Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Big Ten race is heating up!

Indiana (9-1) now has road wins over Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota... against one loss at Wisconsin. Concerns about our soft schedule are now moot, in my opinion - we're a legitimate contender for the B10 crown with the wins to prove it.

The other contenders are Purdue (10-1), Wisconsin (9-2), and Michigan State (8-2).

Working backwards, I don't think Michigan State has much of a chance. Their remaining schedule is brutal. The still play on the road at Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Illinois. The fact that they've already lost road games at Iowa and Penn State suggests that they won't win enough of those games to win the B10 title. Pomeroy predicts them to finish 10-6.

Wisconsin still has road games against Indiana, Ohio State, Illinois, and Northwestern, plus the MSU game at home. Finishing with one more loss would require a remarkable run of basketball... two losses is probably more likely. Pomeroy predicts them to finish 14-4. They've got an outside shot at the title, and if they beat Indiana on the road then they become a frontrunner.

Purdue has road games against Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern, plus a home game against MSU. Given that they just won at Wisconsin, all those games are winnable, but like Wisconsin I think 1 more loss would be extremely impressive and 2 losses is probable. But that still leaves them at 15-3 in the B10 (which is also what Pomeroy predicts).

Indiana only has 3 road games left against Michigan State, Northwestern, and Penn State, by far the easiest road schedule of the contenders. It's the home games that are brutal for Indiana - Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Purdue all in a row next up, then two more home games against Ohio State and Minnesota. If Indiana holds home court it's hard to picture them not at least sharing the B10 title, but that's a big if. In addition to the MSU road game, I think there's another loss lurking in there somewhere. 15-3 is the most likely finish.

So, best guess at this point is tying with Purdue for the B10 title at 15-3 with Wisconsin one game behind at 14-4.

Who is the best bet to win the title? I have to say Purdue. They have the best win in the conference (at Wisconsin) and their only loss was by 3 at Michigan State. But their edge over Indiana at this point is very slight.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I don't hate Kentucky

There was a time, a long time ago, when my intense dislike for Rick Pitino certainly bled over to the Kentucky program in general, but even then I always kinda liked the UK fans. They know their basketball and a fair number of them can manage to enjoy the rivalry with Indiana without letting it destroy their perspective.

I don't hate Purdue. Never have. I always liked Gene Keady. Not only was he a good coach, but he always struck me as being a good guy who was surprisingly funny in the right circumstances. I've made friends with a handful of Purdue fans over the years, though not in the same number as UK fans... Purdue fans tend to be pretty myopic about the rest of college basketball.

I used to hate Michigan. They were the one team in the B10 that I would root against in the NCAA tournament. I can't hate them anymore. They were just so pathetic during Tommy Amaker's tenure that they didn't inspire strong feelings, and I really enjoy John Beilein's style of play. I haven't met a Michigan basketball fan that I've liked yet, but that's probably just because there are so few of them. It's like trying to meet a scuba diver that you like in Wyoming.

I hate Illinois. I am absolutely amazed at the amount of whining Bruce Weber has publicly done about Eric Gordon... and about everything else. I have rarely seen a game where the refs helped a team as much as they helped Illinois last night, and Weber whined about not getting any breaks after the game. All coaches work the refs during the game and express mock outrage at calls and non-calls, but in Weber's case he seems to not be acting. Even before I knew who Gordon was, I had a hard time stomaching the Illinois games because watching Weber on the sidelines made me nauseous. I do think he's a good game coach, though, begrudgingly giving credit where credit is due.

I hate the Illinois players. This is a new thing - I actually really liked Illinois's team the year they made it to the championship game. They were unselfish, played hard, and were fun to watch... and seemed like classy kids. There's nothing classy about this year's squad. They embarrassed their program last night. Everyone knew there were going to play with a lot of emotion last night. Everyone knew that this was going to be a tough, physical game. That's college basketball. It's part of what makes it fun -- I don't think you ever see that kind of emotion in the NBA. But last night went beyond playing hard. I honestly believe that if Eric Gordon had gotten injured during the game from one of the many elbows thrown his way, the Illinois players would have been happy.

And I really hate the Illinois fans. I don't think IU fans are universally wonderful, smart, gracious people who shrug off disappointment and don't hold grudges. If the Eric Gordon situation had been reversed, I am sure I would have been embarrassed by the behavior of a few Indiana fans. But I am morally certain that we would not have degraded ourselves as a group like Illinois has. We'd have decided that if Gordon wanted to go to Illinois more than Indiana then it was his loss (arrogant self-justification, admittedly, but that's what would have happened). When Gordon came to Bloomington, he would have caught grief, but more in the "Hey, this is a great excuse to party" kind of way. The Illinois fanbase needs to look in the mirror... they are hurting their program.

To make a long story short, last night's double overtime victory over Illinois and the officiating crew was as satisfying a victory as I've experienced from watching Indiana for years. They pulled out a win on the road in extremely difficult circumstances against a team that is far better than its record suggests. Frankly, I'm amazed Indiana won.

And happy. Very, very happy.

A sad, classless scene from Champaign

Illini fans angry at Hoosier's Gordon cross line

Illini seethe hatred at Eric Gordon (and family), but IU wins anyway

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bob Knight "Interview" with Jay Bilas

Jay obviously didn't need to do much prompting.

And, as usual, Coach Knight was unable to bring himself to say the word "Indiana". At one point, he had no choice, but said "in the midwest" instead.

Some Bob Knight articles

A Coach Who Frequently Lost It Seemingly Had Nothing Left by John Feinstein (great article, terrible title)

General's Last Stand by Dan Wetzel

Ex-IU Players React to News by Michael Marot

Bob Knight's Gifts as Abundant as his Faults by Eric Crawford

My take? Simple, really. I think Knight's astonishing coaching talent and integrity in running his programs doesn't excuse the fact that he was a pluperfect jerk. And I think the fact that he was a pluperfect jerk doesn't invalidate his astonishing coaching talent and integrity in running his program. Both facts are equally true and valid, neither eclipses the other, and the two can't be separated. The same character traits that made him a great coach also made him a jerk. If someone could have waved a magic wand and softened Knight's edges 35 years ago, I'm convinced he would have been a lesser coach because of it.

I'm glad Bob Knight was Indiana's coach during my formative years, and I have never enjoyed IU basketball more or followed it with more passion than when he was the coach of my team... but in retrospect it was almost a relief when he left. The sideshow that enveloped him had become a distraction from following the team.

I just wish his successor had not brought his own sideshow with him as well.

Good luck, Coach Knight. Enjoy your fishing, you've earned it.