Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Indiana Rules -- No Hypothetical If Beat Gophers; Mark Deal Honored

If you’ve seen the Big Ten basketball standings lately, you know Indiana rules. It has a two-game lead with four games to play. It is poised to achieve its No. 1 regular season goal – well, an unbeaten season would have been nice, but those days are long gone in this era of extreme parity – by winning its first conference championship since 2002 and its 21st overall.

SMALL FACT: in a Monday column, and because of our inability to count, we had IU with 18 Big Ten titles instead of 20. A WHOLE bunch of people let us know the error of our ways.

Anyway, controlling your own destiny is nice, unless you let yourself get caught up in all the excitement and, yes pressure.

Coach Tom Crean isn’t about to let his No. 1 Hoosiers, the guys with the 24-3 record, 12-2 Big Ten mark and four-game winning streak, to get distracted by all of that. He understands tonight’s challenge at Minnesota, a former top-10 team that has lost its way.

“If you start focusing on hypotheticals and where you’re sitting rather than where you’re going, you’re asking for trouble,” he said. “(The players are) like anybody else. They know what the standings are. They know who’s playing who. They know who’s playing when.

“We know we’re playing (tonight) against a really good team. These guys have done a phenomenal job of staying with that all year.”

Like Indiana, Minnesota has had a week off since its last game. Unlike IU, the Gophers have sprung a bunch of leaks, much of it centered on an offense that, to be blunt, stinks.They haven’t broken the 60-point barrier in five games. They’ve committed 41 turnovers in the last two games, both blow-out road losses.

Still, Minnesota is back home now, at ancient Williams Arena with its raised floor. It is 13-1 at home and has such formidable players as double-double threat Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre and Austin Hollins.

They play a variety of defense and thrive with full-court pressure, especially when the stakes are high.

With an 18-9 record, 6-8 in the Big Ten, and NCAA tourney prospects in doubt, the stakes are very high.

“They present a ton of problems when they’re allowed to get out and press and spread out and get into you,” Crean said. “We’ve got to prepared for that. We didn’t deal real well with that here. We wpent a lot of time preparing for that.”

Crean referred to last month’s 88-1 win at Assembly Hall. IU built a 52-29 halftime lead, then held on at the end.

“We’ve got to be good with meeting our passes, dealing with the pressure,” Crean said. “We have to attacking the press the way we want to. Don’t get back on our heals.”

As far as the week of preparation, Crean said it was spent, “Getting ready, not only for Minnesota, but to sharpen our game up and make sure our skill levels continue to rise. We’ve had a good week of practices. Minnesota will be another one of those high energy, high intensity Big Ten battles.”

Here’s the bottom line. After tonight IU hosts Iowa and Ohio State, then ends the regular season at Michigan. The Hoosiers seem a lock to win their final two home games -- or at least as much of a lock as you can get in the rugged Big Ten. So if they win tonight, they basically clinch a conference championship.


Just don’t expect to hear that from the Hoosiers. They’re too busy doing what needs to be done.


Nobody is more passionate about Indiana than Mark Deal, a former Hoosier assistant football coach and player. The current assistant athletic director for alumni relations with the football program is set to be inducted into the IU Football Hall of Fame in December.

Here’s the official release:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Former Indiana football player and assistant coach Mark Deal will beinducted into the state of Indiana Football Hall of Fame on May 5, 2013. Deal is currently an assistant athletic director for alumni relations with the IU football program.

Deal’s brother, Mike, is also a member of the induction class and their father, Russ, was inducted in 1976.

Prior to his current position, Deal served as an assistant director of development with Indiana’s Varsity Club. He played from 1975-78 and coached in 1979 and from 1996-99 for the Hoosiers.

Deal played center and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1979 under head coach Lee Corso. The 1979 squad finished with an 8-4 record, including a Holiday Bowl victory over Brigham Young University, 38-37.

In 1980, Deal was named the linebackers coach at Wabash College. He spent four years at the Division III school, including the 1983 season, which he spent as the team’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

Mike played on IU’s 1967 Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl team. He played from 1966-69 and served as a graduate assistant in 1970.

Former Hoosier Randy Beisler (1962-65) will join the duo in the class. Beisler was a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles and played nine seasons with the Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can You Handle the Truth on Zeller-Nix Contact?

Today we’re going to solve, once and for all, the mystery that is, for want of a better term, Package Gate.

Yes, we mean the drama swirling around Tuesday’s late-game contact between Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Michigan State’s Derrick Nix.

Was it just inadvertent contact, as the officials decided after reviewing a monitor replay? Was it something sinister, as the Cream ‘n Crimson faithful shout? Or, was it something sneaky or devious, as some Spartan supporters and radio personalities suggest?

It all comes down to a video and perspective.

The ESPN video replayed during the game indicated Nix initiated the contact, which left announcer Dick Vitale pontificating that a grave injustive had been done to Zeller and that there’s no place in college basketball for such behavior (Vitale later tweeted that he went too far). Another video, which received HEAVY emphasis Wednesday afternoon by ESPN announcer and Indianapolis radio host Dan Dakich, showed Zeller grabbing Nix’s arm, pulling it toward him and then, well, perspective is everything.

It looked like Zeller pulled on the arm and Nix’s hand bumped Zeller’s sensitive area. Zeller buckled in a scene familiar to any guy who has ever had his, well, sensitive area hit.

That’s when controversy broke out. Some insisted Zeller intentionally caused the contact trying to draw a foul. Others insisted it was Nix’s way of retaliating for an earlier drive and contact by Zeller.

No way, Zeller said.

If you’re a guy and you’ve ever been hit in that area, you’re not going to want to hit yourself in that area,” Zeller told Gottlieb.

Zeller added that, “I guess that stuff happens. I’ve just come to expect it because I’m kind of the marked guy.”

To find the truth, we had a national expert in such matters analyze the video. For security purposes, we’ll call him Jack Bauer. Here’s the transcript  of our ABSOLUTELY true interview.

HH: Did you look at the video?

JACK BAUER: When will I get my check? My fee is $10,000, plus expenses.

HH: It’s in the mail. Did you see the video?

JACK BAUER: Of course. But I need to talk to the players. I’ll get the truth out of them.

HH: How will you do that?

JACK BAUER: Let’s just say I invented the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

HH: That’s way too extreme. The NCAA tourney is coming up. You’ll have to base it on the video.

JACK BAUER: If you look at the facial expressions, it’s obvious Zeller was in real pain and Nix was really surprised. Nix’s hand is unclenched. If you’re going to hit a guy there, you’ll make a fist. There was no fist. Therefore, there was no intent. For him, at least, it was an accident.

HH: So you’re saying Zeller did this intentionally?

JACK BAUER: No. Only a provocative person, or a highly biased person, would say that. Zeller grabbed Nix’s arm, which probably happened a couple dozen times in the game. You can tell he pulled on the arm. Again, that probably happened a couple of dozen times before. But this time, Nix’s hand accidentally hit Zeller’s private area. There was no intent from Zeller. There was no dirty move. 

Here's the bottom line. There was no conspiracy. The no call was the correct call.

HH: So you’re saying this was just a bunch of hot air or, perhaps, a radio publicity stunt?

JACK BAUER: Not exactly. If you look in the background, on the court behind Zeller, you’ll see who the REAL instigator is.

HH: Who is that?

JACK BAUER: Look at the video.

And then he was gone.


Yes, we know that you know that Victor Oladipo is really good. His performance in Tuesday night’s win at Michigan State was yet another example of that. He had 19 points, nine rebounds and five steals. He went over 1,000 career points.

But mainly, though, Oladipo was the catalyst for the victory that stamps Indiana as THE national title favorite.

Let’s face it. You win at the Breslin Center, which is so hard on opposing teams that the Hoosiers hadn’t won there since 1991 before Tuesday night, and you’ve made a major statement.



The Hoosiers did, and Oladipo gets plenty of credit. He’s one of the nation’s top defenders. What makes him so good? Here is a coach Tom Crean response from one of his recent radio shows:

“It’s instincts. It’s continuing to build his knowledge. It’s continuing to build his knowledge that go into his instincts. It’s determination. There’s no question it’s athleticism. He’s got a strong determination, will. He wants to be great at that.

“He’s a very good anticipator and is getting so much better off the ball. The athleticism and the ability to move his hands, his head, his feet and keep his body in front, and then have that quick mind that comes from his instincts and then adding knowledge from film work is really a big part of it.”

Here's the bottom line in all of this: Oladipo will win Big Ten player of the year. It's a no-brainer.

As for national player of the year, he's become a front runner, although when asked about it after the Michigan State game, he deferred to Zeller (who also went over 1,000 career points in the game).

“It’s a blessing,” Oladipo said. “But at the same time, I already know who the Player of the Year is, and that’s Cody Zeller. There’s no question. Without him, we couldn’t win. Without him, I wouldn’t be successful. Nobody here would be successful. Indiana basketball wouldn’t be back without Cody Zeller. He’s the Player of the Year in my eyes.”

Zeller basically said the same thing about Oladipo.

“He’ll be the Player of the Year. He can have it. . He would think that I would want it, but I think he deserves it.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

No Way IU’s Oladipo Misses Michigan State Game; Crean Milestone

Victor Oladipo is gonna play at Michigan State.

No way the junior guard misses this game, which just might very well determine the Big Ten champion.

Yes, he sprained his ankle late in the first half against Purdue. Sure, he didn’t play in the second half, but that was the smart thing. Indiana didn’t need him against the Boilers. The Hoosiers will absolutely need him at Michigan State on Tuesday night.

Oladipo seemed fine after the game, and the Hoosier medical staff, including veteran team trainer Tim Garl, will ensure he’s fine for Tuesday night.

Here’s what coach Tom Crean had to say:

“I would say right now I would go between precautionary and day-to-day in the sense of just wait and see. He did some things in the back, and I just don't think that any of us were comfortable enough to say, ‘Let's go do it’.

“I don't think he…he sprained his ankle, which you saw there…he wanted to go back in, but we just weren't going to do that at that point. I don't think anybody felt medically that it was the best thing to do at that point.

“I hope he is going to be okay. He think he is going to be okay, but it's going to be a lot of time spent in this building getting it back to where it needs to be. So wishful thinking would be that he will play, but we've got to wait and see how the next…I'd say the next 24 to 36 hours or so…how those turnout.”

Here are the stakes. IU and Michigan State are tied for the Big Ten lead with 11-2 records. IU is 23-3 overall and ranked No. 1. Michigan State is 22-4 and ranked No. 8. The Hoosiers already have beaten the Spartans once, so another victory would give them the tiebreaker edge, which means, in essence, they’ll have a two-game lead.

Indiana and Michigan State already have a two-game edge on the rest of the field, so there’s a built-in margin for error.

As far as who has the toughest remaining schedule, it’s hard to judge. After Tuesday’s game, IU is at Minnesota, hosts Iowa and Ohio State, and is at Michigan. Michigan State plays at Ohio State and at Michigan, then hosts Wisconsin and Northwestern.

The Big Ten championship, and the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tourney, perhaps even a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney, could come down to Tuesday night’s game. Yes, that’s a lot at stake.

IU will need to be at full strength to beat Michigan State. It will be.

Victor Oladipo is gonna play.


There once was a time when Tom Crean was winning at a Roy Williams pace.

In his last seven seasons at Marquette, he never won less than 19 games. He had three seasons of at least 25 victories, including the 27-6 Final Four squad of 2005 led by Dwyane Wade.

Then Crean came to the train wreck that was Indiana in the aftermath of the Kelvin Sampson sanction-filled era and everything blew up. Players left. Players were kicked off. Players, well, let’s just say nobody could have won with what Crean was left with.

And he didn’t win.

IU went 6-25 in his first season, 10-21 in his second, 12-20 in his third. It was the worst three-year stretch in school history. It was enough to make a coach consider a career in telemarketing, although to be fair, given Crean was making $2.1 million a year, that switch probably wasn’t happening.

Last year, things turned around fast. IU went 27-9 and reached the NCAA tourney’s Sweet 16. This year it is 23-3 and ranked No. 1. It has positioned itself for a Big Ten championship, and a lot more.

The Hoosiers are 50-13 in the last 15 months. That’s enough to even Crean’s Indiana record at 78-78.

He’s going to win a lot of games in the seasons ahead. He’s too good a coach, too good a recruiter. He won’t let the program slip again.

Those are our thoughts. Here are his:

“When you're a younger coach and you look at those things and you do know what you're averaging win-wise for your program and things, but coming in here and dealing with what we dealt with, I got over personal goals really quick because if I didn't I was going to be depressed…and I wasn't looking for that. I have no trouble being driven and motivated by the fact that we had such tough times early on.

“I do think to get it back there it's nice, but coming in to Indiana I gave up on all those things that…winning percentages…and individual goals…and will you win X amount of games in this amount of time.

“There was a time when I was interested in that. We had it going at Marquette. If we would have stayed there, my odds are good we would've kept building those wins, but we didn't. We chose to come here, and when you get into it you do it for what is most important, which is making sure that you're developing a program, getting it back where it needs to be, and that every player continues to develop.

So in one sense it's nice. It says a lot about the fact that this group has won 50 games in the last year-and-a-half. But again, when it comes down to me personally, I gave up on that…somewhere along the line in that first year I realized that wasn't going to be important anymore in my career.”

Monday, February 4, 2013

IU's Crean On A Roll; Zeller Honored; Phantom Punch

 Tom Crean has had one heck of a last couple of days.

First, his Indiana Hoosiers beat then No. 1 Michigan in as thrilling a college basketball game as you’re likely to see in as spectacular an atmosphere as you’re likely to experience.

Then, his two brothers in law -- Jim and John Harbaugh -- went at it in the Super Bowl. Jim coaches the San Francisco 49ers. John coaches the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens held on to win as dramatic a Super Bowl as the sport has ever had.

Finally, the Hoosiers regained the No. 1 ranking they’d held for the first five weeks of the season. IU is 20-2 overall and, at 8-1 in the Big Ten, and has a one-game lead over Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State at the midway point of conference play.

Crean and his family flew down to New Orleans, the site of the Super Bowl, on Sunday morning. His wife, Joani, is the sister of Jim and John Harbaugh. They met with Joani’s parents, Jack and Jackie.

The Crean’s spent Sunday night in New Orleans watching the game and celebrating afterwards with John, commiserating with Jim. Crean flew back to Bloomington Monday morning and attended IU’s practice that afternoon. He had given the players Sunday off, although given the hard-working nature of his players, most of them probably worked on their own.

Even during the most hectic moments of the last few days, Crean didn’t lose sight of his preparations for yet another big basketball week -- IU plays at Illinois on Thursday and at No. 10 Ohio State on Sunday. He watched film on the plane ride to New Orleans and again on the plane ride back to Bloomington.

Still, Crean made sure he enjoyed the moment.

“It’s so unique,” he said. “It’s been a short night. You’ve got one family member you’re overwhelmed with happiness for. There is such a great joy and pride. You’ve got another one that it’s close to heartbreak that you can feel. It’s difficult. It’s hard for Joani and her parents.”

Crean is friends with Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. One of his sons, Jeremiah, played for Crean at IU a few years ago.

“Doc Rivers sent me a text last night,” Crean said. “I gave it to Jack. It said, ‘As a parent you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.’

“That’s an amazing statement. It’s one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard, and it probably fits what Joani’s parents are going through.”

Still, the opportunity to attend one of the world’s great sporting events, the chance to have access few people will ever get, left Crean absorbing as much of the experience as he could.

“It could be a once in a lifetime thing,” he said. “There is incredible joy in being able to be part of it, to see it. I got a chance to be around some great people. My children and wife got to participate in something that was incredible. They got to be around some great people. It’s something that will be full of incredible memories.”

Through it all, Crean’s didn’t lose focus on his coaching duties, and the quest to find an edge that could put the Hoosiers into Final Four territory.

“Your mind is never too far from what’s next,” he said. “I had my notes in my back pocket. I got five to six pages of notes ready to put into form when I get back to Indiana. It’s been unique.”

In the end, you see, Crean used the Super Bowl as a learning experience.

“Absolutely,” he said. “No question,” he added. “Having the vantage point we had, to have the access we had, to be behind the scenes and be on the field, was incredible. I could watch how the Ravens and 489ers do it and how they prepare.

(Former Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks coach) Pat Riley was there. I got to spend a minute with (former NFL coach) Bill Parcels (who just got selected for the Hall of Fame). Those are two of my coaching idols. I’ve gotten to know both through coaching. They were coaches I always looked up to long before I became a Division I coach.

“Something like this gives you a chance to pick brains of leaders -- business leaders, political leaders. It inspires you to think more creatively, to look at things differently, to pick up the interactions.

“We were in the commissioners’ box when the power outage came on. I watched the Commissioner (Roger Goodell) deal with that with such grace and calmness under pressure … it was amazing. That all applies to everything we do in life. No question things like this can only make you better.”


Who said Cody Zeller is slumping?

The Indiana sophomore forward bounced back from a couple of sub-par games with a pair of big ones last week. He led IU over Purdue and Michigan, averaging 19.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. That earned him co-Big Ten player of the week honors with Michigan’s Trey Burke.

It was Zeller’s first conference player of the week award this season and the second of his career.


Ah, the drama we must deal with.

Now there’s the Twitter-fueled controversy about whether Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III punched Jordan Hulls late in Saturday’s game.

Robinson’s hand/fist did hit Hulls in the jaw. The Indiana senior guard did get staggered for a few seconds, but was not seriously injured.

Video replays indicated contact between Christian Watford and Robinson might have inadvertently led to Hulls getting hit. There didn’t seem to be anything vindictive or nasty or unsportsmanlike about it, although some will disagree.

Anyway, the Big Ten will likely look into it. Crean didn’t address that topic during his Monday night radio show. It was probably a good move.

He's got enough on-court drama to deal with.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Indiana's Zeller Won't Sleep on Hoosier Job

Cody Zeller is a funny guy.

Let’s qualify that.

He isn’t funny like Rodney Dangerfield was funny in his “I get no respect” ways. He lacks Richard Pryor’s intense language or Robin Williams’ zaniness. And he certainly doesn't come close to the "funny guy" Joe Pesci implications in the movie "Good Fellas."

Still, you get the picture.

Zeller's humor is in more of the subtle, laid-back style. Take, for instance, his thoughts on the advantage of playing late games, of which Indiana seems to get more than its share.

“We get more time to nap,” he said.

Yes, when you're an elite basketball player juggling a demanding academic schedule (the guy is set to graduate in 2 1/2 years), sleep is a big deal.

Anyway, IU has had a couple of late starting times this season, which is a direct result of its national popularity. There was the 10 p.m. tipoff against Georgetown, the 9:30 tipoff against North Carolina and the 9 p.m. tipoffs against Wisconsin and Michigan.

You might think Zeller wouldn’t like waiting all day to play, but that’s not how he thinks.

“I wish every game would be at 9,” he said. “Then I could nap a couple of hours.”

Zeller is more than just a 7-foot nap waiting to happen, of course. He has regained the dominant form that once made him a favorite to win national player of the year honors, and if that standing has slipped slightly, it doesn’t mean he’s any less effective. A strong finish could earn him that honor, and a lot more.

In the last two games Zeller has averaged 19 points and 10.5 rebounds. He had a couple of monster dunks in Sunday’s win over No. 1 Michigan. Even when he doesn’t score to his 16.3-point average, he distorts defenses, creates openings for his teammates and plays solid defense.

Take those Michigan dunks, for instance.

“They were huge,” teammate Victor Oladipo said. “That’s what he does. He makes big plays at big times. That’s why he’s the big fella. He made those big plays because we needed them.”

Take his long crunch-time rebound, when he out-hustled a pair of Wolverines to get the ball and restart the offense that led to a pair of crucial Yogi Ferrell free throws in what became an 81-73 victory.

“I was trying to keep the ball alive and make a play down the stretch,” Zeller said. “I always pride myself on hustle plays -- plays that anyone can do.”

Except, of course, that most people don’t do them, especially big guys.

“Cody's loose ball rebound late on our end offensively was unbelievable,” coach Tom Crean said. “He'll have some SportsCenter dunks, but that loose ball rebound was just…that's why he's such a special player.”

Crean has known that for a long time, which is why, years ago, he made recruiting Zeller a priority. That paid off with a Sweet 16 berth last year. This year a lot more is expected, and in so many ways, Zeller and the Hoosiers are delivering. They are 20-2 overall, 8-1 in the Big Ten. They are poised to return to the No. 1 ranking.

Zeller is, of course, a big part of that, but he’s still just a key contributor on a roster that includes Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and more.

I think the more that guys like Cody and Victor and Christian and Jordan …know that they are the product of their teammates…and they've all got their roles and they all do different things, but they are the product of…their success is the product of their teammates…the better we are,” Crean said. “That is the way we have got to keep focusing.”

Focus means aggression on defense and movement on offense. It means paying attention to the scouting reports and playing with passion and commitment and, yes, having fun.

It almost certainly will produce a No. 1 ranking this afternoon when the polls are released. When the No. 3 team, as Indiana was, beats the No. 1 team, as Michigan was, right after No. 2 Kansas losing to Oklahoma State, well, the outcome seems obvious.

The Hoosiers were No. 1 at the start of the season, but lost it when they lost to Butler during December’s Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis.

They’ve learned from that loss, and from the one to Wisconsin last month at Assembly Hall. Keeping the top ranking won't be easy given that Duke, Louisville and Michigan also couldn't hold onto it, but that's a topic for another day.

“We’ll keep playing like we’ve been playing,” Oladipo said. “We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder. We’ve played with a chip on our shoulder since I got here. We’ll continue to do that. We’ll continue getting better and keep playing for each other and staying together.”

It starts, and certainly doesn’t end, with Zeller.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Indiana, Michigan, Bald Heads and Sex ... Sort Of

By now you know Indiana will play Michigan tonight in a battle that will determine first place in the Big Ten and, perhaps, decide the fate of the world economy.

Yeah, it’s that big.

Michigan is ranked No. 1. IU is No. 3. This will be the first top-three battle in Assembly Hall history. The previous ranking best came in 1993, when No. 1 Indiana edged No. 4 Michigan 93-92.

ESPN’s GameDay will be in town. No, that will not include Bob Knight (unless the Grim General pulls off the surprise of the decade), but it will include Dick Vitale.

Let the impressions begin, baby!

This is the kind of game to restore youth to an old man, hair to a bald one, laughter to a sad one, sexual vigor to …

Sorry. Sometimes, for big games, we get carried away.

Anyway, if the Hoosiers want to win the Big Ten title and earn a No. 1 NCAA tourney berth -- and you know they do in the worst way -- they have to beat the Wolverines. They just have to. They’ve lost once at home. They can’t afford another.

To understand why, let’s look at the schedule.

February is an absolute beast. You’ve got Michigan at home, then trips to Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota.

Yes, Illinois is fading -- again -- to the point where it might not make the NCAA tourney. Apparently new coach John Groce borrowed an unwanted page from old coach Bruce Weber’s coaching handbook. Still, if the Illini get hot from three-point range (and no conference team launches more from beyond the arc), they can beat anybody. They had Michigan State in big trouble Thursday night at the Breslin Center, and that’s very hard to do.

In the end, the Spartans won, the Illini lost and Big Ten order remained undisturbed.

Anyway, IU is a good bet to beat Illinois. The other three February road games are less certain. And to fully understand the situation, let’s add the March 10 road game at Michigan in the regular season finale. That means the Hoosiers’ final four road games will be against the No. 11, No. 13, No. 23 and No. 1 teams in the country.

Nobody will win out against that.

Realistically, IU’s best scenario is to go 2-2 in those games. If it does, if it wins the rest of its home games, it can finish 15-3 in the Big Ten. That almost certainly would win the conference title and guarantee a No. 1 NCAA tourney seed no matter what happens in the Big Ten tourney.

Yes, we know, there are no guarantees anymore, but it’s time once again for dangerous sports writing.

A 14-4 record might win the Big Ten title. Heck, 13-5 might do it, as happened last year, given how strong the league is top to bottom.

But Indiana can’t count on that, which is why beating Michigan at Assembly Hall is absolutely vital. The Hoosiers can't afford to give the Wolverines an edge they might never regain.

Speaking of that, Indiana cannot let Wolverine superstar point guard Trey Burke penetrate into the lane. Let’s repeat that. Burke cannot get into the lane. The best person to stop that from happening is Victor Oladipo. The second best is Will Sheehey, although some will argue for freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, who defends beyond his years.

It’s certain coach Tom Crean will mix things up defensively. Christian Watford, all 6-9 of him, might get some cracks at Burke. But Burke will get lots of Oladipo, especially at the end of the game.

Does this mean we’re telling Crean how to coach?

Well, we did lead a youth basketball team to ONE victory while subbing for the head coach more years ago than we care to admit, but this is no time to boast or demand a $3.1 million a year salary.

Anyway, the best thing for the Hoosiers will be for Burke to get into major foul trouble, as Michigan State’s Keith Appling did last week in Assembly Hall. Appling played just 19 minutes and had three points, no assists and four turnovers.

Keep in mind, Appling is one of the Big Ten’s best players and is a HUGE part of the Spartan attack. IU totally neutralized him and still only won by five, which tells you how good Michigan State is and how big a win that was for the Hoosiers.

Can Indiana do the same thing to Burke? The Hoosiers will try. They’ll use lots of ball movement and penetration. They’ll attack the rim and try to draw fouls. They are, in so many ways, the nation’s best in doing that. If they could foul out Burke and a few other Wolverines, life would be a lot easier.

And if that seems obvious, well, did we mention we are 1-0 as a youth basketball coach?


BET THE HOUSE, PART II: For those of you who might have forgotten, we assured everybody to bet the house on IU beating Wisconsin in Assembly Hall a few weeks ago. The Hoosiers, of course, didn't win, which research shows was part of a conspiracy that reached to the highest levels of the government and Donald Trump's bachelor pad.

Anyway, we have addressed those issues, spent big bucks on gypsy fortune tellers and have established that, without question, you should bet the house on IU beating Michigan tonight. No way the Hoosiers lose. No way.

So bet the house, the kids college fund and your retirement account on a Cream 'n Crimson victory. And if, by some strange twist of fate, the Hoosiers DO lose, well, we'll get back to you.