Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Are Hoosiers Headed For Top-15 Finish?
For four straight weeks Indiana has dropped in the polls since topping out at No. 7 with a 15-1 start. That reflects the toughness of the Big Ten as well as its own inconsistency, particularly in losses to Minnesota and Nebraska.
Well, that’s about to end. The now No. 23 Hoosiers (18-6 overall, 6-6 in the Big Ten) are set to finish on a roll. They very well could be a top-15 team by the end of the regular season.
Five of their last seven games are at home. Figure they’ll win at least four of them, with a game against No. 11 Michigan State (18-5) the biggest threat.
They also play at Minnesota (17-7) and at Iowa (13-11). They can split those games.
That means a 23-8 regular season record. Figure they can go 1-1 in the Big Ten tourney, so you’re talking a 24-9 record and very, very solid NCAA tourney seed.
Not bad for a program that won just 12 games last season.
Coach Tom Crean hit on a lot of subjects during his Monday night radio show. For instance, last Thursday his brothers in law, John and Jim Harbaugh, spoke to the team. They were in town for the Super Bowl.
John is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Jim is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
What they said must have been awfully motivational considering two days later, IU won at Mackey Arena for the first time since 2006.
Anyway, NFL head coaches can command a pretty stiff speaking fee. Crean joked that they, “Probably would have cost $60,000. I got the family discount.”
Also, if you were hoping to follow the Hoosiers to a warm tropical island next fall as part of a non-conference exempt tournament, forget it. They are heading to New York. Crean didn’t specify the event, but it could be the Preseason NIT.
Crean is really pushing for a loud, enthusiastic crowd at Assembly Hall for Thursday’s game against Illinois. The concept is a “White out and a loud out.” He added that, “We need it to be excruciatingly painful for the other team to be able to hear.”
Earlier Crean had tweeted he wants a “bedlam” atmosphere for the game. Specifically he tweeted that, "We need to start the buildup for the Illini game RIGHT NOW! Last year it was the LOUDEST game in AH. It's time to top the Kentucky atmosphere.
"We need this play as crazy and intense as it has been all year. With a start time of 8, there is nothing … to hold back from BEDLAM!"
As far as the Hoosiers, he wants them playing at full throttle all the time. No resting during play. That’s what the bench and timeouts are for, and because of media timeouts – to emphasize, that is basically TV timeouts – players already get plenty of breaks.
“I’ve never met a great team that paced itself, and what I mean by that is guys trying to catch a break on the court,” he said.
During Monday’s Big Ten teleconference Crean was asked about Ohio State’s Value City Arena and the atmosphere there since students were put right behind team benches starting last season.
The language, Crean said, is brutal at times.
"I think security does a pretty good job of trying to make sure it's not directed at the players, but as they say, it's fair game for the coach, so you've just got to do your best to shut that out. It's a little over the top. There's no doubt about that, but that's college basketball, and I think that's part of the pageantry of the whole thing.
"My hat's off to them. It's not a place I want my family sitting anywhere nearby, but I think they're really good. I think that's got a lot to do with what the problem is when you go into a timeout. The fans do a great job of playing up to that. I think they've made a lot of good moves inside that arena in the short time I've been in this league to enhance the atmosphere, and it's one of the tougher ones. There's no doubt about it."
Also during the teleconference, Crean was asked about the Big Ten getting a record number of NCAA tourney participants, much like a record 10 Big Ten football played in bowl games this past season.
Crean, as you might expect, said why not. Ten of the 12 Big Ten teams have at least 13 victories. The conference, by every measure, rates as the nation’s strongest.
"I think if they stay true to the criteria that's been set forth, absolutely because you've got a league that's been on top from the beginning and never wavered," Crean said. "When you look around the at the standings - I remember paying attention to this watching film of our game when I saw the graphic - it's amazing the number of wins and how close so many people are to 20 wins already in this league.
"I think that says a lot about our league. So much of what it's supposed to come down to is criteria … and strength of schedule and you're RPI and all those different things. I think our league has done a great job of that.
"Depending on how the next month goes, it would be a complete shock if we didn't have as many or more than anybody in college basketball in the tournament."
Cody Zeller, as you know, is have a really, really, really good freshman year. He leads the Hoosiers in scoring (15.1 points), rebounding (6.4) and shooting (64.9 percent). He’s already been named Big Ten freshman of the week five times. ESPN.com, The Sporting News and SI.com have named him to their second team midseason All-America squads. He’s also one of four Big Ten players on the top-25 list for the Wooden award, which goes annually to the nation’s top player.
Now we find out he’s one of the 20 contenders for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, which also goes to the nation’s best player courtesy of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Finalists will be announced in mid-March.
IU recruit James Blackmon Jr. tore is ACL in his left leg over the weekend and is out for the season.
The Fort Wayne Bishop Luers sophomore guard was during during a 73-51 loss at Indianapolis Tech. According to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel’s Reggie Hayes, Blackmon is “expected to have surgery in the next week or so.” He should be ready to go for next season.
Blackmon was averaging 25.1 points for a 12-6 Luers team that just clinched its second straight Summit Athletic Conference title.
Blackmon tweeted on Monday afternoon that, “Just received the worst news of my life.” He later tweeted that, “My work ethic will get me through this.”
He'll get through it.