The Morning After: Hey, That’s Doc Rivers!

Did anyone else get a minor chill seeing Doc Rivers in Assembly Hall? I can’t explain this at all. I don’t really like Rivers. I’m not sure he’s a great NBA coach so much as a decent NBA coach who happened to luck into Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen at the right time. And after the Bulls-Celtics series last spring, I’m kind of predisposed to hate everything to do with this current Celtics team.

And yet there I was, getting all goosebumpy as John Laskowski nervously interviewed Rivers at halftime. Rivers talked about his son, Jeremiah, his (Doc’s) excitement on his son’s announcement that he was considering Indiana as a destination, and his desire to just be a parent during IU games. He even had the IU hat on. It was pretty cool. And it was probably the most noteworthy thing about IU’s relatively lackluster win over USC-Upstate Monday night.

This year’s Hoosiers present a weird paradox. They’re not last year’s team, as much as Devan Dumes might wish they were. They’re definitely better — you can see the heightened level of play almost immediately, from Rivers to Christian Watford (man, is it nice to have an athletic big man with touch in an IU uniform again) to Derek Elston to Maurice Creek, who might just become my favorite player on this year’s team.

But this year’s Hoosiers are not a good team. There is a long way to go from “better than 6-25″ to “good.” And so while last year a win like Monday night’s might have been cause for minor excitement — IU led by 20! IU scored 69 points! — this year, it feels harder to process. So, am I supposed to be excited that IU seems borderline competent again? Or should I be depressed by the fact that an 18-turnover game at home against USC-Upstate has me considering excitement? See what I mean?

It’s hard to know how to feel about these Hoosiers in the same way it’s hard to know whether or not any of them are good. It’s too early to know. Gauging college basketball teams early in the year is always a foolhardy proposition. Gauging a team that will play four freshmen and a transfer significant minutes is especially difficult. But here’s what I noticed so far:

• There’s a reason Christian Watford was such a big-time recruit. Imagine this guy in high school. He’s tall, athletic, he has touch around the rim, he can — gasp — dribble. I can just picture the rows of scouts drooling at his NBA workouts in (let’s hope) four years. But for all of Watford’s natural talent, bigger, stronger players are going to dominate him in the paint. He’s weak. He’ll get stronger; I hear IU has a pretty nice new weight room. In the meantime, though, tougher opponents are going to beat him up. You can already tell.

• I really like Maurice Creek. It helps that my roommate’s girlfriend goes by Mo, so we can call now start calling her Maurice Creek instead of Maurice Jones-Drew. It also helps that Creek has a pretty complete game, including a three-point stroke that’s just mechanical enough to reveal some serious coaching on the part of someone very dedicated along the line. Creek is like a way, way better version of Dumes: He doesn’t hesitate and he doesn’t rush. He knows what he’s supposed to do and he does it.

• Jeremiah Rivers is maybe a little shakier than you’d like. Rivers is a solid defender and a great passer, but other than that he’s a little more careless with the ball than a lock-down point guard is supposed to be. For a second there, I thought I was watching Daniel Moore.

• Hey, is that Daniel Moore? I didn’t recognize the long hair, man! Good to see you again!

• IU is still not in shape. This will come, but for now the Hoosiers are all about pushing the ball up the floor until the time comes to get back on defense. Transition defense is sloowwwww. It looked almost as bad as Kentucky, only IU doesn’t have an insane John Wall to bail them out of embarrassing home losses. (Or a third of the talent. But who’s counting.)

• Gus Johnson doesn’t yell for just anything. A few times I was hoping Johnson would let loose with some of his trademark hysteria, but not today. He was in full workmanlike Johnson mode. The man has range, people.

• Jordan Hulls could overtake Moore’s spot as IU’s most adorable, scrappy, lovable little white dude. It helps that he’s way better at basketball, too.

• Pritchard is still Pritchard, still sluggish around the rim on offense, still frustrating to watch in the pivot, still a surprisingly effective rebounder. He should be a good counterpoint to Watford’s streaky athleticism, but who knows, right?

• Tom Crean did not go to the dry cleaner this week. Come on, Tom. A gold and blue tie? Pulling from the back of the closet in the discarded Marquette collection already? For shame.

• But hey, at least he wore a tie. USC-Upstate’s coach rocked an open brown shirt with brown slacks and a brown coat. Tremendous look, really. He may have liked the way he looked; I did not.

• Oh, and one more thing: College hoops is back. Like, officially. Feels good, right?

  • CarmelDave

    I like the new team…but it is a work in progress. Should be a little more fun to watch than last year. I also agree about the tie Crean wears…a gold and blue tie. Come on…gotta wear an IU tie.

  • CarmelDave

    I like the new team…but it is a work in progress. Should be a little more fun to watch than last year. I also agree about the tie Crean wears…a gold and blue tie. Come on…gotta wear an IU tie.

  • plane1972

    I think Watford is going to be a beast when he adds 15 lbs of muscle. I'm thinking Jared Jeffries-type talent, except with more muscle. I know, I know, I've only seen him play two games against the likes of Howard and USCUP. You gotta let me dream a little.

  • http://matthewjenks.blogspot.com/ Matt_J

    “College hoops is back. Like, officially. Feels good, right?”

    Being a Notre Dame fan, I can honestly say, “Yes, yes it does feel good.”

  • JerryCT

    I agree with most folks comments except for Pritchard and Dumes.

    One reason the offense was weak tonight is that TP played very little. His picks on the floor are like double screens and alot of our current offense is started this way. Rivers, Jones, Dumes all use the high screen he sets for their drives. So, the result is 69pts instead of 79 pts.

    Dumes must play and play well if we are to win more games this year. I have no clue how to make that happen but if he does not play well we are in trouble against major teams.

    I am headed to Puerto Rico tomorrow hoping we can stay with some major college teams. I think these games will tell us better where we are as a team and whether our freshmen can succeed when competing against more equal matchups. They have not faced such players yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/azur.allen Azur Allen

    i wouldn't read too much into one game. we won- and comfortably, which is more than i can say for kentucky AT home against….miami of ohio?? everybody has their bad games, especially freshman oriented teams early in the season (case in point ky). so i still think we're a decent team, just far from our potential. i wouldn't be too worried

  • garydavid711

    This is not even close to to the real deal. I.U. will start to unveal it in January and knock off a biggie in the Big Ten Tournament

  • JerryCT

    I think if Sheehey can bomb 3's we could have used that kind of play last night ……….ie an athletic kid that can get his open 3 and hit it. It would have opened alot of other opportunities up with TP on the bench .

  • kgork

    I'm a little concerned about VJ3. He seems to be forcing a lot of shots in the paint, and it shows in his shooting: 4-12 against Howard and 6-14 last night. There were plenty of times where he was able to get into the paint and had a man open for three, but he (VJ3) failed to find him and took an ill-advised shot instead. He has proven to be very capable of getting into the paint, but I want to see him start looking for the pass more.

  • nick

    i have a cool little story. i was at the game last night. my good friend is a manager for the team and he left me a ticket at will call. needless to say, i was surprised when my seat was right behind doc rivers. best part about him is he signed his autograph, “the doc.” so cool…

    also, was that t.j. bell? the kid from illinois that transferred to bloomington south? and how good is that kid supposed to be?

  • aerialM

    yeah obviously we're a work in progress. riding freshmen is going to lead to some growing pains, when we struggle with lower-level competition at times and at others we can summon the will to bang with the big boys. I didn't see the game but when I got to see the outcome, it was more relief than anything. someday soon we'll be back to being IU, but for now, we gotta do it brick by brick…I'm thrilled at the players Creek, Watford & Elston could be in a couple of years. they are going to have some big moments this year. I agree about VJ3. he's pressing. almost like he wants to justify the hype around this year's improved team and his improved/developed game…dumes. oh devan. he's pressing big time. hopefully we learn to play within ourselves and to let the game come to us. puerto rico will be interesting. it'll be good to see us in there against elevated competition, regardless of the outcome. in the very least i'm hoping we don't get blown out like in maui last year…

  • aerialM

    also, I live in Iowa City and it's going to be a real treat to see how bad iowa is this year. they lost at home the other night to ut-san antonio! they had, maybe, 7,000 for the home opener. it'll be nice to have someone else be the whipping boy for the league after IU's struggles last year.

  • GFDave

    I think its going to be like this guys. This is a very young group and they're going to take us on a rollercoaster ride all season. There will moments of great highs and awful lows. This game was a small dip that ended ok.

  • tberry

    “Oh, and one more thing: College hoops is back. Like, officially. Feels good, right?”

    IU was played right to the wire by what should have been an inferior team.

    I will feel good when I see that we are competitive with really good competition.

    The PR trip should show us something and the big Ten will let us know what we really are!!!

  • km

    I like Dumes I just think he is struggling with his knee, which is affecting his overall game. Give him some more games and hopefully he will get better because we need him to score

  • km

    I like Dumes I just think he is struggling with his knee, which is affecting his overall game. Give him some more games and hopefully he will get better because we need him to score

  • Ryan_Btown

    I'm pretty much over Dumes. He still hasn't quite grown up. The forearm to the back of Upstate's guard could have just as easily gotten us a technical foul had the referees seen the entire encounter. Still sloppy and still hasn't got a grasp on when to slow down and wait for numbers. We are considerably more talented this year, so he doesn't have to do it all. Reminds me of Bracey Wright with lots less talent. I agree with E, Mo Creek is Devan Dumes with MUCH more talent.

  • Kelin Blab

    Dave…you are 100% right, 0% wrong…..there will be ups and downs like this all year however….the good thing is we won….last years team would have lost this one due to lower talent level.

  • Kelin Blab

    Not sure if anyone noticed this but…I saw last night Derek “Billy Bad Ass” Elston got on Christian Wateford about some defensive issue and kinda called him on it in a good way. If this team can play as hard as elston and take on that attitude, we will be in good shape……

    IU will have at least two kids on the all frosh team….

  • MillaRed

    Before it's all over, every Big Ten fan outside of IU will hate Elston. He is our Joe Krabbenhoft…..and I hated that guy! He did everything he needed to do to win, even the ugly stuff.

  • dale11

    I dont think this game in cause for concern. It's the second game of the season. I don't think its fair to say this game was that close either. They started bad and ended bad but the middle part of this game was not close. We will find out how good/bad this team really is come thursday.

  • DMJ

    My thoughts exactly. Our lead may have diminished to single digits with a few minutes to play but we were comfortably ahead for nearly all of the second half. No real worries in my mind.

    On another note, I've found where the magic happens:

    http://yfrog.com/jaimg00105nj

  • HoosierSmitty

    Eamonn –

    I love the site….but the Dumes comment really frustrated me. I guess I'm in a “can't we all just get along mentality today…

    The comment: “They’re not last year’s team, as much as Devan Dumes might wish they were” just seems a little vindictive. He made his mistakes. Can we just let him be a part of this year's team without judging his supposed thoughts? To suggest that he has a problem with this year's recruiting class and the influx of talent or that he might want to see the team struggle just so he can put up numbers seems to be a little harsh.

    Has Dumes been asked about his expected role? Has he expressed frustration at the current situation? Has Crean commented on the role he'll play? What has he said about the injury and the progress? It seems to me that Devan has been pretty quiet this season with the media.

  • derekphillips

    I live in Mason City, can't wait to give the fans grief, especially after the loss in football.

  • spiderman0551

    I think this is a game we would have lost last year. Big lead dwindled down to next to nothing. How many times were we ahead by a decent amount last year and lost the game? It was ugly but we won. A lot to work on for sure but it was a victory, need to win the ugly ones too. And yes, Coach needs to step it up with his wardrobe, a little more cream and crimson would be nice.

  • http://www.insidethehall.com Alex

    Smitty,

    I can understand your point to an extent, but what E does with TMA is give his opinion and commentary. I don't think there's any hidden meaning or anything wrong with what he wrote. Just my thoughts.

  • Ben_M

    Dumes needs to get in sink with the rest of the team. It seems to me that he is out there trying to do too much. He needs to settle down and play team ball like the rest of the players. He really is no longer our number one option, but we can still use him with our unselfish play if he chooses to play that way.

  • bloomingtonian

    The points made about the play of Dumes and VJIII are spot on. I would go back to what CTC said in one of his pregame pressers. To paraphrase, the guys who are back from last year's team are going to have to adjust to competition for playing time. So you have Dumes and VJIII out there forcing up shots trying to prove something. Now maybe Crean should be pulling guys out of the game for forcing shots to make a point, but you also know at some point this season IU will need the experience, especially in the Big Ten season when VJIII and Dumes have experience defending the better perimeter players in the conference. I'm also confident that with more sloppy play, these guys will find themselves on the bench.

    I view the first 4 games (including the 2 exhibitions) as a tryout for the varsity team. Based on the small sample, Watford, Elston and Creek have made nice contributions and played within themselves. I am a little disappointed with Rivers so far. The 2 free throws he missed weren't even close. I thought he spent the year off working on his shot? There is a lot to be said about a pass first pg, but 5 assists to 4 turnovers and 30 minutes without hitting a shot against a weak opponent is not going to cut it. I would say he was nervous playing in front of his dad, but he wasn't much better offensively against Howard.

  • Kreigh_Smiths_Short_Shorts

    Did anyone else notice when VJ III got tangled up with one of the USC Up players (in the second half), they both went down, and VJ just happened to let his foot “fall” onto the other guy's face? Seemed like he was taking a little page from Dumes' book. I love the aggressive nature and competitiveness, and I understand getting worked up in the heat of battle, but I don't want to see stuff that seems cheap or thug-like.

  • BaseballBuc

    ESPN insider says Selby could be leaning toward Indiana. I don't think it is very legit, but Selby's mom did say the visit went really good. I've have learned however, not to get my hopes up. But it is nice to dream.

  • plane1972

    This is going to be a negative comment about one of our boys, and I don't mean for it to be. However, I believe some people have a distorted view of Devan Dumes's ability on the court and ability to lead a team. Sure he is a senior who led our team last year, but he is only a second-year player in a storied program. He was asked to take on a leadership role last year by shear virtue of his age on a team that was worse than merely inexperienced. God bless those guys for what they accomplished last year, but let's not go crazy about Dumes. Consider him on a team like Purdue or Michigan State and he would be role player, at best.

  • Hoosier95

    Can someone explain to me how Florida was able to lock up Austin Rivers (class of 11) without IU getting any consideration. Why not join his brother? Doc seems very high on CTC as well.

  • hoostheman

    Not sure if Bell attended the game but the reports on him say he's still developing but has huge upside. Decent shooter for his size (6-8), smooth game, and extremely athletic. He's also very young for his class and is probably still growing. Before moving to Bloomington a few of the smaller recruiting sites had him as the potential #1 recruit from Illinois in the class of 2012.

  • hoostheman

    Agreed… Elston was the guy I was most excited about in this class. He flew under the radar a bit because of the knee injury but you can already tell he's got the “it” factor to impact the game at both ends of the floor. It's going to be truly awesome to watch he and the rest of this freshman class develop over the next four years.

  • http://www.insidethehall.com Alex

    Bell was there.

  • dale11

    He wouldn't really be joining his brother as Jeremiah will have graduated by the time Austin starts.

  • Mike04

    It's nice to be able to critique wins again- last year I think we would have all just been ecstatic to have gotten away with a win. With this years team's talent, as long as they play as hard as they did last year, the Hoosiers will walk away with a few big time upsets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/azur.allen Azur Allen

    i just saw that and was caught off guard. i agree w/ u its probably not legit, but at least its espn. is it possible to get a recap on how his visit went here?

  • aerialM

    I nearly yelped outloud when I saw that. it might not be legit, but it made my night!
    it'd be HUGE for selby to sign with us. it'd make us a top 25 team like that! it's awesome to even be in the discussion with some of these guys, let alone make it to national news with them.

  • aerialM

    agreed. he's pushing, so is VJ, so is Rivers. they're all trying to do too much. i'm hoping we just need a few weeks to sort out rotations and situations and all that, learning to practice, learning to deal with pain, and being tired or sore, to get our roles defined.
    and why aren't we talking about Tom Pritchard? like, how long until Elston is starting & Tom is 1st off the bench (or maybe 2nd to Dumes)? he's been a disappointment thus far, as far I can see it. he should be a guy really contributing, but he's been so/so thus far this year…not to be negative.

  • plane1972

    Landing Selby would get a little easier if Brandon Knight goes with either Kentucky or Kansas over Florida. That would help eliminate one of those two giants from the process. Syracuse seems set at the point for awhile with Triche and another kid. Not sure how Miami fares in this crowd. Playing and going to school in South Florida could be pretty appealing, I guess.

    I like our chances. Perhaps the sun is just making me overly optimistic today.

  • BaseballBuc

    Ya heres a blog by Chris Korman who spoke with his mother http://blogs.heraldtimesonline.com/iusp/?p=5653

  • HoosierSmitty

    I don't see how I was going “crazy about Dumes.” I just don't feel like he deserves some of the disrespectful comments thrown his way.

    Many of the comments seem to reveal a distate toward Dumes, more than likely because of last year's issues rather than his actual game play.

    If Coach Crean still belives in Devan, then I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up as a poor performance, nothing more, nothing less.

    He's not the only one forcing the issue.

  • plane1972

    Wasn't trying to single you out, Smitty, with the “crazy” comment. Just a figure of speech, no disrespect intended.

  • rockrob

    Excellent read. Right on the money with the “Brown Shirt, brown slacks” comment. Not sure I want to play at USC Upstate, But then what are my choices? Campbell? Go play for Isiah at Florida Intl?

    Pitchard too. His steadiness (?) could look good. And doesn't an IU sophomore who played a lot last year make you believe they should be tougher this year, and gonna make me frustrated when they go all stupid on us. (Yeah. Devan, I see you….). Or that maybe the ordeal has polluted them beyond repair….

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