by Kent Sterling
Nothing is done quietly in Assembly Hall. Winning, Losing, cheating, rebuilding, and hanging a banner are all done under a bright spotlight in front of fans, alums, and national media that pays very close attention 365 days a year.
As the Hoosiers continue to search for their collective personality, others are beginning to weigh in. The numbers are starting to mount in Indiana’s disfavor, and the coming games (minus those against Northwestern and Nebraska) all look like serious challenges.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi assessed the chances of three “blue-blood” programs earning a berth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. North Carolina and Connecticut join Indiana as programs that are struggling as the conference season gets cranked up.
The likelihood for UNC making the field is assessed at 70% while UConn is a coin flip. Lunardi believes the Hoosiers have a 20% chance of getting their ticket punched.
Lunardi cites Indiana’s Charmin (squeezably soft) non-conference schedule as problematic, “The Hoosiers have lost every one of their ‘up’ games to date, several in convincing fashion, and their nonleague profile outside of those contests is truly dreadful.
“If you subtract home wins against sub-200 competition — which I do in determining a team’s “effective record” — Indiana is 3-5 (not 10-5) in what I like to call “real” games.” Lunardi writes. “It’s one thing to schedule the occasional Chicago State; it’s another to add LIU Brooklyn and Samford. And Evansville and North Florida. And Nicholls State and Kennesaw State. You get the idea.”
Former Big Ten MVP and consensus first team All-American A.J. Guyton spent four years playing for Bob Knight in Bloomington, and he had some interesting thoughts on both Wisconsin and Indiana basketball today on his Facebook page, “Wisconsin (the old Indiana) is dominating most of their opponents. Why? How? Do they have players with the longest wingspan or highest vertical?” Guyton, a high school coach in his native Peoria, IL, continued, “Do they have 6 mcdonalds all Americans or top recruiting classes? No. What they have are players with the necessary skill & ability but more importantly COACHABLE players who buy in to Bo Ryan’s teachings.
“UW scored 85pts against ILL, this is a team who doesn’t talk about “playing fast”. If your child is blessed to become a future student/athlete understand how important having a great coach is. Once you get past the smoke & mirrors of recruiting, make sure the guy recruiting your kid can make him/her the best player THEY can be. Not by promising you “the nba”, but by placing you in an environment of teaching and learning as Bob Knight did for me. Congrats to Bo Ryan, absolutely enjoy watching him coach by frustrating opponents!”
On kenpom.com, which is to college basketball as baseball-reference.com is to baseball in that the clicking and processing just never stops, Indiana’s current projected record is 17-14 with a 7-11 Big Ten finish.
John Calipari refused to continue the home and home series against Indiana after Christian Watford hit a buzzer beater to send his undefeated team back to Lexington with a loss. He still hasn’t forgotten that Hoosier fans rushed the court in a spontaneous outburst of long sealed joy, and he inexplicably talked about it this week on his radio show, “We don’t have obnoxious — well, we may, but I never hear them — but we don’t treat the other team with disrespect. If we won a game against the No. 1 team in the country in Rupp Arena, would people charge the court? No. You’re supposed to (win.) You’re Kentucky. We don’t do that here.”
TypiCal and hysteriCal. No, obnoxious Kentucky fans don’t exist. What that has to do with the current unraveling state of Kentucky basketball, I have no idea. Shuttling in new groups of freshman every year makes winning tough, as Cal is discovering. You can always tell when Cal is getting nervous – he starts taking easy shots at other programs.
The fish bowl at Indiana is going to be gazed into and interpreted as this season continues. It will be seen as either an outstanding evolution of a program that lost 70.1% of its scoring and 66.7% of its rebounding for 2012-2013, or a step backward in trying to find the right combination of assets to bring consistent success back to Bloomington.
And in Bloomington, success is measured in banners hung in the south end of Assembly Hall.
Youth is certainly a factor, as the Hoosiers average 1.11 years of experience for those on the floor, which ranks 321st of 351 division one teams. But young isn’t always bad as the two programs immediately beneath IU – North Carolina and top-ranked Arizona. Last in the country in experience are Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats.