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.


The Grands said...

Daddy wrote a comment on your blog but I couldn't remember how to post it when I was under the gun so I copied it and sent it by email. I remembered how to post today but I think it is too late for Daddy.

Terry said...

Your email:

"Regarding D.J. White...I really thought White would re-injure himself this year as often happens to many players (Sean May) I am relieved that he was able to play the entire season in good health. You knew that he was not going to be at his best to begin the year; mentally he was thinking about the injury and playing tentatively, which is natural. D.J. started playing better about the 8th game or so and was a better than average center the rest of the season. I was actually hoping that he wouldn't have a banner year which would result in him declaring early...I guess I got my wish. I agree with you Terry, that he is not close to being NBA ready, but as coach Sampson said, "the NBA does not draft on stats, they draft on potential". That puts any 6' 9" guy on the NBA radar. The fact that Sampson is encouring D.J. to explore his NBA prospects means simply that Kelvin is no fool. With Gordon coming in next year and other high school recruits who think they are ready for the pros, a coach has to show kids that he is comfortable with their aspirations. I still think it is possible that White will go pro because there is some general manager out there who will offer him the NBA minimum which I think is around $500,000?? We shall see.
Rick Pitino and Ray MacCallum attended the 4A final between North Central and East Chicago Central. E'Twaun Moore (Purdue) outscored Eric Gordon 28 to 25 and led his team to victory. I hope that is not a sign of things to come. Pitino was there to look at Angel Garcia, a 6' 11" "perimeter player" who scored 25 points, had 9 rebounds and dished out 3 assists. Garcia is listed as a sophomore but I think he might be eligible for college after next season. He had some transfer issues with the Indiana High School AA.
I was especially pleased with Sampsons debut, but have some reservations. When Keeling, Shaw, M. White and even Ben Allen showed some improvement about mid year I was excited. We finally had a coach who was going to develop the bench players! I was impressed with Basset's play and was gratified that Ratliff was rebounding from his sophmore slump. Earl Calloway morphed into a true point guard. WOW, things looked good. But then it seemed as if we reverted to the Mike Davis offense of 3 point shooting...rarely getting the ball into D.J. I don't know when Sampson judged that this team would only go as far as their perimeter shooting would take them. Also, it is obvious that the bench players plateaued...improving to an acceptable level and then coasting to the finish line. I hope you are right about Lance Stemler..I personally hate his play.
I think we will be competitive next year but we sure can use a point guard. Can we make a trade with Ohio State for Conley?"

Terry said...

If DJ were actually 6-9, I'd be a little bit more worried about him going pro. I think he's more like 6-7 and change.

I agree that Sampson is handling this just right. By "helping" DJ with his NBA goal he gets brownie points for being supportive AND he ensures that DJ won't only talk to a couple friends who assure him that he's a first-round pick. He'll be able to get a bunch of people to tell DJ to stay in school.

I've heard good things about Moore. I think Purdue got a good one. And he'll likely be in school more than one season. I like Purdue's entire recruiting class, in fact.

Moore is no EJ though.

I agree about the plateau at the end of the season. It was very frustrating. I'll be watching our offense very carefully next season -- I expect to see more than we saw last season.