Monday, February 26, 2007

All B10 team award predictions

These are who I think WILL get voted onto the first and second all-B10 teams, not who I personnally think should be included.

POY: Alando Tucker
COY: Thad Matta

First Team All B10:
Alanda Tucker - Wisconsin
Greg Oden - Ohio State
Drew Neitzel - Michigan State
Adam Haluska - Iowa
Carl Landry - Purdue

Second Team All B10:
DJ White - Indiana
Michael Conley Jr. - Ohio State
Kammron Taylor - Wisconsin
David Teague - Purdue
Geary Claxton - Penn State

If I were voting, the only thing I'd change from the above list would be Alford for COY.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Movie Review: "Bridge to Terabithia"

Karen and I took the kids to see Bridge to Terabithia last weekend. I thought it was just wonderful -- I even cried during the movie, which is not exactly a common occurrence for me (the last time a movie made me cry was Hotel Rwanda, though obviously they're slightly different movies). First of all, any movie that stars kids is always a crapshoot, because good child actors don't exactly grow on trees. But I thought Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb were outstanding. It was a movie that required genuine emotions, not your typical kitschy kiddie movie, and they both delivered.

The plot was engaging and I thought it managed just the right amount of obviousness (is that a word?) in the symbolic links between the make-believe Terabithia and the real world. In other words, and I don't think it ruins the movie for people who haven't seen it yet to say this, the kids make up their own world to help them deal with the problems they face in the real world, and the movie shows this in a way that is obvious enough for kids to understand but not so obvious that it thumps them over the head with it.

Obviously this is not the "feel good movie of the year!", since Karen and I spent a good portion of the movie crying, but that's also what made it so good -- it's a movie that doesn't shy away from tragic events yet is accessible to kids.

Very highly recommended, even for adults to see by themselves.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Movie Review: "Flags of our Fathers"

I think Clint Eastwood is a wonderful director. Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven, Mystic River, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil... the guy knows what he's doing. Of course, he has also directed Absolute Power, The Rookie, and Bronco Billy, so he's not exactly a sure thing. For all its hype, I think Flags of our Fathers is somewhere in the middle of those lists. It's a pretty good movie, but I think it's baffling to see it getting 2 Oscar nominations and there were even people saying it should get nominated for Best Picture (though once people saw Letters from Iwo Jima it seems a lot of folks forgot about Flags because they thought Letters was so superior).

The most interesting thing about Flags was the backstory of how the famous flag picture came to be taken. Of course, Eastwood knows this, so he trickles the story out in a series of flashbacks and flashforwards and maybe even some flashsideways, but I think this is one of the problems with the movie. There was so much flipping between the soldiers in battle and the soldiers back in the States that it made the movie feel disjointed. I don't mind a little artistic license when it comes to playing with time in movies (i.e. Memento) , but I thought Eastwood overdid it here.

The movie also seemed to be asking what it means to be a hero, which I didn't think was particularly novel or compelling. Not to mention that one of the characters in the movie was so obviously a hero by any standard that it kinda ruined the question.

Don't get me wrong, Flags is a good movie and certainly worth seeing. But I don't think it quite reaches greatness.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Numbered thoughts on Indiana

1. I don't think we can hang the Michigan loss on Tommy Amaker - he did everything he could to help us win. I realize this is beating a dead horse, but everytime I watch Michigan I just shake my head at how horrible Amaker is. I mean, Lester Abram, Dion Harris, Brent Petway, and Courtney Sims are all SENIORS. According to RSCI, they were ranked #49, #22, #62, and #52 nationally as recruits, and all have played extensively for Amaker for four years. And they still can't take care of the ball. I mean, IU had trouble taking are of the ball earlier this season as well. Then Sampson focused on it and two weeks later our turnovers take a precipitous plunge. It's an embarrassment for the entire B10 that Michigan has continued to employ Amaker. Yeah, he's clean, and apparently that's quite an accomplishment at Michigan. But c'mon, can they really not find a coach that's both clean AND a decent coach?

2. Injuries are part of basketball and every team deals with some types of injuries every season. But that doesn't mean that don't matter, and in my opinion Indiana wins at Michigan with a healthy Calloway. Calloway is extremely important to this team, and I was actually pretty impressed with Indiana's play at Michigan considering we didn't have Calloway and DJ spent half the game on the bench. We needed the win, but I thought we battled through some tough circumstances.

3. I really, really like Armon Bassett. He's been a pleasant surprise all season, and although he needs to work on his shot selection, that's not unusual for an offense-oriented freshmen. I'm sure Sampson will work that out in time, and in the meantime I'm enjoying watching him play, and I think he's going to be a key part of this team for four years. But he is NOT a point guard, in any shape or form. Wilmont does a better job of looking for his teammates than Bassett... and that's saying something. You can tell that whenever Bassett has the ball, he's thinking, "What can I do with this that will end in me getting a shot?" That's a great attitude in a shooting guard... but not a point guard. The question of who is going to play point guard next season continues to loom large. I would also add that this is NOT a criticism of Bassett - it's an observation. Bassett is just being the player that he is.

4. Before the season, everyone in the country and on this board agreed that Ohio State and Wisconsin were obviously the class of the B10, and that no one knew who the 3rd best B10 team was going to be. Like pretty much everyone else on this board, I really hoped Indiana could be that 3rd best team (though in my case I doubted it would happen). Well, right now, ignoring the unbalanced conference records and standings and all that stuff and just using my own eyes to gauge the situation -- I think Indiana is obviously the 3rd best B10 team. I'm happy about that.

5. Different people can say the same thing and mean completely different things, and different people can read the same thing and reach completely different conclusions, and I think somewhere along the way a lot of that has been happening regarding Sampson, Mike Davis, and this year's talent versus last season. Here's what I think, articulated as clearly as I can:

5a. I think Sampson is an enormous step up from Mike Davis.

5b. I think Davis was a terrible coach, but I think his faults have become overblown in the minds of IU fans (and they were overblown while Davis was still here), particularly with regard to his game prep and game coaching. I've heard many times here that "We would've lost this game under Davis" and I just shake my head. We won a lot of big games under Davis... and we lost quite a few of them as well. We beat #1 MSU in Davis's first season, and finished well ahead of where I thought we would. We obviously made the FF in his second season. And we had several seasons where in my opinion our talent level was not very good. Other than last season, I don't think Davis was squandering highly talented teams - he was struggling to get much out of mediocre talent. Davis was bad, but he wasn't the only factor in our performance the past six seasons.

5c. I think Sampson is a wonderful coach, but I think his skills became overblown in the minds of IU fans this season. Maybe we're still suffering from Bob Knight hangover and want to get back to the point where we're able to worship the ground that our coach walks on, but that's silly. Sampson is not the best coach in every facet of the game in the entire nation... and that doesn't mean he's a failure either. It's absolutely amazing to me how badly Indiana fans seem to want to deify their coach... all it took was 14-4 start to the season and we're convinced that Sampson can walk on water and the team will never have a down game or lose intensity ever again. it's absolutely amazing to me how quick Indiana fans are to criticize our coach after a couple losses... all it's taken is a few completely predictable road losses and now Sampson doesn't know how to use time outs or coach offense or teach shot selection. Listen, Sampson is an experienced coach, an excellent leader, and knows what he's doing.... that doesn't mean we'll win every fricking game. Sampson is good, but he isn't the only factor in our performance this season.

5d. Regarding talent, I do think that this team has significantly less talent than last season. First, remember that Indiana went on an impressive 5 game winning streak during the 5 games that DJ White played in - and we were 12-10 in the rest of the regular season games, so DJ's talent did have an important influence on our record last season. Add Marshall Strickland, Robert Vaden, and Killingsworth to the mix and that was quite a talented team, IMO. This year's team isn't very close to that level, and I've mentioned that I think this is one of the least talented teams at Indiana in many years - but that doesn't make them untalented by B10 standards and certainly not by THIS season's B10 standards. Indiana is used to having quite a bit of talent, so there's a big difference between comparing our talent to previous Indiana teams versus comparing our talent to other B10 teams. The point is that I think Sampson clearly has something to work with this season, but I also don't think this Indiana team was somehow only a good coach away from greatness.

6. One final thought - I think there's an obvious explanation for Indiana fans' manic depressive attitudes. We are all really, really, really tired of watching Indiana field mediocre/decent/good teams that sometimes tantalizingly approach really-good-to-great status but can't quite get there. We don't want to hear about talent deficiencies, or coaching problems, or leadership issues, or justifications for recruiting losses, or anything else... we don't want explanations or rational analysis... we want to be able to watch a GREAT INDIANA TEAM again. Until we get there, we're going to try to argue that each Indiana team could be great until such time that it becomes obvious that they aren't great, and then we're going to get depressed and pissy about it for awhile. I think we're going to see this same cycle again next season as well (in other words, I don't think we'll be a great team next season either). I completely understand (and feel) this emotional response.

Friday, February 16, 2007

B10 fouls and foul differentials

I decided to do some geeky number crunching. The following numbers are for all B10 games as of today.

My first question was "How many fouls on average do the various B10 teams get called for?" In other words, if I tell you that Indiana played Northwestern and got called for 16 fouls and Northwestern got called for 14 fouls, that doesn't really tell you anything unless you know how many fouls a team gets on average. Here it is:

The way to read this chart is to say "In B10 games Indiana gets called for an average of 21.18 fouls per game."

Obviously, Indiana leads the B10 in fouling, while OSU and Wisconsin gets called for the fewest fouls.

Next, I asked mysefl, "Alright, but different teams play different styles that tend to draw different amounts of fouls from their opponents, so how does that break down across the B10?" Here it is:

The way to read this chart is to say "In B10 games Indiana opponents gets called for an average of 18.82 fouls per game."

Note that once again Wisconsin leads the B10 in drawing fouls. But also note Northwestern on the other side. Northwestern opponents don't foul them much at all. Bizarre.

Then the question was "If we ignore home versus away and just look at foul differentials in ALL games, what teams get the biggest advantages?" Here it is:

The way to read this chart is to say, "In B10 games Indiana gets called for an average of 2.37 more fouls than their opponents." Again, this has nothing to do with homecourt.

Then I asked, "For a given team, how many more fouls do they get called for on the road versus at home?" Here it is:

The way to read this chart is to say, "In B10 games Indiana gets called for an average of 4.43 more fouls per game when they are on the road versus at home."

Note that Indiana and Purdue are far and away the worst of this group - the Hoosier state teams pile up the fouls when we leave home. Also note that Michigan actually gets called for FEWER fouls when they leave home.

Then finally I asked myself, "What is the homecourt advantage for each team -- how many fewer fouls do they get called for at home versus the number of fouls called on their opponents at home?" In other words, the chart above looks at Indiana in Assembly Hall versus Indiana on the road. The chart below looks at Indiana in Assembly Hall versus our opponents in Assembly Hall. Here it is:

The way to read this chart is to say, "In B10 games, Indiana's opponents are called for essentially the same number of fouls as Indiana."

Note again that UW and OSU see huge advantages at home, and once again Northwestern is completely bizarre.

I've got en Excel spreadsheet with the raw data if anyone wants to run other calculations.

Monday, February 12, 2007

There were a lot of question marks for this team heading into the season

Now that we're 23 games into the season, I decided to take a look back at some of those question marks. It's easy to forget that our most frequent starting lineup last season was Monroe, Strickland, Wilmont, Vaden, and Killingsworth -- in other words we lost four starters. Granted, DJ White was only a non-starter due to injury, but we're still replacing a LOT of minutes and production. Wilmont is the only returning player who averaged more than 20 minutes a game last season... and he averaged 22. Five new players plus DJ's return from injury -- it's not surprise that most Hoosier fans are happy with the way this season has gone to date.

Anyway, he's my recollection of the biggest question marks heading into the season (at least MY biggest question marks).

#1. Who will be the other post presence inside to help DJ White?
So far, the answer seems to be "no one". It's kind of unfortunate that with five new faces (Bassett, Shaw, Mike White, Xavier Keeling, and Lance Stemler) and our pressing need in the post, I would characterize both of the new perimeter players as a "pleasant surprise" and all three post players as "struggling to contribute". Add to that Ben Allen's difficult transition, and I'd say our biggest question mark has gone unanswered.

#2. Will AJ Ratliff come out of his sophomore slump?
It took a long time, but I think it's fairly safe to say the answer is "yes", he's out of his slump. I still think there's another level where Ratliff can play, but he's been consistently good on offense, he's rebounding well, and his offense is coming around. I very happy with where AJ is right now.

#3. Will Earl Calloway become the point guard that he showed glimpses of late last season?
I'd say this is a resounding yes. IMO, there were some folks on here whose expectations for Calloway were out of whack with his performance last season. Sure, he obviously had potential, but lots of players have potential. After a rocky start to begin the season, I think Earl has become a big reason why IU is winning games. His decision making has really improved, and his defense is wonderful. He also seems to have a knack for driving the lane and hitting a big shot when we need one.

#4. Wilmont is a guy who can shoot the team to victory... or defeat. As a senior, will he become a consistent positive force?
I think Wilmont is still struggling a little bit when it comes to scoring within the offense. He hasn't been quite as streaky as last season when it comes to hitting his shots (and shooting almost 38% from 3 point range when you shoot as many as Rod does is very good), but it seems like some games he says "I gotta be The Man" and shoots 20 times and then the next game he says "I gotta be part of The Team" and he shoots 5 times. I still think Wilmont is having a very good senior season, but I wish we could know what we were going to get from Rod in any given game with a bit more certainty.

It's really too bad that Allen, Stemler, Mike White, or Xavier Keeling haven't been a huge surprise, because with the way the rest of the team has developed, I think we'd be a seriously dangerous team right now. Instead, I feel like we're trying really hard to compensate for our big glaring weakness... and mostly being successful at it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I'm checking to see if we can operate with two display names with one Google account


I thought the IU vs Illinois game was very similar to the Wisconsin contest in that I thought the Illini were playing very well throughout and IU was "hanging on" for dear life. Of course, that is always my warped view.
Since four of our remaining six games are on the road, this was a crucial victory. Somehow, somewhere we need to steal a road win so we can finish 10-6 in the B10, which should be a lock for 3rd place. Onto the game...I am not a fan of Lance Stemlers play, either on the offensive end or the defensive end of the floor. I kept complaining about his play during the game, but understood that he could potentially be a bigger threat on offense than Mike White or Xavier I felt some compassion for Sampsons substitution pattern. After the game, reading the box score, I noticed that Joey Shaw played 2 minutes (I don't recall seeing him in the game) and, believe it or not, I completely forgot that he was sitting there on the bench while Lance was logging 19 minutes of action. I don't understand this?? Is he hurt? Is he in the doghouse? Whazzup?