Author Archives: Kent Sterling

SNBS – Harry asks – can IU win Big 10? What Vic’s return mean for Pacers? Was Butler overrated

Big 10 Basketball is a crapshoot, so let’s shoot craps to determine where Indiana and Purdue finish!

Joey Brunk was good last night. Can the Hoosiers find their way into a first place tie this Sunday?

Indiana earned a fascinating win against Michigan State last night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall with connected defense when it mattered and a couple of timely baskets by Joey Brunk and Armaan Franklin.

The win lifted IU’s Big 10 record to 5-3 and dropped the Spartans into a first place tie with Illinois at 6-2.

Wait.  What?  Indiana is one game out of first place in the Big 10?  That’s right.  With a home game this Sunday against Maryland, the Hoosiers could be playing for a share of the Big 10 lead almost halfway through the conference schedule.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Indiana isn’t alone one game behind.  They are tied with Iowa, Maryland, Rutgers and Wisconsin.  Teams that were expected to contend for the conference title – like Purdue, Michigan and Ohio State languish near the bottom of the standings.

It’s early, way too early, to write off the Buckeyes, Boilermakers and Wolverines, nor anoint Indiana, Illinois and Rutgers as legitimate threats to win the a regular season title.  But there is no doubt that excepting Nebraska and Northwestern, the Big 10 is filled with teams than could claw their way to the top.

The Big 10 used to reward four loss teams with a title.  14-4 would likely get it done.  This year, the winner(s) could wind up with six blemishes.  Six!  That’s straight-up unprecedented bananas.

No one looks at Indiana as a potential champion this season, but you know what, why not?  Why can’t IU beat a very young Maryland team Sunday afternoon?  And if they can beat Maryland, why can’t they find a way to steal a couple of road wins at Penn State and Ohio State.  Hell, Minnesota is historically terrible away from The Barn but found a way to win in Columbus last night.  The Hoosiers can’t?

Then Indiana has two home games against Purdue and Iowa.  Okay, it’s a stretch to expect a team without a backup point guard that shoots free throws like they’re blind to roll through a series of wins over teams who are at least their equal, but with every win the immediate future gets a little bit brighter.

Most sane Indiana fans have their fingers crossed for 10 Big 10 wins and a trip to back to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since 2016.  Anything beyond that is a huge bonus, but optimism is starting to creep into IU fans’ psyche in a way unfelt in a few years.

It could all go in the crapper very quickly for Indiana if the Hoosiers start stacking losses while Michigan and Purdue rebound to win in the measure expected before they ran into tough stretches recently.

Unpredictability of the Big 10 has been IU’s best friend through eight games, and that might continue – or it could either become their worst enemy.  Who the hell knows?  They could get run out of Assembly Sunday, or they could leave the court 6-3.

A win coupled with losses by Illinois at Michigan and Michigan State at Minnesota, would vault the Hoosiers into a first place tie.

It’s all so screwy, trying to predict outcomes of individual games is virtually impossible, so projecting an order of finish come March 8th is a total crap shoot – so let’s shoot craps!

We’ll eliminate Northwestern and Nebraska, but include the other 12.  We’ll roll two giant wooden dice for each of the top 12 teams in their current order from first to 12th.  A seven sets the team in the highest spot available.  For example, Michigan State’s roll comes first.  A seven would place them first.  Anything else, they roll again after all other teams have their turn.

And here we go!

The complete order of finish of the top 12 was determined off camera and here it is!

  1. Illinois
  2. Maryland
  3. Indiana
  4. Penn State
  5. Purdue
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Michigan State
  8. Minnesota
  9. Iowa
  10. Michigan
  11. Rutgers
  12. Ohio State

A lot of chaos would have to transpire for this to come to pass, but do you want to bet against it?

Breakfast with Kent – IU claws way to win; Butler & Purdue NEED home wins tonight; Pacers w/o Brogdon tonight

IU Football coach Tom Allen shares narrow-minded and sloppily crafted moral advice

Indiana University football coach Tom Allen tweeted the image to the left on Sunday, and I don’t agree with a word of it.

Many responded to the comment I attached to a retweet of Allen’s message with indictments of our soft society and calls for people to read the right books, listen to the right music, and spend time with the right people, as Allen suggested.

Those concepts bother me.

Who among us is in charge of determining what book’s message is right and which songs are wrong?  What person can judge our character as a product of whose words we read and which music we listen to?  And, who determines which people are right and wrong for us to “hang out” with?

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

By claiming we are the products of the books we read, Allen is saying there are good books for us and bad books for us.  Same with music and people.  That ideology is just a few short steps from granting license to people or governments to ban – or burn – books and music and people.

I assume Allen just put that out there as an ill-conceived effort to ask people to weigh carefully their choices, but instead he clumsily stomped onto a slippery slope that dead-ends at censorship.

As a highly paid representative of a university where minds are encouraged to expand, it’s odd to read that Allen believes in some books and music being a corrupting influence.

You can read virtually every word Hunter S. Thompson wrote without becoming a gun toting, whiskey swilling, political cynic.  You can read books by basketball genius Phil Jackson and not become a Buddhist, or listen to Tupac Shakur and not embrace Thug Life.  Millions laughed at Bill Cosby and watched the films produced by Harvey Weinstein, but no one raped women as a result.  You listen to Barry White yet strike out with the ladies.  You might play Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto but abhor violence.

People should try to understand life from a variety of perspectives.  We should learn from those unlike us rather than turn our backs because they don’t share our beliefs.  We should empathize rather than reject as dangerous those who are different.  That can be done, ironically, through reading, listening and hanging out.

Literature and music are among arts created to engage and outrage.  Discouraging consumption of it is narrow-minded and can extend as far as xenophobia.

Again, I doubt Allen was advocating a society where cultural choices are mandated by the state. I don’t think it was that deep.  He probably lays his head down every night after saying a prayer for the safety and good choices of his family, players and coaches.

Caring about those you lead is important, and his extreme version of caring was likely the chief reason he was tabbed by Fred Glass as the successor to Kevin Wilson.  Caring deeply about people is one of the chief attributes of a great leader.

Leaders like Allen need to be confident in their convictions.  But just as with all the vices he decries, piety is best embraced and delivered in moderation.

SNBS – IU NEEDS a win tonight; Scott Agness of The Athletic talks Pacers, Warren, and Oladipo

Indiana needs to stack home wins, including tonight, to get back to the NCAA Tourney #iubb

Archie points the way to the road his Hoosiers will need to take to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Indiana’s quest for 10 Big 10 wins gets very serious tonight at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall against the #11 Michigan State Spartans.

If the Hoosiers get a win, all of a sudden they are 5-3 in conference play and halfway to the magic number of 10 wins with a gauntlet of tough games ahead at home and on the road.

As is always the case, players and coaches are focused on only the next game – or tonight’s game – so they resist the urge to glance down the schedule to see the following 12 games that will determine both the present and future of the program trying desperately to find its footing under Archie Miller.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

You and I don’t need to be quite so laser-focused upon the now, so let’s indulge ourselves in the silly process of trying to cobble together another six wins before over a month before some of the games will be played.

Indiana beat Michigan State twice last season, outscoring the Spartans by a total of one point in regulation.  Can that run of good fortune continue tonight?  Looking back at last season’s wins, IU benefitted from almost unbelievable good luck in the OT win in East Lansing by hitting 10-20 from beyond the arc while Michigan State missed an astounding 14-22 from the line.  When IU won 63-62 at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers hit nine 3s and committed only eight turnovers.  They also assisted on an average of 17.5 of their baskets in those games.

To paraphrase Myra Fleenor’s mom in Hoosiers, the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day, but IU’s ass was warmed greatly by that sun against Michigan State last season.  They will need some more good fortune to beat Sparty tonight.  I believe Indiana gets lucky tonight in a coin-flip game at raucous Assembly Hall.  Indiana wins to run its Big 10 record to 5-3.

Maryland is 1-4 this season on the road with its only win coming against lowly Northwestern.  The Terps are one of two teams in the Big 10 younger than Indiana, so the hope will be they continue to struggle away from College Park.  Despite Maryland’s #17 ranking and senior leader Anthony Cowan Jr. at PG, IU can win this game without getting lucky.  Indiana wins and is now 6-3!

Then Indiana goes on the road against Penn State and Ohio State.  I cannot in good conscience pick Indiana as a likely winner against either.  Ken Pom calculates the Hoosiers chance of winning these games at 31% and 24%.  Seems about right in a conference where road wins are tough to come by.  With two losses, IU’s Big 10 record falls to 6-5.

IU returns home following a week off to battle Purdue and Iowa.  The Boilers have a tough time scoring on the road.  As a result, their only road win came against Ohio.  Not Ohio State, but Ohio from the MAC.  With a full week to prepare, I like IU to beat Purdue.  Iowa is a different animal away from Iowa City with a 3-2 record featuring wins against Northwestern, Syracuse and Iowa State.  One of the losses came against Nebraska, who Indiana beat at their place.  Luka Garza kid is a beast who doesn’t give a damn where he’s playing.  I think Indiana splits to run its record to 7-6.

Another tough two-game road stretch comes at Ann Arbor and the Twin Cities against Michigan and Minnesota.  Let’s start with the second one, which is easier.  As is often the case, the Golden Gophers are really good at home (9-1) and awful on the road (0-6).  Picking Indiana to go to the Barn and steal a win is like hitting an 18 in Blackjack – once in a while it works, but it’s foolish as hell.  Michigan is a different animal.  On paper, IU should be an underdog, but the Wolverines have lost four of their last five.  By the time we get to February 16th, they will either have righted the ship or cratered.  I’ll be a realist and pick IU to lose both, but the Michigan game could provide an upset win to counter an unexpected loss – Big 10 record falls to 7-8.

Indiana returns home for its only home game right in the middle of a stretch with a pair of road games both prior and after.  If Indiana can’t beat Penn State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the resume’ takes a significant hit.  Indiana wins – 8-8.

The next four games will determine whether IU ends its season in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.  The road games come first at Purdue and Illinois.  After watching Illinois throttle Purdue at Mackey, it’s hard for me to foresee enough good things happening in Champaign for the Hoosiers to overcome Kofi Cockburn and the Fighting Illini.  On the other hand, Purdue has a tough time scoring, but believe Purdue is going to come to fighting against IU in front of an insanely hyped Mackey crowd.  IU loses both to be 8-10.

Indiana is going to have to win the last two at home to get to 10-10, and they will.  We’ve already chronicled Minnesota’s troubles away from the Barn.  IU gets that win.  That leaves the final game against Wisconsin as the win IU HAS to get.  Wisconsin has road wins against Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee, but they won’t get the win on IU’s Senior Day.  Winning out gets IU to 10-10.

The challenge in Indiana’s remaining schedule is if they lose any of the games I project as a win, they will need to make it up by winning a game reasonable people would project as losses.  How many of those are potential flips?  Michigan and maybe Purdue.

If IU goes 9-11, they will likely need two wins in Indy at the Big 10 Tournament.  Given the Hoosiers history in that event, it’s best to get to 10-10 during the regular season to ensure being on the right side of the bubble.

What a fun six weeks this will be!

Breakfast with Kent – Pacers eclipse Suns; IU with huge game tonight; Is it time for Self to pull plug?

After fourth humiliation of last 12 months, it might be time for Bill Self to let someone else run Kansas Basketball

KU forward Silvio De Sousa is shown ready to bring a stool down on the head of an opponent during last night’s brawl in the latest of a series of sordid affairs in Bill Self’s program.

When things go bad, they tend to go bad in bunches.  That axiom has never been truer than for Kansas Basketball over the past 12 months.

Basketball programs and businesses are like planets circle a star.  As orbits erode, they become more erratic.  Order is never restored. (Who says I didn’t pay attention during Astronomy?)

Coach Bill Self was thought to be impervious during the previous 15 seasons.  His Jawhawks won an incredible 14 straight Big 12 championships, an NCAA title, eight conference tourney titles, and four Final Fours.  He’s not imperious now.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

Last season marked the first season the Jayhawks finished anywhere other than atop the Big 12 since 2003-2004.  Then the NCAA got involved as a federal trial opened the door for incriminating transcripts of texts between a shoe guy and Self to be entered into evidence.  The result was a notice of allegations that included –  lack of institutional control, three Level 1 violations, and a head coach responsibility charge against Self.

Then Kansas went rogue with its “Late Night in the Phog” celebration to kick of the season.  Snoop Dogg performed as anyone with a brain would expect.  There were dancers on stripper polls and extreme profanity, which left the university unnecessarily embarrassed and apologetic.

Last night saw a college basketball brawl the likes of which we have been spared since the Cincinnati vs. Xavier game in 2011.  At the very end of the Kansas vs. Kansas State game, forward Silvio De Sousa blocked the layup of a K-State player and then stood over him in front of the K-State bench.  Players ran onto the floor, threw punches, De Sousa lifted a stool over his head and looked ready to bring it down upon a K-State player with great vengeance and furious anger before it was grabbed by a curtsied photographer.

Oh yeah, the entire brawl was in the area where physically challenge fans watch the game.

De Sousa has been suspended indefinitely pending a university investigation.  Not sure what part of the brawl requires an inspection of the facts.  The entire fracas was broadcast live and has been shown 100s of times on the ESPN family of networks.

In the midst of these four very public sidesteps from their typical excellence have been other minor departures from reason, like KU’s refusal to share the findings of an internal investigation the supposedly exonerates Self and the program.  Why refuse to share good news?  Many suspect that reports of good news are being made to kick the can down the road until the NCAA finally levies inevitable sanctions against the program and Self.

Kansas Basketball appears to be in the process of self-immolating.  There is a time at which coaches either lose interest in recruiting players who can be controlled – or when they decide holding them accountable for small indiscretions is someone else’s responsibility.  Before you know it, those small issues become big ones – like brawls.

Self is unquestionably one of the most successful coaches of his generation, but his program has devolved into unpredictable chaos.  Last night’s brawl was the latest evidence that KU’s orbit of the NCAA has eroded to the point that more mayhem is not just likely but certain.

Self has made millions and millions of dollars at Kansas.  The time may have come for him to exit with his dignity left mostly intact and spend some of it.  The alternative is for him to become the latest victim of the type of hubris that ended Rick Pitino’s career at Louisville.

SNBS – Evan Altman talks Cubs and Ricketts’ tight pockets; Also what’s wrong with Kansas hoops?

Indiana Basketball fans having a tougher time disliking opposing Big 10 coaches like Illinois Brad Underwood

If Illini coach Brad Underwood wasn’t so damn likable, it would easier to mock him for looking like Murph from the old 76 Gas Station commercials.

When I was a college student at Indiana, half the fun of being a basketball fan was disliking opposing coaches, and the Big 10 during that era was full of coaches that were easy to dislike.

Bill Frieder (Michigan), Lou Henson (Illinois), Eldon Miller (Ohio State), Dr. Tom Davis (Iowa) and Gene Keady (do I need to specify his school?) were despised in Bloomington, and it was fun.  They were villainous buffoons in our very Indiana-centric view of basketball.

None of the dislike was serious.  I mean, who could possibly dislike Keady?  He’s one of the nicest guys on the planet.  He was like the Joker to Bob Knight’s Batman.

It’s fun to see opponents as enemies, and coaches are the faces of the rival programs.

Click here for your copy of “Oops – the Art of Learning from Mistakes and Adventures” by Kent Sterling

That fun is becoming more and more difficult for Indiana fans.  First of all, back in the 1980s and 1990s Knight did a wonderful job of disparaging opposing coaches, so we defined them for the flaws Knight fed to us.  Excuse the language, but Indiana fans referred to Michigan’s coach as Bill “Chicken Shit” Frieder because Knight did.  And we always will.

Today, not only don’t we have Knight’s help in mocking opponents, we have Big 10 coaches who are almost impossible to loathe.  Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann is a great guy – competitive, smart, and honorable.  Wisconsin’s Greg Gard is transparent and self-effacing.  Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is competitive, earnest, and a guy you would love your son to play for.  Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg is calm, smart, and relentless.

How about Matt Painter at Purdue?  Who cannot respect Painter?  He’s a basketball junkie and nice guy so good at coaching toughness, he wins conference championships despite an almost total lack of five star recruits.

I could go on.

I held out hope that Illinois’ Brad Underwood would be someone I could at least mock, if not detest.  Illinois has a history of hiring the occasional oddball as coach, so maybe Underwood would be the latest easily jeered coach.  Sadly, watching Illinois throttle Purdue last night, I saw two things that will forever define Underwood as likable and impossible to ridicule.

The first was his reaction to Illinois guard Alan Griffin being tossed from the game midway through the first half for intentionally stepping on the chest of Boilermaker Sasha Stefanovic.  When the refs told Underwood Griffin was done, he turned to Griffin to tell him to leave the floor.  There was no feigned outrage or histrionics.  Underwood understood his player screwed up and was being held accountable.

Then, ESPN analyst Dan Dakich briefly interviewed Underwood.  He first asked what Underwood would be doing if he wasn’t coaching.  “Playing golf,” was the answer.  Yep.  Me too.  Dan then asked Underwood for his favorite movie and TV show.  “Caddyshack and Seinfeld,”  Underwood said.  Yep and yep.

How can I dislike a guy with such impeccable taste in movies and TV?  I will always root for IU against Illinois, but I can’t experience the joy of hoping for Illinois to lose as I did when they were led by Henson or Bruce Weber.

I’m not a tremendous fan of Minnesota’s Richard Pitino or Iowa’s Fran McCaffery, but neither rises to the level of a true annoyance because their programs hover in the middle of the Big 10. Coaches need to be more successful than Pitino and McCaffery to earn my ire regardless of their annoying bench behavior.

It’s hard for Indiana fans who remember the days of Big 10 dominance to wrap their arms around a conference where they have no reason nor authority to mock opposing coaches.  But it might be even harder to admit that the Big 10 might not just be the best coached, but also the conference with the most likable coaches.