Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Numbered thoughts (Brutal Honesty edition)

1. I have really enjoyed watching Kelvin Sampson coach the team this season. He has displayed leadership, humor, maturity, class, and skill. Although I think he has been appropriately criticized for his previous NCAA violations, he strikes me as a guy with a lot of integrity who also doesn't take himself or his position too seriously. I'm really happy that he's the head coach at Indiana. Remember that statement while reading the rest of this post.

2. I'm not sure whether to be snide, amused, or confused by all the discussion about whether or not DJ White will go pro. Folks, DJ is not going pro. He is not choosing whether to stay or not... he does not have the option to play in the NBA next season, and there's no reason to believe that he's a guy who would turn pro in spite of having no draft prospects. He might very well participate in the some pre-draft camps just to get the exposure, but there's basically no chance that he'd get drafted in either round. DJ is a very good, slightly under-sized college center, who makes up for his lack of height by being bouncy and by having a nice mid-range jumper. The interesting question is whether DJ will ever make an NBA roster... I personally think it's a long shot. This is not a criticism of DJ, because I think he's a very good player and seems like a really good kid. I just don't think he's attractive to NBA teams and I think it's possible (maybe even probable) that he won't be a first round pick two years from now either.

3. My goal for Indiana next season is simple - a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Winning the B10 depends on how good the rest of the B10 will be. I suspect that MSU will be very, very good next season, and Indiana could be a Top 10 team and still not win the B10. Obviously OSU could be #1 next season, depending on who goes pro. But what I want is for Indiana to head into the tournament as a team with a legitimate shot to make the Final Four. Not favored to make the Final Four, but a contender. Here's how I look at it -- 4 seeds are barely expected to make the Sweet Sixteen. I don't know what the percentages are, but I bet that less than 50% of 4 seeds make the Sweet Sixteen... some get upset in the first round and then they face a 5 seed in the second round in what is essentially a pick'em game. Then they usually have to face a 1 seed in the Sweet Sixteen (if they make it that far). IMO, there's a world of difference between a 3 seed and a 4 seed. A 3 seed can make the Elite Eight without being an underdog in any of the first three games. Note that my goal is not to make the Final Four or the Elite Eight, because the NCAA tournament is just crazy. Good teams with good coaches can get beat by worse teams with worse coaches... in fact it happens all the time. I'm not going to stake the entire season's success on that single elimination format. But I do want Indiana to be a feared team heading into the tournament... not the popular pick for getting upset in the first round. A 3 seed.

4. That said, I think a 3 seed is definitely a stretch goal for this team. Losing Calloway is huge. Losing Wilmont would normally be huge, except we're bringing in that Gordon kid, who apparently is pretty good. But we have two big question marks heading into next season. The first is decision-making. The difference between Indiana having a GREAT group of guards next season or a very good group of guards will come down to decision-making. Ratliff has big issues in this space, Bassett is learning but still struggling to find a balance between attacking and not making mistakes (in other words Bassett can go a long period of time without making a bad decision... but it usually corresponds with him not being aggressive). Gordon will be a freshman. IMO this is on Sampson. We all wanted a real coach for exactly this reason - we need Sampson to mold these guys into good decision-makers. I think he can do it, but it'll take the whole season. The other big question mark, not unlike the last 5 years, is...

5. Interior depth is still a problem. I think it's difficult to overstate just how much Stemler, Mike White, Allen, and Keeling struggled this season. Stemler came in known as a 3 point shooter. And he certainly shot them (did you know that Stemler shot more 3s than Bassett this season?). I'm actually perversely confident that Stemler will get his shooting touch back and be very good next season, but I'm not sure I have any justification for it (other than loving the idea of having 4 guys on the court that all shoot over 40% from 3 point range... mmmmm). While I think Holman will contribute, I suspect it'll be more as a backup for DJ than having them on the court at the same time (because I think they play the same position). I think we'll see McGee backing up Stemler. Last season, Sampson had DJ for 35 mins a game. He had Stemler, MWhite, Allen, and Keeling to give him the other 45 mins he needed in the post. I think he got about 20% of what he needed out of them. What will the percentage be next season? If it's closer to 80%, I think we'll get that 3 seed.

6. Scoring 13 points in the first half against UCLA in the second round of the NCAA tournament was embarrassing. It is Sampson's job to get the team mentally prepared for games. It was one half, and as I said above, crazy things happen in the NCAA tournament, so as far as I'm concerned, I call the whole thing a "do over!". But if Indiana completely lays an egg again in a big game in the next season or two, it's going to make me very worried. There's no shame in losing to UCLA and I'm happy with the way we battled back... but it'll be awhile before I can completely forget looking at that nauseating one-three on the halftime scoreboard next to "Indiana". I have no interest anymore in trying to rationalize why the bad play on the court is not actually the fault of IU's coach.

7. I would LOVE to see Tubby Smith leave Kentucky and go to Michigan. I like Tubby Smith and I hate Michigan, but I don't enjoy hating B10 teams... I really want to root for every B10 team. If Tubby Smith went to Michigan, I would immediately start rooting for them. That would be fun. Then if Minnesota could somehow luck into finding a good coach, the B10 could start looking pretty scary.

8. Has Ed DeChellis been fired yet? I've been out of the loop the last week and a half.

9. I think Alford should leave Iowa, even though I think he's done an excellent job the last two seasons. It's good timing on both sides.

10. I'm rooting for Ohio State to win it all. I know a lot of folks dislike OSU, but I'm a B10 guy at heart. After that, of the teams that have a real shot of winning it all (Florida, Oregon, Kansas, Pittsburgh, UCLA, UNC, Georgetown, Texas A&M, Memphis), it's hard to know who to pull for. I dislike Florida and Memphis a lot. I respect UNC, UCLA, Kansas, and Georgetown, but I don't want to see them have more success. I'm ambivalent about Oregon and Pittsburgh. So I guess I wouldn't mind seeing A&M win it all... and Acie Law deserves it. The dude has icewater in his veins.

But I'd take Butler over any of 'em.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Indiana freshmen double-figure scorers - the last 25 years



DJ White (13.3)
Robert Vaden (10.2)


Bracey Wright (16.2)


Jared Jeffries (13.8)


none (Haston at 9.9)

Luke Recker (12.8)

AJ Guyton (13.6)





Alan Henderson (11.6)

Damon Bailey (11.4)

Calbert Cheaney (17.1)

Eric Anderson (11.9)

Jay Edwards (15.6)


Ricky Calloway (13.9)


Steve Alford (15.5)


In 25 years, we've had four freshmen score more than 15 points a game - Steve Alford, Jay Edwards, Calbert Cheaney, and Bracey Wright. Calbert leads the group with 17.1.

The perfect non-conference schedule

At work we call this a "thought experiment". At home we call this "bullsh!tting." Six of one, half dozen of the other. Anyway, I was thinking - what's the perfect non-conference schedule? Part of the problem, obviously, in building a schedule is that you don't know in advance how good teams are going to be. I'm pretty sure when this season's schedule was set that people weren't thinking that Southern Illinois would be significantly better than Connecticut. Plus you also don't know how good Indiana is going to be, and there are pre-existing contracts and unknown games in the ACC-B10 Challenge and pre-conference tournaments. So I thought, what if it were up to me to build next season's pre-conference schedule, knowing what I know now about how good Indiana will be, with the following conditions:
1. I get a clean slate - no pre-existing obligations matter
2. I assume that every team will be exactly as good as they were this year (using Pomeroy's RPI Ratings)
3. There are 13 pre-conference games
4. There are no pre-conference tournaments
5. Every team will agree to play Indiana wherever I tell them to

Here's what I came up with (order matters):

Detroit (RPI:197) - Home
Toledo (RPI:87) - Home
Bradley (RPI:46) - Road
Duke (RPI:9) - Home (ACC-B10 Challenge)
Butler (RPI:33) - Conseco
Kansas (RPI:15) - Road
Indiana State (RPI:142) - Home
Wright State (RPI:81) - Home
Kentucky (RPI:11) - Home
Southern Illinois (RPI:5) - Home
Valparaiso (RPI:155) - Conseco
Kent State (RPI:78) - Home
Western Michigan (RPI:143) - Home

Here's the reasoning I used:
1. My best guess is that Indiana will be approximately the 15th best team in the country next season.
2. The purpose of the pre-conference schedule is to a) prepare the team for the B10, b) build a resume for the NCAA tournament, c) make money for the school, and d) provide positive exposure for the program.
3. Don't schedule anyone under 200 in the RPI. Beating Western Illinois by 52 points does absolutely nothing for the team. The worst B10 team are generally ranked between 150-200, so having a few of those games still prepare you for the B10, yet they don't crater your SOS.
4. Make sure you are scheduling enough "should win" games to build a good record for the NCAAs. You could schedule road games against the top 13 teams in the country and guarantee yourself the best SOS ever, but we wouldn't even be a bubble team in that scenario because we'd head into the B10 with a 3-10 record.
5. The schedule should be tough. It should challenge the team with a variety of different opponent strengths and styles.
6. Indiana has a regional recruiting base in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. Schedule games against teams in those states. First, it means the college kids on your team don't have to spend unnecessary time traveling. It ensures regional interest. Potential recruits will watch your games. And your own fans will have a better opportunity to travel to away games.
7. Road experience is important, but shouldn't be overdone. Schedule a couple tough road games, but have most of the games at home. Home games for Indiana generate extra income that the athletic department desparately needs and they make the fans happy. This season the only marquee home game we had was Southern Illinois - and most people didn't know it was a marquee game at the time.
8. Start the season with a couple easier games.
9. Do not, under any circumstance, schedule a fricking non-conference game during the B10 schedule.

There you go - the perfect non-conference schedule!