The Morning After: Penn State

  • 01/21/2008 2:48 pm in

jamarcus1.jpgThis probably shouldn’t be called The Morning After, since it’s coming in the afternoon; my apologies. A weekend visit from the brother and Dr. Martin Luther King Day pushed this back on the list of priorities, but here it is. Also, I’m planning a midseason report some time in the near future. Keep your head on a swivel for that. Onward:

— As much as I pride myself on taking in — and caring about — every game the Hoosiers play, it was hard not to feel apathy yesterday. After two tight, well-contested wins (a big road win at a revitalized Minnesota and a blood-feud victory over Illinois), it was pretty hard to ratchet up any emotion for Penn State. Minus Geary Claxton, the Nittany Lions are on paper arguably the worst team in the Big Ten, which is saying something.

But the Nittany Lions shattered that early yesterday. Not only did they push the Hoosiers to the limit on defense, they were somehow consistently effective on offense, hitting threes and slicing to the hoop and exposing a truly light IU defensive effort.

If I may use a Simmonsian analogy, the game reminded me of an open gym performance between a team of high school buddies and a bunch of out-for-the-exercise scrubs. Playing with friends at the SRSC or the HPER, it was easy to get trapped into games playing against kids who looked like they’d never touched a basketball before. Within one or two possessions, you know you’re going to kill this group of band geek-looking dudes; why try too hard? So you lay off on defense. You take goofy bad shots on offense. You try to flex ability rather than play to win, and before you know it the scrubs start making a few ugly chucks here and there and the score is tied at 10-10. What the hell just happened? Usually, the better team wakes up, says “Let’s go” about a hundred times, and runs the idiots off the court. Sometimes the damage is already done and the scrubs win. Fortunately, the Hoosiers finished with the former yesterday.

Right around the ten minute mark, you could actually read Jamarcus Ellis’ lips as he screamed “Let’s go!” after a defensive stop. You could feel IU realizing the urgency of the moment. They proceeded to pick up the pace on defense, tighten things up on offense, and won going away. The way good teams do.

— With that said, don’t discredit the Nittany Lions; they played extremely well. Talor Battle was especially impressive. Battle looks like the kind of player that will become a very good, efficient point guard; it’s clear he can already shoot and handle the ball well. If he improves his gamesmanship and passing, he’ll be a player I’d love to have at IU at point guard. And perhaps the Nittany Lions aren’t the worst team in the Big Ten after all. Probably one of the bottom three, still, but maybe not the worst. That’s got to be worth something, right?

— Penn State’s zone was troublesome. Two players helped things immensely: D.J. White, who was still able to catch the ball in the post and score before the double team came; and Jamarcus Ellis, who is great on the baseline, and in the pivot, at quickly using angles to get the ball near the hoop. It feels like I sing Ellis’ praises after every game, and maybe that’s just thanks to my man-crush on him. But maybe it’s also thanks to the fact that because he’s such a versatile player, he seems to do something different to endear himself each game.

— One more thing about Ellis: Of any player I’ve seen at IU, or anywhere else, really, Ellis has the most old-school offensive game. If you look at old films of guys like Earl Monroe (that linked video is awesome, by the way), Ellis has the same high dribble, the same reliance on the spin move, the same soft finishes at the hoop — even, as he showed Sunday, the finger roll. I don’t mean to compare them in skill level — Monroe was one of the all-time greats — but for pure aesthetic value, Ellis’ game looks more like the smooth hoopers of the 70’s and early 80’s than any post-Jordan NBA style. Maybe Jamarcus was born in the wrong decade.

— As our team is in the Big Ten, we’ve always taken more than a passing interest in the Big Ten Network’s bid to become a staple on cable companies in prime target areas. What’s unfortunate is that while the BTN obviously has the trump card in this argument with cable companies, it’s doing little to reward viewers who switched companies to have it. In other words, it’s providing the games, the baseline expectation, and nothing more.

What are the things we expect from Big Ten Network? Programming, for one: If you’re going to have a 24-hour channel, you’d best provide decent proramming for, say, at least eight of those hours. Beyond Big Ten’s Greatest Games, can anyone make that claim? Does anyone go watch the BTN when their team isn’t playing? Another expectation is analysis, both in-game and afterward. Thus far, with the possible exception of Gene Keady (blasphemy, I know), each talking head on BTN is just, well, boring. My roommate and brother and I joked yesterday during the game about how we didn’t know who either play-by-play man doing the game was; we just assumed it was two boring white dudes like it always is. That seems to be the BTN’s strategy: Find the most boring, milquetoast white guys, and let them talk about the game. People will still watch!

Yes, yes we will. But we won’t be happy with the network’s strongarm tactics and inaccessibility in the meantime. You want to be a must-have network; you need to do more than provide games to get that done.

— Comments and additions welcomed, as always. The motto at this point, as cliche as it might be: A win’s a win. In the past few years, 16-1 would be a dream start. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Filed to:

  • HoosierSmitty

    Does the BTN ever show statistics? I'm sitting at BWs watching the game and they never shot stats. I'd like to know what's going on without having to track it all myself.

    DJ showed the ability to DECIDE. In the past he seemed lost when the double team came. Perhaps it was more evident against a team using a lot of zone defense, I don't know, but I noticed these things yesterday.

    1. DJ knew WHERE the double team was coming from, not just that it was coming. This allowed him to either turn in to the lane or to the outside to avoid the defenders. The result was better shots with less pressure being applied.
    2. When the double team got there before he could effectively get a shot, he didn't aimlessly try and dribble through it like in years past. He kicked it out quickly and the offense either reset or another pass led to an open three.

    I think our offense and defense are still pretty subpar, but I continue to see positive signs that give me reason to stay encouraged.

  • PMK

    In talking about Talor Battle, I assume you mean “Spanish” from the movie Old School?

    In all seriousness, our zone breaker should be to feed Ellis in the bottom right corner and allow him to use his left hand to penetrate into the middle of the zone and do anything he wants basically. He is a great weapon against the zone for creating his own shot and creating shots for others.

    I was at the game for a half, and was surprised to see the Hoosiers really crush Penn State at the end. Credit to Penn State for slowing down the game so much, that is basically what they have to do in order to keep things competitive, but impressive that the Hoosiers were able to gain a big lead in a game like that.

    In all fairness, I was once of Lance's biggest haters at the start of this year, but must say that he has been instrumental to our success in the last three games. Outside of the possession where his man got 3 offensive rebounds in a row in the first half, he played another solid game and it is good to see him finally knocking down his shots. His rebounding and lack of physicality down low is of great concern for me.

    Take Mich St for example: With Suton at Center, that leaves Lance to guard a player like Marquise Gray which is a horrible mismatch for him. Next Saturday's UCONN game will be interesting as well with DJ matching up on Thabeet, leaving Lance to fend off much more athletic players like Adrien and Robinson. I think our lack of athleticism at the four will really hurt us, but would like nothing more than to be proved wrong.

  • I agree on the four spot — the lack of any athleticism there hurts us bigtime. It's nice to have some bodies to throw at that problem, but as none of them are complete players, it's still a major weak spot.

    Good call on Lance, though. I think now that our expectations are sufficiently lowered, we can appreciate the things he does do (hustle, the occasional three) well.

    And yes, Talor Battle is Spanish. It's uncanny.

  • Hoosier_Hound

    First off, you must be outside your mind. I'll take two boring milquetoast guys over Packer, Musberger, or any other over caffeinated idiot every game. The non-obtrusive nature of the BTN's play-by-play men is one of their most endearing qualities. As for the studio hosts, they could be use some more energy, no doubt. (By the way, how did you not recognize Laz's voice?)

    As for the game, I really think it was rather good basketball all around. The Hoosier's defense might have been lackluster at times, but it was nothing worse than I've come to expect from this team after 17 games. Penn State impressed, I totally wrote them off last Tuesday when Claxton went down. I honestly thought they would be a one man show with Cornley and a bunch of nobody's. But Penn State's other players really stepped up, especially Battle, who I admit I'd never even heard of before, sinking all those jumpers. Finally, it was nice to be reminded how good this team is at offense when there not playing a Tubby or Weber defense, that adjective effortless came back into usage after falling out of favor last week.

    P.S. Awesome youtube clip. Monroe has to have one of the softest shots ever, some of them look like the ball is just tickling the rim until the basket smiles just a little wider for the ball to fall through. Definitely a player Ellis takes after, and hopefully one he'll be even more like by the end of his IU career.

  • HoosierSmitty

    The four spot is very problematic. I think we're a solid four player away from being a great team. And we're not going to magically develop one over the course of this season, so we'll have survive…but it worries me greatly especially given the many matchup problems it creates.

    My solution is to basically create a reverse match up problem and run with four guards. I know I keep saying it, but just think it would work. I've said it before, but Ellis can guard a big man (he guarded #2 yesterday). He's lefthanded which is an automatic advantage, has good reach and decent size. He's not our No. 2 rebounder because he's a slouch. He certainly is no worse an option than Stemler defensively and a better offensive weapon than Mike White.

    I say start

    Armon – PG
    EJ – G
    AJ – G
    Ellis – G/SF turned PF
    White – Post

    Bring in Jordan off the bench and Stemler off the bench. Mike White and DeAndre can fight for minutes to relieve DJ or to change up the four guard lineup.

    I know AJ hasn't seemed like he deserves a start, but AJ isn't ever going to get it going this year unless he gets some quality confidence building minutes.

  • You didn't know/appreciate my man Laz? I'll agree his play-by-play man was awful. First time I was able to watch a game on BTN, I don't get it at home. You're spot on on how awful it is–and I don't think it'll get better. During one commercial break, I counted 3 PSA's and a commercial for a tax consolidation firm. Not exactly a ripe feed of money coming in for show development if you show that during your league's best team's game.

    Thanks for the YouTube clip as well. If Ellis developed a jump shot, it's evident from the clip that he could be dominant. Not saying he'd be in the Pearl's league, but people respected the jump shot on him.

    I appreciated your thougts, as well, on the pickup game analogy. I hope it's that, and think it is. It'll be nice to have @Wisco on a Thursday night, extra rest might help.

  • PMK

    I feel almost ridiculous saying this judging by what kind of a player he was while here at IU; but this team is a Patrick Ewing Jr away from being a favorite to win the National Title, in my opinion.

  • HoosierSmitty

    Ahhh…Patty Jr….I do miss him now….and I know exactly what you're saying. I thought that the other week when I was watching G'town play. Although had he stayed, I'm pretty sure he would be gone by now.

  • T

    PMK: I agree about the four position…especially when UConn comes to town. Adrien is a BEAST. That could be a big time problem.

    And I know this is belated and has nothing to do with anything, but my roomates and I's nickname for Mike White is Manbearpig. Half Man, half bear, half pig…manbearpig

  • Steve

    At least they still use Laskowski for the IU games. When they have Shon Morris and the no-namers doing IU games that's what kills me. Just give me Las and a generic play-by-play guy and I'm happy.

    I do miss Ted Kitchel tho

  • Adam

    I'm becoming more and more troubled by our issues breaking zone defenses. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like they're running the same zone offense that my JV team did back in 1987 – and we sucked! I'd just like to see more movement on the perimeter when they get zoned, instead of just standing in their spots and hope that D.J. and four-du jour can get free inside.

  • mike

    just give me fish and leary and i'm happy

  • Jmoney2584

    To touch on someones comment about DJ guarding Thabeet in the upcomgin UConn game… I feel that DeAndre willbe good in relieving DJ for some spells of that game. While Thabeet may be tall, he is rail thin and is lacking an offensive game…I imagine that Thomas should have no problem keeping him out of position, his center of gravity is too low and i bet he could bench Thabeet no problem. If Thomas will muscle him around early and wear him out, it may help take him off his game on the defensive side too.

  • Joel

    I can't help but wonder whether or not your a racist. ” Milquetoast white guys” What the kind of racist BS is that? Do you think its okay to make a racist comment if your talking about white people? I 've got news for for you. Racism is racism. Just say the announcers suck and leave it at that..

  • Joel:

    “Milquetoast white guys” was not meant in any racist way; I wasn't comparing white announcers to those of another race, or claiming that whites as a race were bad at basketball play-by-play. Not only would that be weird, it would be demonstrably false.

    I was merely claiming that to my ear, every analyst at BTN broadcasts are the same boring white guys we get every game from them. That they, to me, all blend together. I really didn't mean that to say that I would prefer a black guy or something; I meant it as, Wow, these guys are all the same to me.

    I'd also remind you that racism is traditionally based in power, and while that's not the only application, calling me, a white guy, racist for criticism of white guys that I wasn't really invoking as a whole is just really oversensitive and off-base. (And this is coming from someone most people would probably call too sensitive to non politically correct language.) All allusions aside, let's lighten up here, huh?

  • Timmy

    This blog needs a catch phrase and some ITH merchandise. Can we have a slogan contest? This place needs a tag line.

  • Can I officially nominate “ITH: Milquetoast White Guys” as the first slogan? Maybe a t-shirt? 🙂

  • I've always thought that it would be a good idea to run player profiles (say 5 minuts worth) when games weren't playing. Or hell, even school athletic department profiles just to fill up the time.

  • Nick

    Surely you did know that one of the announcers was John Lazkowski, right? You might want to clarify that since Laz was a key player during one of Indiana's national championship runs. I'm only 29, which I assume is only a decade or so older than the hosts of this website (which I frequent and consider quite good), but I do recognize Laz's voice as soon as an IU game starts on the BTN.

  • I'll admit I didn't recognize Laz's voice, and here's my theory as to why.

    Before I came to IU, I lived in Iowa, so I didn't get to hear many regional broadcasts featuring local announcers. Then, during my time at IU, I went to every home game, meaning I didn't get to develop an affinity for any local announcing tandem.

    So I'm just starting to form those familiarities. I know that kind of makes me a noob, but it is what it is. The only IU broadcaster I could pick out of a lineup is Fish — but everyone can do that; he's ubiquitous.

    Like I said, I'll take my licks on that one. But it wasn't out of pure ignorance, I promise.

  • ChicagoHoosier

    What are the chances we get upended by Iowa because there was a little too much looking ahead to Saturdays game? “Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before?”

  • ChicagoHoosier

    What are the chances we get upended by Iowa because there was a little too much looking ahead to Saturdays game? “Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before?”

  • Nick

    Okay, I think we as IU fans can show you a little grace and forgiveness on this one! Afterall, you are providing us with the only decent place to talk about the Hoosiers and catch up on things when we are absent ourselves. I recently spent a couple weeks in Panama City, Panama and was obviously unable to watch the Illinois and Minnesota games. I came here to keep up on the Hoosiers and I appreciate the information!

  • Nick

    Okay, I think we as IU fans can show you a little grace and forgiveness on this one! Afterall, you are providing us with the only decent place to talk about the Hoosiers and catch up on things when we are absent ourselves. I recently spent a couple weeks in Panama City, Panama and was obviously unable to watch the Illinois and Minnesota games. I came here to keep up on the Hoosiers and I appreciate the information!

  • Nick

    Okay, I think we as IU fans can show you a little grace and forgiveness on this one! Afterall, you are providing us with the only decent place to talk about the Hoosiers and catch up on things when we are absent ourselves. I recently spent a couple weeks in Panama City, Panama and was obviously unable to watch the Illinois and Minnesota games. I came here to keep up on the Hoosiers and I appreciate the information!