Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Scary Thought -- Just Wait Until IU Hits Full Strength

Imagine how good Indiana is going to be once it gets to full strength.

Yes, that’s a scary thought. Even with a depleted frontcourt the Hoosiers are crushing all comers.

OK, they needed overtime to whip Georgetown by 10, but that misses the point. These guys are breaking the will of everybody they face. It’s a combination of depth and fitness and pace and just sheer relentlessness.

See the 83-59 win over North Carolina as the latest example.

How many times have you seen a team jump on another, and let that opponent back into it?

IU doesn’t mess with that. It is ruthless. It jumps on you and then buries you. That’s exactly the kind of mindset you have to have when the goal is a national championship.

The Cream ‘n Crimson faithful haven’t seen this kind of dominance since the Bob Knight led IU squad that went 31-1 in 1975 instead of 34-0 only because Scott May broke his arm.

In two weeks freshman forwards Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin get off NCAA-mandated suspension. Forward Derek Elston should be back from his knee surgery around Christmas. It will take coach Tom Crean a little while to get everybody adjusted to the new rotation.

Like maybe 10 minutes.

That inside depth means the Hoosiers can become much more aggressive defensively on the perimeter. They can attack the passing lanes -- imagine what Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey will do -- knowing that there’s plenty of shot-altering size behind them if they get beat.

Playing North Carolina created the kind of Assembly Hall buzz we won’t see again until Big Ten play. The rest of the non-conference home schedule is -- and we’re being diplomatic here -- weak. IU will blow through the likes of Coppin State, Central Connecticut State and Florida Atlantic.

The risk with a schedule like this is you could see some slippage of play, which is NOT what you want with a Big Ten start of Iowa and Penn State on the road.

You have to be a mature, focused, hungry team to stay sharp through this kind of schedule. That usually entails intense coaching.

That’s why you saw Crean give his best Bob Knight kicking impression near the end of the 83-59 wipeout of North Carolina. He saw reserve Austin Etherington fumble away a loose ball rather than get it to a true ballhandler and, well, that can’t happen. Not if you have such lofty goals.

“I love these guys,” Crean said, “but the ball’s got to go to a guard. You don’t dribble a loose ball…

“At the four-minute time out we really wanted to clamp down and play well. That’s a mental game. That’s hard.

“(North Carolina) is trying to come back and it’s important that we don’t make those mistakes. I have no trouble coaching the game until it’s over.”

So Crean will push and push and push some more, especially against the pushover teams coming up. That DOES NOT, by the way, describe Butler and the Dec. 15 Crossroads Classic showdown at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are the only remaining non-conference opponent that can beat IU.

Will they?

Not likely.

Anyway, Crean demands a lot because his players have a lot to give. High talent level means high expectations mean high workloads.

No one works harder than guard Jordan Hulls, and it shows. He has become, if you just consider the numbers, the Big Ten’s best guard behind Michigan's Trey Burke.

Yes, we know. That can’t be right, but  consider Hulls has 31 assists and just five turnovers. He shoots at least 50 percent from all over the court. He's a double-figures scorer. At a listed 6-foot, he even rebounds. His numbers against North Carolina were ridiculous -- 13 points (3-for-5 on three-pointers), eight assists, seven rebounds, two steals and no turnovers in 32 minutes.

Freshman Yogi Ferrell gets a ton of hype, and deservedly so, but make no mistake, this is Hulls’ team.

Anyway, IU staggered North Carolina with big games from forward Cody Zeller (20 points, eight rebounds, four blocks), guard Victor Oladipo (19 points, four rebounds) and swingman Will Sheehey (19 points, five rebounds). Thirteen guys played and nine guys played at least 11 minutes.

Remy Abell’s ridiculously hot shooting (he entered last Tuesday night 13-for-18 from the field and 7-for-8 from three-point range) finally cooled off with his 1-for-6 effort against North Carolina. And the Hoosiers rolled despite getting next to nothing offensively from second-leading scorer Christian Watford (two points, 1-for-9 shooting).

Think about that.

IU is looking so good you wonder -- just for a second -- if an unbeaten national title is in its future.

Take a deep breath.

In truth, the Big Ten is too good for any team to go undefeated. The Hoosiers will go 13-0 in the non-conference. They can go 14-4 in the conference, perhaps 15-3, and win the championship.

After that, if everybody stays healthy and focused, it will get really interesting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Must-See Basketball -- Here Comes IU-North Carolina

Of course students camped out for tonight’s North Carolina basketball epic.

When you’re young and bullet proof, when 30 degree temperatures are as relevant as eight hours of sleep a night, why not take a sleeping bag and camp out in the glowing surroundings of Assembly Hall.

This is certainly the only game on the non-conference schedule to do it, unless you find Central Connecticut State a compelling draw.

And if you didn’t sleep over, want a ticket and don’t mind waiting till the last minute for this 9:30 tipoff, you should be able to get a great seat for $500 or so, a decent one for around $300.

But we digress.

IU is 6-0 and ranked No. 1. North Carolina is 5-1 and ranked No. 14. The loss came to Butler in last week’s Maui Invitational.

About 27 NBA scouts will watch standouts such as IU’s Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Victor Oladipo and Yogi Ferrell clash with North Carolina’s James McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and Marcus Paige.

What will they see?

Plenty of up-and-down action. Both teams run till the opponent drops, so if you love your basketball at a Wisconsin swing-offense, work-the-shot-clock pace, spend your time somewhere else.

Anyway, Ferrell and Paige mark a showdown of two of the nation’s top freshman point guards (Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart was the other).

Ferrell has done his part with a team-leading 29 assists compared to 11 turnovers. Considering that a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is good, he’s made quite an impact. However, he’s only shooting 27.6 percent from the field, and that has to get better for him to make the offensive impact the Hoosiers have to have against elite competition.

Paige isn’t as consistent with the ball (20 assists, 19 turnovers), but his shooting isn’t bad (37.5 percent).

The best matchup of the night could become between the 6-5 Oladipo and the 6-7 Bullock.

Oladipo is a defensive nightmare who has 15 steals, a gazillion deflections, long arms and relentless energy. He’s also improved his shooting (65.8 percent) and averages 11.0 points.

Bullock averages 12.7 points while shooting 51.6 percent from three-point range and 57.1 percent overall.

What out for the 6-9 McAdoo, who averages 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds. He’s certainly impressed IU coach Tom Crean.
“McAdoo is unlike everything we’ve seen with his ability to rebound out of the break,” Crean said. “They are a phenomenal, not only transition team, but transition rebounding team. McAdoo leads the way with that. It’s never over. It’s never over. If they don’t score quick, if they don’t get a layup or a three, you’ve gotta really be able to guard against the second shot because McAdoo is a trailer with a full head of steam.”


IU might have struggled to a 4-8 football finish, but its future potential showed by having nine players receive All-Big Ten recognition.

Here is the IU release on that:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana senior defensive tackle Adam Replogle and sophomore wide receiver Cody Latimer earned second team All-Big Ten honors, the conference announced Monday evening. Seven additional Hoosiers received honorable mention recognition. The nine honorees are the most for the IU program since 2001, when 12 Hoosiers collected league laurels.

Replogle earned second team accolades from the conference coaches and media, while Latimer was recognized as a second-teamer by the media and was an honorable mention selection by the coaches.

Junior tight end Ted Bolser (coaches and media), junior kicker Mitch Ewald (media), true freshman right guard Dan Feeney (coaches and media), junior safety Greg Heban (media), fifth-year senior center Will Matte (media), true freshman left tackle Jason Spriggs (coaches and media) and sophomore wide receiver Shane Wynn (media) were honorable mention.

Indiana's six honorees on offense and three honorees on the offensive line are also the most since the 2001 team had eight and five, respectively.

Additionally, fifth-year senior defensive tackle Nicholas Sliger was named Indiana's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.

Replogle started an Indiana record 47 games and finished his career with 184 tackles, 15 sacks, which is ninth in school history, and 28.5 tackles for loss.

In 2012, he led the team with five sacks (tied for seventh in the Big Ten), 13 tackles for loss (seventh) and two forced fumbles (tied for 10th) and finished third with 71 tackles. His 5.9 tackles per game topped all Big Ten defensive linemen, and he closed second among defensive tackles in sacks and TFLs.

Replogle added to his budding resume with his third straight Capital One Academic All-District V honor. He is also one of 10 finalists for the ARA Sportsmanship Award, a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, was a nominee for the 2012 AFCA Good Works Team and was a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy.

Latimer owned a team-best 805 yards, six touchdowns (tied) and 15.8 yards per catch, and he finished second with 51 receptions. He ended up third in the Big Ten with 67.1 yards per game, tied for fourth among wideouts in touchdowns and was seventh with 4.2 catches per game.

The Dayton, Ohio, native recorded his second career 100-yard game, both this season (Ball State - 115), with 113 yards to go along with a career-high-tying seven receptions and a career-high three touchdowns en route to his first co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor against Iowa.

He became the first Hoosier with three TD catches since Tandon Doss recorded three at Purdue on Nov. 27, 2010. The three scores aretied for the second-most in school history (10 times), trailing only James Hardy's four (Michigan State on Oct. 28, 2006).

Matte matched an Indiana offensive linemen record with 45 career starts and did not allow a sack in 972 snaps. He was a 12-time game captain this season, a 21-time game captain in his career and was on the 2012 Rimington Trophy Fall Watch List.

Feeney and Spriggs each started all 12 games, an IU true freshmen record for offensive linemen. Feeney did not surrender a sack in 935 snaps and finished second on the team with 54 knockdowns. Spriggs led the Hoosiers with 80 knockdowns and allowed just two sacks in 961 snaps.

Bolser's 41 receptions were second in the Big Ten and shared 10th nationally among tight ends, and his 445 yards were third in the Big Ten. He added three TDs and his numbers put him third on Indiana's single-season list for tight ends in catches and yardage.

Wynn led the Hoosiers with 68 catches and six touchdowns (tied) and finished second with 660 yards. He was second in the Big Ten with 5.7 receptions per game, tied for fourth among receivers with his six TDs and closed 2012 eighth with 55.0 yards per game.

Heban led the team and all Big Ten defensive backs with 91 tackles, 68 solo, and he also paced the team with three interceptions (tied for fifth in Big Ten) and eight passes broken up (tied for the team lead). His seven tackles for loss were tied for fourth on the team and he added one sack and one fumble recovery. Heban paced the team in tackles six times overall (five times at safety).

Ewald finished the season with 42 extra points (third most in school history), 15 field goals (tied for fifth) and 87 points (eighth). For his career, Ewald now has 105 extra points (fourth), 44 field goals (tied for third) and 237 points (sixth).

***** ranks IU’s Class of 2013 No.4 behind Kentucky, Kansas and Memphis. With six players signed, it ranks with South Florida and California as the largest class in’s top 40.

Kentucky, Kansas and Memphis all signed five players.

Flordia ranked No. 6 despite signing only two players:

IU’s class is forwards Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Devin Davis and Collin Hartman, guard Stanford Robinson and center Luke Fischer.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

IU’s Bad Defense Pays Off; No. 1 Hoosiers Roll

If you were a stud defensive player seeking instant major college playing time, why wouldn’t you look at Indiana?

Heaven knows these guys need the help.

That leads to Indianapolis North Central defensive tackle Darius Latham, who is big and strong and athletic in ways that seem to defy belief. The guys is 6-5 and 290 pounds and he plays elite AAU basketball. He’s not filling a roster spot. The guy is good. Not LeBron James good or Cody Zeller good, but let’s just say he has enough game that Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean is willing to CONSIDER giving him a walk-on chance.

But that misses the point, which is Latham has committed to the Hoosiers. He did it during Sunday’s unofficial visit to campus that includes watching Indiana’s top-ranked basketball team crush Ball State Sunday night.

Latham is good enough and athletic enough to have received a scholarship offer to Wisconsin, and then accept it. And then, of course, he took a pass.

Latham is a four-star recruit by, a national Internet recruiting service and the Class of 2013’s No. 73 player by He says he wanted to stay closer to home. At one time, the last place that would have meant was IU. But the Hoosiers have boosted their facilities and their staff, and suddenly this looms as the IT program for guys in the area.

Earlier, Indianapolis Ben Davis safety Antonio Allen switched from Mississippi (yes, a guy going from the SEC to the Big Ten) to the Hoosiers and Indianapolis Pike defensive end David Kenney went from Iowa to IU. Both of those guys also are four-star recruits, as is athlete Rashard Fant.

Coach Kevin Wilson now has 14 committed players for the Class of 2013. At least half of them are defensive players, and that’s no accident.

The Hoosiers might be the worst tackling team in the history of the program. They gave up 42 points to Purdue in the second half, 56 overall. They gave up 62 points to Wisconsin and 45 to Penn State and …

OK. You get the picture. IU has need and if Latham is as good as his ranking, he will help immediately, especially considering the Hoosiers are losing two of their best players in defensive tackles Adam Replogle and Larry Black.

Sometimes, it seems, being bad is very good.


Was that right? Was Victor Oladipo REALLY playing point guard during Sunday night’s wipe out of Ball State?

Yes, he did, but that doesn’t mean Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls are in danger of losing their positions.

Oladipo ran the show with an all-guard lineup in the second half of IU’s 101-53 victory.


Let associate head coach Tim Buckley explain.

“Coach (Tom Crean) is really big on expanding guys’ games,” Buckley said. “Vic is an example of not only playing on the wing, but playing some point guard to expand his game. We’ve put Cody (Zeller) out on the floor. Cody’s been in the post.

“We want those guys to be basketball players. Vic ran the pick-and-roll quite a bit last year toward the end of the season. It was kind of like he as running the point. It put him in a situation where he had to be more vocal and get guys where they needed to go. I thought it was really good for him to be in that spot.”

The No. 1 Hoosiers (6-0) did plenty of good things while beating Ball State, such as holding the Cardinals to 30.9 percent shooting, forcing 18 turnovers, shooting 60.3 percent from the field and getting five guys to score in double figures.

But mostly, their play didn’t slip despite the lopsided score (it was 50-19 at halftime).

“In order to be a championship-caliber program,” Buckley said, “that’s the way you have to play it. You can’t take any possessions off. Every possession is just as important as the last possession.”

Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Figure IU (6-0) won’t have any reason to relax Tuesday night, when it hosts No. 9 North Carolina (5-1) as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. It will be basketball as track meet, with both teams busting up the floor non-stop.

More on that coming up.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

IU's Football Future; Basketball faces Ball State

Kevin Wilson already has his eyes on Indiana’s football future.

Yes, the 56-35 Oaken Bucket loss to Purdue was a blow. Yes, the defense once again was a disaster, the four turnovers a major disappointment for a coach known for his offensive prowess, and ending the season three straight blowout losses will linger long into the winter.

Still, a lot of fire power returns, the recruiting is promising and all signs point that, perhaps as soon as next season, bowl eligibility is coming.

“We have 19 guys on offense coming back,and only five will be seniors,” Wilson said. “They have time to grow because they’re young and have potential to grow.

“These last three games have been disappointing, but with the next young players they can make great strides and become the strong leaders that we need.

“We need to recruit and work on player development because our guys are not physically strong enough to where they need to be.”

IU finished 4-8, three more victories than last season, its first under Wilson.

The Hoosiers scored first, took a 21-14 halftime lead, and rallied for a 35-35 tie with 12 minutes left in the game before buckling.

“It was disappointing to lose the rival and bucket game,” Wilson said. “That was a tremendous day for Purdue. They played a great second half, but we didn’t make tackles. We played a solid game and the guys played well, but when you turn the ball over four times, you’re not going to win.

“It’s sad for the seniors, but we hope to go into the off-season and work on the guys coming back.”

As far as the turnovers -– three Cam Coffman interceptions, and a fumble –- Wilson said, “We can make better play calls. I’m just as much a part of that as Cam.”

Coffman had a huge game, throwing for 348 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Stephen Houston rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 95 yards.

“I had the hot hand today,” Houston said. “My coaches got me the ball. I had faith in the o-line and my coaches just kept feeding it to me.”

Losing the momentum that came with the 35-35 tie shouldn’t have happened, defensive back Greg Heban said.

“We had it at 35-35. We thought we had the momentum. We talked about finishing games at practice, but we couldn’t finish this like we wanted.”

So players will start lifting weights, perhaps as soon as next week. The coaches will hit the recruiting trail hard to finish what looms as a strong recruiting class.

“We didn’t win as much as we would have liked,” Coffman said, “but we learned a lot. We have a lot of potential. We’ll relay this into the off-season and come out strong next season.”


Indiana’s top-ranked basketball team is back in Assembly Hall tonight after a successful trip to Brooklyn. The Hoosiers (5-0) take on Ball State (2-1). The Cardinals are coming off a 20-point loss to Indiana State.

There’s a chance IU could lose focus on Ball State, because on Tuesday night Indiana will host No. 9 North Carolina. But then, if you’ve seen the way coach Tom Crean works the Hoosiers, emphasizing that they pay attention to details, yo know losing concentration isn’t an option.

The Hoosiers survived challenges from Georgia and Georgetown as much with their tough-minded approach as their physical talent.

“I would say grit, toughness, passion. I would say that when things didn’t go our way, we had a really good ability to get to the next play,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said. “We were able to play a couple of different styles, whether it was pushing the pace or grinding it out at the half-court. That’s always a sign of a pretty good team when you can play a lot of different ways.”

Friday, November 23, 2012

Win The Bleeping Bucket; IU Loses Basketball Appeal

Indiana can win the Old Oaken Bucket, ruin Purdue’s postseason plans and perhaps end Danny Hope’s coaching run.

Yeah, a lot could happen today at Ross-Ade Stadium, and it’s going to come down to the defense.

We know. Take a deep breath.

First, the Hoosiers are 4-7 and, for the most part, have been very competitive. You can see the improvement and potential.

Second, Purdue is one of the nation’s most under-achieving teams in the country. This was a group that nearly beat, on the road, the only two remaining undefeated teams in the country, Notre Dame and Ohio State. It was projected as a Big Ten title contender.

Instead, it collapsed by losing its first five Big Ten games, four by blowout.

Third, IU is going to score on Purdue. It’s fast-paced offense will dictate if, and this is a big if, it can control the Boilers’ talented but beat up defensive front.

Sure, the offense has bogged down the last couple of games against Wisconsin and Penn State. The running game has all but disappeared. That would be bad news for most quarterbacks, let alone the backups (Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld) IU is using after starter Tre Roberson’s season-ending broken leg.

Still, the Hoosiers have a bunch of play-making receivers and both Coffman and Sudfeld have made significant impact, which is why IU leads the Big Ten in passing.

Fourth, the defense has to step up. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. IU gave up 62 points to Wisconsin (along with a mind-boggling 550 rushing yards and 605 overall) and then 45 to Penn State (giving up 393 passing yards).

In other words, the Hoosiers can’t stop anything. If they can’t shut down the run and make Purdue one dimensional, well, maybe they can win a 55-50 shootout.


The bottom line is this is a winnable game. IU has to be aggressive, consistent, physical and fundamentally sound. It has to make big plays and not allow them.

The Hoosiers don’t need a miracle at Ross-Ade Stadium. They just to play to their potential.

Or, to put it more bluntly, win the bleeping Bucket.


So now we know -– Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin won’t make their IU basketball debuts until the Dec. 15 Crossroads Classic game with Butler at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The NCAA appeals committee denied IU’s appeal to reduce the nine-game suspension. The committee announced its decision on Friday.

The committee specified the involvement of Mark Adams, a highly successful AAU coach (Indiana Elite) and the founder of A-HOPE, a charitable organization that helps bring student athletes from foreign countries to the United States. Adams is also an IU grad who, from 1986-92, contributed $185 to the IU Varsity Club for bumper stickers for his former wife’s car.

In NCAA eyes, those donations made him a booster, and boosters cannot provide any benefits to recruits.

While Adams never personally gave any benefits to Perea and Jurkin, A-HOPE did -- about $8,000 for Perea and $6,000 for Jurkin for travel and personal expenses, and even a laptop. Perea and Jurkin also stayed with Adams, who lives in Bloomington, over multiple summers.

All this was at first ruled permissible, then changed to impermissible when Adams’ Varsity Club donations were discovered.

The committee targeted what it called Adams’ “unique access and continuous involvement with the men’s basketball program.”

Over the years A-HOPE has provided financial assistance to a number of players who wound up playing at U.S. colleges, including Emmanuel Negedu (Tennessee), Idong Ibok (Michigan State), Alfred Aboya (UCLA) and Obij Aget (Northwestern).

IU officials aren’t happy about the ruling –- they were hoping Perea and Jurkin would be eligible for Sunday’s home game against Ball State -– but will accept it.

Specifically, athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement officials are “disappointed with the denial” and are “more disappointed in the case summary as communicated by the NCAA public relations staff,” but “We accept this as the NCAA’s final word on the case, and we will have no further comment on the matter.”

Here's the official statement in its entirety:

“Earlier today, we received notice that our appeal for a reduction in the withholding penalties for Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin was denied.  While we are disappointed with the denial, we are even more disappointed in the case summary as communicated by the NCAA public relations staff.  This case continues to be about $185 in Varsity Club contributions over 20 years ago, notwithstanding the NCAA National Office’s troubling references to activities that are permissible or would have been permissible but for the minor donations.  Having said that, we accept this as the NCAA’s final word on the case, and we will have no further comment on the matter.”

Coach Tom Crean didn’t comment on the decision, but he did offer a few tweets on the subject.

For instance:

"The attitude, humble spirit, personalities and ability to deal with adversity that Hanner and Peter have astounds me daily. 2 special people.”

"Every person that has helped bring this program back is stronger for it. Nothing ever easy or simple. Hanner and Peter will be the same way.”

"Neither Hanner or Peter have had a easy or entitled life. They work, learn and keep making others better because of who they are."

The bottom line is the NCAA didn’t like Adams’ link to the program, found an opening (the 20-year-old $185 donation) and took advantage of it. If there are sins here, Perea and Jurkin didn’t commit them, but they are paying the price.

Of course, that’s true in so many NCAA sanctions. Look at what happened to IU after the Kelvin Sampson debacle or Penn State with the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

In the end, perception is truth, and the NCAA has the final word, Perea and Jurkin have the final action. They will have their chance to make significant impacts on a potential national championship team. A nine-game suspension is unfortunate, but not cataclysmic (see Maurice Creek for true adversity).

That’s all that matters.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Indiana Learns Lessons in Brooklyn

So what did we learn from Indiana’s trip to Brooklyn?

First, the Hoosiers will go as far as Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell (with lots of help from Victor Oladipo and Remy Abell) take them. College basketball remains a guard game and you need guys who can run the show.

Hulls and Ferrell delivered against Georgia and Georgetown in the Legends Classic. Hulls was named tourney MVP after a 17-point effort against Georgetown. He was the big reason why IU won the championship. He’s so dangerous from three-point range that Georgetown coach John Thompson often put his two best defenders on him in 6-8 Otto Porter and 6-8 Greg Whittington.

Hulls, who is generously listed at 6-foot, went 3-for-6 on three-pointers against the Hoyas. He’s now 16-for-29 (55.2 percent) for the season.

He also makes smart decisions with the ball and provides the kind of backcourt leadership all championship teams crave. If he’ll never be a defensive superstar in the manner of Oladipo, the Hoosiers can live with that.

Second, Ferrell is mentally tough. Yes, he has plenty of accolades, is very quick, very good about distributing the ball, and getting better on defense. But as Georgetown showed, if he’s going to have the ball at crunch time, and he is, he has to make free throws.

He’s missed a couple of them in the closing minute against Georgetown, and that meant overtime rather than of a victory.

Did Ferrell mope or lose focus?

Not even close. He came back with seven overtime points, including a shot-clock-beating three-pointer, to finish with a career-high 14 points.

That’s big. He will be targeted by Big Ten teams. They’ll go after the freshman until he proves he can handle it. He took a big step on Tuesday. He’ll have to take others in the weeks leading to Big Ten play, with Ball State and North Carolina coming to Assembly Hall in the next five days.

“Yogi has great body language,” coach Tom Crean said. “When he gets distracted or frustrated he gets out of it fast and that's what great players and definitely great point guards have; they have to be able to move on right now.

“That is not the first time that he has hit a shot with the clock winding down. We have seen it in scrimmages and practice at different times. He just has something about him."

Third, IU proved it can win under pressure. All these upcoming Assembly Hall blowouts -- including Coppin State, Central Connecticut State, Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville -- won’t help nearly as much as what Georgetown and Georgia did.

The Hoosiers blew a chance to beat Georgetown in regulation play, then dominated in overtime for an 82-72 victory. It takes a tough-minded team to do that.

In fact, Crean loved the overtime opportunity.

“Our attitudes were fantastic,” he said. “Our heads didn't drop, There wasn't any complaining. I just kept saying to them ‘This is tremendous.’

“To have an opportunity like this so early in the season, this is great because you have to find a way to win. You have to do what is required to win the game and everybody did what they do best. I think what helped the most in overtime was our great maturity."

IU (5-0) almost certainly won’t go undefeated. Not in this era of instant parity and with the Big Ten perhaps the strongest it's ever been. The Hoosiers will have bruising battles and disappointing performances.

So far they look more than capable of handling all obstacles. And if that means a few losses, so be it.

The last college team to go undefeated was IU’s 1976 national championship squad, but that one had a bunch of tight games (some of the more memorable were the 63-60 win over Notre Dame, and the two-point victories over Ohio State and Purdue). The 1975 squad, which was positioned for a national title until All-American forward Scott May got hurt, was far more dominant.

The Hoosiers have only two other games they could lose in the non-conference schedule -- North Carolina on Tuesday and Butler on Dec. 15. North Carolina is at Assembly Hall, where IU has become unbeatable. Butler is at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and that won’t be a road game for the Hoosiers.

Other than that, IU will roll big.

The biggest weakness in this non-conference schedule -- other than not playing Kentucky -- is no true road game. That could be a problem given the Hoosiers open Big Ten play at Iowa (a very dangerous opponent) and at Penn State.

But that's for a later debate. For now, Indiana has the best team in college basketball. It is deep, fast, athletic and well coached, and playing like it.

But then, that’s a lesson we already knew.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Top-ranked IU Ready for Legends Classic Challenges

Yes, the Indiana Hoosiers say they’re ready for this outside-of-Assembly Hall experience. It comes courtesy of the Legends Classic and the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Top-ranked IU (3-0) plays Georgia (1-2) tonight and then will player either No. 13 UCLA (3-0) or Georgetown (2-0) Tuesday night, depending on the results.

“Going on the road is always fun,” senior guard Jordan Hulls said in a university release. “It’s good to see where we’re at as a team.

“We had a good energy level (in Thursday night’s win over Sam Houston State) and if we’re gong to win the way we want to, we have to have that every game.”

Georgia is not North Carolina. Let’s make that clear. The youthful Bulldogs are 1-2, have lost two straight games they were expected to win, and have a bit of a lack of confidence right now.

Still, they have talent, particularly with swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who leads them in scoring (20.3 points) and rebounding (6.0).

“They are a big, physical team,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said. “They have really good athleticism and they will try to attack you inside-out. They will be bigger, stronger and more athletic than the first couple of teams that we have played.”

Playing in the New York City area, Buckley added won’t be a distraction. Not with the veterans and not with the freshmen.

“(Our players) have a lot of wordly experiences with their travels in summer basketball and even the McDonald’s All-American game,” he said. “They have been in these venues before, so you don’t see the fear or intimidation.

“You want to make sure they stay focused. You have to get back to your core and your base of getting better every day and getting with your team. We have to leave those distractions where they are. We have a good group of guys that focuses and locks in when we need to.”

One of the most focused Hoosiers is freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell. He has 17 assists and six turnovers, which is basically a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

For the record, a 2-to-1 ratio is considered very good.

Yes, Georgia coach Mark Fox has noticed.

“He’s quick and he’s made good decisions,” Fox said. “It’s a transition from high school to college, but one he seems to be making pretty smoothly.”

Added Ferrell: “This is a great opportunity. It’s going to be a test to see where we are and what we need to work on. We have to keep our own energy – on the bench and on the court.”

Playing on consecutive days, as the Hoosiers will do, is good preparation for that they hope to face in the Big Ten Tournament.

“We are looking that the Big Ten Tournament and postseason play,” Buckley said. “This is a great way to do that with the quick turnaround. Guys retaining information from film and from walk-through is key.”

For coach Tom Crean, this is a business trip, although one that included watching the Indiana Pacers lose to the New York Knicks. It also was a chance to connect to the area’s large IU alumni base.

“This is a great place for our players and staff to come,” Crean said in a university release. “The city has so much to see and offer, that any trip your team takes to New York becomes a special one.”

Special starts with winning. The key to that, Crean said, starts with defense.

“Our best play comes when our defense forces the tempo. We have to be unselfish and reverse the ball and get the best shots possible. We have to defend with great energy.”

Georgia coach Mark Fox also is stressing energy and defense, and hopes this event will jump start his team into a successful season.

“I don’t think our group has established a great deal of confidence yet. We’re learning how to win. The challenge is not about how confident we are. We might not have that swagger yet. The challenge is to look at the errors that have cost us and fix them.

“When you play Indiana, you have a lot of things to deal with. You have to play well on both ends. We want to play as effectively as we can.”

Georgia has shown flashes of effectiveness.

“We have so many guys that we have a pretty versatile lineup. We can do a number of different things; we have a number of guys who can shoot and score. Rebounding has been an area of disappointment. Becoming more consistent is the key.”

Fox said he’s friends with Keith Smart, the former IU standout who hit the shot to win the 1987 national championship.

“I’ve followed Indiana a long time,’ Fox said. “They are so complete offensively. They have so many guys who can score. (Cody) Zeller is great in the middle. Christian Watford can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting. They’ve got a boatload of perimeter players playing well. Their defense has been effective.

“They’re as complete a team as there is in the country.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

IU's Hulls Makes His Mark; Time for Tougher Tests

So Jordan Hulls has no chance of being the NBA’s No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft. Indiana’s senior guard likely has no chance at being drafted at all.

Is that a problem? Only if he’s counting on surpassing teammate Cody Zeller’s pro earning potential, which he certainly isn’t.

Hulls thrives with all the good-guy stuff that matters most. He’s a substance player in an often over-hyped world. He works hard, does the right things and makes everybody around him proud. What he lacks in all-blur quickness he makes up for in competitiveness, will and tenacity.

Take his becoming the 44th Hoosier to reach the 1,000 point club. He did it with, of course, a 3-point basket near the end of top-ranked Indiana’s 99-45 wipeout of really, really out-gunned Sam Houston State Thursday night.

He now has 180 three-pointers for his career, which ties Kyle Hornsby for sixth all-time at IU. He almost certainly will finish at least second in three-pointers, given that Tom Coverdale holds that spot with 200. He’ll have to go nuts to surpass A.J. Guyton’s 283 total.

Anyway, coach Tom Crean had an impromptu ceremony during a late-game timeout after Hulls had reached the 1,000-point mark, raising Hulls hand at center court. That surprised Hulls, who thought Crean was ticked at him for taking a bad shot.

“I had no idea why I was getting my hand raised. I had just shot a terrible shot. I didn’t realize till I got to the bench. It’s a cool accomplishment, but it’s not the most important thing.”

Hulls has always put winning over personal accolades, one of the many reasons why Crean wanted him in the program.

“That kid epitomizes what we’re doing,” Crean said. “He epitomizes what Indiana basketball is all about in so many ways. People from the past can identify with him. People in the future can see what can happen when you play in this program and grow up loving this program. But most important, he impacts our present. He thought I was taking him out because he took a long 3. I love it when he takes those 3s. We need him to do that.

“I’m proud that he got that. It’s an honor to coach him. We get on him. He has grown so much as a player.”


OK, enough of the patsies. Indiana (3-0) is the top-ranked team in the country and it needs competition worthy of its status.

The problem?

It might not happen for a while.

Bryant, North Dakota State and Sam Houston State were no match for the go-for-the-jugular Hoosiers, losing by an average margin of 41 points.

Next up is Georgia in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. The Bulldogs (1-2) might be worse than the teams IU already has faced, having lost to Youngstown State and Southern Mississippi.

Next will come either No. 13 UCLA or unranked Georgetown. UCLA, with freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad ruled ineligible, is likely not as good as its ranking, although it was WAY to much for James Madison (a 100-70 blowout).

In fact, the only ranked team on the non-conference schedule is No. 11 North Carolina, which is awfully talented, but awfully young and has to play at Assembly Hall.

The only other realistic potential threat is Butler as part of the Dec. 15 Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis, but the Bulldogs looked terrible at Xavier the other night.

Plus, there aren’t any true road games. So will this leave IU battle tested enough for Big Ten battles, starting with conference-opening trips to Iowa and Penn State?

Maybe, maybe not, but given the way the Hoosiers showed no letdown against Sam Houston, given their talent and intensity and focus, it might not matter.

But that’s a debate for another day. For now, consider IU is playing to its No. 1 ranking. It is punishing on defense, overwhelming on offense, relentless in everything. It never lets up, regardless of the opponent or the score.

At least, it is at Assembly Hall, where the crowd fuels the fire.

Now it's time to see what happens away from Assembly Hall, and if Brooklyn won't be the same as, say, the Breslin Center, it's a start.

IU Basketball Recruiting -- the Kenny Johnson Impact

Kenny Johnson has made a huge impact for a guy who’s only been with the Indiana basketball program for about six months.

Johnson is the new assistant coach with the big recruiting presence. His East Coast connections, and they are formidable, have enabled coach Tom Crean to tap into the area’s rich talent pool like he never has before.

Johnson was a major factor in IU getting 6-9 forward Noah Vonleh (Massachusetts), 6-4 shooting guard Stanford Robinson (Virginia) and 6-7 forward Troy Williams (Virginia).

Voneleh is the nation’s No. 7 player in the Class of 2013 and the highest-rated player of Crean’s Cream ‘n Crimson tenure. Williams comes in at No. 37. Robinson is at No. 50.

They are the key components in IU’s latest recruiting coup – this year’s group is rated No. 3 behind Kentucky and Kansas.

So what is the secret of Johnson’s success? First, his six years as a primary force in Team Takeover, one of the top travel ball programs on the East Coast. It produced Victor Oladipo and Maurice Creek, among others.

He was the assistant head coach at Paul VI High School in Virginia, associate head coach at Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Henry Wise high schools, also in Virginia. Most recently, he spent one year as an assistant coach at Towson University.

But that’s just resume filling. Johnson's ability to connect with players, to build relationships with them, is crucial.

So what’s been the secret to his early success?

“IU is one of the top programs in the country historically,” Johnson says, “but (it was important) to identify some of the things (Crean) does. Diving into his philosophy. Understanding what makes Indiana, in its current state, good. Finding the right type of individual who fits into that philosophy. Taking the lead of not only him, but Coach (Tim) Buckley and Coach (Steve) McClain, in identifying and recognizing the hard work Marnie Mooney (director of academics for men’s basketball) has done. The strength and conditioning work that (strength and conditioning coach) Je’Ney Jackson has done. Finding people who want to fit that culture.

“It took a little bit of time, and having a little bit of a head start because of the impact I had with Maurice Creek and Victor Oladipo, being a fan of Coach Crean for many years. I kind of understood what he was about. It was a smooth transition in identifying what a Coach Crean type of player would be.

“When have that background information, you’re able to come in and identify people who I think (Crean) would like. People I knew would fit into his culture and mindset. Recruiting has been enjoyable from that standpoint, to be part of a staff that fits my own personal philosophy.”

As are as relationship building, Johnson says, “Relationships are important in all facets of life. It starts with a conversation. You’re watching hundreds and hundreds of talented individuals, but you go back to certain characteristics that we talk about as a staff that are valuable and important to us. Once you recognize that in an individual, you go through the process of whether there’s interest on their part.

“It starts with a conversation. Relationships for me can start with a hello.”

Indiana traditionally has not had a strong recruiting presence on the East Coast. Does the program have a lot of name recognition among elite recruits from there?

“In general it’s a generational thing in most situations,” Johnson says. “People know the name, Indiana, but might not understand the history.

“There’s an interest in the program now with the success and hard work of Coach Crean and his staff. There’s been an increased visibility lately.

“Identifying the actual style of play and what I consider what the separating factors of the program are, whether it be the player development, strength and conditioning or academic standards. Once you get the opportunity to present all that information, it increased the interest level.

People are familiar of the history of the Indiana program, but they don’t understand the differences in the level of fan support, the loyalty that you have.”

Does Johnson seek the best players possible or the ones who fit a specific need, such as a point guard or power forward?

“The strength of the program is multi-dimensional players. We try not to (target) individuals like, ‘Hey you’re going to be a 2-guard or a small forward.’ We identify players who can guard multiple positions, and who would be interested in being coached and developed to play multiple roles.”

Players, it seems, such as Vonleh, Robinson and Williams.


Members of Indiana's 1953 national championship team will be honored tonight during the Sam Houston State game. Specifically, there will be an autograph session from 6 to 6:45 p.m. at the Assembly Hall South Lobby.

The team also will be recognized during the game.

Among the players committed to attending are Bobby Leonard (who made the winning free throw), Dick White, Charlie Kraak, Phil Byers, Jim Schooley, Paul Poff, Jack Wright and Burle Scott.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Indiana Set To Get Offensive vs. Indiana Wesleyan

Do you like points? Do you see offense as a gateway to paradise, meaning the more points scored the better?

Great news. Tonight’s exhibition game between Indiana and Indiana Wesleyan figures to be a light-up-the-scoreboard basketball event.

IU was the Big Ten’s best scoring team last year at 77.3 percent, returns all five starters and brought in super-fast point guard Yogi Ferrell to really ratchet up the pace. It will play an Indiana Wesleyan team that averaged 75 points last year, and just put up 91 against St. Xavier of Illinois on Tuesday night.

In other words, expect a blistering pace, which is just the way junior guard Victor Oladipo likes it.
“It’s pretty cool, because we like to play that way too,” Oladipo said. “Get up and down the floor. Not shoot too many shots, we don’t want to go crazy, but shoot good shots and get up and down the floor. It’s going to be interesting. They’re a good team and we’re looking forward to playing someone else.”

IU is everybody’s choice as preseason No. 1, and has a great chance of making it to next spring’s Final Four.

Oladipo sees the improvement.

“We’re more confident. There’s better togetherness. We were really together last year, but I think this year, we’re more together than we’ve ever been because we know we’re going to always have the target on our backs.”

A big key is the veterans bringing the freshmen up to speed. Oladipo said that hasn’t been a problem.
“Our communication has gotten way better since the first day, especially with our younger guys,” Oladipo said. “They’ve come a long way in doing that and being leaders and they realize that they have a high road and we expect to play everybody.”

Oh, for those who like defense, IU will show plenty of that, as well. As all the Hoosiers know, if that doesn't improve, they have no national title chance.


Here’s a no-brainer -- Jordan Hulls can shoot. But how does he rate nationally? According to CBS Sports, he No. 3.

For his caeer Hulls averages 44 percent from three-point range. Last season he was at 49 percent, 72-for-146.

Think about that. Most guys would love to shoot 49 percent from anywhere except the free throw line. It reflects Hulls’ sharpshooting as well as his ability to take good shots. You almost never see him take a challenged three-pointer unless he’s trying to beat the shot clock.

So who are the two guys ahead of him?

Butler’s Rotnei Clark is No. 1. He shot 44 percent from beyond the arc as a junior, 42 percent as a sophomore and 39 percent as a freshman. That was done while he was at Arkansas. Now he’s at Butler.

Baylor’s Brady Heslip is No. 2. He shot 46 percent last year on three-pointers, and made 100 of them. He hit nine when Baylor beat Colorado in the NCAA tourney.

Anyway, Hulls has had a good couple of days. He also is a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award. That stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School. Candidates must excel in three areas: community, classroom, character and competition.

Hulls is one of 30 men’s candidates. There will be 10 finalists with a vote by national media, coaches and fans set to pick a winner, which will be named at the Final Four.

Also, CBS Sports has Cody Zeller as the nation’s best shooting big man, and he’ll get to prove it this year from beyond the arc as well as in the paint. Ferrell was picked at the No. 33 point guard.