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.

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