The sad thing is…

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Because of this whole Kelvin Sampson debacle, there are a lot of people overlooking a very, very good basketball team.

Don’t agree with me? Consider this: If Brian Butch misses that horrid banked 3-pointer from 24 feet in the final seconds of last Wednesday’s game against Wisconsin, IU goes 5-0 in this brutal stretch. And they’d be without question the favorite to win the Big Ten title. Even with that three, they’re right there with Purdue at the top of the conference.

I think they’ve put together their four best games of the season over the past two weeks, and it started with an impressive win on the road against Ohio State. Then there was the Wisconsin game. In case you don’t remember, that game was played the same night the NCAA investigation was released. Rick Greenspan had called a press conference that afternoon to discuss the situation, national media had flocked to Bloomington and Kelvin Sampson’s status as head coach was in serious jeopardy.

Then Indiana went out and played a terrific game. They were just unlucky in the end.

The Michigan State performance, considering everything swirling around this team by that point, was their best forty minutes of basketball this year. They completely outplayed a top-10 team from start to finish, beating them so soundly that a win in East Lansing on March 2 (once thought nearly impossible) now doesn’t seem so out of the question. That game could very well determine IU’s chances at a Big Ten Championship.

Then, finally, there was tonight’s game against a red-hot Purdue team. Now answer me this: How can an Indiana team, with 23 turnovers compared to just five for the Boilermakers and thirty less shots from the field than Purdue, win convincingly by nine?

Well, several reasons. Indiana got to the free throw line more. D.J. White was a force inside. Eric Gordon was, well, Eric Gordon. Kyle Taber, Kyle Taber, hit a key shot down the stretch. Armon Bassett hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer and played a terrific game as Indiana’s floor general. “I just try to be a Coach Sampson out there on the floor,” he said afterwards. On Tuesday night, he did just that. I believe it was his finest performance of the season.

Eric Gordon is playing better near the end of the Big Ten schedule than he was at the beginning. He’s playing more within himself, avoiding costly turnovers and bad shots. He’s utilizing one of his greatest assets- his quickness- to break free of defenders and force others to collapse on him, often drawing fouls. And, believe it or not, he’s actually pulling up and shooting jumpshots from 10-15 feet instead of charging into the lane like a bat out of hell. His progression has been one of the biggest factors to IU’s 4-1 stretch.

Let’s not forget the heart and soul of this team, D.J. White. White’s progress from last season to this season has been a marvel to watch. He’s simply a more sound player overall: his rebounding has improved dramatically, he’s averaging more points per game and his leadership is more evident than ever before. Gordon may be Indiana’s best scorer, but White is the backbone of this squad. In nearly every postgame press conference, the opposing coach can’t speak highly enough about Indiana’s senior forward. All of them say he’s got their vote for Big Ten Player of the Year.

Kelvin Sampson puts it this way: “You learn to never take a kid like that for granted.”

So, in spite of all the controversy surrounding Sampson and the NCAA investigation, there lies as good a basketball team as Bloomington’s had in a number of years. Tonight’s win over No. 14 Purdue marked the first time the Hoosiers have beaten ranked teams in consecutive games since 1992-93.

What’s disappointing, from the fan’s perspective, is that many of the stories you read in tomorrow’s newspaper will focus on last night possibly being Kelvin Sampson’s last game as Indiana’s coach. The Hoosiers’ impressive win over Purdue will almost feel like a sidestory. Armon Bassett’s stellr play at point guard will get pushed to the bottom. D.J. White’s 15 rebounds will be overlooked. Kyle Taber’s contributions at power forward may as well be forgotten.

The bottom line is this: whoever ends up being Indiana’s coach after Friday, whether it’s Sampson, Dan Dakich or whoever else, will have a very good basketball team at his disposal with the potential to make a deep run in March.

31 comments

  1. Great stuff, keep up the good work. Bassett, DJ, and Taber were all outstanding tonight. And I love a team that hits their free throws. Big win!

  2. Thank heavens they beat Purdue. Last night I felt like Shooter from the movier Hoosiers. Sitting there on the bed getting dried out listening to the game. At the end I was jumping all over the place. They came in and put the jacket on me but I was feeling so good I didn’t even mind.

  3. I don’t know how you can say we played “great basketball” yesterday when we had about 30 turnovers.

    Lots of them unforced.

  4. Zak…if you remember, IU was able to go to OT at Illinois due to EJ banking in a three. Is it luck that enabled Butch to hit that three? Absolutely. It was also lucky that EJ hit his shot at the “other” AH. Both shots were “horrid” in my opinion.

  5. I disagree with you Zak. This is an extremely talented group of basketball players, not a very, very good basketball team. Don’t believe me, look at the box score from last night. If it wasn’t for individual efforts at the free throw line, the only place we dominated that stat charts, they lose that game. A very, very good basketball “team” does not commit 23 turnovers while their opponent only has 5. A very, very good basketball “team” does not get outscored off the bench, and in the paint. Sorry, this is a talented group of basketball players, but they are not a “team”.

  6. Hey Mike read the stats before making comments on them. I.U. dominated all stats 3pt per., shooting perc., free throws perc. and taken, rebounds, and yes I agree that they also had way to many turnovers.Parlty from poor ball handling and partly from a FANTASTIC Purdue defense. I.U. stepped up as individuals and definetily as a team. 3 players with over 15pts.,Fantastic pt guard showing in Basset and a game that has people scratching head goining Tabbor@# who? And if that is not enough, Great teams always show up in diversity!

  7. Hey Tom shooting percentage doesn’t mean crap, it is how many shots go in. Let me explain it like this, I go 9-10 from the field, I shot 90%, you go 10-20, you shot 50%. Mine looks impressive, yours scored more points. See how little the shooting percentage actually matters when your talking about the true stat line of a game?

    IU hit 7 3pt shots, Purdue hit 7 3pt shots, IU hit 20fg, Purdue hit 25fg’s (Purdue +10pts). Purdue out scored us in the paint, they out scored us by 21 points on turnovers, they out scored us by 9 points off the bench. Again the game was won at the free throw line where IU drained 30 of them to Purdue’s 11 (+19 IU).

    You want to talk about rebounds? Purdue won the offensive rebound battle, we won the defensive and over all battle, but when you throw the ball away 23 times compared to their 5, the +18 turnover margin negates the +16 in rebounds.

    The only TEAM stat I really see is the 14 assist, but I still don’t see IU play as a team.

  8. Basketball is such a game of bounces. If Eric does not bank in that shot against Illinois we would have lost. The game is never one play.

  9. Mike P… I agree too many turnovers by far and I do question team-play at times. But, I dont think things are as bleak as you make them sound. No offense, but your football analysis seemed a lot more on track to me….Among other things, why discount the fact that it was won at the line? That’s an important part of the game and this team, especially with EJ’s ability to draw fouls.

  10. Mike P,

    I appreciate your input, as always, but have to disagree. Earlier in the season, I would have agreed with you in a heartbeat that this wasn’t a team, rather a collection of talented players. But now they’re much more than that.

    A group of talented kids doesn’t do what this team has done over the past five games. Winning on the road at Illinois (in as intense as environment as there will be in college basketball this season) and Ohio State say one thing, but the past three games I believe said a lot more.

    What this team is doing is playing to their strengths. Gordon’s value to this team can never be overlooked because he is so good at getting the other team in foul trouble. IU was shooting the 1-and-1 with ten minutes left last night. Because of that, guys like D.J. White and Armon Bassett are able to get to the free throw line a lot quicker.

    They’re playing better. They’re scoring more easily as a team and they just beat the Big Ten’s top team by nine. Their defense is much, much better from the early parts of the season. Now, this isn’t to say that I think they could play with Memphis, Kansas or Carolina. Those teams would beat the Hoosiers rather handily in my opinion. But I do believe they’re a top-10 team and will be very dangerous in the tournament. Do you think John Callipari or Bill Self wants to play Eric Gordon and D.J. White in the Elite Eight? I highly doubt it.

    Zak

  11. The sad thing is that a good man is going to lose his job because of being involved in less than one “impermissible” phone call per month for a year.

    He’s not cheating. He probably broke the rules, but if you’re going to break the rules, you don’t do it 8-10 times over the course of a danged year.

    This is ridiculous. The media is out of control, and the Indiana administration has handled this like children. It’s all about PR now. Screw the truth and due process, because there’s a coach who needs to be fired.

    He says he didn’t intentionally violate the rules — and it’s easy to believe him when you consider the fact he was using the university phone, all of the phone call logs were signed off on by the wonderfully competent IU administration, and he only was involved in a handful of improper phone calls.

    If Kelvin Sampson goes, Rick Greenspan should be fired, as well. And so should the compliance director. If we’re going to take down Sampson for this absolutely and utter nonsense, the folks above him should be shown the door. None of this scapegoat crap.

    I’m not buying this PR stunt. Kelvin Sampson might have made some mistakes, but my goodness — we’re talking about being on the receiving end of a three way phone call less than once per month.

    Does anyone have any perspective? Or is it just fun to point fingers and call people cheaters and liars?

  12. And don’t give me this “IU has integrity” bullcrap. I don’t care how many NCAA violations Indiana has had over the last forty years.

    Indiana employed the most controversial figure in sports history for over thirty years. He did many things most human beings would consider far more offensive than being involved in “impermissible phone calls.”

    Trust me…regardless of what people in Bloomington might think, IU’s reputation is forever tied to Robert Montgomery Knight, not Kelvin Sampson. Most people don’t give a rip about phone calls, but they do remember Bob Knight throwing chairs and choking players and beating up police officers.

  13. Sorry, but Kelvin is a liar.

    Recruits said he knew he was on 3-way calls and he said he didn’t know.

    He also said he never looked at the caller id. What a load of garbage.

  14. Jim – I don’t discount that this game was won at the line, a win is a win. I discount that this is a solid TEAM. Five players on the court wearing the same jersey does not make a team to me.

    Think about this, an average TO night should be around 12-14, so lets say 10 less than what IU had last night. That would lead to an additional 10 shots on the goal. 1 in 5 shots IU take is a 3, so they would have took 2 more 3’s, hitting above 50%, the would have got 1 of those to fall, now it is a 12 point win, but wait, there are 8 more field goals to be took, shooting just shy of 50%, lets go on the side of caution and say they hit 3, that is 6 more points, pushing to an 18 point win.

    Ahhh, but Purdue had 26 fouls last night, IU took 53 shots, so lets average it a 1 foul for every 2 shots. So of those 8 shots, IU is going to get fouled 4 times. Two are on good field goals, tow are on misses. IU gets 6 more foul shots, shooting 88.2 percent from the line, that adds 5 more points, and it is now a 23 point victory.

    Why did I go through all of this?

    High amounts of turnovers happen when players are not on the same page, when the individual is trying to create everything on his own, instead of giving up the ball to a teammate while he works for better position without the ball.

    I seen many times where one guy cuts to the basket, the perimeter guy thinks he is going in for the shot, so he breaks to try and be in rebound position, however the ball handler kicks the ball back out to where that guy WAS on the perimeter, resulting in a turnover.

    These are just a couple examples of what I have seen all year, and a lot of last night that makes me question the “team” aspect of this group of kids.

    Go back to Saturday night, watch them against Michigan State, they came together and played a solid team game that night.

    P.S. – No Offense taken, Zak offered an opinion, I offered mine. I will admit I know more about the strategies of the game of football than I do basketball, but the concept of being a team, and playing as a team transcends across all sports.

  15. To understand why coaches take chances on recruiting all you need to do is look at Illinois. Bruce took Self’s players to the final game but has not been able to break through on recruiting since and many Illinois fans want to run him off. Same thing at Kentucky where Tubby finally said enough and took a lower profile job.

    Good coaches know that the difference between being a good coach and great is talent. Kelvin cut some corners while he was under the scrutiny of the NCAA. He is now going to pay the price.

  16. Zak,

    No problem, I knew you would not agree with me when I made my post. Everyone see things different, and I am not sold on a deep run by these players yet, heck I am not sold on them winning the Big Ten tournament, but with the remaining schedule, I can see them winning outright or sharing the Big Ten regular season title. I am not trying to sway anyone on here, I am posting my opinion, when I am questioned, like always I state the reasons behind my opinion.

    Bottom line is there is not enough football chat this time of year, and I am wanting to post, so I am taking on the b-ball crowd. LMAO!!

    Mike P.

  17. very good points…all Sampson had to do was stay off the damn phone! I mean he should be kicking himself in the ass!

  18. Mike P,

    It seems like you are a numbers guy, which is why I find it interesting that you are pointing to a statistical anomaly in order to make a point. The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s were GREAT TEAMS, but even they had bad games where they committed 20+ turnovers.

    Why, in making your point, do you fail to mention that over the past 3 games COMBINED, IU committed just 22 turnovers, or an average of 7.3 per game?

    Is rebounding a team thing? Because IU leads the B10 in that. Is scoring a team thing? IU leads the B10 in that too. What about FG %? IU is only 2nd in the B10 in that…must be b/c we aren’t a good team.

    You could probably pull out one bad statistic for every game for every team and say, “See, look, they don’t play like a team.” You saying that makes me question if you even know anything about how the game of basketball is played.

    Actually, you know what, maybe you are right, we are a terrible team, and all the polls, sportswriters, and computers that think we are a good team are wrong.

  19. I have to agree with football Mike P. A good team, but not yet very very good. Outstanding performances from DJ and Armon, as well as a yo man effort by Taber. EJ no doubt, but too many forces while looking for a foul. Crawford and Ellis scare the beejeezus out of me, but both hit big shots against Mich State and last night. We have a ways to go for Top Ten-ness. I guarantee you dont want to meet PUrdue again and what about Michigan State up there?

  20. Just to clarify my above post, I was saying the previous 3 games to the PU game, IU committed 22 turnovers combined.

  21. Hoosier Fan –
    Old folks don’t live forever. And the younger ones have a pretty short attention span. The longer IU and Bob Knight stay at odds, the less IU and Bob Knight will be remembered together.

    I am not saying that is good or bad, but it is possible.

  22. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about Coach Sampson this week, like we all have. Whenever forced to make a decision like Fire Him or Keep Him, I wonder why there is not another option that people create. I think this is more complicated than the black or white issue that is being played out on such a grand stage this week.

    We hired Coach Sampson knowing he had “warts” and still chose him as the best coach for the job. So, doesn’t it seem that firing him for the same thing he did before is a bit hypocritical? Everyone seems to be coming out of the woodwork now to say he is a good man, a good mentor, a man “worth saving” as a poster said over the weekend. He’s been compared to drug addicts in stories recently (a “cheating” addict), and maybe that is a apt comparison. So what do you do with an addict, cast him out? Or do you help him? Maybe, we should help him.

    Maybe what we should do is to own up to our hiring of Sampson, forgive him and commit ourselves to helping him. Have KS come public with what he did, renegotiate his contract at a much lower salary and bonus structure to reflect the problems that have come as a result of his transgressions. And use part of that money to help create the “institutional controls” to help him succeed in the future.

    What benefits do we get? We help a man, who seems by all accounts to be a good, if troubled person. We have stability at the head coach position, instead of our 4th coach in eight years. We give someone an opportunity to flourish and succeed in the way that he can and could in the right environment. We have a coach for life. And, maybe we become a bit more human and better people for it.

    What is the downside? He could do it again, and there is a limit to forgiveness that can be extended. People could say that we are only justifying his actions so we keep our coach. Whatever, I don’t really care what people say if we are helping someone by doing the right thing. And, we let the NCAA do whatever it wants to do at the end of the investigation. I guess we really do deserve whatever they give us anyway, regardless of how we try to dress things up now.

    I had been on the side of letting KS go for the last week, or at least suspending him. But now I think we really have an important chance to do a good thing, and that is to acknowledge the problem and commit ourselves to forgiving and helping KS. We’ll all be better people for it. If we just fire him, I feel like we are just trying to sweep our problems under the rug in the hopes that the NCAA takes it easy on us.

    I’m sure that many of you will think this is crazy, so I’d be really interested in hearing other “3rd options” as well.

  23. cln: I absolutely love it. It’s unconventional, human, and would really shut people up. One way or the other, the team’s gonna be terrible for a year or two. Why not be terrible with some stability, and a good guy at the helm? A postseason ban because you finish 13-17 is no better than finishing 22-8 and not getting in.

  24. I’m not seeing it. Time to look for a different coach, if there are any others out there. Maybe KS isn’t the only ‘wonderful’ coach in the country.

    fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…….

  25. I like it for this reason. It may not make any difference to the NCAA whether he stays or goes. On a related note, why do all the sports outlets speak of Bobby Bowden in such warm tones when he runs what may be the dirtiest program in the history of college sports (Kentucky and Boston College point shaving scandals are the only ones I think compare)? They condemn coaches that bail on their contracts and speak of Bowden like he’s their granddad.

  26. My eyes are bad. Is it cin or cln? Anyway….that was my point of the third option. I somewhat agree with you but this will draw the ire of many Hoosier faithful. Option three is to keep KS and take the NCAA decision like a slap in the face. Stand by our man! Not sure I am sold on it yet, but it is an OPTION. You state it in more detail. Good job cln. It’s Thursday 10am and D-day approaches. How many are taking the day off to monitor the situation?

  27. By day off……I meant tomorrow (Friday) I think we should all meet at Nicks and have a Kelvin monitoring party.

  28. cln has a very good thought here. Sampson obiously has a gift that is rather rare these days. In addition he seems to have a problem. I still question whether phone calls and denial of such rise to the level of ruining a career that holds so much promise to so many young men. I do believe he needs to have some goals on graduation rates as he was not to adept at that when at Oklahoma.

  29. Brian Butch’s horrid 3 pt bank shot????? Iu deserved to lose that game. Funny how you forgot about Gordon’s horrid 3 pt bank shot at Illinois to put it into overtime!!!! IU had Butch’s 3 pointer coming to them!!!

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