As far as IU scoring 100 points for the first time in a Big Ten game under Crean, the coach wasn’t impressed.

“It’s nice for the fans and for the team. It meant we moved the ball. I’m excited about the 20 offensive rebounds and the 20 assists.”

That leads to the final point -– what’s up with Sheehey’s hair? He buzzed it off about an hour before Sunday’s tipoff. He surprised players and coaches by doing it. The look was so shocking, assistant coach Tim Buckley warned Crean about it before Crean’s final pre-game talk so the coach could concentrate on his message and not Sheehey’s appearance.

The reason, apparently, was to keep the sweat out of his eyes.

Does this mean other Hoosiers will follow Sheehey’s lead?

Not a chance.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Conspiracy, Zeller Fouls, And Beating Iowa

Do you see wrong doing in fouls called against Indiana? Do you wonder why official Ted Valentine still works Hoosier basketball games? Are you convinced freshman forward Cody Zeller is a victim of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of government?

Well, we can’t answer those questions. What we can do is tell you how Indiana coach Tom Crean approaches the subject of Zeller and fouls.

Zeller, as you might suspect, seems to never get the benefit of the officiating doubt. A simple explanation would be that he has fallen into the same habits of former Hoosier Bobby Capobianco and current Hoosier Tom Pritchard, and does foul too much.

But nothing is simple in an era in which an obvious goal-tending call on Syracuse is not called and West Virginia’s potential upset victory becomes gut-wrenching defeat.

But we digress.

Instead, focus on Crean during his pre-game press conference addressing Sunday night’s home game against Iowa.

He is asked if Zeller is getting frustrated with his foul situation (four fouls in four of his last six games), that there’s a perception he gets called for nit-picky stuff while opponents can throw him to the floor without a whistle (IMPORTANT THOUGHT -– Zeller has to get strong enough and stay balanced enough so that no one throws him anywhere) and the fact he only played 19 minutes in Thursday night’s loss at Wisconsin because of foul trouble.

“We point things out to him,” Crean said. “He works extremely hard. I’ll give you a great example.

“We spend a lot of time making sure we understand how to (handle the) block-charge line.”

NOTE: That’s the circle you see under the basket. If you’re outside the line and are set, it’s a charge. If you’re inside, it’s either a blocking foul or a no call.

“An idea we got from John Adams, who runs all the officiating,” Crean said, “was to put a white line six inches above the actual line so you’re never close. That line is always down for us in practice. We’ll rarely try to draw a charge anywhere near the line, and we’ll be set.

“When Cody gets called for a blocking foul (during the Wisconsin game), you can show him, that’s not what happened. It was a charge. Let’s keep doing it, even though it wasn’t called.”

In other words, and Crean was being diplomatic because he didn’t want to incur a fine by ripping the officials, Zeller got a bad call. It was a charge and not a blocking foul, so Zeller should just keep doing what he’s doing because eventually the calls will go his way.

“We work extremely hard to make sure we teach the proper way to do things,” Crean said. “The proper form of verticality in the post. The proper form of offensive rebounding. The proper way of rotating to draw a charge. We’ll continue to do that. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be called that way. As long as we keep teaching it the right way, that’s what’s most important.”

As far as Zeller, Crean doesn’t want the 6-11 freshman to unnecessarily change his game.

“None of us want him to do anything more than play,” Crean said. “He was so well schooled before he got here. We want to make sure we school him on the speed aspects of the college game.

“If I was frustrated or upset with Cody, then he should have something to think about. I’m not. I’m just challenging him to get better. I’ve spent the last couple of days spending as much time as anything challenging him to get better. That’s where our focus is.

“He’s doing the right things. Is he always being rewarded for it? No.

“When you teach the right things and do the right things, you expect to be rewarded for it during the game. You expect the game to be called in the last two mintues the way it was called in the first two mintues. Those are your expectations going into a game. It doesn’t always happen. You have to make those adjustments along the way.

“Cody has gotten tremendously better at verticality, his hands behind his head, positioning and things of that nature. That’s what we want to focus on.”

In other words, don’t sweat the conspiracy stuff. Just play.

And, oh, yes. Beat Iowa.

Hoosier Necessity – Beat Iowa; Football Recruiting Focus

Indiana has to beat Iowa on Sunday. Absolutely has to. It cannot afford to allow this struggling stretch of four losses in five games continue. There are too many tough games remaining, including next week’s brutal road run of Michigan and Purdue, to have any slip ups.

The Hoosiers are 16-5 and set to drop even further in the polls. Just a couple of weeks ago they were No. 7 in the country. Now they’re No. 16 and will slide a little more because of Thursday’s defeat at No. 25 Wisconsin.

IU’s recent losing doesn’t mean it’s stunk up Assembly Hall and the rest of the Big Ten. It got hammered at Ohio State, but every visiting team gets that experience, even Duke.

The home loss to Minnesota hurt, although the Gophers are playing much, much better. The blown game at Nebraska was a big blow. Losing a 13-point second half lead, including an 11-point advantage in the final six minutes against a team that reminds no one of, say, Kentucky, is a big problem.

Losing at Wisconsin is no disgrace, although the Badgers have been vulnerable at the Kohl Center with three losses there already. Still, IU trailed just 51-50 in the final two minutes, and was just a couple of tough-minded plays away from a victory at a place it hasn’t won at since 1998.

It didn’t happen, and you bet the Hoosiers were ticked.

“We did a lot of really good things,” coach Tom Crean said. “They got a couple of really big rebounds at the end of the game at crucial times. We put ourselves in position to win, we just didn’t finish it off.”

And yet, IU is playing better. Its overall defense has picked up, its shooting has been solid. Even in the defeats, you can see the potential is there. Once the team’s poise and maturity matches the talent –- and it’s close – more wins will come, even on the road.

The Hoosiers just have to be mentally tough to do what needs to be done at crunch time.

Can they?

You bet.

Will they?

That’s the million-dollar question.

Iowa is a dangerous team. You don’t win at Wisconsin, as the Hawkeyes did this season; you don’t beat Michigan, as they’ve also done, without having impressive weapons.

Iowa’s problem, which is true for so many teams, is that it isn’t consistent. It has defensive lapses, which is the main reason it is 11-10, 3-5 in the Big Ten.

It’s a winnable game, a must-win game. Let’s see if the Hoosiers are up to the task.


It’s about recruiting. Jon Fabris understands that. It’s why, from the moment he arrived at IU as the new defensive ends coach, his total focus was on helping the program land the best players possible. He didn’t have time to watch any film of the Hoosiers’ current defensive ends he’ll be coaching in the spring.

“I got into my office (on a Friday morning) and there was nothing on my desk. Now, I can’t see my desk. All I’ve been doing is recruiting. I’ve met with my players, and know some things about them, but I haven’t had a chance to really look at them.”

With the start of the signing period set for this Monday, what does Fabris want in a tight end?

“Defensive ends are just part of the defense. If you can’t stop the run, you’re not going to win, and when you stop the run, if you can’t pressure the quarterback, you’re probably not going to have a real good chance for success, either. That’s one reason why 16 of the top 32 players taken in the NFL Draft are defensive linemen.

“Good ones are hard to find, and they’re difference makers. They come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve had defensive ends that were 6-5 and guys who were 6-foot. Some of them started as tailbacks or linebackers. Most of them had never played the position before.

The only truly great player I ever coached in my life (Georgia All-America David Pollack) was recruited to be a fullback. He never played defensive end until the spring of his college freshman year, and he turned out to be a great player.

“You’ve got to have some physical ability, obviously, but you’re looking for intangible qualities that a lot of kids just don’t possess.”

Fabris is a competitive guy. He thrives on challenges and, as the new defensive ends coach for Indiana, he’ll get plenty of challenges.

He was hired to help boost a defense that was not exactly a national power. He’s certainly got the background to do it. He’s coached for 29 years and been involved in 12 bowls, including five BCS events. He’s worked at Georgia Tech, Washington State, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Kansas State, South Carolina and the Cleveland Browns. He also was at Georgia for nine years. For the 2011 season he was at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

“The thing that attracts me to Indiana is the competitive stage of this league – the personalities and the people,” he said. “I did not know Kevin Wilson real well, but a lot of people who had coached with him had coached with me, and they told me about him. They said he was a very competitive guy and a very intelligent guy. Those are attractive traits to have your boss be that way.”

Attractive traits are great, but winning is the bottom-line reality. Wilson’s 1-11 IU debut was not want anybody wanted. A turnaround is crucial and it starts with recruiting better players and then coaching them to their potential.

We’ll see what happens, starting Wednesday.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

IU Returns To Its Winning Basketball Ways; Paterno Passes

Order to the Hoosier basketball world has been restored.

So have smiles.

Yes, beating Penn State at Assembly Hall doesn’t rank with knocking off Kentucky or Ohio State, but after three straight losses, two of which were VERY winnable games, you take any victory you can get.

You’d better believe Sunday’s 73-54 victory –- clinched courtesy of a 46-25 second-half run –- was huge. It improved Indiana to 16-4 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten. It showed IU can play defense at a solid Big Ten level -- holding the Nittany Lions (10-11 overall) to 34.0 percent shooting. It gives the Hoosiers valuable momentum entering Thursday’s game at Wisconsin.

Ah, yes, Wisconsin.

Don’t be fooled. Just because Iowa, Michigan State and Marquette have won at the Kohl Center this season doesn’t mean the Wisconsin challenge is any less difficult. The Badgers have recovered from a 1-3 Big Ten start and are now 4-3. Under coach Bo Ryan and his swing offense, they remain a program to be reckoned with.

Plus, the road has not been kind to IU. It has just two Big Ten road victories under Tom Crean, and blew a double-digit lead in the closing minutes against Nebraska.

No matter. This is a different team with a different mindset. It remains on pace to have a program-restoring season.

“It starts with our defense,” guard Jordan Hulls said. “When the offense is not going as well, we have to rely on defense to create off that. It helped being at home. That was great. We’ve got to have that confident mentality the whole game and not let a mistake get us down. Stop them the next play.”

The Hoosiers made the stop against Penn State. The trick is doing it against on the road against the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan and Purdue in the next few weeks.


Will Sheehey didn’t talk his way into a one-game suspension.

Sheehey did mouth off enough to warrant a pair of technical fouls and an ejection from the Penn State game, an action that Crean said he has addressed with the sophomore guard.

"To my knowledge there will be no changes to Will's status," Crean said. "There were no punches thrown or anything like that. It wasn't considered a fight. It was more verbal than anything else. We've already talked about that internally, and I don't anticipate anything there."

With six seconds left and the Indiana win secured, Christian Watford was hammered by Penn State’s Matt Glover in front of the IU bench. Things got heated, Crean grabbed Watford to pull him away, Penn State’s Ross Travis got involved, Sheehey started shouting and was restrained, first by director of basketball operations Calbert Cheaney. Assistant coach Steve McClain then calmed him down.

Officials checked the monitor befor issuing a double technical on Sheehey and Travis. Because Sheehey had been given a technical foul a few minutes earlier after making some comments after a hard foul, he was ejected.

"It's just the maturity process," Crean said. "It's a heated battle. All I was trying to do was play NFL head linesman, make sure I get myself right in the middle of it when the referees were in there. It's just part of the game.

"It was a tough foul on Christian at the end, but again, that's the game. Tempers flare, but I don't think anything escalated to any point outside of some verbal and, again, both players were held accountable. I thought the referees handled that as well as possible from my vantage point."

Added Hulls: “It's the Big Ten. It's basketball. It's competitive. It gets a little chippy sometimes. You’ve got to be smart about it, maintaining your composure and that kind of thing. That stuff happens sometimes. It's just not crossing the line and doing anything crazy."


How do you want to be remembered? How will you be remembered? For most of us, it’s a few paragraphs in a newspaper obituary, and in the fading memories of families and friends.

Joe Paterno earned far more than that. He was the head coach at Penn State for 46 years. He was a man and not a saint. He seemed like he would be at the school forever, that at the least he would go out on his terms.

That didn't happen. The end came swiftly. A child sex abuse scandal cost him his job. Lung cancer took his life.

Some will choose to remember Paterno for what he didn’t do amidst child abuse allegations involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Most will focus on the records he set, the lives he touched, the impact he made.

IU basketball coach Tom Crean talked about some of that impact.

“It’s the passing of a great leader,” he said. “You have to capitalize Legend for him. That’s what it boils down to.

“I met him a couple of times. This year during the Big Ten meetings we walked to our (hotel) rooms one night. Neither of us went out -– me because I didn’t have anybody to go out with, and he was probably ready for bed. Our rooms were across from each other.

“He treated everybody with respect. The first time I met him at the Big Ten meetings, he said, ‘Boy, you’ve got your work cut out for you, kid.’ I didn’t know he knew who I was.

“No matter what happened (at the end) or how he was treated, for him to continue to do what he did for Penn State, for him to love his school so much, that’s why you always have to live your life with integrity and respect.

“There was a different aura about him. I think the players who played for him and the people who worked for him will be so much better off because they had that time with the guy, who cared so much about people and education.”

As far as the records, Paterno was a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He set the major college football record with 409 wins. His final record of 409-136-3 was a 74.9 winning percentage. He led Penn State to two national titles, five undefeated seasons and a top-25 national ranking 35 times. He also was the all-time leader in bowl wins with a 24-12-1 record. That 66.2 winning percentage ranks third all-time among coaches with at least 15 bowl appearances.

Paterno was the head coach at Penn State for 46 years, five years longer than Amos Alonzo Stagg, the former major college record holder. In the late 1960s the Nittany Lions had a 31-game unbeaten streak. Along the way he passed Bear Bryant and Eddie Robinson for most coaching victories.

Paterno had quite a family, with five children and 17 grandchildren.

Here is the Paterno family statement in the wake of his death on Sunday:

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today. His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.

“He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.

“He has been many things in his life -- a soldier, scholar, mentor, coach, friend and father. To my mother he was and is her soul mate, and the last several weeks have shown the strength of their love. To his children and grandchildren he is a shining example of how to live a good, decent and honest life, a standard to which we aspire.

“When he decided to forego a career in law and make coaching his vocation, his father Angelo had but one command: make an impact.

“As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact. That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country.

“And so he leaves us with a peaceful mind, comforted by his “living legacy” of five kids, 17 grandchildren, and hundreds of young men whose lives he changed in more ways than can begin to be counted.

“In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or the Penn State-THON (The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon).”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reeling Hoosiers Have To Regroup ASAP

There’s no sense in sugar coating this.

The Indiana Hoosiers are poised to blow a very good thing.

They’ve lost three straight games, and you get the sense it will get worse before it gets better, if it gets better at all.


Because the previous three years this is where everything tanked. Because, and again there’s no point in sugar coating this, the guard play isn’t nearly good enough.

If you saw the 70-69 loss at Nebraska, you know this.

IU had an 11-point lead with 6:38 and collapsed. It had turnovers and made decisions coach Tom Crean described as “bone headed.” Its offense lost its way –- one basket in the final six minutes. It’s defense, well, it has become the Big Ten’s worst defense, and it’s not even close.

The Cornhuskers outscored Indiana 18-6 down the stretch. These Cornhuskers entered the game 1-5 in the Big Ten. Yes, they had lost some close games, but they hadn’t proven they could win in crunch time.

Now, they have.

That made IU 2-29 on the Big Ten road under Crean. Both wins have come at Penn State, and given the fact the Hoosiers have already played at State College this season, well, the road prospects the rest of the way ain’t good.

In the aftermath of the Nebraska loss Crean asked fans not to “panic,” that the Hoosiers have regained their “edge,” that the players were “disappointed,” but not “discourarged,” that their quality of character and resolve are there to get things turned around.

He might be absolutely right, but the Hoosiers have to prove it, and do it fast. These are the same guys who beat Kentucky, Ohio State and Michigan. Lack of talent is not a problem.

Confidence and sheer toughness might be.

Good guard play certainly is.

Penn State comes to Assembly Hall on Sunday and Crean wants a fired up crowd to spur the team on. He’ll almost certainly get it. Will that be enough to inspire a victory?

It has to be. The schedule really gets nasty after that.

IU plays at Wisconsin, at Michigan and at Purdue in the next few weeks. It hosts an Iowa team that has won at Wisconsin. It hosts an Illinois team that has beaten Ohio State.

The Big Ten is tough. Parity is everywhere. From top to bottom it’s likely the best conference in the country. Nothing is sure except if the Hoosiers don’t rise to the challenge, they will pay the price.

They are 15-4 and still have the look of a NCAA tourney team, but that is not etched in stone. Suddenly you look at the schedule and you’re not sure where more victories will come other than North Carolina Central in the final non-conference game on Feb. 22.

There is still time to turn things around. IU has seven more home games. If it just wins those, it finishes 22-9 and makes the NCAA tourney field with room to spare.

It starts Sunday against Penn State. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end there.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Passionate Crean seeks substance over instant image

Tom Crean is a passionate coach, which you know if you see him during games. The guy paces the sidelines enough to rival the mileage of a marathoner, and he’s not doing it like a zombie.

He yells, fist pumps, points and about everything except hand stands and somersaults.

Crean has busted his behind to get the program back on track (see 15-3 record as Example No. 1), and after a couple of losses to Minnesota and Ohio State, well, feistiness can kick in.

Guess what? It kicked in during Monday night’s radio show.

First, though, an observation.

Crean spent an hour after Sunday’s loss at Ohio State talking to the players in the locker room. He said it wasn’t an angry tirade, but more a matter of teaching points as the Hoosiers look to move on.

Here’s the deal. IU got hammered at Value City Arena. So did Duke. So does just about every team that goes there. You combine Buckeye super talent with home court advantage and that’s what usually happens.

Yeah, there are points to make, but wouldn’t it be better to keep the locker room talk short and to the point, save more for the plane ride home and get in depth in practice the next day?

Granted, we're not a coach, but does it work to talk to players that long right after a game? In theory, players listen to and absorb every word no matter how long the speech, treating it as if it came from a Higher Power. In reality, well, attention span wanders. Guys are tired, ticked and probably hungry, especially after a loss. Yes, some of them might even start thinking about girls. Figure 10 minutes tops and they start tuning you out.

Years ago Mike Davis spent at least an hour chewing out his players after a loss to Kentucky. Again, how much of that sunk in.

It reminds me of my son’s days in youth and high school soccer. After a game the coach gave passionate talks. It might have been the greatest speech in the history of humanity. Afterward, I asked what the coach said. His response consistently stuck to this theme:

“I don’t know. We had to play better.”

Thirty minutes of rambling condensed to six seconds. Yes, it’s the era in which we live in, although figure Ancient Sparta youths, when forced to listen to some elder chew on them for not using proper hand-to-hand fighting technique, also eventually tuned them out. It’s human nature.

Yes, we know. We just did some rambling ourselves.

So back to Crean, passion and his radio show.

He got a question about the roles of his assistant coaches. His answer took an interesting turn.

“I think when you get to the game and you get out there at early at Indiana, you don’t see our (assistants) hob-nobbing with national media members and sitting on the sideline and relaxing,” Crean said. “We don’t have a team of guys that are out wearing their Beats headphones as they’re warming up. Our guys are out there working with them. I don’t have a group of guys that are grandstanders, that are looking to get an article done about them. I’ve got a group of guys that are really, really hungry to make the team better. That’s game night.”

Crean also said his assistant coaches are too nice with what goes on in the recruiting trail.

“Our coaches, they’re very tolerant, and sometimes I don’t like that,” Crean said. “They’re tolerant of some of the things we see in recruiting. They’re tolerant of some of the negativity. They’re tolerant of some of the grandstand assistant coaches that run their mouth constantly against us in recruiting and want to talk about development, yet they’re the guys that are cheerleading and hob-nobbing and all of those kinda things.

“It’s about making your players better, and I don’t think there’s any question whatsoever that our coaches are making our players better. … I’m not good with silver-spoon coaches. I’m not good with male models. I’m not good with guys who need to have a lot said and written about ‘em. I’m good with guys that roll up their sleeves and get to work. I think that’s what we’ve got.”

Crean also was asked about his emotions when Christian Watford hit the three-pointer to beat Kentucky. Some Kentucky players have said it was a lucky shot. Crean saw nothing lucky about it.

“It was a hard-earned shot,” he said. “Every time I walk by that picture I see Marquis Teague coming from behind and Darius Miller come straight up with him. With our team, it’s like today (and the Ohio State loss). When we look at the game, we look at the scoreboard. We didn’t win the game. We look at the scoreboard and it is what it is. Our job is to get into that film room and correct it.

“When we beat Kentucky, all I would say to everybody there, look at the scoreboard. We beat Kentucky. I know I saw the comments out of Lexington where the players referred to it as a lucky shot and they had a two-point lead, but at the end of the day, you lost the game and we won it. There were times inside of the game at the seven minute when I felt we should be up by more. It was a very good game and it was a great shot. We’re not giving the scoreboard back. We’re not giving the win back. We’re not giving the Ohio State win up here back, and the bottom line is we didn’t earn it yesterday. You just move forward, you keep moving forward and trying to get better.”

We told you he was passionate.


IU (15-3) dropped two games last week and barely lost any ground in the national polls. It dropped to 11th in AP and 13th in the coaches poll. Why? Because a lot of teams lost last week; some lost badly. Florida State, for instance, pulverized North Carolina. Conference play is tough on records, especially in an era of increasing parity.

Still, the Hoosiers need to have a big week, which means winning at Nebraska and against Penn State. They don't want to start a freefall that might be impossible to stop.


So it looks like Derek Willis is finally ready to commit to a basketball program and stick with it.

Willis is the 6-9 standout forward from Kentucky who at first wanted to be a Purdue Boilermaker (he committed in last April), then blew up on the summer travel ball circuit (we mean generated a lot of recruiting interest; he didn't ACTUALLY blow up) and decided to reopen his recruiting.

Now it’s down to Indiana, Purdue, Kentucky and Louisville. He’s set to make the announcement Friday.

Given the way Kentucky coach John Calipari seems to get every player he wants not named Gary Harris, figure the Wildcats are the favorites.

Anyway, Willis is ranked No. 23 nationally in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service. He can rebound, shoot the three-pointer, block shots and handle the ball.

IU already has Class of 2013 commitments from Collin Hartman, Luke Fischer and Devin Davis. At the moment it looks like there’s not a scholarship available for Willis because the Hoosiers have already used up their allotment of 2013.

Believe us, if he chooses Indiana, the scholarship numbers will work out.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Verdell Jones In The IU Basketball Arena – Yeah, It Matters

Verdell Jones is not the next Isiah Thomas or Eric Gordon. That’s fine. Most of us aren’t.

He is a shooting guard by talent playing more of a point guard role by necessity.

How has he done?

Like so many questions in life, it comes down to perspective. For those who like to criticize and boo, Jones has been a disaster. He makes too many turnovers, forces too many plays, takes up too many minutes best reserved for, say, Will Sheehey. They count the days to his graduation.

For those who see the substance behind the all-too-human flaws, Jone’s much more than that. He’s a good teammate and person who does what he’s asked to do, on and off the court.

And then he does a little bit more.

Understand this -– love or hate him, Jones cares. He has the hunger you need to be successful.

And, yes, Jones has been successful in his four years as a Hoosier.

Jones will go down in IU basketball history as one of its best scorers, although he showed none of that against Minnesota. He has 1,261 career points, nine points ahead of Tom VanArsdale and four points behind Steve Green. There were a pair of very good players. Jones has a chance to surpass 1,500 points, which would put him in the top 15 in school history.

Jones also has 353 career assists, which ranks 12th in school history. He will finish in the top 10, and could surpass 400 assists.

QUICK QUESTION -– How many IU players totaled 1,500 points and 400 assists?

QUICK ANSWER -– Two, Damon Bailey (1,741 and 474) and Randy Wittman (1,549 and 432).

As for the part of Jones caring, flash back to late Thursday night. As was first documented by Peegs.com’s Jeff Rabjohns, Jones returned to Assembly Hall’s Branch McCracken Court after his 0-point (on 0-for-6 shooting), three-turnover Minnesota performance and went to work.

It’s the only way to get better.

We were there, as well. We watched him shoot. We watched him dribble, between his legs, around his legs, the pitter-patter of ball hitting floor and fingers echoing through the arena like the beat of distant drums, all the while wearing head phones and listening to music we figure did not include Frank Sinatra or Justin Bieber, although, do you ever really know.

It reminded us of a November night at Purdue’s Mackey Arena. After missing a couple of free throws during a game, Robbie Hummel returned to the court to shoot free throws. A lot of free throws. He stayed for more than an hour.

It’s what you do when you want to be good.

Coach Tom Crean was asked about Jones after the Minnesota game. The questioner started by saying it seemed Jones had lost some of his confidence down the stretch.

Crean, who very much cares about his players, got a little protective.

“Did he tell you that? He told you he just lost his confidence, or is that just your assessment?”

QUICK NOTE: Since Jones was not made available to the media, the questioner was giving his perspective.

“(Jones) is out there battling, I thought,” Crean said. “I don’t know if it’s confidence as much as edge. Again, I use that word, but that’s what it is. Your seniors and juniors, when you have two guards like Verdell and Jordan (Hulls), the’ve got to be on top of the team’s game all the time. Now, they might not be on top of their game because they’re going to struggle, but they’ve got to be on top of the team’s game…

“When you lose a game that you didn’t have that awareness or that edge, it’s on everybody in the program. I’m not going to single any one guy out. We all need to get better.”

So Jones will keep working to get better. He will continue making plays, like the drive-and-dish pass to Christian Watford that enabled IU to stun No. 1 Kentucky. He will have more turnovers and bad shooting nights. It’s what happens when you compete, when you lay it on the line.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best more than a century ago. And no, in case you’re wondering, we were NOT there covering it.


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Jones has known more defeat than victory at IU, but that has changed this season. The No. 7 Hoosiers are 15-2 entering Sunday’s Big Ten showdown at No. 5 Ohio State (15-3). It will have a must-win feel for both teams, who are 3-2 in conference play and who seek to put the pressure on first-place Michigan State, which was stunned by Northwestern on Saturday.

Jones has to play better that he did against Minnesota. So do the rest of the Hoosiers to give themselves a chance at a place where visiting teams seldom win. Ohio State has won 32 straight home games for a reason, and it has rarely come down to luck.

In the end, it will come down to who wants it more. That’s all the Hoosiers, and Jones, can ask for.


Memorial Stadium was lit up in snowy spectacle Saturday night as Hoosier football coaches showcased their facilities for recruits. Signing day looms on Feb. 1, and it never hurts to make a big impression.

When it comes to football facilities, at least, the Hoosiers know how to impress.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hoosiers Ready For Hair-On-Fire Gophers; Fischer Honored: More

The Hoosiers, as you know, are 15-1 and ranked No. 7 by AP and No. 8 by the coaches. They have won three straight and have the look of a Big Ten contender.

Minnesota does not, but you won’t hear Crean say that.

“What we see is a team that could easily be 2-2 in this league, and with a couple of bounces 3-1,” Crean said. “You’ve got a national championship coach over there (Tubby Smith) with an outstanding staff. You’ve got a lot of players who have been through it. Rodney Williams is playing at a high level. Certainly Ralph Sampson is more than capable of hurting you from the inside and the outside.”

Minnesota’s great non-conference run (12-1) has been spoiled by an 0-4 Big Ten beginning. It’s lost three close games and got blown out at home by Purdue when the Boilers went 10-for-12 on three-pointers in the first half.

“We fully expect they’re going to play like their hair is on fire and we’ve got to do the same thing,” Crean said. “We’ve got to do the absolute same thing. That’s when we’re at our best and there’s no room for error in this league. If you don’t have effort and you don’t have energy and your level of execution and awareness is not at a high level, it can be a tough night. We’ve got to make sure we continue to stay locked in the way that we have.

“Our guys have done that. The last couple of days we’ve locked into game planning, but also worked on some of the things we felt we needed to improve on or that might be slipping. At the same time keep them really confident with shooting.”

IU should be confident shooting. It leads the nation in three-point shooting. Guard Jordan Hulls leads the nation in three-point shooting. Minnesota just got torched by Purdue’s three-point shooting.

Yeah, all signs point to a convincing Hoosier victory.


There was a time when no one in Cream ‘n Crimson circles had ever heard of Don Fischer. He was a young guy from Illinois set to broadcast Indiana basketball and football games via radio.

He was, to be polite, raw.

Now, he is neither young nor raw, but he is very, very good.

Don’t take our word for it. The National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association has named Fischer the Indiana Sportscaster of the Year for the third straight year and 26th time in his 39 seasons with IU.

Over the years Fischer has won enough awards for 10 men. IU honored him with the J.W. Bill Orwig Medal, which goes to non-alumni for distinguished service to the university. He also has been named an honoray “I” Man.

In October of 2008 he was one of eight inductees into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Richard M. Fairbanks Hall of Fame. The Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2004.

He’s also a very, very good golfer.

Fischer has broadcast more than 1,600 games, including three NCAA title games and eight bowls. He hosts the weekly football and basketball coaches’ show, plus the daily IU Sports Today radio show. He’s also anchored Indianapolis Colts preseason telecasts for the past 17 years.

We’re going on a limb here and say that Fischer is a lock to win Indiana Sportscaster of the Year honors again next year for his call of Christian Watford’s Kentucky beating three-pointer.


Did IU REALLY beat out Michigan State, West Virginia, Iowa, Purdue, Georgia Tech and more to land standout running back Tevin Coleman?

It seems that way.

Coleman is a 6-1, 190-pounder from Illinois who is rated as the nation’s No. 39 running back by Rivals.com. He has a sprinter’s speed, which is good because he is a sprinter. He was the Illinois Class 2A runner-up in the long jump (23-1/4) and ran a 10.86 100 meter dash into a wind to finish fourth.

As a football player he was a big play waiting to happen. He rushed for 949 yards and 13 TDs on just 83 carries. He also caught 16 passes for 345 yards and five touchdowns. He had four kickoff returns and returned two for touchdowns. He also played cornerback and totaled 44 tackles and two interceptions.

What does this mean for Indiana coach Kevin Wilson? Basically, he’s getting a guy who can play running back, receiver and defensive back. Heck, maybe he could play all three. Who says the era of two-way college players is over.

Indiana now has 24 commitments for the Class of 2012.


Tom Lemming, one of the nation’s top recruiting analysts has come out with his top 25 recruiting classes. It’s loaded with the superpower programs you’d figure would be on the list.

Indiana, by the way, did not make it.

Alabama, which just won the national championship, is No. 1 with 26 commitments, five in the top 100 senior recruits. Texas is second with 23 commitments and four in the top 100. Michigan is No. 3 with 24 and four. Ohio State is No. 5 with 19 and four.

Lemming, in case you didn’t know, is a very busy guy. He travels about 55,000 mile a year visiting top recruits. He has his own show, the LEMMING REPORT, on CBS Sports Network. He also contributes to CBSSports.com and MaxPreps.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top-10 ranking won’t distract Hoosiers

Once upon a time, say in October, the Indiana Hoosiers projected as the Big Ten’s ninth-best team. There was logic in this. They had done nothing for three years in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson disaster. They couldn’t play defense to even mediocre standards. If there was a way to lose close games, they would find it.

Respect had to be earned, and it had not been. When you’re fodder for even struggling Iowa, as IU was last year, nobody takes you seriously.

People are taking the Hoosiers seriously now.

They are ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the coaches’ poll. It’s their highest ranking since they were No. 6 in December of 2002, just before then coach Mike Davis ran out onto the court against Kentucky and the freefall began.

(QUICK NOTE -- I originally had this as December of 2008, which was a typo, as readers pointed out. Thanks for the catch. Sometimes there's a disconnect between my brain and my fingers.)

IU has beaten No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Ohio State (a full strength Ohio State, by the way) and No. 16 Michigan, and if they all came at Assembly Hall, so what? How many teams in the country could do that?

Maybe three.


So now the hype builds. Are the Hoosiers really Big Ten championship material? Could they actually contend for a national championship after seasons of 6-25, 10-21 and 12-20?

We’ll know soon enough.

Here’s what we do know in an unseasonably warm mid-January day –- coach Tom Crean isn’t about to let his guys lose focus. Here’s what he had to say during Monday night’s radio show:

“I don’t think our players get caught up in the hype when it comes. I think this is the same team that has no trouble right now remembering that that informal poll of the Big Ten picked them ninth. We had no trouble reminding them of it, and we remind ourselves of that as coaches. There’s no sense getting caught up in all the hype and the accolades if you didn’t let the negatives beat you down. The negatives didn’t beat this team down and they’ve continued to respond. That’s where maturity kicks in. We’re not nearly, nearly good enough to think that there’s any game in this league that we can come into and not be at our best. The moment that happens, we’re gonna lose, and we’re gonna learn a hard lesson.”

IU has had three years of hard lessons to steel them from the dangers of success.

“Our older guys went through some tough deals,” Crean said, “but they didn’t crack. They continued to work. I think the time they spent this offseason, everybody turning it up a notch, or two or three, I think that was really, really important.”

So now the Hoosiers (15-1) face a huge week. On Thursday they host struggling Minnesota (12-5), which is 0-4 in the Big Ten and just got hammered at home by Purdue. Then they travel to Ohio State, which hasn’t lost at home in about a million years. Okay, the Buckeyes have won 32 straight home games, the nation’s third-longest streak behind Duke and Kentucky.

Yes, they will remember their 74-70 loss in Assembly Hall. Yes, the odds won’t favor IU.

But then, the odds also didn’t favor a 15-1 Cream ‘n Crimson start.

Let the anticipation begin.


Cody Zeller continues to rack up the Big Ten freshman of the week awards. He won it again this week. It’s the 6-11 forward’s fifth such honor and it came after he averaged 14.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in last week’s victories over Michigan and Penn State.

He was especially impressive against Michigan, scoring 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting as the Hooisers won 73-71.

He’ll get to battle 6-11, 260-pound Ralph Sampson of Minnesota. Then comes a second shot at Ohio State inside force Jared Sullinger.

Again, let the anticipation begin.


Do you like numbers? Do you understand numbers? Then Peegs.com, which has all sorts of Cream ‘n Crimson insight, has some good ones for you with its Outside the Box: Penn State feature and its plus-minus analysis.

For the record, this is WAY to complex for us. We like to think it’s because we have an artistic brain that treats numbers as if they were part of the Black Plague and ...

Sorry. Check out the Outside the Box feature and judge for yourself.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Spotlight Finds Roth and the Hoosiers

So the spotlight finds Matt Roth. It’s been a long time, three years if you’re counting.

Hey, you do a lot of counting when a guy comes off the bench to hit 5 of 6 three-pointers, goes 7-for-7 from the line and scores 22 points, one less than he scored in the previous 10 games.

Yeah, Roth had that kind of game against Penn State.

He wasn’t the sole reason Indiana held on for an 88-82 victory. These Hoosiers are about as far from a one-man team as you’re likely to find in college basketball. They’ve got weapons every where you look, and if the glamour comes from Christian Watford and Cody Zeller, well, don’t forget about Roth.

Penn State apparently did.

To understand how the 6-3 Roth lit up the Nittany Lions means understanding what he is and what he isn’t.

He’s a senior role player with a knack for hitting three-point shots from really long distances. He’s a smart guy, an academic All-Big Ten guy, who has already graduated. He’s enrolled in graduate school for sports administration and management.

Roth is not Victor Oladipo and capable of leaps and dunks that capture the imaginiation. He does not create with quickness or ballhandling. He is not a shutdown defender.

For Roth to get open depends on teammates driving and kicking, and if you’ve seen the Hoosiers play this season, you know they have a bunch of guys who can do that.

And while they do, Roth moves out beyond the three-point line. Sometimes WAY beyond it, so far guys think they don’t have to guard him out there.

They would be wrong.

Roth overcame a foot injury that cost him basically all of second year in Bloomington. He played a lot as a freshman, just two games as a sophomore and basically eight minutes a game as a junior.

He seemed to be an afterthought on this team. Before Sunday his biggest achievement came against Maryland Baltimore County, when he scored 14 points in 18 minutes.

He hit a couple of big three-pointers at Michigan State, lit up Stony Brook for eight points in seven minutes. That was about it.

Then came Sunday at Penn State and suddenly it was three years ago, Jan. 31, 2009, to be exact, when Roth went 9-for-11 from three-point range and scored 29 points in a 93-81 loss to Ohio State.

Roth burned the Nittany Lions in part because they were so focused on the inside and slowing down Watford and Zeller, they didn’t stay out on him. He made them pay with a hot perimeter stroke that has lasted all season (he’s shooting 56.7 percent from three-point range) and a sweet free throw touch that leaves him 10-for-10 for the year.

When he wasn’t draining three-pointers, teammate Jordan Hulls was. He went 7-for-9 from beyond the arc for a career-high 28 points. He and Roth had the bulk of IU’s 16 three-pointers, which was one off the school record.

That was five more than the Hoosiers had made in any game this season, and they did it with the same accuracy (they were 16-for-24) they’ve displayed all season. They shoot 47.8 percent from three-point range, which is ridiculously good.

Why do they shoot three-pointers so well? The short answer is practice. The long answer is lots of practice.

“I think we have good shooters and spacing,” coach Tom Crean said. “These guys spend a lot of time shooting. They’re open to their technique being corrected and we get a lot of reps. Cook Hall is part of that.

“We spend a lot of time at that part of it. I think that’s the development part of it, of really making it crucial in your practices, but them spending a lot of time on it on their own.”

All that has spurred IU to a 15-1 record, 3-1 in the Big Ten. By Monday afternoon the Hoosiers will likely be a top-10 team, with more opportunities to come Thursday against slumping Minnesota and Sunday at dangerous Ohio State.

Yeah, it’s spotlight time. Who knows who it will find next time.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

IU Recruiting Coup – Finding Oladipo and Sheehey

Where were you when Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey commited to Indiana?

Don’t remember? There’s no reason to. That day lacked the historical importance of, say, what you were you doing the day men first landed on the moon, not that we’re admitting we’re old enough to remember that.

Anyway, Oladipo and Sheehey were under-the-radar guys from far, far away. Oladiopo was from Maryland. Sheehey was from Florida. They were not top-15 national material like Cody Zeller was. They lacked bet-the-house NBA certainty, as Eric Gordon had.

Oladiop and Sheehey were a couple of lower-end-of-the-rating-spectrum guys who made some wonder if Tom Crean would ever get this recruit-to-Indiana University stuff right.

Nobody’s wondering now.

Oladipo and Sheehey are on nobody’s lower-end list anymore. They have played HUGE roles in Indiana’s 14-1 start that has a whole bunch of experts not named Doug Gotleib or Bob Knight thinking that maybe, just maybe, the Hoosiers might be Big Ten title worthy.

The 6-5 Oladipo averages 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. He has a team-leading 28 steals. He shoots everything well except three-pointers (he’s just 6-for-24 beyond the arc). Beyond the numbers, he’s IU’s most athletic player, a human highlight film with an explosive first step and an ability to ignite a crowd with a dunk.

Oh, yes. He plays some pretty mean defense, too. So mean, in fact, that Crean has referred to it as “a gift from God.”

The 6-6 Sheehey is nearly as athletic who, when healthy, just might be the Big Ten’s best sixth man. He averages 10.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. He shoots 44.4 percent from three-point range, which on most teams would be really, really good. On this team, one of the nation’s best from beyond the arc, he’s just average.

Yeah, Sheehey is hurt (he’s missed the last three games and likely won’t play until next Sunday’s Ohio State game), and IU treats his injury with the secrecy usually reserved for when you ask for the code to launch the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He is “day to day.” He had a “lower leg” injury. It is as if revealing Sheehey’s ankle injury and projected time to return would cause Justin Bieber to get elected President of the United States.

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION No. 1: We have never actually asked for the nuclear launch code.

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION No. 2: Scientific research indicates that Justin Bieber getting elected president is one of the signs of the Apocalyspe.

Just saying.

Anyway, Sheehey has a strong basketball background. His father, Mike, played basketball at Virginia and St. Bonaventure. His uncle, Tom Sheehey, starred at Virginia, was drafted by the Boston Celtics and played professionally in Spain.

Still, Sheehey was rated as the No. 141 player in his class. Oladipo was at No. 144.

So what was it that Crean saw in them?

“They were excellent, excellent people,” Crean said. “They had a high level of athleticism. They had a little edge to them, which I think is really important. They had won (at the high school and AAU levels). All of those things really played into it.”

Crean said ratings are important, “but I don’t think it’s what you base your decisions on. It’s just part of the process. I think figuring out who really fits and who’s got those attributes, who has a high level of athletic upside, who’s got intelligence, who’s got character, who has a competitive mindset. To me, that’s where the edge comes in.

“You want guys who maybe have been overlooked or underrated, not invited to this or that, because the last thing you want in recruiting, and it’s so hard, but make sure you’re not getting entitled or enabled people. We’ve all done that, but entitled and enabled people get you beat, big time.

“So you want to stay away from that as much as possible. Sometimes you’ve got to peel the onion back and really look at the layers a little bit to see what’s really truen, what’s not, and then make your decision accordingly.”

When it came to Oladipo and Sheehey, Crean decided well. The program is reaping the benefits, and will for two more years.

Neil Armstrong, for sure, would agree with that.


In case you’re wondering, Hoosier Hoopla hasn’t fallen off the earth. We’ve been busy with a whole bunch of projects –- a kid’s book on Ancient Sparta, doing video, tweeting more than the law should allow, getting lost in a Detroit snowstorm (thanks to the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl), teaching journalism and fitness, discovering that blackjack is NOT the way to millionaire status.

And, oh, yes, trying to wrap up the greatest novel ever written, recognizing that "trying" might not ever lead to "doing."

Anyway, we’ll try to be more regular now as IU builds to what should be a very, very special March.