In case you were wondering, although most of you could probably don’t care anymore, two more former Hoosiers have picked a new home.
DeAndre Thomas is headed to Robert Morris and will be eligible immediately because its a NAIA school. Al Bruehl, the coach at Robert Morris, told Rivals.com that Thomas is already down to 285 pounds. Not that I’m calling Mr. Bruehl a liar, but you seriously have to question the validity of this statement. It took a whole summer of walking around Bloomington last year to get Thomas below 300.
Brandon McGee’s destination has yet to be confirmed, but if you believe this report, he’s headed to Auburn. (PostmanR interjection: I work with the dude that runs that site. He told me how it all went down today as far as his sources are concerned. So unless he’s lying to me, Inside the Hall approves of this message. He broke the story; if it comes out being false, we’ll see what he has to say. Until then: McGee to Auburn.) McGee was also considering Oregon State. He’ll be remembered by IU fans for foolishly attempting a windmill dunk — and missing it — at the end of last season’s 78-64 win at Michigan.
Here is a statement released a short time ago by IU Media Relations:
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Crean announced today that junior DeAndre Thomas has been dismissed from the program and will not have his scholarship renewed. In addition, sophomore Armon Bassett will not be reinstated for failing to comply with University and Athletic Department guidelines. Junior Jamarcus Ellis also will not be reinstated to the active roster. Both Bassett and Ellis were originally dismissed from the program on March 31. Crean also announced on Thursday that freshman Eli Holman could not return next season.
“Before you build a team, you need to develop a family,” said Crean. “We will go through the learning process, feel some growing pains and experience some bumps in the road along the way. We need the Hoosier Nation to rally around this program as we go through these stages.”
“Our staff if going to ensure that anyone who attends this University and wears the Indiana uniform will make this privilege among their highest priorities and not treat the opportunity as an entitlement,” added Crean. “We fully expect our student-athletes to accept the responsibilities academically, athletically and socially that come with representing one of the top programs in college basketball history.”
New Indiana coach Tom Crean will be down to three returning scholarship players and eight players in all for next season once the school officially announces the departures of four Hoosiers later Friday afternoon, a high-ranking Indiana source told ESPN.com.
Sophomore Armon Bassett and junior Jamarcus Ellis, who had appealed their suspensions by former interim coach Dan Dakich, were dismissed from the program. Junior forward DeAndre Thomas will also not return and neither will freshman Eli Holman, who has elected to transfer after a meeting Thursday that required a call to campus police when Holman became agitated.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. More later today after we’re able to wrap our collective brains around this mess. For now, I’ll just say: Thank you Kelvin Sampson. Not.
College basketball seasons are long and dynamic things. They’re not like college football seasons, which require drilled excellence from the outset and where a midseason loss can kill your chances at winning a truly screwed-up national championship. They’re not like NFL or NBA seasons, where each team is basically what they are starting in training camp. They’re not baseball seasons, either, where the playoffs are such a comparably small sample size that all a fan can hope for is a division title — the rest feels like a crapshoot.
Instead, college basketball teams, the ones that compete in March, have similar blueprints: They roll the balls out in October, look terrible in November and December, coalesce in January, fade slightly in February, and, if they’re really good, peak in March when the games matter most. This blueprint hits close to home; just look at Michigan State this year. Or North Carolina. Or any of the teams still playing basketball next weekend. Or any of the 20 or so teams that lost last weekend that deserved to win. That’s the blueprint you’re supposed to follow.
I wish we could look back at IU’s season, as this TMA intends to, and say they followed the blueprint. A loss to a good Arkansas team under those auspices would have been OK. But we can’t say that. Instead, they didn’t push to the finish, or peak in their late games. They quit. They just quit. And for some reason, I’m not even mad.
According to a report by Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star, Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas and Eli Holman are all planning to return to Bloomington next season. However, Brandon McGee, Jordan Crawford and Armon Bassett have yet to decide, according to Hutch:
Indiana’s players were all over the board when asked about their future at IU. All of them said they want to wait until a new coach is named and they could meet with that coach.
Two in particular — junior college transfers Jamarcus Ellis and DeAndre Thomas — indicated they plan to be back next season. Freshman center Eli Holman also thought he would be back. But Armon Bassett, Jordan Crawford and Brandon McGee all said they needed time to sort everything out before deciding.
Ellis said he didn’t feel comfortable talking about what anyone else on his team would do.
“I can only speak for myself, and I’m just looking forward to getting to know the new coach, whoever that may be, and getting in the gym and working hard, because I have a lot of things I can do better in my game,” Ellis said.
Crawford said he plans to see what comes about with a new coach.
That was about the best quote Jamarcus could have given. If he has that attitude going into next season and buys into the new coach, expect him to return to the stat-stuffing player we all loved early on. As far as the other players go, if Indiana makes the right hire, I think everyone will be back. In my view, Bassett is the most important piece to keep in Bloomington. He is on track to develop into an All-Big Ten player and he’s a big piece of the puzzle if IU hopes to field a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament next season (assuming the NCAA doesn’t drop the hammer in June).
I don’t think it takes any sort of expert in the field of season definition to tell us the overriding adjective to describe IU’s 2007-2008 season. If Big A were to put up a poll over on the right sidebar there, I have a feeling “disappointing” would win going away. This has been a disappointing season. We know this.
But this is not a post to lament the troubles of Kelvin Sampson, Eric Gordon’s recent struggles or Dan Dakich’s inability to get this team to play anywhere near the level Sampson had them at before he took his final bow. Oh no, this is a post to rally us all in one nation under Indiana hoops. So in an effort to convince myself we can actually win tonight — on the whole I’m not an overly positive person when it comes to this stuff so this is really a stretch — here are some quick, not-thought out-at-all positives. Because let’s be positively positive tonight, OK?
Eric Gordon. Yes, I know what you might be saying right now: “How can I possibly be relying on advancing to the second round of the tournament by way of Eric Gordon? The turnover machine? The guy that hasn’t hit a three since like, January?”
Let’s spin it this way, kids: isn’t he due for a big game? A game in which he’s raining threes from half court? In which he’s drawing defenses to him when driving — driving under control, might I add — to the hoop, handing off easy dishes to the rest of the squad. I’d say he’s been due for a few game to show us what he’s really made of. So why not tonight? (Just picture it in your mind for a second. Doesn’t it feel good?)
Strong out of the gate: In each of IU’s last three losses, they’ve trailed at halftime and in two of the games (Michigan State and Minnesota), they’ve trailed big early. Playing from behind is not advisable for anybody in the NCAA Tournament. And for a team that has struggled as badly of late as this one, another slow start could be a recipe for catastrophe.
Establish D.J. White: With IU’s recent struggles from the perimeter, it’s essential to establish White in order to free up some open looks for Armon Bassett, Eric Gordon and Jordan Crawford. Bassett and Gordon are shooting a combined 18.3 percent from three-point range on their last 53 attempts. As Terry Hutchens pointed out in today’s Indianapolis Star, White took just three shots in the first 12 minutes against Minnesota and in the Penn State game, he took just two shots in the first ten minutes. That’s not acceptable for a player shooting over 60 percent from the field.
Big game for Gordon: It’s been a while since the freshman had a solid shooting night. In fact, the last time he shot better than 50 percent from the field was on February 16 against Michigan State. In other words, he’s more than overdue for a hot shooting night. Gordon knows this is likely his only chance to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. It’ll be important to get him a couple of open looks early to establish his confidence. If the Hoosiers can get him going, the combination of White and Gordon is as good as any in the country.
This is weird. Isn’t it? Isn’t it strange to be in this position right now? To gather, as I did last night, with friends at a bar, to celebrate another game with a Fat Tire and a sandwich, and to know all along that no matter what happens, your team’s coach is going down? He can beat your most hated rival (who just so happens to be the Big Ten’s top team) and still, against his will, it will be the last win of his tenure.
That’s two such wins now. The first was Saturday against Michigan State, a dominating performance that showed a resilient team rallying around their coach. The second was last night. Was it me, or did the focus seem to shift? Maybe it was because I was in a bar and couldn’t make out the commentary very well, but did last night’s audience — swept up in an important rivalry atmosphere — seem to forget about the sanctions for 40 minutes? I know I did.
It will be jarring to lose Sampson on Friday, but at this point, I’m not sure his presence is needed on the sidelines anymore. Stay with me here. It’s hard to complain about distractions after two very solid wins, but Sampson’s saga is a distraction. His assistants have been coaching this team all year; no doubt IU’s players feel just as comfortable with each of them as they do with Sampson. (Perhaps moreso, given the player-assistant-as-friends dynamic a lot of teams have.) It will be a difficult adjustment, seeing Dan Dakich running up and down the sidelines, but if the Hoosiers showed anything last night, it was a level of maturity and self-definition that gives me confidence in the coming games.
But that confidence doesn’t mean part of me won’t miss Sampson. He’s only been here for two years, yes, and even if this eulogy is premature (we still think Sampson’s going to be suspended Friday rather than fired), it will be a different place without him. He’s a frustrating coach, but if the past two years have taught us anything about his style it’s that his teams improve. They get better. They can make you miserable in November and December and even January, but come February and March they coalesce. They play hard together. They defend. And they’re fun to watch.
It’s a shame we can’t have a third year, but it’s a self-inflicted shame. And we know what we have to do. The dog might be cute. You might love the dog. But if the dog can’t control his bite, you put him down. It sucks, and it’s sad, but it’s best for everybody.
By far the saddest part about everything that happened yesterday is that a fine performance by the Hoosiers — a well-executed gameplan against a good team — went totally by the wayside. It was overshadowed. Overshadowed not only because Brian Butch hit a lucky (yes, it was lucky) banked three-pointer from about 24 feet to win the game, but overshadowed by the giant inky-black specter of the NCAA’s announcement about major violations yesterday.
Sunday, the Hoosiers (to my mind, at least), took a significant step forward to alleviating a lot of the obvious concerns about them as a whole. Last night, they continued that pattern, albeit in a flawed loss. That progress — think how bad they looked the first game against Wisconsin — should be the story. But as I sit and write this, attempting to write about what’s happening on the floor reeks of blind fandom. It feels like ignoring the giant elephant in the room. Be positive! Think good thoughts! Talk about basketball! Easier said than done.
And that’s the problem. It’s not the sanctions themselves — we’re all adults here, and we can get over it. Kelvin Sampson getting fired? C’est la vie. Life goes on. Another lost scholarship? Sucks, but it’s not devastating. Kent Benson getting all worked into a froth again? Not exactly newsworthy.
No, the problem is that because of Kelvin Sampson’s utter stupidity, enjoying the game for what it is in its rawest, purest form — a group of almost-student-athletes competing with their school’s name on their shirts — is now impossible. Watching this team develop into a tournament contender is ruined. Our expression of basketball fandom is tainted. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, sanctions poison everything. That’s not fair to D.J. White and Eric Gordon and Armon Bassett and the rest, and it’s not fair to us.
It took a while for the Hoosiers to pull away in this one — thanks to Northwestern’s back cuts and three-point shooting — but with around eight minutes to go, Eric Gordon hit a few shots, D.J. White chipped in some free throws and that was that: 75-63, IU wins. For the afternoon Gordon had 29 points — 18 of which came on three-point baskets. White racked up his fourteenth double-double with 26 points and 13 boards. Craig Moore led the Wildcats with 17 points.
It also helped that IU went to a zone in the second half, negating some of Northwestern’s nifty screening and cutting. At one point, Northwestern didn’t notch a field goal for just about eight minutes. Kyle Taber got the start at the four for the Hoosiers and saw some considerable playing time. (Clearly, Kelvin Sampson — like many of us — is realizing the Mike White/DeAndre Thomas/Lance Stemler combo has been lackluster as of late.)
Though Taber saw considerable playing time, he was just sort of, well, there. He didn’t do anything particularly notable. He didn’t do anything particularly awful, either. (Although, I do remember an errant pass for a turnover in the second half.) It was nice to see Sampson try something else there, even if it wasn’t quite the answer. Taber does have size and if he can play some defense — which he seemed somewhat capable of today — it might be another serviceable option for IU as the season progresses.
Our guy A.J. Ratliff saw the floor for a good stretch this afternoon as well, but it’s clear his shot just isn’t there yet this season. He attempted six threes and only hit one.
Oh and since we’ve all been rather critical of Sampson, his offensive schemes and the way this team has played this year, I highly recommend you read Chris Korman’s article from today. Sampson responded to a lot of that criticism yesterday. (One thing I’ll say: Sampson was able to maximize the talent on last year’s squad: they played well together. Why he hasn’t been able to do that for this year’s team, well, I don’t know. But we’re eight game deep in the Big Ten season, he better figure it out soon.)
The Hoosiers are now 18-3 on the season and 7-1 in the Big Ten. They play Illinois on Thursday night in Champaign, Ill.