Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It Ain't Quantum Physics -- Hoosiers can beat Spartans

To beat Michigan State, which the Indiana Hoosiers will attempt to do tonight, means using the quantum physics principle of being in two places at the same time.

Okay, quantum physics doesn’t actually say that, it talks about a really, really tiny particple being all over the place and its location only locked in when you observe it, but that misses the point, which is to beat the return-to-glory Spartans means you have to rebound and stop the fast break.

That means everybody has to rebound, and if you don’t get it, you have to sprint like you’re Usain Bolt back to stop the fast break.

Because Michigan State will fast break you into oblivion if you let it.

Guard Keith Appling is the catalyst in that and in December’s meeting -– an 80-65 IU loss that ended its 12-0 start –- he had 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

The Hoosiers can’t let that happen again. Figure Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey will share that assignment.

Then there’s point-forward Draymond Green, who more and more acts like a point guard. He will almost certainly be the Big Ten MVP. He leads the league in rebounding (10.6) and is among the league leaders in scoring (15.6) and assists (3.7). Most important, he is a rare leader who even gets coach Tom Izzo to sometimes listen to him.

The day before Michigan State played at Ohio State, which had won like 40 straight home games, Green convinced Izzo to basically just have a walk-through practice instead of the usual grueling workout. Green said the Spartans needed to have their legs at full strength to win at Value City Arena. Izzo agreed, Michigan State won and all was right with the green-and-white world.

Look for Christian Watford -- IU’s most versatile defender -- to get Green, although Oladipo and Sheehey might also rotate in.

So the bottom line: the Hoosiers have to be within striking range of the Spartans in total rebounds, can’t let Michigan State rule the offensive boards, control the fast break, and shoot at a high level.

Really, how easy can it be?

IU is 22-7 and 9-7 in the Big Ten. It can still earn a No. 4 Big Ten tourney seed by winning tonight and Sunday against Purdue, and if Wisconsin (10-6) loses both of its games.

The Badgers hosts fading Minnesota (which looks like it has given up on the season) and fading Illinois (which looks like its headed for a coaching change), so fourth place probably ain’t happening. But winning these two games would likely secure a top-5 NCAA tourney seed no matter what happens in next week’s Big Ten tourney.

Michigan State, by the way, has climbed to No. 5 in the polls with a 24-5 record. With a 13-3 Big Ten mark, it has clinched at least a share of the conference title, and can win it outright with a victory tonight.

IU has already beaten then-No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio State in Assembly Hall. It can beat the Spartans there.

That’s our thoughts. Here’s what coach Tom Crean thinks:

“We’re excited about the week ahead. We’re excited to play against a team as good as Michigan State. They seem to be clicking on all cylinders.

“When I watch them play, they are the infamous wardrobe come to life every game. That’s how they play.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What does “infamous wardrobe come to life” mean? We have no clue. Guess it means the Spartans play really hard and physical.

But here’s more Crean:

“It comes down to the rebounding and running and all the things they do really, really well. We’ve got to match that throughout the game. They’re a worthy champion the way they’ve played throughout the conference season. We have our work cut out for us all week starting (tonight).

Crean has a few other thoughts. For instance:

“Michigan State is a tremendously capable passing team. Everybody can score and pass. One of the great separators for them nationally is how well their big men pass the ball. They bring the wardrobe to life (EDITOR’S NOTE PART II – we still have no clue what this means) every time they play with the aggressiveness on the backboards, with the way they move the ball, with the way they defend. They’re one of the best teams in the country, no doubt about it.

“They pass extremely well. The biggest difference is how much that’s a big part of offense. Draymond is part of every posseion in numerous ways. When your best player is a great facilitator, like he is, when you’ve got Keith Appling, who has the speed and quickness,and the abilituy to make the next play, continue way he does, they’re unique. They don’t take possessons off. They are the calm in the eye of the storm. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, they always believe they’re going to win it.”

IU has to match that belief, then get really, really physical. If it does, it can win. You don’t need to know quantum physics, or understand wardrobe’s coming to life, to recognize that.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

U Needs To Beat Minnesota; Recruit Update; Pat Knight Rant

Indiana needs to win at Minnesota Sunday. It needs a victory for any number of reasons, the biggest of which are Big Ten tourney opportunity and NCAA Tournament seeding.

The Gophers (17-11) are reeling with four straight losses. Coach Tubby Smith was really ticked after they coughed up a late lead at home and lost to Michigan State.

This likely will mean they’ll play with extra motivation and fire tonight. Remember, this was the same Minnesota team that opened Big Ten play with four losses before winning at Assembly Hall last month.

That 77-74 defeat remains the only Assembly Hall blemish for the No. 23 Hoosiers (21-7).

It doesn’t matter. IU needs to win this game. It CAN win this game, despite its road unpredictability. It needs Christian Watford to regain his offense (three points in three games ain’t making it). It needs Jordan Hulls to return to his leading ways, something that’s slipped in recent weeks. It needs to cut down the turnovers and defend like it hasn’t all season.

Yes, that’s a lot of needing, but the Hoosiers are more than capable of this.

We’ll see if they’re up to doing it.


If you like high school basketball, or following IU recruits, or both, then you’re gonna love this coming week.

Hoosier Hysteria erupts at a gym near you and it starts, but certainly doesn’t end, with Tuesday’s sectional opening collision between state powers Indianapolis North Central and Hamilton Southeastern.

Yes, that matchup does scream for sectional seeding, but that’s a debate for another day.

Also, that game comes at the same time IU hosts Michigan State in a game that could have huge postseason seeding implications for the Hoosiers.

Anyway, some other Tuesday matchups include Indianapolis Park Tudor (Yogi Ferrell and Trevon Bluiett) against Indianapolis Marshall; Broad Ripple (Ron Patterson) against Indianapolis Short Ridge; Indianapolis Tech (Trey Lyles) against Indianapolis Lawrence Central (Jeremy Hollowell); and Indianapolis Cathedral (Collin Hartman) against Lawrence North.

On Friday, Warren Central’s Devin Davis and company face the Tech-Lawrence Central winner.

And if upsets are avoided, Park Tudor will play Broad Ripple on Saturday night for the sectional championship.


By now you have read or seen or heard about Pat Knight’s rant on his Lamar seniors. Let’s just say he wasn’t happy with them. It harkens back to the no-coddle age of IU glory past, when real men coached with an iron fist and real players dealt with it because it made them better.

At least that was the story.

Like it or not, the younger Knight’s tirade ranks as one of the most memorable of the modern age – or any age. He spoke from the heart, and his version of the truth.

You could argue that if players – and kids in general – got more of this kind of tough love earlier in their lives, the behavior that caused Knight’s reaction wouldn’t have happened.

Anyway, that’s a debate for another day. In case you missed it, or just enjoy a memorable speech – think Al Pacino in, “And Justice for All” or “Any Given Sunday” – here are the highlights:

Remember, Lamar is 17-11 after going 13-17 without Knight as its coach. But Lamar has lost 3 of its last 4 games, so things sometimes get a little tense.


*“I’m unhappy with these seniors, that’s what I’m unhappy with, it has nothing to do with X’s and O’s. We’ve got the worst group of seniors that I’ve ever been associated with.”

• “We’ve had problems with these guys off the court, on the court, classroom, I mean, being late for stuff, all that stuff correlates together if you’re going to win games.”

• “I feel sorry for this school. I mean these kids are stealing money by being on scholarship with their approach to things.”

• “The main problem is we don’t have a leader. We have six seniors but not one of them is a leader. We’ve got a bunch of followers.”

• “We’ve got a bunch of tin men out there, they have no heart… We can’t play for them, that’s the sad thing.”

• “Usually you have one or two guys that are a problem. We have an infestation of guys that are hard to coach.”

• “When I played, if you acted like some of these guys did, you got shoved in a locker with a forearm against your neck and told, ‘You don’t do that. That’s not how we do things here at Indiana.’ And that’s what we need.”

• “And I don’t think they get it. If you act this way in the real world, you’re gonna be homeless, without a job.”

You just can't make up stuff like this.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Few Lessons From IU’s Win over NC Central

What did we learn from Indiana’s crunching of North Carolina Central?

For one thing, Jim Harbaugh is not a Michigan spy.

For another, Will Sheehey is rounding back into December form after his ankle injury, which will really come in handy come March.

As for what it will mean for these last three Big Ten games – Sunday’s trip to Minnesota, and then home games against Michigan State on Tuesday and Purdue on Sunday, we’ll have to see.

First, Harbaugh was in town thanks to the annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He’s the San Francisco 49ers head coach and Tom Crean’s brother in law and he was very much into the 75-56 victory. He talked to the Hoosiers multiple times on Wednesday, the gist of which was play hard and listen to your coaches.

Hey, you don’t think he’d have told them to, “Do your own thing and to heck with what Crean says,” do you?

He sat on the bench during games, and helped carry the stools players use to sit on during timeouts onto the court and then onto the court. It was not, Crean said, the price he paid for a good seat.

“That was his idea,” Crean said. “He wasn’t under any conditions. He’s a team guy. He epitomizes what you want. It shows why he’s a successful leader as a player and a coach. There’s no job above him and no job beneath him.”

A couple of weeks ago Harbaugh and his brother, John, the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, had met with the Hoosiers and their talked helped inspire the team to a 78-61 win at Purdue, and a three-game winning streak.

“I hope we go on another roll,” Crean said. “The last time he and John were here, we went on a pretty good roll. Give them credit.”

Crean was jokingly asked if he was concerned, because Harbaugh was a Michigan graduate, if some spying was going on. IU could play Michigan in the upcoming Big Ten tourney, for instance.

“He’s not a Michigan spy,” Crean said with a smile. He looked at Harbaugh, who was in the Assembly Hall media room. “You’re not, are you?”

“Hell, no!” Harbaugh shouted.”

“See,” Crean said, “no worries there.”

There weren’t any worries about the outcome of this game, which wrapped up IU’s non-conference season with a 13-0 mark. It’s the first time the Hoosiers have been unbeaten in non-conference play since the 1989-90 season, when Calbert Cheaney was a freshman.

Cheaney, of course, is now IU’s director of basketball operations.

Yes, that meant something to Crean.

“We had the coaches go around the room and talk about where they were in 1989-90,” Crean said. He, by the way, was a Michigan State assistant coach at the time.

“Everybody got to age themselves a little bit. This being the first time we’ve been undefeated in non-conference play is a big, big deal. It’s something the players can carry with them. It’s huge.

“That was something we wanted to get done tonight.”

So was bouncing back from the Iowa debacle and showing they’d learned a little bit about playing defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

IU pretty much turned North Carolina Central’s offense into jelly, with the exception of forward Dominique Sutton, who scored 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting and showed why he’ll be playing professionally some where next season.

The Hoosiers also dominated the rebounding, 35-16. It was the fewest rebounds they’d allowed an opponent since Northwestern also had 16 in 2003.

Sheehey had 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting (matching that of Cody Zeller, who finished with 17 points). He grabbed seven rebounds.

As for turnovers, well, IU had 16 of them against 13 assists. This is not good considering North Carolina State is not nearly as good defensively as the teams IU will face the rest of the season.

Jordan Hulls had three turnovers against two assists. Verdell Jones had three turnovers and one assist. Victor Oladipo had three turnovers and two assists.

Considering these are the primary ballhandlers, this HAS to get better. If so, IU has a chance to finish at least 2-1 in these last three games and enter the Big Ten tourney with lots of momentum.

If not, well, there’s no reason to tell you what you already know.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Indiana Needs A Decisive Victory Tonight

Victor Oladipo and Derek Elston sang on their way back to Cook Hall after meeting with the media. They had just met with us, the media, and we have that kind of affect on college basketball players.

What were they singing?

We’re not sure. We have to confess we’re not up with the musical tastes of 20-year-old guys, although it wasn’t bad. We can say that Oladipo was better than Elston, although neither was as good as Justin Bieber, not that we’re admitting that we’ve ever actually listened to a Justin Bieber song.

Anyway, we do take it as a sign that the Hoosiers were not beaten down by the Iowa debacle and practice intensity. They seem in good, positive spirits.

What does this mean for tonight’s game against North Carolina Central?

It had better be a decisive victory. Indiana needs to make a home statement that it deserves its top-25 ranking and is ready for the onslaught it faces from now till the end of the season.

But first, a question. What was up with all the turnovers at Iowa. How could the Hoosiers turn into bumblers in such a key game?

“We were indecisive,” Oladipo said. “The ball would slip. We’d think twice about where we were trying to get the ball. It’s just making a good chest pass. A simple bounce pass. Make the simple play.

“We’re playing hard, but we have to be smarter. The coaches are making a big emphasis on that, in film and practice.”

In other words, it’s effort with purpose and thought. The same thing, Elston said, cost IU in rebounding against the Hawkeyes.

“We weren’t very aggressive going to the boards,” he said. “A couple of guys went, but not with the right intensity. We went to go, but not to actually do anything. That’s what I took from the film.

“It’s all about being aggressive at the right time.”

Any lack of aggression at Iowa was not caused by fatigue, Oladipo insisted. He said the Hoosiers were ready for the challenges they face by ending the regular season with a road trip to Minnesota and home games against Michigan State and Purdue.

“There’s no fatigue,” he said. “I’m so used to it now, so used to playing basketball. There have been a lot of games, a lot of practices between games. My body is used to it. It’s not sore like it used to be. It’s cooperating.

“And even if we are tired, everybody is tired. We’re not the only team. We can’t use that as an excuse not to compete every day, not to be hungry every day.”

There also wasn’t any let up after reaching 20 victories, which came last week after a tough-minded win over Northwestern.

“We’re glad we got to 20 wins,” Elston said. “It’s okay we did it, now what can we do past that? How many wins can we get this season?

“The last couple of years we haven’t had anything near to this. To flip the script like we did, to go from 20 losses to 20 wins, is amazing. Now let’s see if we can get another one.”

Tonight that means beating a 14-12 North Carolina Central team that is 0-7 on the non-conference road. Of course, that road includes trips to Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Oregon, the perils of all low-major programs.

That doesn’t mean the Eagles lack talent. In 6-5 forward Dominique Sutton they have a player drawing NBA interest. The former Kansas State standout is averaging 16.3 points and 7.6 rebounds. He’s coming off a 24-point, 11-rebound, six assist effort in a win over rival North Carolina A&T.

“They've got one of the toughest competitors that I think will come through Assembly Hall in Dominique Sutton,” coach Tom Crean said. “I don't know him personally, but I've watched him a long time. He played at Kansas State and I watched him in the summertime. I don't think there's any question why NBA people will be here watching him (tonight).”

The Eagles also have an Oklahoma transfer in 6-6 guard Ray Willis. He averages 15.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. Guard Landon Clement averages 15.9 points.

“They are a very formidable opponent,” Crean said. “They’re dangerous.”

And then, Crean added in so many words, bring it on.

“I’m glad we get a chance to turn right back around and play. That’s the basis for where you want your team and program to be. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or when you’re playing. You just want to be better than you were the last time. That’s our focus.”

Given how bad the Hoosiers were in their last time, that should be hard.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Connecting IU-Iowa with Jeremy Lin-Kim Kardashian

Are you like us? Do you prepare for Indiana’s game at Iowa tonight by debating the pros and cons of Jeremy Lin following up on Kim Kardashian’s publicly revealed dating interest?


Sometimes we get distracted.

Anyway, here’s what we know as Indiana braces for Iowa:

It really, really needs to win if it wants to show it is worthy of a No. 4 (give or take) NCAA tourney seed and, perhaps, a top-four seed in the Big Ten tourney.

Yes, we know, that’s not as shocking as, say, Josh Oglesby scoring a career-high 24 points, as the 6.1-point-a-game freshman did the first time these teams played in Assembly Hall, but we’re still trying to get over the fact that Ohio State is not the Big Ten bully we thought it was.

But we digress.

The Hoosiers (20-6) have a great opportunity to win at least seven of their last eight regular season games. They’ve already won the last three, including at Purdue when the Boilers were at full strength and not dealing with the repercussions of youth gone wild.

Iowa is 13-13 and 5-8, which means it’s an okay team, but not Kentucky. This is very much a winnable game, and IU has to take advantage of that.

So what do the Hoosiers have to do to win. Here’s what Tom Crean had to say thanks to the power of a media release:

Q: What IU needs to improve on from the first meeting:

“We know when we get to Iowa, we’ve got to be way better defensively. That’s the bottom line. We allowed them to shoot too high of a percentage. There were times they really earned shots, especially Oglesby, who had people in his face. But there were times we let their team get way to to comfortable in the game, whether it was in the post or on the perimeter. So we’ve got to make sure that we understand that our defensive mindset and our defensive energy, and most importantly, starting with defensive transition, have got to be really really high in that game. I’m sure it will be a fast-paced game, but we can’t be in the situation where we go on the road and try to trade baskets with a high-powered team like Iowa.”

Q: What about the last meeting:

Crean: “They really did a great job of getting out and running and getting some easy baskets, but our guys continued to respond. We didn't want to get into a situation where we were trading baskets and there were a couple of times that happened, but overall, it was a solid effort for us.”

Q: What about IU in the last meeting:

Crean: “We had a very solid game from a lot of people, but the bottom line was that the ball moved. And when the ball moves on offense and when you're active on defense and we kept understanding the pace of the game, it worked out well for us. I was very excited about the 20 offensive rebounds and the 20 assists.”

Q: What about playing Iowa at home:

Crean: “I don’t care who it is, it takes a focused, 40-minute effort to win anywhere in this league. There is a toughness about the Big Ten, whether it be the players, coaches or that make each possession of each game critical.”

Q: What’s up with Jeremy Lin:

Crean: “Who’s Jeremy Lin?”

Okay, we MIGHT have made up that last question, but the key here is IU absolutely has to play better defense. It’s done a much better job in that area the last three games, and can’t let up now.

Courtesy of that same IU media release, here are some game thoughts from players Tom Pritchard and Jordan Hulls.

Why those guys and not, say, Christian Watford?

We don’t know. We are just pawns in the game of life.

Tom Pritchard Thoughts: “Every road game in the Big Ten is a tough test. We have had some success this year on the road and we just have to build on that. We need to try and get the crowd out of the game and rely on our own energy.”

“We know they are very good in transition, and we have to get back, protect the rim and we have to take that part of their game away.”

Jordan Hulls Thoughts: “When you are on the road, I think its important to get some shots to fall down early. I just look to see what the defensive will give us. I do like to be more aggressive (on the road) because I think it can help my teammates as well.”

“Playing on the road is no easy task for sure. We need to be prepared for a dogfight. We have to play a lot better defense than we did last time and not give them easy buckets. We can’t give them any easy touches.”

Jeremy Lin Thoughts: “Heck, yeah, I’m going to date Kim Kardashian. Do I look stupid? I mean, what could go wrong? She’s hot and sexy and I suddenly have all sorts of money and no real thoughts on how to spend it and …”


Sometimes, as March Madness approaches and we realize IU will finally, finally get to participate in it again, we get carried away.

Oh, yes. IU wins by 6 tonight.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Conspiracy Therory, IU’s NCAA Tourney Prospects, Jeremy Hollowell

Do you believe in conspiracies? Do you KNOW that Jeremy Lin’s NBA ascendancy was no accident, that the Giants didn’t just happen to beat the Patriots twice as Super Bowl underdogs and that forces WAY beyond the basketball court enabled Butler to make two straight national title games?

Oh, yes. That the X-Files was based on true stories.

Then you have to scrutinize the meaning behind the meaning when NCAA selection committee chairman Jeff Hathaway insists that, when it comes to picking the 37 at-large teams for the now 68-team NCAA tourney field, there is no conspiracy.

That is, of course, what you’d expect THEM to say.

Anyway, Hathaway touched on a lot of things about the NCAA tourney selection process the other day, including any misconceptions about the process.

“One of the greatest misconceptions I’ve heard over the years is that there are conspiracy theories,” he says. “That we match up certain teams. That we set the bracket a certain way.

“The examples I’ve head in the past is that UCLA is playing Belmont because both have the Bruins for their mascots; or one team is playing another team because the assistant coach of the second team used to work at the other school.”

Not true, Hathaway says.

“That’s the one thing I can unequivocally say –- there are no conspiracy theories.”

He said it again –- “No conspiracy theories.”

And then, “There is a wide range of checks and balances in place throughout the system, throughout the process, to where the process is monitored in a very strict way and to allow for no conspiracy theories.”

The key word here, of course, is “process.” It is the code word for those who understand that “Men in Black” is not a movie, but a reality. It all leads to one inescapable conclusion:

In the week starting March 5, in an Indianapolis hotel, conspiracy begins.


Indiana is now a lock for the NCAA tournament.

With a 20-6 record, with victories over four ranked teams (Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame), with an RPI of 15, with a freshman superstar in Cody Zeller, the nation’s best three-point shooting team and an almost certain strong finish, the Hoosiers are in.

The focus now is to get the best possible seed to get the best possible chance to win a NCAA game or two, and really set the stage for Big Ten and national contention next season.

To understand what kind of seed IU could get, it’s important to understand what the selection committee looks at.

Hathaway says the 10 committee members considers strength of schedule, non-conference strength of schedule, and an ability to win on the road (IU’s win at Purdue is going to play really well here).

Each at-large candidate has a team sheet that lists all its advantages and disadvantages. That’s what committee members consider, Hathaway insists. Things like winning 20 games, conference record and conference standings no longer apply. Big wins, whether they happen in November or late February, get equal weight. It’s all about determining the nation’s very best teams beyond those getting automatic NCAA bids.

“The bottom line is, we are going to look at three things –- who did you play, where did you play, how did you do,” Hathaway says.

He also adds that the quality of basketball across the country has never been better.

“We are seeing more and more quality in more team sheets,” he says, “and that’s great for college basketball. That’s what we all want to see.”


Yogi Ferrell gets most of the hype these days, but is Jeremy Hollowell potentially the best player in IU’s second-ranked Class of 2012?

It’s possible. The guy is 6-8 and still growing. He’s coming off a two-game stretch where he scored 55 of Lawrence Central’s 120 points. He beat Warren Central with a LONG three-pointer, 59-56, to give him 27 points. In front of IU coach Tom Crean he had 28 points and nine rebounds in another win.

What had once been an apparent lack of fire in his game and approach, has been replaced by a focused intensity to be the best. More and more, he's playing like one of America's best high school players.

Now he’s even more highly motivated thanks to his not being selected to the McDonald’s All-American team. Ferrell and Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris, who is heading to Michigan State, did make it.

Hollowell told Peeps.com’s Jeff Rabjohns that, “Now everybody’s gonna have to pay for it on the court.”

Then he went out and made them pay.

Yeah, that’s the kind of player and attitude you want in a program retooling for national championship runs.

Yes, we said, "runs."


One last thing. Rivals.com has come out with a new list for its 2013 team recruiting rankings. IU’s group of Devin Davis (No. 93 nationally), Collin Hartman (No. 97) and Luke Fischer (No. 140) ranks sixth nationally, and fourth in the Big Ten.

North Carolina is No. 1. Michigan is No. 2. Purdue is No. 4. Illinois, which has a bit of coaching uncertainty with Bruce Weber’s status, is No. 5.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hoosiers Won’t Look Ahead; Zeller Wins Again

Parity is everywhere you look in the Big Ten these days. Even mighty Ohio State, which has as much talent as any team in the country not named Kentucky, had its 39-game home winning streak snapped by surging Michigan State.

Still, the Hoosiers look to make a move with a favorable schedule and improving play. They are 19-6 and ranked No. 18 in the AP poll, No. 20 in the coaches’ poll. They’ve won two straight and look to sweep the week with games against Northwestern and Iowa in the next six days.

Coach Tom Crean, during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference, expressed the hope that even while Michigan State and Ohio State dominate national attention, that the performance of teams such as Michigan, Wisconsin, IU and, heck, the entire conference, don’t get overlooked.

“It’s important that all the teams get a tremendous amount of noterity for what we’re doing inside of this league,” Crean said. “What happens is one or two teams can jump out instead of focusing on how good this league is.

“There’s unique preparation every time you play. If there’s a league that prepares you any better for the NCAA Tournament, other than the Big Ten, I haven’t seen it. You’ll be in battles. There are excellent coaches and players. There are proven systems.

“If you get ahead of yourself and start thinking down the road, it can go away on you quickly.”

Crean has no intention of letting his Hoosiers look ahead. They’ve worked too hard and accomplished too much.

It starts all over again Wednesday, with Northwestern.


Forget, for just a second, the six Big Ten freshman-of-the-year honors Cody Zeller has earned.

What makes this 6-11 forward special is that he wins. He doesn’t lose his cool. He doesn’t get rattled.

For instance, Zeller has a 3-1 record -– okay, IU has a 3-1 record, but work with us here –- against the three best inside players he’s faced. He’s 1-1 against Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. He’s 1-0 against Illinois’ Meyers Leonard and 1-0 against Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.

A cocky player might boast about that. Zeller downplays it.

Take, for instance, after he out-played Leonard last week. He had 22 points and five rebounds to Leonard’s 17 points and three rebounds. Leonard only had two second-half points. Zeller had 14.

“They’re all really good bigs,” he said. “They’ll all be pros one day. I just take it one game at a time whether I’m playing Meyers Leonard or any other big.”

An inquiring mind wanted to know whether Zeller thought he had gotten into Leonard’s head. Zeller deflected it with a smile.

“I don’t know. I knew he was in foul trouble, so we wanted to attack him. I wasn’t trying to (get into his head) or anything.”

At one point in the Illinois game, Leonard knocked Zeller down. During Crean’s Monday night radio show he said IU officials asked if the Big Ten would review that play. They declined. Crean said he wasn’t complaining about the officials, and that if he has an issue, he brings it to the league’s attention and lets it go.

As far as Zeller winning a sixth Big Ten freshman award, more than any other league player this season, Crean was pumped.

“We’re proud for Cody,” he said. “He deserves any accolades he gets. He never puts himself in center of that. He’s a very humble person. He’ll be the least excited to be freshman of the week in the program, and that’s probably why he gets that award so many different times and why he impacts our team and the game in so many different ways.

“He does what it takes to win. He’s improving constantly. He’s getting better as a defender. He’s an excellent passer. What he’s shown, especially lately when people try to have a game plan of being physical with him and going at him, that just makes him respond so much better. I’m excited for way he impacts our team.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hoosiers Poised to Dictate to Illinois

In college basketball, as in life, you have those who dictate and those who submit.

Now that Indiana reaches the home stretch of its season, with seven games that will determine how special this season is, and whether it can be a top-four NCAA tourney seed, it needs to dictate.

That starts tonight with Illinois, a 16-7 team that only occasionally plays to its talent. While a lot of that has to do with the power and parity of the Big Ten (the Illini, like the Hoosiers, are a .500 league team), inconsistency has been a problem.

IU has to make them pay for that.

Guard Jordan Hulls, for one, understands that.

“It’s on us to play our own game, don’t let them dictate what we do,” he said. “They are very versatile –- can run and slow it down. They are very big and athletic. A lot of guys can shoot the ball.”

Illinois shooters start with guard Brandon Paul, who averages 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists. His career-high 43 points sparked the Illini to a 79-74 win over Ohio State last month.

Sophomore forward Meyers Leonard leads the Big Ten in blocks (48, 11 more than anyone else), is third in shooting (58.2 percent) and rebounds (8.0), and averages 13.3 points. Guard D.J. Richardson averages 12.2 points. Forward Bertand Joseph is fourth in the Big Ten in shooting (58.0 percent).

The Hoosiers have shooters of their own, in fact, they have the Big Ten’s two best three-point shooters in Hulls and Matt Roth. They also have resolve steeled from a recent stretch of losing 5 of 7 games, four of those on the road. Four road losses have come against ranked teams -– Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan.

That stretch, Hulls said, plus the big-time victory at Purdue last Saturday, has steeled them for what remains.

“Road wins are hard to come by in the Big Ten,” he said. “Being able to win at Purdue and Penn State, we really feel like that’s going to help us. It’s the big Ten and anyone can beat anyone.”

That includes Illinois. To win this game, which IU is promoting for a “White Out and Loud Out” (coach Tom Crean wants it so loud the Illini won’t be able to think), means playing as if the Hoosiers were desperate more than confident.

“Everyone is going to come into Assembly Hall and try to take us down and get the win here,” Hulls said. “Everyone is going to attack us. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot. We have to prepare ourselves for that and get ready to play.”

Preparations include practicing with Victor Oladiop and Remy Abell as primary ballhandlers given the uncertain status of guard Verdell Jones, who is still recovering from a bruised right shoulder injured last week at Michigan.

“It’s going to be really tight,” Crean said about Jones’ availability. “I won’t say that he won’t play. I’m not being evasive. We’ll see how he continues to heal, but he’s done very little.”

Without Jones on Saturday Oladipo had a career-high 23 points and Abell had a career-high 13 points. Both are likely to get shots at point-guard-like roles against Illinois.

“It’s the decision making,” Crean said. “We were very low on turnovers (against Purdue; the Hoosiers had 11). That’s key. If you’re locked in and you’re focused and you’re asking guys to do things they don’t normally do, the simpler you can keep it, the better.

“What we’ve tried to do this week is make sure that we’re building situations that could come up with different guys handling the ball. How do we react to those? That’s the situational part of it.

“We try to project – ‘We can go to this; they can try this; they’ve done this in the past.’

“It gets you ready for the game. It keeps you more ready for the long term of the season. It keeps your guys focused, keeps changing it up, keeps challenging them to do different things. But at the same time, when you’re coaching the game, you want to keep it as simple as possible because they haven’t done a lot of those things.”

Here’s the simple Hoosier bottom line -– win at least five of these last seven games and they position themselves for a potential Sweet Sixteen run by virtue of a high seed.

Sometimes being a dictator is a very, very good thing.

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.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ready To Roll – IU Sets Sight on Illinois and Beyond

What was Remy Abell thinking?

Seriously. The rivalry game with Purdue was on the line and here’s a seldom-used freshman who had taken one three-point shot (and missed!) in the last six games. Why would he even think about shooting from that far out?

The answer is that, sometimes, it pays to be young and fearless. Let the old worry about consequences and ramifications.

So with 1:27 left and IU clinging to a six-point lead that could disappear almost as fast as you can say, “Nebraska,” Abell shot and hit.

The Boilers never recovered.

For the record, Abell is 4-for-6 on three-pointers in Big Ten play, and 6-for-13 for the season.

So what was he thinking at that moment?

Basically, that he was wide open, that Christian Watford had made a nice pass to get him the ball in position to shoot, and that, well, this was what all the extra shooting work these last few months was for.

“I’ve been working hard in practice, and it paid off,” he said. “It showed a little bit (Saturday night).”

Because it did, because teammate Victor Oladipo played like he was back into non-conference action, because the Hoosiers blasted away all their end-of-game road demons that contributed to a 2-5 slide, they are 6-6 in the Big Ten, 18-6 overall and feeling awfully good about themselves again.

“This is great,” Abell said. “We needed this win. We’ve got some home games left. Thw was a great start coming off the losses we’ve had. We have to be ready to keep it rolling.”

IU had plenty of stars in this win. Victor Oladipo had a career-high 23 points. Cody Zeller had 16 points and eight rebounds. Will Sheehey came off the bench for seven points, seven rebounds, one assist and three blocks in 22 minutes.

And if you like depth, the Hoosiers had eight players with at least two rebounds.

Crean has preached and preached and preached about toughness. It paid off against Purdue in rebounds. The Hoosiers had 53 of them, the most since they had 53 against Penn State in 2001.

“Our guys were committed to the glass,” Crean said. “That was not for the fainthearted inside the lane. It never is when you play Purdue. Our guys were committed to being in position to rebound and, for the most part, we got better in our blockouts. No question that’s a big part of the win.”

IU got so many rebounds in part because Purdue missed 50 -- yes, FIFTY -- shots. It’s hard to miss that many, especially because a lot were wide open ones. IU’s defense was good, but the Boilers also deserve a lot of credit for those misses.

As Purdue coach Matt Painter said, “I don’t mind missing open shots even though you shouldn’t miss open shots. You’re on scholarship. Especially at home, you should consistently knock down open shots. But when you have layups and you just blow them, when you shoot over the goal when you’re right at the rim, you have to make those. You have to step up and play.”

The No. 20 Hoosiers stepped up in Mackey Arena. Now, with five of their last seven games at home, and with the other two against conference bottom-feeders Minnesota and Iowa, they have a chance for a strong finish to solidify a solid NCAA tourney seed and, perhaps, a strong postseason run.

Yeah, this is an all-things-are-possible moment. It's amazing what beating Purdue at Mackey Arena for the first time since 2006 can do.

But that is for later. For now there’s just one over-riding concern in the next few days:

Beat Illinois.


Because that’s who the Hoosiers play Thursday night.