Live chat transcript: IU basketball, Mosquera-Perea, baseball #iubb #iubase

QUESTION: MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome to today’s IU sports chat. Thanks for being here.

Busy week with National Signing Day and plenty of IU basketball games (men and women’s, past and present) to discuss.

Hey, Jeremy, Mike and Andy, How it’s going? Ready to get started? And as our chatters point out, thanks for all your good work and the commitment to this Friday chat with readers.

JEREMY: Hard to believe it’s already Friday. Guess that’s what happens when you spend two days going to Wisconsin and back. Anyway, I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Let’s chat.

MIKE: Good morning, everybody. Last night I dreamed of locating and eating a big ol’ burrito. This morning I woke up aiming to do just that. So, as we chat, could someone please direct me to the best burrito in Bloomington? E-mails, tweets, even calls will be accepted.

OK, enough of that. Let’s chat.

ANDY: The cat just jumped up on our kitchen table here at home. The French word for feline is “chat.” No coincidence there, because it is time to …

QUESTION: 1. I know IU and Purdue hate each other but can we put our differences aside and combine IU’s guards with Purdue’s bigs and create an all star team that could possibly win it all this year for the good of Indiana?

2. How important is it that IU Baseball Carpe Diem (seize the day) and continue there strong run? I don’t mean dominate the Big Ten and never lose like happened the last 2 years but I feel you do need to make sure you have a season similar to 2012 where you are at least competitive all year and come on strong late. Interest is at an all time high with the program and it seems a very critical juncture for the program to at least remain near the top of the Big Ten team. Unlike basketball where if you lose people will complain, with baseball people will just forget about it and you will go back to having 100 people at games again instead of over 2,000 as you have been drawing last 2 years and generating a major buzz.

Darren, Martinsville

JEREMY: Darren,

1. In a word, no. And the Boilers seem to be doing just fine on their own at the moment.

2. It is important for IU to continue to show consistency at the top of the Big Ten, especially in Chris Lemonis’ first year. That’s more important to set a tone for recruiting really than fan enthusiasm. The fan support could certainly wane, although I’m not sure it every goes back to the paltry Sembower days, just because of the new stadium, which was sort of the point in building it. IU just happened to strike gold by having both the stadium and a really good team at the same time. And now there is broader and probably more patient level of support.

MIKE: Hey Darren,

I think you may have earned yourself a one-week chat suspension for even suggesting such a thing. Just kidding, you’re always welcome around these parts. Man, that’s quite a thought, putting A.J. Hammons — or any large and able human, really — on this IU team. I remember reading a message board post that received some national attention last year regarding a Texas football fan’s similar question. The fan posed a question — very seriously, if I remember correctly — asking if Texas could dip into one of the other schools in the university system and find a capable quarterback. Unfortunately, I think the NCAA frowns upon that.

I really believe this IU baseball team will be able to sustain some of the success of the last couple years and, as you assert, that’s going to be pretty important. This program is likely to lose a ton of talent after this season due to graduation and the MLB Draft, so we could start to see a rebuild under Chris Lemonis start to kick in fully this time next spring. But IU is positioned fine this year to challenge the upper reaches of the Big Ten. Nebraska and Maryland are probably the two favorites, then IU, Illinois and Michigan are probably fighting for third. At least, that seems to be the general thoughts of most folks who project NCAA baseball. Recruiting under Chris Lemonis seems to be going just fine. The guy made himself recruiting this part of the midwest, while also utilizing his ties to the southern part of the East Coast. I can see IU baseball taking a noticeable step backwards next season due to natural and expected attrition, but I think the new ballpark is going to keep people coming back, regardless. Prior to covering this team, and simply as a Bloomington resident, I found it incredibly fun and relaxing to spend an evening or an afternoon at the park watching baseball. That the team has been very good recently certainly helped woo me and many others to The Bart, but I think the lure of the park, the affordability and the fun of attending a game will keep fan interest relatively stable. Anyway, if you like a well-pitched game, this might be an especially good season to check out an IU baseball game.

ANDY: Darren:

1. What a concept.

2. Talked with Mike Miller, who will cover the team as a primary beat for us, about this last week. It seems the pitching staff stacks up very strongly on paper, which lots of options for the rotation (especially after Kyle Hart is fully recuperated) and a packed and very potent bullpen. The top of the batting order looks strong, too, with Casey Rodrigue, Will Nolden, Scott Donley, Brad Hartong etc. There obviously won’t be the big-bopper presence along the lines of Schwarber-Travis, the there are still some pretty serious sticks. There is some added speed to the mix, and from what I gather this could be a better defensive team. So, yes, I think IU will be a very competitive B1G club this season and perhaps a player on the national scene. The key for Coach Lemonis, I would say, is how he recruits from here, especially in terms of pitching, because some of the currrent guys will graduate and some will likely get drafted.

QUESTION: Hi guys, I hope all is well. As always, thanks for your hard work and for this chat. I appreciate it. I’ll be at Assembly Hall for the very important matchup between the Hoosiers and Wolverines, very much looking forward to it.

1. I was surprised to see James Blackmon Jr. held out of the game at Wisconsin (though I completely understand it, it just caught me off guard). I assume he’s going to be available on Sunday but have to ask, how likely is it that he plays on Sunday? Also, the buzz around Hanner seems to be that he is progressing quite well, do you still think he’s back after another couple of games (it would be nice to have him back for Minnesota, Walker is quite large)?

2. The Hoosiers schedule gets just a bit more forgiving after the game at Maryland. That’s not to say they have easy games or automatic W’s but I think they will have an opportunity to close very strong. Given IU’s current position, what do you think a realistic goal should be to set our sights on (as fans) as a finishing record in the B1G?

Thanks for everything guys, have a great rest of the week and maybe I’ll see you on Sunday in Bloomington. God bless and go Hoosiers.

TJ, Noblesville

JEREMY: TJ,

Glad to hear you’ll be making the trip down on Sunday.

1. I think it caught most of us off guard. I remember the play Blackmon hurt the ankle against Rutgers, but he just retied his shoe and walked it off. Clearly, it didn’t respond well after the game, and the way he was moving in Madison, it was clearly an issue.

I would think having five days of treatment would allow him to play Sunday, but my guess is he may still be bothered/limited.

As for Hanner, I think Minnesota has sort of been the ideal target for return all along. I suppose he could really surprise by returning at Maryland, but if there’s any doubt, it would be better to wait than have a setback.

2. Interesting question, in part because you’re really not sure how much impact Hanner’s return might have. I think in those final six games, a 3-3 mark is about the worst IU should do, while 4-2 would be acceptable and 5-1 or better a bonus. That said, you’re still looking at 11-7 or 10-8 most likely. Those games are also important from the standpoint that a strong finish would be key in how the NCAA committee views IU and how much work the Hoosiers may or may not have to do at the Big Ten Tournament.

MIKE: Hey T.J.,

If you’re planning to be at the game and you get there early, feel free to stop by and say hi. I try to take my seat at the center court press row about an hour-45 minutes prior to tipoff. I’m the dummy with the glasses.

It’s a good question and one that we probably won’t be able to have answered until tomorrow when we go to availability. That’s assuming they’re willing to tell us. As an aside, Bo Ryan joked after Tuesday’s game that he, too, obviously had no idea that Blackmon wouldn’t play. “Why didn’t he play,” Ryan asked us. “Nobody says anything, anymore.” Told that it was probably an ankle injury, Ryan responded, “You have to say lower leg (injury). There might be a lawyer in here.” Anyway, yeah, I’m not sure about Blackmon. the two-day layoff between Rutgers and Wisconsin likely led to some pretty substantial swelling. He was active in warmups at Wisconsin, though I really didn’t pay much attention to how he was moving. None of us had any idea it was an issue. With Perea, Tom Crean recently projected a return for either the Minnesota or Purdue games, so he should be getting close. He’s clearly moving better — at least he’s walking better — during pregame stuff when we see him on the floor. He’s not active in drills, or even dressed to participate, but he’s casually shooting flat-footed and walking without a limp. We’ll follow up tomorrow.

I think 11-7 is the really fair and realistic target at this point. Could possibly be better, depending on how they fare with the back-to-backs on the road against cellar dwellers Rutgers and Northwestern. We’ll see if any of the teams IU is set to host down the stretch catch a little momentum and get hot. The conference this year has had a very real flavor of the week to it, so I wouldn’t etch any prediction in stone. 11-7, however, should be a realistic expectation.

ANDY: TJ:

1. I don’t know that Blackmon is a sure thing for Sunday, but one would think he’d likely give it a go if Wednesday was truly a game-time decision. Have heard the same sort of buzz about Hanner but, again, there isn’t much certainty about the pace of injury recovery. Coach Crean has said mid-February for a while now, so perhaps we’re looking at another week.

2. I’ve felt all along that if the Hoosiers get to their final six games around .500 and in good health, they’d be in pretty good shape to finish in the upper third of the league. One never knows, because the trajectory of teams changes over time, and sometimes you can run into some hot teams that weren’t hot earlier. But with four of the final six in Assembly Hall, and the road games at Northwestern and Rutgers, one would think the Hoosiers could finish at least 4-2 in that final stretch. If they hold serve at home Sunday, which is a huge game, that would mean — even with a loss at Maryland — Indiana would be looking at roughly an 11-7 Big Ten finish. I think that seems a reasonable expectation right now, all other things being equal. And that exceeds preseason punditry expectations, which consigned Indiana to a consensus 10th place finish.

Safe travels to and from The Hall, which will be graced by your august presence.

QUESTION: Thanks for the good work we have come to expect. Two questions:

1) Do you see any reason for hope concerning our defensive woes with the imminent return of Hanner and the continued development of Holt? Or are our problems with perimeter defense just as serious?

2) Re: Tim Beckman’s comments yesterday, (let me put this delicately) have any of you had similar pressure from IU coaches, past or present (no need for specifics) to “cheerlead” for their teams instead of doing objective reporting?

Kurk81, Battle Ground, IN

JEREMY: Kurk81,

1. I guess there’s always room for hope. I do think Hanner’s return will help some � he does still lead the team in blocks with 25, nine more than Holt, despite playing just 16 games. He’s not going to help the perimeter defense, which has been porous from the get-go and largely responsible for the points in the paint scored by opposing teams. There are stretches where IU does show some improvement, so agains some hope, but it’s going to continue to be an issue. But as I’ve said all year, the Hoosiers don’t have to be great defensively, they just need to make some timely stops and provide a little bit of resistance to allow the offense to do its thing.

2. I can’t say anybody’s flat out asked for cheerleading like Beckman. They might have thought it, but at least they didn’t say it.

Like any school, IU wants to pitch positive story ideas, which is fine � it’s the job of the media relations staff � but you just have to filter the fluff. And there have been times perceived negativity has not gone over well, but that’s understandable, too.

It’s when a school starts trying to revoke credentials or otherwise punish media for doing their job that the real problem comes in, and that’s not happened in my experience with IU.

MIKE: Hey, Kurk. Appreciate the compliment.

I think Perea’s return will absolutely help, but I don’t know how much hope I’d attach to it. He still has his limitations, as does this team, though his ability to provide some semblance of rim protection addresses a need that the current, active Hoosiers lack. That’s kind of been the thing with him all year. I’d say, to his credit, what he gives Indiana won’t always show up in the box score or in any real measurable way. His length in the post can give teams pause — or, at least, more pause than they might have at the moment. This team isn’t going to take a big leap as a defensive whole, but having Perea certainly begins to mitigate some of the current challenges.

Beckman’s comments were so …. dumb. I’ve only been on the IU beat for a relatively short time, but I’ve never felt any pressure to abandon objective reporting from anyone in any sport. Take Kevin Wilson, for example. Wilson is a guy who understands that a big, big part of his job is to sell Indiana football to a population that, outside of the diehards, is understandably jaded. He says all the time that he needs and appreciates our coverage, but he’s also been clear that he doesn’t expect us to be uncritical. So I appreciate that. At times, he’ll take a couple jabs at the IU football media corps as a whole based on something one person wrote, but he’s a coach, we’re reporters and sometimes there’s going to be cordial disagreements. I’m pretty sure I upset him when I contacted Zander Diamont’s family and wrote the story about Diamont starting the Michigan State game, but Wilson never dealt any punitive type of punishment my way and, in fact, he gave myself and photojournalist Chris Howell exclusive locker room access a couple weeks later to write a story about David Cooper’s barbershop. I think with time, especially at a place like IU football, Wilson understands how to work with us in the media. He wants coverage and he recognizes the value of a good sound byte, but that doesn’t mean he won’t stick up for himself or the program. I get that, respect it and think there’s a pretty solid understanding between Wilson and the media.

ANDY: Kurk81:

One has automatic admiration for anybody who maintains IU fandom in such close proximity to West Lafayette.

1. I have long contended that this particular Indiana team was always going to be too youngish and too smallish to turn into a real good defensive team. The experience level and physical stature, in terms of both height and strength, just aren’t there. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a better defensive team than it is, or that it can’t improve, but it was never going to be an outstanding defensive club. When Hanner returns, that at least provides some periodic capacity to defend the rim, and I really think Holt has a pretty good innate idea about defensive positioning — he just isn’t really currently equipped to guard taller, bigger Big Ten centers. I’d think the Hoosiers would like to Holt defending the 4 more often, and that might happen when Hanner gets back, but only if they’re on the court simultaneously. And as you imply, IU’s perimeter guys need to get better at any number of things defensively, including simply keeping the ball-handler in front of them. I do think some of the guards have the capacity and desire to get better defensively. But there is always a learning curve when you’re starting two freshmen up top a lot. Overall, I think it’s been well-understood all season that this particular Hoosier team might have to win some shoot-outs. But, again, that doesn’t mean the team can’t, and shouldn’t try to, improve a bit defensively. If it does, even just to a modest degree, that can still help win some games.

2. Nothing ever as blatant or anywhere near as off-base as what Beckman said, or really even of the same nature. I can recall one time Kevin Wilson told to a group of beat writers granted access to interview some Indiana football January enrollees that he didn’t mind helping provide some positive off-season topics to write about, but that was very different from what Beckman said yesterday. Wilson wasn’t trying to tell anybody what to write or how to write it and, actually, specifically said so in that particular instance. He understands the media’s role in a way Beckman pretty clearly doesn’t. Wilson has never once commented to me about one of my columns, positively or negatively. He has never told me what to write or what not to write. I can’t think of any other IU coaches who have done so, either. That includes Bob Knight.

I do think that a lot of coaches devoutly wish guys covering their clubs were extensions of the school’s public-relations or media-relations department, but most are pretty well aware that the media serves a different function entirely. Obviously, coaches crave good publicity. A positive context makes things easier for them to sell their programs to recruits, to keep fan bases on board, etc. But most of them also understand that media must maintain professional objectivity, adhering to the ethics of the profession, and to retain any actual credibility with the reading public. I think what most coaches really ask for is fairness and accuracy. Their definition of fairness and accuracy might differ at times from members of the media, but that’s just part of the gig.

QUESTION: MODERATOR: That’s all the time we have for today’s chat. Thanks for joining us today. Be sure to follow IU sports on the Hoosier Scoop blog and app.

Thanks for the time, guys. What else should we know heading into this February weekend? What will you all be covering?

JEREMY: We’ve got an important home game for the Hoosiers on Sunday against Michigan. Keep up with us on Twitter and the Scoop for all the latest leading up to the game, as well as game day coverage. Thanks for joining us.

MIKE: We’ll obviously be looking ahead to Sunday’s important game against Michigan at Assembly Hall and we expect to meet with Tom Crean and others to preview the matchup tomorrow afternoon. So stay tuned to the Scoop and HeraldTimesOnlines.com. We have basketball entering a critical juncture, football leftovers (mmmm leftovers) and some baseball stuff to roll out in the next week. Thanks for checking in, everybody. See you next week.

ANDY: Mike and Jeremy will do their usual yeoman’s work Sunday with the Michigan game. I’m covering a high school game this evening with a sad context, with Columbus North visiting Bloomington South as CN star Josh Speidel remains in critical condition at an Indianapolis hospital after sustaining a head injury from an auto accident Sunday. South will solicit donations tonight to help defray some of the significant medical expenses the Speidel family is incurring, so any of you in the Bloomington area who don’t mind heading out to a high school hoops game can attend this one and perhaps donate. You can also donate via the #JoshStrong fundraiser you can find online at http://www.gofundme.com/l8xyqw