Live chat transcript: IU women, IU men’s enter homestretch

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

Andy, Mike and Jeremy: How are you today? Are we ready to get started?

JEREMY: I’m feeling as chatty as I possibly can. Let’s get right to it.

MIKE: Good morning, everybody. Ready for a good ol’ chat.

ANDY: Sorry, late to the party today. Air card issues. Seems to be working now. Will play catch-up.

QUESTION: Glad to see the women put their struggles behind for a game….I was curious about the scholarship situation. Barring transfers, are there any more scholarships for recruiting in spring or for next year?

Steve, Indianapolis

JEREMY: Steve,

When this IU women’s team put its struggles behind, it does so in grand fashion, as all four Big Ten wins have now come by at least 17 points.

As for scholarships, there are none available barring transfers with both 6-2 Kym Royster and 6-5 Danielle Williams having signed in the fall. It will be interesting to keep an eye on how this offseason plays out though, as the combination of a new coach and a boatload of perimeter players competing for playing time is almost sure to result in some roster turnover.

Also, as it stands, IU has two scholarships for the 2016 class with one spot already taken by commit Darby Foresman of Heritage Christian. So I would think any transfers are more likely to open scholarships for that class than any spring signees for 2015.

MIKE: Hey Steve,

The women have two open spots for next year, which they’ve filled with commitments from 6-foot-2 forward Kym Royster out of Ohio and 6-5 center Danielle Williams from Texas. Teri Moren will also have Butler transfer Liz Stratman, last year’s Big East Defensive Player of the Year, available next season, too. Some additional spots could always open up depending on transfers. I’m guessing there will be at least one, as is usually the case following a coaching change.

ANDY: Steve:

There are 14 players on the current roster, I believe, with Liz Stratman a senior due to be eligible next season after transferring from Butler, and one other senior listed. That would leave two spots for the maximum 15, I think, and Coach Moren already has Kym Royster and Danielle Williams on the way.

QUESTION: 1. For the 1st time last night I was not mad about the loss last night and think IU played its best. With no more road games left (Rutgers and Northwestern don’t count as road games in my mind as IU alum in NY and Chicago will make both crowds close to 50-50) how will IU finish down stretch? In my mind we have 4 home games and 2 neutral site regular season games left as well as neutral site games in Big Ten and NCAA tourney. I see IU finishing 5-1 down the stretch in regular season with a let down vs Iowa at home and a 1-1 record in Big Ten tourney. I believe we will go into tourney at 23-10. Do you guys agree with my prediction and also is it fair to say we have no road games left (In my mind its perfectly fair given crowd make ups and non-intimidating atmospheres against bottom feeders)?

2. With baseball about to start I am issuing a challenge to Mike to do as well as Dustin covering baseball. I think Mike has done a beyond great job so far and Dustins biggest strength (among many) was covering the baseball team way beyond what was asked before program got big and I hope to see you cover it at the same level Mike. You have big shoes to fill in this regard. Also where do you see team finishing? I have IU 15-9 in Big Ten in 3rd place and going somewhere else in a regional as a 3rd or 4th seed.

Darren, Martinsville

JEREMY: Darren,

1. I don’t care how many more fans IU has in the stands, it’s still a road game. The opposing team feels a lot more comfortable in its own gym, and while IU may have its share of fan support, Rutgers and Northwestern still have a lot more backing in their building, far more than they would on the road. Also, Indiana still has to travel and that can take its toll in some form or fashion. While those two road games are very winnable, I also wouldn’t be shocked if IU lost one of them.

I hear a lot of talk about how much easier these final six games are, and I suppose it’s perfectly reasonable that IU could run the table or close to it, as you suggest at 5-1. However, I think it’s a very fine line between that and 3-3 or 2-4. Purdue and Iowa, in particular, have the size to be a matchup problem (Perea’s return helps). Minnesota and Michigan State haven’t exactly been consistent, but the Gophers are playing well and you saw what the Spartans did in East Lansing against the Hoosiers. Having those games at home certainly favors Indiana, but keep in mind the Hoosiers have already won three games at Assembly Hall when the opponent missed a 3 to tie at the buzzer.

Which is to say, even if IU goes 5-1, it will be a thrill a minute.

2. I’m quite confident Mike will meet your expectations for baseball coverage. Not sure how this IU team is going to hit, but a little surprised to see the Hoosiers picked fourth in the preseason. Think their pitching might be better than that, but we’ll see.

MIKE: Hey Darren,

Yeah, I felt Tom Crean held a unique sense of peace when he met with us after that loss — more so than at any other point this season. Indiana played well except for some of those little mistakes around the basket. Those are obviously pretty atypical for this team, so it didn’t feel like the loss was anything close to a disaster. It was just one of those nights, and I thought IU perhaps quickly understood and digested that.

KenPom.com gives Indiana some of its best odds of the remaining stretch in its two road games at Rutgers and Northwestern. As of today, IU is a 62 percent favorite vs. Minnesota, 67 percent favorite vs. Purdue, 72 percent favorite at Rutgers, 65 percent favorite at Northwestern, 58 percent favorite vs. Iowa and a 53 percent favorite vs. Michigan State. That said, it’s still a road game. IU has to travel, step out of its comfort zone and still adjust to a different environment. I think there will be IU fans in the stands — especially at Northwestern — but I’m not willing to say they’ll just cruise to a win at those places.

I’ve been going back and forth between a 4-2 finish and 5-1, while realizing that IU could very well win all six. This is a tough team to project even at this point in the season. I can see all four home games going down to the wire. Sure, playing at Assembly Hall is going to be a boost, but the Gophers, Boilers, Hawkeyes and Spartans can each give IU trouble in their own unique ways. I’m not sure how this team will proceed into the Big Ten tourney, but I’m pretty confident that it’ll be fun to watch.

First off, thanks Darren. I’ll be at all the home games, with a few road trips sprinkled in as the schedule fits. Dustin and I are both big baseball guys, and we spent many late, late nights talking shop and watching games as the summer months wore on the last few years. Anyway, regarding this year’s team, the Big Ten coaches picked IU to finish fourth behind Maryland, Nebraska and Illinois. That sounds about right, but as you say, I can see them at third, too. A third or fourth seed seems reasonable, too, and it’s pretty much what all the experts see for IU’s tournament hopes. Saw one recent projection — not sure if it was Baseball America or D1baseball — that has IU as a No. 3 seed at Vanderbilt. We’ll see. I do expect this to be a fun team to watch. They still have some pop, the top of the order should be pretty respectable and the pitching depth is really, really good. I don’t have Pac-12 Network, but if you do you can watch them open against Stanford tonight and tomorrow. As we arrived back in Indiana yesterday afternoon, Chris Howell and I passed both the IU baseball and softball teams in the Indianapolis Airport. I was a little jealous knowing just how much warmer both squads will be this weekend.

ANDY: Darren:

1. After watching Minnesota whip Iowa on the road last night, and knowing the Gophers have now won five of their last seven league games, I’d say the Hoosiers need to be on their game Sunday just for starters. That being said, yes, a lot of folks have pointed to this final six-game stretch as a chance for IU to finish strongly. I felt all along if Indiana got to this point somewhere around .500 in conference play, it could be in good shape for a NCAA tournament berth, and now it sits at 7-5 (and so very close to 8-4). I think 4-2 is a reasonable projection, but I also think 5-1 is more likely than 3-3, barring anything unforeseen. I think an 11-7 finish would seem a success for a team projected by pundits to finish 10th in the league. If it’s 12-6 or better, that’s a heck of a job. 10-8 would seem a bit of a disappointment at this juncture.

2. Dustin was (and is) crazy about baseball. I’m not going to get into the hours people actually work here, but suffice to say doing it the way Dustin did it is asking a lot. From my perspective, though, Mike is every bit the baseball fan Dustin is. I’ll let him respond, since it is more his place than mine, regarding coverage plans — other than to say I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. At all. And I think your projection for the Hoosiers seems pretty good. IU was picked to finish fourth in the league, but I really like the Hoosier pitching staff, on paper, and their might be more pop in the lineup than some suspect. Obviously, starting off with a series at Stanford could prove instructive early, but regardless of how that trip goes, I think this is a capable Indiana team.

QUESTION: With 6 tough but winnable games remaining, how many wins does IU need to feel comfortable about securing an NCAA Tournament spot? It would seem 5 or 6 wins gets them in regardless of their performance in the B1G Tournament. 4 wins is probably safe, but IU may need a win in the B1G Tournament to lock up the spot. 3 wins probably forces IU to win at least one game in the B1G Tournament. 2 wins or less; I think IU has played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament and would need a B1G Tournament run.

Also, it seems safe to assume that Tom Crean will return as coach for next season (which I support). Would a late season collapse and failure to make the NCAA Tournament put his job in jeopardy? I think most IU fans have been pleased with this season and relatively supportive of the coaching staff. However, a late season collapse (and failure to make the NCAA Tournament), and I believe fan anger Tom Crean will reach an all-time high.

Brian F., Chicago

JEREMY: Brian,

I would say five wins is a lock, while four wins is probably enough. It’s a little hard to say, because you’re not sure what other teams in the hunt wind up doing. One year, 21-10 is right on the bubble and another it’s solidly in. Also, who Indiana wins and loses against might be as important as the overall record. Right now, Indiana doesn’t really have a bad loss. Even Eastern Washington has turned out to be a pretty good team at 19-5 overall and 10-1 for first in the Big Sky. Minnesota, Rutgers and Northwestern could all fall in the bad loss category, so win those three and one of the other three against better teams Iowa, Purdue and Michigan State, and IU is probably a little safer. No matter how it plays out, at least one win in the Big Ten Tournament will really help not only making the NCAA but getting a better seed, which most bracketologists currently have as No. 7 for Indiana.

I know a late-season collapse would certainly throw message boards and social media into utter chaos, but even so, I have to believe Tom Crean is secure in his job for next season, though the seat would most certainly become uncomfortably warm.

MIKE: Hey Brian,

Yeah five wins and they’re in for sure. Four wins should be enough, too. I’d be very, very surprised if we see any less from this team. Beyond the final six, I see IU winning a game or two in the Big Ten tourney, so I’d feel pretty comfortable at this point. A late season collapse at this point would be hard to picture. Even so, I don’t see any reason why Crean wouldn’t return next year. Without a doubt, he’d truly enter next year on the hot seat and fans would be up in arms, but I think he’d still be back, nonetheless.

ANDY: Brian F:

Obviously don’t see a late-season collapse coming at this point, though there are never any guarantees, but I don’t think there is much doubt that Tom Crean will return, regardless, at this point. This was an important season for him and the program but for one thing, he’s garnered praise from a lot of places about how he’s handled this particular team, which has some overt flaws on paper. And how a few of the more impatient segments of the IU fan base might feel isn’t as important as how Fred Glass feels, let’s put it that way. I naturally can’t speak for Fred Glass, and public pronouncements of support for a coach from an athletic director are par for most courses, but I haven’t seen or heard anything that would indicate Fred would (or would want to) make a change.

QUESTION: Do the IU women really have a post-season chance with a winning record. Their RPI is not in the top 100.

Randall Bychkov, B-town

JEREMY: Randall,

When I say postseason, I’m thinking WNIT at best or even the WBI. IU was willing to put up the money for home games in the WNIT this season, and I would think Teri Moren would found postseason experience of any kind valuable, even the WBI (which Minnesota won in 2012, by the way).

That said, the Hoosiers have to win one of their final five regular-season games just to assure a .500 record or better and be in any conversation.

For the record, Indiana’s RPI is currently 143, and will actually go up a little regardless of result considering the opposition down the stretch, including Maryland and Rutgers on the road to finish. But there are 64 teams each in the NCAA and WNIT now, so that’s 128 schools and doesn’t put the Hoosiers too far off.

MIKE: Hey Randall,

Honestly, I’m not sure they win another game this season. I can’t see them winning at Iowa, and Maryland and Rutgers are just completely out of the picture. Michigan, maybe, although this team hasn’t shown an ability to get over the hump, get out of its own way and win on the road against a decent opponent. Nebraska is the only remaining home game left and IU will also have to play really, really well to beat them. All that said, one more win would guarantee at least a .500 record. Their RPI will get a bit of a boost with games against Maryland and Rutgers to close the season, but it’s going to be really, really tough. One thing in IU’s favor is the fact that the administration was willing to pay for WNIT games last year and left a positive impression on that committee with the way it hosted everybody last March. I’m sure if IU can find a way to get selected to the WNIT, or even one of the lesser tourneys, they’d certainly take it.

ANDY: Randall:

Think it’d be tough at this point. But not out of the question.

QUESTION: Why hasn’t Troy Williams learned to shoot? if that guy could only shoot, he’d score 25 a game and be an All-American. I’m hoping he can spend this summer developing a shot like Victory did between his sophomore and junior seasons.

Leroy, Merrillville, IN

MIKE: Hey Leroy,

We don’t get to watch practices, and certainly aren’t allowed access to their open gym time at Cook Hall, so it’s tough to say just how much he’s working or has worked on it. Williams told us in October that he made 10,000 3-pointers over the summer, though I don’t know if he really got anything out of that. We’ll see, because that is really one of the few things holding him back from being a first round NBA Draft pick. I don’t think he can stay at — let alone even reach — that level without a jumpshot.

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

Thanks for the time, Andy, Mike and Jeremy. What’s on your IU sports itinerary for the weekend?

JEREMY: While Indiana baseball is on the road to open the season, we’ll be home as the Hoosiers take on Minnesota Sunday night at Assembly Hall. Get the before, during and after coverage on the Scoop. Thanks for chatting.

MIKE: We’ll keep an eye on Indiana baseball’s season-opening weekend at Stanford (is it too late to catch a plane to Palo Alto?), and expect to meet with Tom Crean on Saturday afternoon to talk about Minnesota. Jeremy and I will be at Assembly Hall on Sunday and we’ll have you covered in every direction pre, during and post game. Thanks for checking in, everybody. See you next week.

ANDY: Big men’s game Sunday, obviously. Minnesota is going to come in riding high, full of confidence and replete with the sort of size than can cause IU matchup problems. Winning that game, and winning out in the four remaining home assignments, won’t be easy for Indiana, but winning Sunday would be a good start. Mike and Jeremy will be there to document the proceedings. I will be covering high school hoops, both girls’ sectional and boys’ regular-season play, which always helps me stay in touch with my Inner Hoosier. Thanks to all who checked in and/or chatted.