Tuesday, March 13, 2012

NCAA Bound – Hoosiers Primed For Long Run

Can Indiana beat New Mexico State?

Or, for those who think outside the Cream ‘n Crimson box, can New Mexico State beat Indiana?

The answers to both questions are yes.

Yeah, it’s a lot like quantum physics, which basically states that really, really tiny particles are in two places at the same time, and that only the act of observing them locks them into place.

What does that have to do with the NCAA tourney?

Hey, we’ve had like two hours sleep in the last two weeks. It’s doing strange things to our thought process. We wrote a story calling New Mexico State the Lobos (which is actually the nickname of in-state rival New Mexico), which is almost as bad as calling Indiana the Boilers.

New Mexico State is really the Hoosiers.



They’re the Aggies. Seriously.

Anyway, New Mexico State went 26-9 in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference). It is an aggressive, athletic, diverse team -– coach Marvin Menzies has players from France, Canada and South Africa -- looking to make a name for itself and jump out of the shadow of its arch rival.

The Aggies earned an automatic bid into the NCAA tourney by crushing the competition in the WAC tournament. They beat Fresno State, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech in Las Vegas by an average of 17 points a game.

The motivation appeared to come from a series of players-only meetings, and boy did that work. New Mexico State out-rebounded its three opponents by 16.7 a game.

Technically, New Mexico State hasn’t won a NCAA tourney game since 1970. It did beat Nebraska in 1993, but that win was lost because of NCAA violations.

What does all this really mean? The Aggies are 1-6 against teams in the top 100 in RPI. That lone win came against New Mexico (they split two games with the Lobos).

They don’t shoot well (just 32.7 percent from three-point range), but they make up for it by attacking the rim and drawing fouls. They basically average 30 free throw attempts a game.

They defend the three-pointer really well, they crash the boards really well, and they get to the free throw line really well.

They also have a 6-6, 230-pound force of basketball nature in Wendell McKines, who averages 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds.

Here’s how much he means to the team. He missed last season with a foot injury and the Aggies were 16-17. In 2010, with McKines, they made the NCAA tourney and nearly upset Michigan State in the first round, losing 70-67.

Then there’s 6-11, 245-pound center Haimidu Rahman (10.0 points, 5.9 rebounds), who shoots a ton of free throws (205), and makes about half. They have three players 6-10 or taller, so they are big.

Bottom line, if IU plays with poise, focus and intensity, tapping into the experience gained from Big Ten battles, it wins. If not, well, you know what that means.


Let’s say you have the urge to enter a NCAA tourney backet pool. Or, heaven forbid, want to BET on the NCAA tourney.

Not, of course, that we are promoting or endorsing such things.

But if you are of the mind to do so, consider that RJ Bell of Pregame.com, a nationally renowned sports bettor on what is promoted as “the largest sports betting news website compliant with U.S. law,” picks Indiana as an 80 to 1 shot to win the national championship.

Kentucky is the favorite with 3 to 1 odds. North Carolina is next at 7 to 1. Ohio State, which is a No. 2 seed in the tournament, is the third favorite at 8 to 1.

And, if you’re wondering, Purdue is a 200 to 1 shot.

Also, if you’re filling out a bracket, consider that No. 16 seeds are 0-108 in tournament history (actually, since 1985), while No. 15 seeds are 4-104.

Finally, more than $12 billion is expected to be wagered on the NCAA tourney, with $3 billion of that involved with tournament brackets.

Apparently a struggling economy has no affect on things that really matter.


IU is looking for a new women’s basketball coach. After three straight losing seasons, including a 6-24 disaster this season, the worst record in school history, Felisha Legette-Jack was fired.

Legette-Jack was a passionate, caring, charasmatic presence who couldn’t transfer that into on-court success. She wasn’t able to get the best in-state players to come to Indiana, a task made even more difficult with national powers Purdue and Notre Dame around.

Legette-Jack was on the edge after last season, but in a final effort to help jump start the program, athletic director Fred Glass gave her a two-year contract extension.

It didn’t help.

“After a deliberate and thorough review of all aspects of the women’s basketball program, including meeting with Felisha and interviews with all current players, I have concluded that under the current circumstances Felisha is no longer in a position to turn the program around,” Glass said said in a university release. “Delaying the inevitable isn’t fair to her, the program and its fans, and most importantly the student-athletes on this team.

“Felisha is a wonderful person who did many good things for our program, the University and the wider community. We all wish her much success in her future endeavors.”

Legette-Jack had success in her first three seasons, going 19-14, 18-15 and 21-11. That last season tied the school record for victories. IU just missed getting a NCAA tourney bid, but did reach the quarterfinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

After that, IU went 14-16, 9-20 and 6-24. At one point the Hoosiers lost 18 straight Big Ten games.

Legette-Jack is owed $780,000 over the final three years of her contract.

“I am mindful that just last year I provided Felisha a two-year contract extension in the belief that such support would help her get the program going in the right direction again,” Glass said. “In retrospect, I was wrong. However, I am not going to compound that mistake by refusing to make the decision that now needs to be made.”

Glass will lead the search for IU’s next women’s basketball coach with the assistance of his staff, particularly Senior Associate Athletic Director Kevin Clark, who is the Sport Administrator for women’s basketball, and Senior Associate Athletic Director Julie Cromer, who is the Senior Women Administrator for the department. As always, Glass will also consult with the Athletics Committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council and many others including current and former players, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the Black Coaches and Administrators Association, the Big Ten Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Pending the appointment of a new head coach, Glass has organized a transition team to help oversee the women’s basketball program comprised of: Senior Associate Athletic Director Kevin Clark (Chair), Assistant Athletic Trainer Robert Black, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Morris, Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Services Kelly Noonan and Academic Advisor Lorian Price.

IU women’s basketball has always been a challenge. Can Glass find someone up to the task? We’ll have to see.

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