It’s almost crunch time…

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As we approach the end of the Big Ten slate, I thought I’d step back and throw out a few thoughts before Indiana faces Penn State this weekend then heads off to Indy for the Big Ten Tourney.

  • To say the least, it’s been a whirlwind of a season. When you step back and think about it, through all of this, this team is 25-5 and 14-3 in the Big Ten. 25-5? The best record an Indiana team has compiled since the loaded 1992-93 squad with Hoosier legends Damon Bailey, Calbert Cheaney and Alan Henderson? That says a lot about the group of guys Kelvin Sampson compiled and the system he put into place. When you look at last year’s squad, a team that at times I was convinced would beat this year’s, the 2007 Hoosiers lost every conference road game except for Northwestern and Penn State. The team we’re watching now lost two road games in the Big Ten- at Michigan State and Wisconsin- and is literally a Brian Butch-once-in-a-season banked 3-pointer away from being neck and neck with the Badgers for the conference title. What if that doesn’t drop? What if Indiana is on the cusp of winning a Big Ten title after a season like this? What is different, in my opinion, is that this team finds a way to win games when they don’t play their best. Examples: at Minnesota (where Indiana turned it over about a hundred times), at Illinois (in one of the harshest environments in all of college basketball this season) and lastly, at Northwestern (considering the firestorm surrounding the team at that point). Great teams find ways to win games like that. Is this team great? No. But you can’t argue with the toughness they’ve shown signs at different stages this year.
  • Has anyone else been impressed by the play of Armon Bassett over the last stretch? Maybe it’s just every time Jordan Crawford shoots a ridiculous shot five seconds into the shot clock Bassett just looks that much better, but I really think the Hoosiers’ floor general has blossomed into an All-Big Ten selection of late. Consider this: in the past three games, he’s totaled 47 points and had only 7 turnovers. That’s the kind of play the Hoosiers will need in the coming weeks from the point guard spot.
  • I’m curious to see what everyone’s thoughts are on what our old friend Kelvin Sampson has been up to lately. He was spotted at a San Antonio Spurs practice yesterday and spoke briefly with IndyStar reporter Mike Wells. He didn’t say much, and refused to comment on his abrupt departure at Indiana. Apparently, he was invited by Spurs coach Greg Poppovich to spend some time with the team. “That’s it,” Sampson said. “I really don’t want to do an interview. You take that and do what you want with it.” Good ole Sampson, so friendly with the media.
  • Lastly, how will the Hoosiers fare in the Big Ten tourney? In year’s past, they’ve lost heartbreaking games to Ohio State and Illinois in games that could’ve really gone either way. This year in all likelihood, they’ll enter as the No. 2 seed and play the winner of the Minnesota-Iowa game. Barring a miracle, I don’t see the Hoosiers falling to either of those squads. They beat both, home and away, and on a neutral court with mostly IU fans in attendance, it’d be a long shot to bet against Indiana. That leaves them playing on Saturday most likely against the Purdue Boilermakers who, make no mistake about it, would love to face the Hoosiers again. They didn’t get to host Indiana during the Big Ten schedule and they’ll be hungry to avenge their loss in Bloomington on Feb. 19. And to boot, they’ll have just as many fans at Conseco Fieldhouse as the Hoosiers.

Either way, I think Indiana has a very legitimate chance to win the conference tournament and make noise in the Big Dance. They’ll need the role players to step up, guys like Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis and maybe even Lance Stemler. You know what to expect every night from a player like D.J. White. And even Eric Gordon, on off shooting nights, still is able to get to the free throw line and get his 20.

We’re inching towards March Madness and there’s a lot of basketball left to be played. If anything, it should be an interesting next few weeks. But at this point, after this season, should we expect anything less from this team?

16 comments

  1. I don’t think you can blame it all on Butch’s shot. One play doesn’t make a game. Armon missed 3 or 4 free throws down the stretch. If he makes them as usual, Butch’s 3 is a moot point.

  2. I hate to say it, but I don’t think we do well at all the rest of the year as it seems our team has given up.

  3. I like all of what you said about the team. I don’t know about
    the Big Ten Tournament. For them to win they must be at there
    best. I think it will be different in the NCAA Tournament. When
    you play teams in your conference 2 and 3 times they become
    very informed about how to stop plays and key players. In the
    NCAA other teams have to use film and I don’t think they can get a feel for how good EJ and DJ play. I still think EJ has a 40 point game in him. Hopefully his shot from 3 land will be better. I wish Sampson would have opened up and shared his side of things but really do you think he is going to talk to the media?
    NOT!

  4. I watched some of Kenon Davis’s Drake team in slo mo. They block out and their zone defense spacing was superior – signs of a very well coached team.

  5. Not sure what the bigger play in that Wisky game was….Trevon Hughes blantantly traveling by falling on the ground and moving both feet or Butch’s bank.

  6. This past game I think Dakich was able to get the team to play more solid. I also think he learned what Kelvin did which is that Taber gives them the best option at the 4 spot. Lance has lost his shot and the rest of his game is not as good as Tabers (rebounding and defense).

    The one thing that is missing is all out team effort. The team seems to be on cruise often jogging back on defense, making sloppy looping passes, etc. The exceptions to that are EJ, Armon, and Ellis.

  7. Maybe Sampson showed up at the AT & T Center because he is the new spokesman for AT & T Wireless? :~)

    Or maybe he can show IU around when we get to the final four in Denver this year? :~)

    He is buddies with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and is is now just serving as a consultant. He will probably be an assistant coach or scout at some point.

    I think the NBA is a good place for him now. No chance of recruiting violations or too many phone calls that’s for sure!

  8. Just heard that IU recruit and Tipton High School star Derek Elston is going to choose IU, no matter who the coach is. Derek’s father was on the phone with WNDE radio station and gave the good news.

    Here is a past interview with Derek and his father:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkCn-7vOVJA

    Thank you Derek!

  9. I think the success in the rest of the season will depend on the heart that beats in each player to focus , play hard and handle adversity during the game.

    Gordon could easily get 30+ pts if he would only learn to dish the ball…….that way they cannot double or triple him. Right now he scores 20+ but gives up 5 to 8 turnovers. If he starts to dish we will go to the final 4

  10. When this teams plays fired up, they play some great basketball. Hopefully playing in the big ten tournament and ncaa tournament will be inspiration enough for them to be fired up. I believe there are 4 keys to IU winning:

    1.DJ gets more than 10 shots a game…he has to get the ball in the paint more often.
    2.Guards driving the lane…at times gordon, bassett, crawford, and ellis have proven they can take the ball to the basket and score…i love seeing them drive instead of throwing up 3’s
    3.Intense, Pressure defense.
    4.Gordon playing in control and knocking down some shots.

    If we get 3 out of the 4 we can make a run in both tournaments…i think this team will surprise some people…and when you look at it, IU has not lost a game to a team that is not currently ranked (Xavier,Uconn,Wisconsin twice, and Mich st.)

  11. and yes i’ve been extremely impressed with bassett…he knocks down 3’s at a high percentage, mainly cause he doesn’t throw them up whenever possible, and he has developed a great ability to drive and direct the offense

  12. I haven’t heard much discussion throughout the year as to Indiana’s/Sampson’s zone defenses as opposed to good old Hoosier Man-to-Man defense. I thought there would be more discussion particularly since Dakich apparently had them working on that in preparation for Minnesota. I’m not one for bringing RMK back, but I can’t help bringing up one of my favorite Bobby quotes: “Zone defenses are for people who can’t guard.” So I do yearn to see more of the old IU help-side man-to-man defense. It’s good to see this team have some success with man-to-man defense in the Minnesota game and hopefully it portends some strengthening in their defense with each game they play from here on out. Which, I submit, would make them pretty hard to beat, even in an off shooting night.

  13. You are NOT correct regarding IU facing the winner of Minny/Iowa. If IU wins today, they will be the 2 seed and Minny is the 6 seed. With a win today, IU would play the winner of the 7/10 game, which will either be Iowa/ILL or Mich/ILL.

  14. Zak, appreciate your optimism, but we are just not a good team right now. I agree with those that say we probably will not get better. I write while watching Penn State game and after watching UNC vs. Duke last night. We are SO lazy on defense. Cannot figure out if slow and/or lazy. I continue to support tho. Good point Jeff……thanks for bringing up. Kudos to Coach Dakich for pulling the trigger on Ellis. He was a train wreck waiting to happen. Something needed to be done.

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