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Sweet 16 Loss Ends Season For Hoosiers

March 29, 2013 Comments off

The Indiana Hoosiers would fall to the Syracuse Orange in the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers are the second No. 1 seed to fall out of the tournament. (Credit: InsideTheHall.com)

The Indiana Hoosiers would fall to the Syracuse Orange in the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers are the second No. 1 seed to fall out of the tournament. (Credit: InsideTheHall.com)

Indiana Hoosiers fell to Syracuse Orange Thursday 50-61, and different areas of the game made the result of the second No. 1 seeded team to lose early in the tournament.

The 2-3 zone, too big of a game for Yogi Ferrell, scoreless Jordan Hulls, refs unfair in foul calls and Tom Crean was outcoached were a few reasons, or excuses, for how Indiana would eventually fall for successive years in the Sweet 16.

Turnovers. That was the game changer for Indiana as they fell Thursday. Syracuse was able to force 18 total turnovers for the game, 12 in the first half and 10 in the first 10 and a half minutes of the game.

Allowing the Orange to outscore the Hoosiers 12-2 on points off turnovers in the first half, put Indiana down 12 heading into the locker room at halftime. Many turnovers came down to the high-paced offense Indiana has shown all season.

“Strength and size no doubt had something to do with (Yogi and Hulls),” Crean said. “It wasn’t the missed opportunities of scoring that hurt us so much, but the points of turnovers that turned into live-ball turnovers.

Though, their season average per game in turnovers was 12, which was matched in the first half, and turnovers will be high when in a run’n gun offense.

Yogi Ferrell ended his freshman season with 0 points, 1 assist and 4 turnovers. (Credit: CincinnatiBell.net)

Yogi Ferrell ended his freshman season with 0 points, 1 assist and 4 turnovers. (Credit: CincinnatiBell.net)

“Yogi will be a great player, and it is the first time he has seen that kind of zone and length,” Coach Crean said postgame. “You have to have quickness, and unless you have five (Hanner Mosquera) Parea’s, you can’t sim a zone like that in practice.”

Ferrell did not start the second half after starting with four turnovers. Will Sheehey took his place, and had his own issues like he had for many weeks leading to the NCAA Tournament.

Sheehey is an interesting player, and after getting off to a great start in the season, fizzled through the duration. He gave a spark off the bench as the Hoosiers jumped to a seven-point deficit early in the second half, but few poor decisions later, missed free-throws and chuck threes, Indiana found themselves losing trace of the lead.

Atrocious is the word to describe Sheehey’s shooting in games. Anything outside of the paint and he is ice cold. He is a great player when he pump-fakes, dribble drives and passes from the baseline, but he is not a threat to teams who leave him open like Hulls and Christian Watford were.

Lastly, was the inability of Hulls to make shots beyond the arc. People want to put all the pressure on Zeller playing well in order for the Hoosiers to win, but, in reality, it is more important for Watford and Hulls to make shots by a drive-and-kick in order to get Zeller the spacing in the paint.

Unfortunately for the Hoosier faithful, Hulls had arguably the worst month of his career in March while playing for Indiana. His field goal percentage was 26 percent and his three-point percentage was 23.5 percent during the final eight games of the season. As he agreed to, his shooting performance will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Three seniors will leave the Hoosiers, while they may lose more players. (Credit: TMNews.com)

Three seniors will leave the Hoosiers, while they may lose more players. (Credit: TMNews.com)

This team had high expectations entering the season. Being a No. 1 seed was expected, winning the Big Ten Championship was expected and winning a sixth championship banner was the most expected.

The level of talent in the starting-five was inarguable, but it will leave the team and fans in disappointment when next year’s team will not be as high-profile. The Hoosiers are losing seniors Hulls, Watford and Derek Elston, but more than likely will lose sophomore Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo.

In their postgame press conferences, Oladipo and Zeller both told the media they haven’t thought about the NBA draft at all. Obviously, they have thought about the draft, and they will not return for their junior and senior years.

If the feeling of defeat and disappointment of not reaching the Elite 8, Final Four or championship game isn’t enough for them to say they are returning, then nothing is.

So say goodbye to four of starting-five, and welcome the possibility of making another run for a title in a few years.

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Thoughts Following Indiana Loss Against Wisconsin

January 16, 2013 Comments off

YogiTop

No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers defeated Tuesday by Wisconsin Badgers at The Assembly Hall. Hoosiers next game is Sunday at Northwestern. (Photo Credit: Jamie Owens)

Being able to watch these home games from the balcony, I leave knowing the outcome of the game and for the most part how each team played on the championship banners half-court.

With that said, going home and watching tape left me with the same thoughts following Indiana’s loss against Wisconsin and their past two games at The Assembly Hall.

Closeout defense on perimeter:

This was the main takeaway from Tuesday’s loss to Wisconsin, and most of the issue was from the first half. Wisconsin shot 33.3 percent from three-point range in the first half, making four of 12. Both teams were not successful shooting in the first half or second half, but Wisconsin’s inability to score down low would have allowed Indiana to stretch their lead to more than one at the half.

Slow starts for Christian Watford:

It is pretty simple. Watford is the secret weapon for this entire team to be successful. I watch tape of him and wonder after, “How in the world did he get eight rebounds? I only saw three.” Against Wisconsin he only had five rebounds and 11 points, and what we saw in the second half is what Indiana needs at the tip. When Watford starts slow, Indiana can struggle early. When he starts with points and hustle, the Hoosiers are capable of extending leads quick.

Cody Zeller ended against Wisconsin with 23 points and 10 rebounds. (Photo Credit: Washington Post)

Cody Zeller ended against Wisconsin with 23 points and 10 rebounds. (Photo Credit: Washington Post)

Hoosier defense from Zeller, Ferrell and Oladipo:

We know Victor Oladipo is the best defender in the country, and he was jipped from the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top-25 list. Oladipo continues to prove he is the hardest working player on the Hoosiers team. Excellent defense ability, but he also needs to show his improvement on his jump shot in games too.

Other players who were impressive were Cody Zeller and Yogi Ferrell. Zeller went with a foul, in successive games, but played a major role near the paint, despite running from the perimeter to the block all night. Ferrell has been impressive so far in Big Ten Conference play, and his quickness and ability to stay elusive through screens has been a joy to watch. Improvement is still needed for this talented, freshman guard, but what has been seen so far is fantastic.

Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey shooting woes:

Sheehey goes scoreless for the second consecutive game in 33 combined minutes. Against Wisconsin, Sheehey missed a mid-range jumper from the baseline, a shot he is known for and nearly automatic. When these shots start dropping or Sheehey drives to the hoop and gets to the free-throw line, it will open him up to hit the three-pointers down the stretch.

Despite a great outing against Minnesota, Hulls has been hesitant with the basketball in his hands when it comes to shooting. He threw up two horrific shots Tuesday night in the first half, and left the loss with only four points and no free-throws.

Holding big leads:

Though we have not seen this team screw up big leads besides the near loss against Minnesota, before conference play the Hoosiers have shown signs of having an inability to contain big leads. It is more vocal after having a 23-point halftime lead diminish last Saturday, because this team decides to take breaks and be lazy with a comfortable lead.

Momentum is everything in conference play, and when Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean’s team finds a double-digit lead, it needs to be clear to never let go of the throttle.

Ranked No. 1, But Really No. 1 Team?

December 12, 2012 Comments off

creanhoosiers

No. 1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers are 9-0 after demolishing another dismal team, and continue to prove their depth and explosiveness in Bloomington at Assembly Hall.

Indiana University is ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll, but is Tom Crean’s undefeated Hoosiers really the best overall team in the nation?

After seven games at home and a win average of 37.4 points per game, IU continues to prove they are basically unbeatable in the area code of 8-1-2. Though, their only competition so far at home was against No. 14-ranked North Carolina, who was also beat by Butler in the Maui Invitational. The Hoosiers dominated in the second half to win by 24 points.

The only thing this has proved is how Indiana is nearly unbeatable inside Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers were beat once last season at home by Minnesota.

When IU competed and won the Legends Classic against Georgia and Georgetown, they faced their only adversity so far this season. In the two games spent away from Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers only averaged an 11.5-point victory margin.

Which goes to prove, such as the flack they received last year, this team struggles when playing away from Bloomington or in neutral locations. Last season, the Hoosiers lost eight games on the road, two at neutral locations.

Though this team has been impressive in their quest for a sixth banner, this team has been getting too much praise this early in the season. By following the known Indiana basketball hashtag on Twitter, #iubb, many students, reporters and fans are already printing ‘2012’ on a championship banner.

If this team had started behind Duke in the polls early in the season, I believe Duke would easily be atop the rankings because of their wins against, three teams who were ranked inside the top-five on the day of those games: Kentucky, Lousiville and Ohio State.

sheeheyThere is no doubt Indiana has great depth. With a bench who could compete against some of the best, this team is only going to get better come Saturday against Butler and the rest of the season. With freshman forwards Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin returning after NCAA suspensions, losing Austin Etherington will seem irrelevant.

This team has not needed to rely on a great bench early this year with the shooting woes of Christian Watford, but Will Sheehey has been a remarkable spark this team needs when Watford and Cody Zeller are off the floor. As well as Remy Abell who is 10-15 from three when only playing 15.2 minutes per game.

What benefits this team in depth could be what the team needs to find scorers when struggling on the road. In the two games at neutral locations this year, the Hoosiers shot about seven percent worse than at home. Saturday when playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers, against Butler, we will see if the gap closes.

At the end of the day, this team is deep and talented, and has a good a chance as Duke and Michigan to be part of the NCAA championship game. There is more to prove and see from this team over the entire course of the season.

What we have seen has been impressive, but wait to see how they respond when Zeller is in foul trouble, Jordan Hulls is not making clutch three-pointers or the team is on the road against Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Back On The Map

March 24, 2012 Comments off

Indiana Celebrates win over Kentucky

It has been a memorable season for the Indiana Hoosiers, and the future looks even brighter.

Remember the days when Tom Crean and the Hoosiers were coming to play and every one could mark that game down as an automatic win? It wasn’t that long ago the Hoosiers were dead last in the Big Ten and the laughing stock of the league.

The past three years have been hell for a program that is used to 20 plus win seasons, not 20 plus losses. IU was an elite program before Kelvin Sampson made it mediocre in just over a year and a half.

Though, the days of mediocrity and finishing dead last in the Big Ten are over, at least in the decent future.

Indiana is back to being Indiana and the Hoosiers EARNED everything to get back to this point.

Just look back to the pre-season where most people were predicating another bottom half of the Big Ten finish for the Hoosiers.  Everyone agreed that the Hoosiers would be better and would not finish dead last, but there was still doubt that IU would be a tournament team.

IU headed into the season with a lot of confidence and hopes to restore a program back to “elite” status.

Even though IU rolled off to an 8-0 start, there were still doubts about IU. Everyone could see the Hoosiers were a better team than a year ago, but not everyone believed IU had yet to face a team of high caliber.

IU would play that team of high caliber on Dec. 10 in Assembly Hall when they hosted No. 1, undefeated Kentucky.

Hoosier Nation came out in full force to support their team, just like they have been the previous three seasons. This was a statement game for IU.

If Indiana would to win the game, it would give much needed momentum to a momentum-less program.

As we all know by now, IU won the game in dramatic fashion and produced one of the most exciting games college basketball has seen for a long time.

Despite the win for IU, not many were buying Indiana stock.

Like the old saying goes, a broken clock is still right twice a day.

The good news for this IU team was more opportunities, especially with Ohio State heading into Assembly Hall on New Years Eve.

After getting knocked back at Michigan State, the critics were out in full force again when the Hoosiers welcomed in No. 2 Ohio State to Bloomington.

Thad Matta and Ohio State have dominated the Big Ten in recent memory. The Buckeyes are a program that everyone dislikes but wishes they could resemble their success.

Tom Crean after Ohio State

Tom Crean celebrates a 74-40 win over #2 Ohio State in Bloomington on Dec. 31, 2011.

After putting Anthony Davis on the bench for most of the game when IU played Kentucky, the question now was could Cody Zeller match up with Jared Sullinger.

Zeller didn’t dominate Sullinger but he made him earn everything he got, as the Hoosers ended up winning another dramatic game in Assembly Hall, knocking off Ohio State 74-70.

Indiana beat the two top ranked teams in the country in one month, which hasn’t happened since the 2007-08 Kansas Jayhawks.

IU was heading into 2012 with a full head of steam, but a challenging Big Ten Conference slate was approaching

Despite the optimism, IU still had a lot to prove. The Hoosiers had only won one Big Ten road game in the previous three seasons and IU still had to take care of their home court against premier conference opponents.

IU had to do something they haven’t done in a while, be consistent.

The Hoosiers kept building momentum at the start of the new year by knocking off 13th ranked Michigan in Assembly Hall, and the Hoosiers followed it up with a big road win at Penn State, when the Lions were coming off a 20 point beat down of Purdue.

Though, that positive momentum would soon come to a screeching halt.

IU would go on to lose at home to Minnesota, which was one of the next five losses in their next seven games.

All of a sudden a team that was held up highly was now being criticized and told the start of the season was just a fluke.

IU’s next game following that awful stretch of seven games was at archrival Purdue, a team that has been IU’s biggest nightmare the previous three seasons.

IU had won two Big Ten road games heading into Mackey Arena on Feb. 4, and those lone two wins were both at Penn State. The odds of IU making their third road win coming in hostile Mackey Arena was slim, but the Hoosiers were able to perform well with their backs against the wall yet again.

Indiana went into Mackey Arena and pulled out an 18-point win and was arguably the turning point of the season for Indiana. IU would go on to only lose one game the rest of the regular season, a stretch that included a win over No. 5 Michigan State in Bloomington.

IU was roaring into the Big Ten Tournament and was a popular pick to win the tournament, but the biggest disappointment was not that IU got ousted early in the tourney; it was the ACL tear of Verdell Jones III.

Even with the loss of Jones in their minds, the Hoosiers did not quit. They earned a four seed in the NCAA Tournament and were just happy to be back playing in the NCAA Tourney, let alone winning a game in the tourney.

Don Fischer, legendary voice of the Indiana Hoosiers, said on my radio show before the tournament, “Luke, any win IU gets in the tournament is gravy on top of the season.”

If Fischer was right, IU added a lot of gravy on top of the season. Hoosiers battled past New Mexico State in the first game but it was the come form behind victory against VCU that stood out the most in the Sweet 16 run for the Hoosiers.

Tom Crean coaches against Kentucky

Indiana head coach Tom Crean gives his team instructions during a 102-90 loss to Kentucky in the regional semi-finals of the NCAA Tournament.

Then came the rematch with Kentucky last night, a match-up that had Hoosier Nation wondering what to expect from their overachieving Hoosiers.

What did Hoosier Nation get? They got the same thing they have gotten all season: hard work, great effort, and left everything out on the floor. Indiana did not win the game and move on to the Elite 8, but the Hoosiers sure made Kentucky earn their Sunday match-up with Baylor.

With a top-ten recruiting class coming in next year, IU basketball is heading back into the right direction.

Indiana dug a huge hole when they hired Kelvin Sampson, and no one could be blamed for that hire other than IU.

IU may not be back to “elite” status yet but beating three top-five teams, earning a four seed in the NCAA Tournament and making it to the Sweet 16 for the first time in over a decade is not bad for a bounce back season.

Tom Crean knew it would be a battle and knew it would take a lot of time, but the Hoosiers are not only out of a deep hole…they are back on the college basketball map.

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March Madness Final Four, Darkhorses and Champion Predictions

March 15, 2012 Comments off

The SOUTH: Kentucky

Looking at everyone’s brackets, Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite. Though they enter the tournament losing the SEC Championship game to a rising Vanderbilt team, few teams have managed to contain Anthony Davis. If they get matched up with IU in the Sweet 16, it’s hard to see the Hoosiers beating them twice in the same year.

Darkhorse: Duke

The No. 2 seed, Duke, is the only team that could, at will, give Kentucky a run. The Plumlee brothers could contain Davis and have guards to match up with Kentucky’s quick play.

The WEST: Michigan St.

Watching the Big Ten Championship game was enough proof to say the Spartans are Final Four bound. MSU has an all around game that many teams have a hard time defending. When MSU makes runs it is when they are most dangerous as they have streaky shooters along with Green and Nix who can run the floor and play down low.

Darkhorse: Louisville, Missouri

Louisville comes in red hot winning the elusive Big East Tournament and look to keep the momentum going. The team matches up well against MSU with their quick guard, Peyton Siva, and with 6-11 Gorgui Dieng, the lesser-known Anthony Davis, defending down low that boasts one of the best defenses in the country.

Missouri also comes in winning their conference tournament in the Big 12. The Tigers have three players that can knock down the 3 and play fast paced basketball that doesn’t turn the ball over much. They are the safest “live and die by the 3” team out there.

The EAST: Ohio St.

The Buckeyes have a good clear shot at making the Final Four with the absence of Syracuse’s Fab Melo. OSU had a strong showing against the best playing team in America at the time: Michigan St. Sullinger and Thomas come into the tourney playing some of their best basketball. I’m a big fan of a player like Craft who can be a pain to reckon with. He pushes the pace and is in your face, which is a great attribute to have in the tournament setting.

Darkhorse: Florida St.

A team that can beat Duke then North Carolina is no team to underestimate. It was difficult deciding between Florida State and Ohio State because the ‘Noles are the real deal. Both teams are similar, but the edge is to OSU because they create less turnovers and have more consistent offensive threats.

The MIDWEST: North Carolina

The North Carolina story is similar to when they won the whole thing in 2009. A star is hurt and a team’s success is swayed by a player’s health. It was Ty Lawson then, now it’s John Henson. Expecting him to be at least 80% is enough give them the green light to the Final Four. Zeller is playing the best basketball of his career and protects the bucket well. North Carolina always brings their A-game to the Big Dance.

Darkhorse: None

North Carolina will win this Regional.

National Championship Pick: Kentucky

Kentucky has been the team to beat all year, as they are the complete package that can play D, score, and control a game’s tempo, doing it better than any team in the nation. Team-wise, the Wildcats own the best front seven out there; stopping Anthony Davis will not be enough as they have five other scorers than can drop double-digits in any given game.

Kentucky over N. Carolina 66-62

Join March Madness Bracket and Take on BAJA Sports

March 12, 2012 1 comment

Would you like a chance to compete against BAJA Sports bloggers in the 2012 Men’s NCAA Tournament?

Do you think you have an unbeatable bracket that will top others?

BAJA Sports has created a group via CBSsports.com called BAJA Sports (directed to tournament page). The password to join is bajasports. Anyone can join to take on Thomas Hitch, Zach Hughes and Brian Weiss.

Each round takes a different opportunity to score more points for correct picks. In the first round one point is gained by picking a winning team, two points in the second round, four points in the third round, eight points in the 4th round, 16 points in the 5th round and 32 points in the championship game.

So what do you have to gain for winning the tournament?

The winner will receive a ‘BAJA Sports Face Time’ opportunity to publish an article of their choice or to brag about their winning bracket.

Think you have a chance to predict a perfect bracket? It is like we say, “Perfection is NOT enough.”

We are calling you out, do you have what it takes to win?

College basketball has no real favorite

January 23, 2012 3 comments

After two and a half months of basketball, I think it’s safe to say that there has been little accomplished when it comes to finding a clear favorite for the NCAA title.

With every team playing a significant amount of games so far this season, one would think that a team would have set itself aside as a favorite.

That is far from the truth.

There is a cluster of teams that have a case as to why they should be considered the favorite. This season’s rankings have been like a game of musical chairs, with teams struggling to hold ground inside the top-ten.

To put it into perspective, in the latest ESPN/USA Today rankings released on Jan. 23, only one team held their position from the previous week.

Now let’s get into some of the teams that could make a case:

Syracuse:

Before losing this weekend to Notre Dame, Syracuse had the best case. They were undefeated and had several quality wins to their name, including Florida, Marquette and Virginia Tech. Syracuse is just now entering the meat of their conference schedule and we will find out if this team is a serious title contender in the next few weeks.

Kentucky:

Christian Watford nails a buzzer beater to upset #1 Kentucky. Credit: smauctioneers.com

With the Syracuse loss, Kentucky has jolted back to the top of the rankings, a place they haven’t been since the fifth week of the season. Kentucky’s only loss came on a buzzer beater three pointer by Indiana’s Christian Watford. It was the first true road game of the season for the Wildcats and, let’s just say, Assembly Hall isn’t a fun place to play as a road team. The Wildcats have arguably the most talented team in college basketball but it’s full of youth. Head Coach John Calipari will need to keep his team focused down the stretch and not let the hype get to them if they want to stay ranked No. One.

Missouri:

The Missouri Tigers started the preseason ranked 25th but have steadily climbed up the rankings and now sit second. They, too, have only lost one game this season on the road to Kansas State in an early Big 12 contest. Missouri proved on Saturday they are serious title contenders when they traveled to Baylor and knocked off the then No. 3 team in the land.

Jared Sullinger is a leading candidate for Player of the Year. Credit: bleacherrepot.com

Ohio State:

Ohio State sneaked past Syracuse by one vote into third in the rankings. The Buckeyes own a 17-3 record with all three losses coming against top-15 teams. They also play in arguably the hardest conference in college basketball – the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes have a three-pronged offensive attack with Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Deshaun Thomas. The Buckeyes also have a feisty point guard in Aaron Craft who helps space the floor and averages just over five assists a game.  The Buckeyes have an experienced team and they’ve experienced playing without players due to injury, i.e. Sullinger. I would personally say a healthy Buckeyes team would be my favorite for the title if the tournament happened to start today.

Duke:

The Duke Blue Devils could also make a case as a title contender. According to the Pomerey Ratings, the Blue Devils have had the toughest strength of schedule so far. Given that, they are still 16-3 and to count out a talented team coached by Coach K is insane.

The Rest:

Will Murray State be this year's Butler? Credit: Aseaofblue.com

Murray State is currently the only team in Division I basketball yet to lose a game. They are 20-0 and currently ranked ninth in the polls. The problem is they only have one signature win and it came against a young Memphis squad. I wouldn’t consider them a title hopeful just yet, but with a few wins in early March that could easily change.

Other teams like Kansas, Baylor and North Carolina could also make cases as to why they should be in the debate.

Kansas has beaten Ohio State and Baylor, when both were respectfully in the top-five. With Bill Self at the helm and stars Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, they will be in the mix throughout the rest of the season.

Baylor started the season off on a 17-game winning streak before losing their past two games to Kansas and Missouri. They are still developing as a team and will look to get back to their winning ways quickly. With their presence down low they will be a tough out for anyone.

North Carolina looked extremely vulnerable in their road game against Florida State a few weeks back. Given they have one of the best starting fives in the nation with Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. They also lead the nation in points scored per game with 85.1 and rebounds per game with 46.3. They can put points up on anyone and it will take a strong defensive effort to slow this high profiled offense down.

These nine teams can make legitimate cases as to why they should be the favorite right now. It just goes to show you how tight the gap between the top teams are and why this season has been so up and down at the top of the rankings.

Honestly, I think it’s going to come down to which team is the hottest during the tournament. Connecticut ran a hot streak to the title last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again.

No matter what happens, March Madness is bound to be just likes how it’s advertised, madness.

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