Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Duke games are kinda meaningless

Just like last year's Duke game, I don't think there's a lot we can take away from last night's game in terms of getting a better read on where this team will eventually end up. This is especially true of last night's game because we also don't know how good Duke really is. They certainly didn't look like the 10th best team in the country, but this time of year it's tough to know.

The thing is, Duke plays such a weird style of basketball, particularly on defense, that it's dangerous to read much into it. How many teams will try to deny every perimeter pass where both players are 30 feet from the basket? Duke's defensive philosophy is simple and effective: you have to drive to the basket on us and make good decisions to beat us. That's harder said than done. That's why Wilmont played 10 minutes last night - he doesn't have a great handle and he doesn't make good decisions. The things Wilmont does well, like shooting 3s, are almost irrelevant against Duke. What makes Duke's defensive philosophy successful is the same thing that makes Temple and Syracuse's matchup zones effective -- it completely removes a team's ability to play their regular offense. It gets teams outside their comfort zone. Teams have to improvise offensively for basically the entire game. It works.

The other thing Duke was doing is fronting DJ White in the post - completely fronting him, not 3/4 fronting, for the most part. For 99% of the teams out there, this would be a stupid thing to do, IMO. But because Duke puts so much pressure on the perimeter, the IU guards were 30 feet from the basket so throwing over the top means a loooooooong throw, and Duke's helpside defense is very quick. Again, Duke was basically daring Indiana to drive to the basket. They effectively shut down all the other offensive options, wriggled their fingers with their thumbs on their noses and said "Betcha can't beat me to the basket!" To their credit, Basset and Suhr did a pretty good job of meeting that challenge.

So how is the offense coming along? We have no idea. What does this game say about Wilmont and Calloway's future playing time? We have no idea. What does this game say about DJ White's future NBA prospects? We have no idea.

A few more miscellaneous thoughts:

1. Indiana played terrific defense all night. Holding Duke to 21 second half points is pretty remarkable. Holding ANY team to 21 points in a half is pretty remarkable (unfortunately Duke did it to us in the first half).
2. The team seems to be starting to display some of Sampson's trademark toughness. It's fun to watch the hustle.
3. Is it just me, or is Mike White about 5'11"? I swear I saw Suhr towering over him in the huddle.
4. The officiating in the second half was much better than the first. That is setting a pretty low bar, though.
5. Mike White and Ben Allen are exactly the type of interior players that struggle against Duke's defense, IMO. Lance Stemler is the exactly the type of "interior" player that thrives against Duke's defense. We missed him.
6. Joey Shaw is a remarkable bundle of kinetic energy. I'm really looking forward to watching him develop over the next 4 years.
7. How many times last night did one of IU's inside guys dribble into a Duke double-team and lose the ball off a Duke player's stomach? I stopped counting at 87.
8. So far, this team looks nothing like the team I expected. I'm not even sure what I expected, but I know it wasn't big minutes and contributions from Basset, Suhr, and Shaw. It's kinda fun to have know idea what is going on. You'd think I'd be used to that by now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Basketball recruiting budgets

I got my Recruiting Yearbook in the mail yesterday, and I found something in there that absolutely SHOCKED me. They have a little blurb on page 161 about basketball recruiting budgets at public universities (for 2004-05). This does not include anything but basketball (they have a separate table with football recruiting budgets). For the B10, they have information on 9 schools (sans Northwestern and Penn State). Here's the list:

1. Illinois ($230,904)
2. Purdue ($145,395)
3. Michigan State ($132,370)
4. Ohio State ($129,923)
5. Minnesota ($124,374)
6. Michigan ($122,389)
7. Iowa ($99,219)
8. Indiana ($79,645)
9. Wisconsin ($43,309)

So first off... holy crap, Illinois spends WAY more than anyone else. They spend nearly THREE TIMES as much as Indiana, and there's a big dropoff between them and #2. Wisconsin clearly flies coach.

So that was interesting, but not shocking. Here's the shocking part. Here's the same list for the SEC:

1. Auburn ($837,005)
2. Arkansas ($504,564)
3. Tennessee ($460,491)
4. Georgia ($444,861)
5. Florida ($378,256)
6. Alabama ($342,585)
7. South Carolina ($339,328)
8. Kentucky ($297,725)
9. Ole Miss ($286, 630)
10. LSU ($266,360)
11. Mississippi State ($257,797)

$837,005!?!?! What the...? Illinois stomps the rest of the Big Ten, but they come in last in the SEC, and aren't even close to most of the conference.

Let me repeat, Auburn spends $837,005 in ONE year on basketball recruiting and Wisconsin spends $43,309... and Wisconsin is a Top 10 team.

I'm racking my brain trying to come up with an explanation for the differences between conferences on this (and... duh... no, it's not cheating... that comes out of a completely different budget). So far, I haven't been able to think of anything. Anyone?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

To Hell with emotional detachment!

(This is a repost of something I just posted on Peegs forum -> HERE )

Like most of the other fools on Peegs', I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to Indiana basketball. Being an IU basketball fan is part of what makes me who I am. I live in Durham, North Carolina, and I have quite a few casual acquaintances who know me as "that Indiana guy." You don't need to spend a lot of time with me before Indiana basketball somehow comes up in the conversation. ("You barely managed to stuff the turkey into the turkey fryer, huh? You know, that reminds me of a story about A.J. Moye, an Indiana basketball player, and Carlos Boozer....")

I was in a daze for several days after Indiana lost to Duke in the Final Four in 1992. It wasn't just the Valentine-induced manner in which they lost, it was that I just couldn't believe the season was over. At the time, I thought it was all about the loss, but in retrospect I now believe that even if Indiana had won the title, I still would have felt a little empty for a few days afterwards... because I loved that team so much that I simply didn't want the season to end, for good or for bad. In some sense, 1993's loss to Kansas in the Regional Finals was even worse, because that was the end for Greg Graham (my all-time favorite Hoosier) and Calbert Cheaney (who is in my Top 5).

A cynic might say, "Well, duh! So you get excited when IU is ranked #1 and you really like IU's greatest players?! Whoa, stop the presses!" Cynics are annoying like that. But it's not true, my bleeding crimson did not end in spring in 1993. Or 1995. Or 1998. And other players on my list of favorite Hoosiers includes guys like Lyndon Jones and Micheal Lewis (good player, but certainly not all-time greats). The point is that there was a day when the team's performance would affect my mood for days afterwards. Actually, there were a lot of those days.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but I'm not like that anymore. It started before Knight got fired and it continued throughout the Davis era. Emotional detachment. I think it basically was a means of self-protection. And primarily, I think it was self-protection from 3 things - the team, the coach, and the forums.

First, much to my surprise, late in the Knight era I realized that I was starting to not enjoy how the team was playing (though ironically the 99-00 season was an exception to this rule). I thought our defensive effort was generally poor, and surprisingly I thought our teamwork was suffering as well. I thought we had good kids on the team, but that doesn't mean I liked watching them play basketball. It was hard to watch significant minutes from Larry Richardson, William Gladness, Richard Mandeville, Rob Turner, etc., and not lose a little attachment to the outcome of games. And even our marquee players like Luke Recker, Neil Reed, Charlie Miller, Jason Collier, and Andrae Patterson oftentimes made it difficult to let myself become emotionally invested in the team. When Davis took the job, I really enjoyed watching our defensive effort the first couple years, but the offense was inmmediately and consistently painful. And here was the worst part - even when the team was effective on offense, it didn't make it enjoyable. Jared Jeffries was a wonderful player, and feeding the ball into him and letting him make decisions with his back to the basket was a winning offensive strategy... and it was hopelessly boring. Again, we had good kids on the team, guys who (if she were 12 years older) I wouldn't mind dating my daughter -- like AJ Moye, Dane Fife, Kyle Hornsby, JJ, Marshall Strickland, and Tom Coverdale. Actually, maybe I wouldn't want Dane Fife dating my daughter (he's crazy), but you get the idea. The last 3 seasons, things got progressively worse, because even the defensive aggressiveness stopped being a motivation to watch. And it's not that the teams weren't very good. I've developed strong emotional attachments to mediocre teams - what generally matters is the perceived difference between how good the team is and how good I think the team ought to be - and style of play. Obviously, I get more attached to great teams (I'm human), but it's not the only factor.

Second, there's the coach. I'm going to basically leave this one alone, because I don't want that to become what this post is about, but in the interest of honesty... late in the Knight era and throughout the Davis years I grew increasingly tired of having a coach for whom I didn't have a lot of respect. I often defended both, but (for mostly completely different reasons), I had trouble coming to grips with the notion that either of them were supposed to be My Guy. That's all I have to say about that.

Then there's the forums. I love the forums. Look at my post totals. But there's a weird sort of dynamic for me on here. I get tired of reading critical posts about the team or the coaches... even when I agree with the criticisms. Actually, especially when I agree with them. If I disagree, I can leap to the team or coach's defense, and obviously defending MY team or MY coach is something I enjoy (though, in the case of the coach, I'd like to have less opportunities to leap to his defense). If agree with the criticisms, then it just seems to double how I'm feeling about the situation. On the bright side, the forum also increases my enjoyment of the good times. Basically, the forum accentuates my emotions in either direction, and when the direction is generally negative, the forum can become unpleasant for me. This is why each of the last 3 seasons I've spent at least part of each season away from the forums and I've stopped watching games. Because I simply got tired of being pissy all the time. I'm guessing I'm not alone in that regard.

But you know what? I've had enough of self-protection. I've had enough of guarding myself against my own fandom. I miss the days when I couldn't wait for the season to start and got depressed when the season ended. I want to live and die with every 3 pointer, every rebound, and every turnover. I want to rattle the house when we hit the game winner, and I want to commiserate with my forum buddies when the other team hits it. I want to passionately dislike our opponent again, and I want to believe that Indiana fights for the glory of the entire state again. I want to defend our team and our coach with reckless abandon, and not try to concede that maybe the other guy has a point. I want to be relentlessly positive, even when maybe the situation doesn't warrant it. In other words, I want to be a fan again, through and through.

People like to post long missives when they decide to leave the forum. This is the opposite. =)