Monday, March 31, 2008

What a weekend...

Ok....there was really way too much to talk about from this weekend, and I have a busy day today, so I'm just going to sum everything up with this:

Welcome home, Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman sends everyone home with the line drive into the Red Porch in left-center field.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

post coming soon....

Ok, several things are happening at once here, and I'll comment on them later on should they take place. 1) IU could very well have offered its basketball coaching job to someone by the end of the day, and 2) there's a little event coming up called the Final Four. Plus, I'm sure everyone would love to see just how awful my brackets are right now...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dust Off your Dancin' Shoes

Seats that would normally be cheap in many basketball and football arenas across the nation will become very expensive in a few days. The field of 64 (plus an awful Coppin State team) has been revealed to the nation. Today, fans across the country are yelling at their TVs and sending angry emails to the NCAA because of the decisions of the selection committee, while others are jumping for joy.

There are a couple of things I need to get into before the tournament kicks off. First (and easiest) is my bracket. What kind of amateur journalist would I be if I didn't fill one out?

Let's take a look at what stands out in the opening round, beginning with upset number one: George Mason over Notre Dame. There was a sign in the Richmond Coliseum last week as the Patriots were celebrating their CAA Championship that read "George Mason is this year's George Mason." While I don't see Mason making quite as much noise as they did two years ago, I see them putting a really tough game on against the Irish. Notre Dame has been good, but they seem to just hang around the middle of the Big East while not really winning huge games. Keep in mind, too, that the CAA is a very strong conference and last year's champion, VCU, took down the Duke Blue Devils.

In the Midwest, I posted one upset of note, even though I don't see it as much of an upset myself. Kansas State was seeded rather low, in my opinion, and they are a much stronger team than the number given to them by the selection committee. Kansas State has a little forward by the name of Michael Beasley who will absolutely dominate the inside against the Trojans. The Wildcats have taken down some tough teams this year, and there is no reason they can't do it up the road in Omaha.

The South region doesn't have much in the way of upsets, but I certainly threw a big one into the West region: Georgia over Xavier. Yes, Xavier is very good. As an Indiana fan, I know this firsthand. However, Georgia is absolutely on fire right now coming off of their amazing victory in the SEC tournament. This team showed a huge amount of toughness and heart by playing three games in a two-day period to take down three teams that earned their way into the big dance: Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Arkansas. There has to be a lot of momentum and fire in that locker room and I seriously believe that can translate to the first round.

We'll see what happens as the weekend progresses, but I really like the picks that I have made. Some might say that I'm crazy to pick some of the teams that I did, but that is the way this tournament works. You have to give a nod to some of the little guys because, if you don't pay attention to them, they'll end up knocking you over.

My second big thing that I absolutely have to talk about in regards to this tournament field is the number next to "Indiana" in the East bracket. A lot of people put pen to paper last night and wrote about how absolutely snubbed the Hoosiers were in receiving an 8-seed with a likely matchup against North Carolina lurking in the second round. Many folks thought the Hoosiers deserved a 5 or 6-seed and that they certainly deserved an easier road to the Sweet Sixteen. I see all of this complaining, though, as yet another case of Indiana fans not being able to get over themselves. For some reason, there is a prevailing feeling that, because of IU's tradition, it deserves more respect from the world. However, with the NCAA selection process, it's a question of "What have you done for me lately?" Here's what the Hoosiers have done: force the resignation of a cheating coach, barely beat Northwestern (winless in the Big Ten at the time), barely beat Ohio State (not a bad team, for sure), get creamed into the floor by Michigan State, barely beat Minnesota on Senior Night, lose to a less-than-good Penn State team, and lose to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.

Other key games throughout the season, plus the fact that Indiana's defense has allowed bad teams to hang with the Hoosiers in many games, led the selection committee to believe that, even if the Hoosiers had a higher seed, they weren't going to win more than probably one game. Sure, it's disrespectful towards the program, but it's also more than this team deserves. Their shooting has been terrible for the last three weeks, Dan Dakich has been coaching the team into oblivion, and many players obviously don't care anymore. As you can see from my bracket, I don't expect IU to beat Arkansas, a team that beat Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. Even if they do beat Arkansas, there's a very low chance of the Hoosiers taking down North Carolina. The talent is there, but the will is not. I'll certainly be pulling for the Hoosiers to do their best, but I can't imagine them going very far.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March Laziness

Watching the Indiana Hoosiers play basketball is a difficult thing. Sometimes -- a lot of times, in fact -- they are beyond stellar. Multiple players score lots of points, people are picking up rebounds, the defensive intensity is there, and everyone finds a way to contribute.

Then there's the game that just ended. What in the name of all that is good in this world was that? I almost want to ask for a refund or something. A lot of things came together to make Indiana simply forget a fairly simple fundamental of the game: defnese. It turns out, if the guy with the ball gets to the basket before any of the defenders, it's really easy for him to score. All of the usual suspects (that'd be you, ESPN) are going to talk about "Michigan State's inspired performance on Senior Night" blah blah blah.

Don't buy it. I could've shot 70% against the defense that Indiana put up today. It looked like an NBA defense that was going against the Spartans today. The baseline was always open. Somehow, the middle of the key was always open as well. People weren't stepping out on people who should probably be defended like, say, Drew Neitzel. There was no effort at all from the Hoosiers when MSU had possession of the ball.

One thing that kind of bothers me is that people are going to point the finger at Interim Coach Dan Dakich for the sheer lack of...well, anything. The problem is that the seeds for this issue have been growing in this team for a majority of the season. Considering the former head coach was apparently such a stickler for defense, this team did not play defense very well. The only thing that seemed to keep the team from imploding on itself was the intensity that Kelvin Sampson instilled in the team. Unfortunately, Coach Dakich doesn't share that intensity. Once the intensity was taken out of the picture, the team decided to simply stop playing (winning by 3 against Northwestern (0-14 in conference) and Ohio State (8-8)). The thing is that the Hoosiers were barely beating teams that they should have been destroying even before Sampson "resigned". The defense was barely there against middling teams like Georgia Tech, Penn State, and several others.

One nice thing to take out of all of this is that we know Dan Dakich's lack of intensity won't be on the sidelines in November. It remains to be seen, though, if the new coach (please let it be Sean Miller or Brad Brownell) can undo the hurts done by the lack of defensive coaching by Sampson and Company. Quite frankly, IU has the talent this year and they will have the talent next year to be extremely good. They just need the right person to get the talent out of them. Kelvin Sampson couldn't do it, and Dan Dakich isn't able to do it. We will just have to wait until next year to find out who might be able to.

Oh, by the way, IU stands a strong chance of not winning another game this season. Watch out for that.