The Morning After: Penn State

  • 03/10/2008 10:00 am in

jamarcus1.jpgBad decisions. If you can boil down IU’s entire struggle with injured little meek please-govnah-don’t-hurt-us Penn State yesterday, that was it. Bad decisions.

Bad decisions from the three-point line. Bad decisions in the post. Bad decisions on defense. Whatever bad decision Jamarcus Ellis made in between now and last Wednesday. Most especially, bad decisions in the final minutes of overtime, a time when inside buckets could have helped keep the Hoosiers afloat. Bad decisions when IU opted for three-pointer after three-pointer. Bad decisions that neglected D.J. White too often and made IU look too little like the team it could have been on the eve of the Big Ten Tournament.

— The optimist in me wants to ignore the various deficiencies today. Instead, it would be just as easy to chalk this game up to late-season fatigue and apathy, similar to the ugly first 30 minutes of Wednesday’s win over the Tubby Gophers. Sunday’s first half was a display of rampant sluggishness, followed by a second half of disorganized frenzy. Both halves yielded very few made shots for IU. Neither of those things are necessarily an indictment of the team if they happen once or twice in a row, but now, since Kelvin Sampson was fired, they have happened five straight times.

We’ve been over this before, but let’s look at it again:

— Win at Northwestern, in a game that makes NU’s gimmicky offense and Kevin Coble look like UNC and Tyler Hansbrough. Lucky that Northwestern’s defense is just incompetent enough to keep IU in the game throughout.
— Win over Ohio State at home in a game that, as you were watching, felt like the Hoosiers should have been playing far more convincingly. That’s gut-feeling stuff and admittedly not very tangible, but you know what I’m talking about. (Though with Ohio State’s win over Michigan State, at least the Buckeyes look like a tournament team again.)
— The drubbing at Michigan State. Let’s not review that one again.
— Ugly 30 minutes vs. Minnesota. Eventual win thanks to briefly revived offense.
— Sunday’s loss.

See what I mean? There’s a trend there, a trend of serious systemic defensive problems, of sporadic offensive lapses, and of playing down to the level of the opponent. To chalk that up to bad shooting is to do a disservice to just how mediocre IU has been over the past three weeks. Three in a row is a trend. What does that make five?

— With that disclaimer aside, IU did shoot really, really poorly. In a game that saw IU chuck up 33 threes, even a slightly better performance — an extra two or three shots — would likely have assured victory. Instead the Hoosiers went 7-33 for three (including 1-7 in overtime), a performance that doomed their chances.

What’s especially frustrating is not that IU missed a lot of shots. That happens. What’s worse is that after the first two halves, IU still felt it necessary to take most of their shots from three. One would think that 40 solid minutes of perimeter futility would encourage a team to get their All-American center — who was 8-11 Sunday — a few more touches. Apparently not.

— Despite the disappointing result (“Disappointing result?” This stuff is making me write in boring coachspeak) there were a few positives. Chief among them: With another five or six or 15 touches, D.J. might have had a career night. After a few weeks of shaky shooting, Eric Gordon found, at least for a time, his shooting touch. And most of all, Kyle Taber was the role player IU needs. Finally. He exists.

Taber has been doing this for a while now, but it was on display more than ever Saturday. He rebounded. He kept plays alive. He defended the off-post position well. He was everything Lance Stemler was expected to be over the past year and a half.

What’s the difference? Taber has an extra inch or so of height on Stemler, but he isn’t stronger, can’t jump higher, and isn’t more skilled. Why is he effective and Stemler (usually) isn’t?

My quick, maybe half-baked theory on why Taber works in this role and Stemler doesn’t: Throughout Lance Stemler’s basketball upbringing, he was a shooter. His three-point shooting at the JUCO level was not only impressive, it was prolific. When he came to IU, he was supposed to be an outside shooter with a dash of hustly role player to boot. When it was clear that Stemler wasn’t hitting the open three’s he was brought on to hit, Sampson converted him almost entirely to an off-post role player. (This is after Ben Allen made it clear he had no interest in the job, though Sampson bungled Allen’s handling in equal measure.) Anyway, Stemler became the role guy in his first year of Division I basketball.

Lots of players have to make this adjustment, but Kyle Taber isn’t one of them. For two (three? LOOK UP) years now, he’s had a few things hammered into his head in practice. It’s your job to rebound. it’s your job to tip balls and keep them alive. It’s your job to defend. It is not your job to shoot or contribute in any way offensively besides wide-open, putback layups.

Some players are cut out for this role. Kyle Taber appears born for it. Stemler never really quite got it. The differences are obvious.

— There’s Big Ten Tourney analysis to be done, but the time is not at the end of this particularly long piece of drivel. Heads up for that. In the meantime, enjoy your thoroughly tempered expectations. And as always, thoughts in the comments.

Filed to:

  • At least no one will be tempted to ask Dak to stay…

  • kelin

    The saddest thing about a lot of this is……we have won 25 freakin' games, going to the big dance with a decent seed, have above average talent, and two of the top players in the country….YET it seems this team has given up.

  • BrianK

    Amen

  • BrianK

    As an IU fan it doesn't feel like a 25 win team and that we have a top ten talented team. We should be celebrating this team and celebrating finishing the season strong. But this is not happening. The team seems to have given up and not care. Not care about the school, themselves, their teammates or the fans.

  • IU4Life

    decent seed? we are looking at a 4 at best, prolly a 5. A 3 seed was at worst the prediction at the begging of the year.

  • hoosierboy812

    ej is the biggest cry baby ever.he had a guy that was 6″ft 180 on him angd he couldnt go to the hoop.whats he gonna do in the nba.dj is a monster down low give him the ball.ej took a fade away j .then a double pump three with monn open next to him .to me hes all about himself

  • hoosierboy812

    i hope pat riley was there for dj and not ej.

  • Jerry

    Listen ! There is no team in the country that hasn't had more than 1 bad game. Most of us should have adjusted our expectations for this team a long time ago.

    I donot really see a downward trend in our play. What I see is NO PROGRESS stuck in neutral, while others have gotten better. We have the same flaws as a team we all saw early in the season but did not want to acknowledge.

    1. no purpose or dishing on Gordon drives leading to to's
    2. no offensive purposeful movement thus diminishing DJ and Bassett and others
    3. no stopping D
    4. no “come from behind” aggressive trapping D
    5. weak out of bounds sets
    6. limited player rotation leading to uneven intensity in effort
    ……and everyone has more

    The flaws have been like a chant on this site the entire B10 season and NOW we have a trend ? We have new flaws ? Come on . DD is NOT the flaw, maybe not the answer either however

  • B (MD)

    You make some great points Jerry, and I agree those flaws have been there all year.

    I think why people are so upset is that, whether it was rallying around Samson or whatever, for about 4-5 games (probably the roughest part of the schedule) the team seemed to have turned the corner culminating in the Purdue win. They went 3-1 with the only loss on a lucky three to Wisconsin, and the team was starting to look better and clean up some of those flaws.

    But, It seems that once KS left, all that momentum left with him.

  • Jerry

    (Seems silly to reply to yourself but hoosierboy did it )

    So how to correct some flaws ?

    1. Gordon plays point and brings the ball up court ( helps him in the pros ) his role is to get 12 pts , 6 on fouls and no to's
    2. Bassett and Crawford share Gordons former role ( driving to lane )because
    – Bassett has midrange and dishes unlike Gordon
    – Crawford has midrange and would like to dish….I think
    3. If we do 2 then Taber learns a 12 ft pop about 4 times /game
    4. If 2 & 3 above then I beleive DJ goes for 30 pts
    5. When in a zone then trap at midcourt 1/3 of the trips

  • Jerry

    You are right. At the time I was thinking the same thing.

    Now I see it as a peak and we are back to winning or losing to inferior talent in close contests. We always seem to be one EJ turnover or one EJ 3 pt shot away from several wins. We have put an unfair burden on him based on his experience and his game.

    That burden is rightfully DJ's and sometimes Bassett

  • Tom Coverdale IU Hero

    Give DJ the ball and ride him as far as you can

  • Tom Coverdale IU Hero

    He was prolly there for more then just EJ but you never know and stop giving him so much crap people he has a injured wrist and he said himself his three point shot wasnt falling and him and dak probably thought penn state would be a good game to try and get that shot on track and by the way Eric Gordon kept us in that game didnt blow it for us wait until he can get some time off for his wrist to completely heal and in the tournament he will be completely healthy and DJ wont be tired Jamarcus wont be suspended and Jordan Crawford can score 20 at anytime this team can still play with anyone once they realize what they are capable of doing they will start playing and be back to midseason form you just wait

  • Tom Coverdale IU Hero

    and if ej was all about himself why dont you hear him talking about himself and only trying to score he passes the ball to open player more then anyone else on that team besides jamarcus we lost the game because ellis was not there to keep the team together he does not make dumb decisions with the ball and would have helped us down the stretch

  • Hoosier Pride

    Was anyone else convinced that Bob Valvano has a serious man crush on Taber??

    Atta boy Kyle!!! Keep workin son!!!

  • IU4Life

    We are horrible out of timeouts. We call timeouts to obviously set something up and we shoot threes that we could get at anytime. I hate to say it, but we might be better off letting the kids create when we need offense rather than letting DD set something up.

  • Terry

    From the administration to the AD to the coaches and teams, doesn't it seem that over the last 10 years IU athletics has become a dial-up connection in a broadband world?

  • B (MD)

    This is totally off topic, but someone should do an entry on the homepage following some of the potential coaching candidates and how they're teams do in the conference/NCAA tourney.

    I actually don't like to judge a coach on NCAA Tournament performance. I think more weight should be placed on the larger body of work, but still it would be fun and interesting, considering the coaching candidates being tossed around.

    For instance, Wright State and Brad Brownell lost in the second round of the Horizon League. Not suggesting that rules him out as a candidate, just saying it might be fun to follow how these guys do.

  • ChicagoHoosier

    Not sure how new and/or accurate this is. Nor would this be that big or a surprise:

    http://www.idsnews.com/basketblog/?p=392

  • ChicagoHoosier

    That last sentence should read: Nor would this be that big OF a surprise.

  • Hoosierfan27

    Why don't you go be coach Jerry. You write it down like it so simple. Just let Gordon play point, teach Taber a 12 ft jumper, and have Crawford and Bassett take over Gordon's role. What are you talking about. I don't mind seeing Gordon play point but there is no way in hell he will have 0 turnovers and why would you want him scoring only 12/gm. He averages over 21 points a contest. Also no one else on this team has the driving ability of Gordon. He gets to the line more than anyone in the NCAA behind Tyler Hansborough. This would cut a substantial amount of points from the team. You can't just teach someone like Kyle Taber to suddenly drain 12 footers. You don't think they've been working on that all year Jerry. He can't make them. Thats obvious cause he never shoots them. Taber's role is to hustle down low and do the grunt work not pop 12 foot jumpers. Not sure how Bassett and Crawford driving the lane and Taber hitting jumpers is going to give DJ 30 pts a contest. I love the Kindergarten logic but get it the f*** out of here! This is ITH.

  • hoosierboy812

    shot 16 threes dj was 8 for 11 give him the rock down low we win

  • Jay

    Start Brandon McGee. Play him the whole game, no breaks. Let's see what he can do when he just plays without looking over his shoulder to the bench. Maybe he shoots 1 for 18. Maybe he shoots 10 for 18. Let's find out.

    Some of the starters act as if they don't want to be on the court. Their wishes should be granted.

  • Brent

    rivals.com is reporting terrell holloway has been released from his letter of intent… i guess dan dak's talks with the recruits didnt go over so well.

  • BrianK

    I agree McGee's freshman year has been wasted so far. At the least get something out of it.

  • hoosierboy812

    was adding something jerry dont hate.air gordon cant dribble!!they should name an apple tunover after him at the bakery!i got 12 points on him when he came to new albany last year

  • Jerry

    I agree again w you EXCEPT when you lose to teams you are supposed to beat . It always made me question Jim Boeheim and Lute Olson even though they won championships.

    SO I checked out Grant , whose VCU team lost to Wm & Mary.in the CAA. He has no Fla players on his squad. I was surprised since folks have been touting him as this great recruiter in that state.

  • Jerry

    He is going to be sorry when we hire Tony Bennett who can teach the lad how to be an All AMerican guard

  • B (MD)

    I almost put more evaluation into a coach based on his conference tournament record. Most likely you're playing a team you've already seen twice that year, and for the coaches you see that team twice a year for who knows how long.

    If you're consistently losing in the conference tourney I question your X and O skills and ability a as a game coach. Although it is worrisome if a coach is losing to lower seeds in the NCAA's quite often.

    That's interesting about Grant, how long has he been the coach there? Also adds to my suggestion that it would be cool to have an entry somewhere that follow these coaches teams throughout there tournament.

  • Brent

    honestly i cant blame these kids for bailing…neither one is from indiana so its not like they understand the tradition or even care about it. its gonna be a rough year or so for hoosier basketball, lets just hope none of our current players wanna transfer.

  • Sherron Wilkerson

    Our bad D made Northwesterns gimmicky offense look good when we played them at B-town as well. If we would happen to play Georgetown in the tourney (who also runs a version of the the Pete Carril, Princeton offense) it would be a disaster, they run the Princeton offense with a bunch of tall black guys,instead of a bunch of short white and Asian guys. We would get mauled

  • Sherron Wilkerson

    I agree, Jay you should coach instead of Dak

  • Sherron Wilkerson

    Loves him some Taber, I liked Bobs Wal-Mart suit, I didnt even realize Wal-Mart sold suits

  • BEDUB

    this team is self destructing , imploding , just down right getting worse . this has been such a frustrating year for everyone (including and even moreso for the players) . But if they could vent they re anger in a productive way and play like the way they did against MS and PU , then they could seriously make a run .Instead they look like they just don't care anymore . It's sad, for us fans but mostly for the players , hese are the best years of theyre lives and all of them are wasting it ….except for mr. Tabor the walk on thate one who truely GETS IT !!

  • BEDUB

    yeah like Brandon Mcgeewhose been dissed all year by who ever happens to be coach

  • BrianK

    Made me even more depressed. lol.

  • Jay

    Thanks, SW. I'd do it for only a $500,000 buyout, too. But at least “KS” wouldn't be on the shoes anymore. They could play with regular gear, or barefoot. Their choice.

  • Tom Coverdale IU Hero

    i know exactly what i said look at my post below

  • BrianK

    Made me even more depressed. lol.

  • Jay

    Thanks, SW. I'd do it for only a $500,000 buyout, too. But at least “KS” wouldn't be on the shoes anymore. They could play with regular gear, or barefoot. Their choice.

  • Tom Coverdale IU Hero

    i know exactly what i said look at my post below