by Thermocaster, The Meaningful Collateral

Indiana? In the Final Four? Not exactly. It's been a while since the Hoosiers visited the promised land --- six years, to be exact. In the interim, IU fans were treated to their first back-to-back non-NCAA seasons since 1971, saw Mike Davis turn the last three months of his tenure into a really bizarre soap opera, and then saw new hire Kelvin Sampson busted for violating NCAA rules... twice.

Regardless, there's a lot of buzz in Sports Blog America regarding the Hoosiers, with several college hoops bloggers picking IU to reach the Final Four this year. Unfortunately for the Hoosier faithful, I'm here to tell you that it's not gonna happen, nor will we see a Big Ten title for this squad. Here's why...

1. Eric Gordon isn't going to do it alone

IU fans have to be sore after constantly nutting over Eric Gordon for the past year. While the debut of the super frosh is bound to give some of them a Viagra-esque boost, the simple fact remains that Gordon, despite his obvious talents, isn't going to have enough of an effect to push the team over the top.

Everyone went crazy over Kevin Durant at Texas last year, and for good reason - Durant averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds, shot 47.2% from the field, and hit over 81% of his free throws. However, Durant's team didn't win the Big 12 regular season. They didn't win the Big 12 tournament. And they crashed out of the NCAA Tournament before the Sweet 16.

Gordon may average 25 and 8 this year, but he's only a 6'3" guard, on a team with one reliable post player and a bunch of other questions. We've seen talented freshmen lead their teams to the Final Four - Chris Webber, Carmelo Anthony, and Greg Oden, just to name a few - but Gordon is at a disadvantage to these players due to his (lack of) height. A 6'7" or 6'8" freshman with talent (or a 7'1" center, for that matter) can change the entire game, both for his teammates and the opposition. A shooting guard will always have a much tougher time trying to pull that off, particularly one who prefers to shoot from outside on a regular basis.

As for IU's supporting cast, I'm not impressed. Inexplicably, D.J. White found his way onto many first and second-team All-America rosters this preseason. In the three years that D.J. White has been playing big-time basketball, I have yet to see him truly assert himself as a dominant low post presence. How he continues to garner all of this attention is beyond me. Last year, as the centerpiece of the offense, he averaged just under 14 points a game --- and this was a year when IU was pulling defenses out of the post on a nightly basis with their white-hot three point shooting. White again has little help in the post, with freshman Eli Holman and Juco transfer DeAndre Thomas the only other players approaching 6'9". The guard play outside of Gordon is also a question mark --- senior guard A.J. Ratliff is out for the first semester due to grades, and it remains to be seen if Armon Bassett can avoid a sophomore slump.

2. Kelvin Sampson ain't gettin' it done when it counts

Whatever you think of Kelvin Sampson's ethics, you have to acknowledge that he's a pretty good coach --- in the regular season. After all, Sampson's coaching at Oklahoma placed the program in college basketball's ten winningest programs in the first half of this decade (Remind me again why Oklahoma fans were so eager to ditch this guy? Oh, that's right...).

The tournament, however, has been where Sampson's national reputation has gone to die. Consider his tournament history at Oklahoma:

1995: 4 seed, lost to 13 seed Manhattan in 1st round
1996: 10 seed, lost to 7 seed Temple in 1st round
1997: 11 seed, lost to 6 seed Stanford in 1st round
1998: 10 seed, lost to 7 seed Indiana in 1st round
1999: 13 seed, lost to 1 seed Michigan State in Sweet 16
2000: 3 seed, lost to 6 seed Purdue in 2nd round
2001: 4 seed, lost to 13 seed Indiana State in 1st round
2002: 2 seed, lost to 5 seed Indiana in Final Four***
2003: 1 seed, lost to 3 seed Syracuse in Elite Eight
2004: NIT
2005: 3 seed, lost to 6 seed Utah in 2nd round
2006: 6 seed, lost to 11 seed UW-Milwaukee in 1st round

There's little stars next to that 2002 Final Four appearance. Why? Because Sampson, in the biggest game of his career, got out-coached by...Mike Davis. Ouch.

Now, it's possible that Sampson could turn around his fortunes in the tournament this year...but that's really a stretch, considering he's going to have to do that despite a roster full of question marks. It's also a bit of a stretch to expect a Big Ten title out of Sampson --- in the 10 years he coached at Oklahoma, his teams won the Big 8/12 regular season crown a grand total of once.

3. They don't exactly play a preparatory schedule

When one glances at the IU schedule this year, you see a lot of...meh. There are some games that could be considered tough --- a road trip to SIU, a Dome game versus a rebuilding Kentucky, a home game versus a rebuilding UConn squad, and a home game against a Georgia Tech team that just lost to UNC-Greensboro --- but none of those teams are of the caliber that IU will need to face off against in the later rounds of the NCAA tournament...or, for that matter, at the top of the Big Ten conference. I'll take Michigan State and/or Wisconsin against any of those teams.

The Hoosiers do play a relatively tough Big Ten schedule, with two games apiece versus Sparty and Bucky, and single games against Michigan (who will struggle) and Purdue (who will also struggle). In terms of the conference race, Indiana received no breaks when it came to the schedule.


The Hoosiers, despite having one of the top freshman in the nation and a supposed All-American post player, come up just short in several areas. If you look at the ensemble of talent and coaching present in other Final Four contenders (UCLA, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisville, Kansas, etc), the Hoosiers come up short in the comparison. If Gordon is on fire in the tournament, I could see this team making it to the Sweet 16... but the Final Four sounds more like wishful thinking than logical analysis.

**EDIT: Apologies for a rather grievous name screw-up in section one. Meant to type "Webber" and ended up typing "Durant" again. The point remains.

7 comment(s):

More Credible said...

Nice job buddy. I was thinking about taking them for my "WHY YOU TEAM..." but I'm glad you took the reigns and made it a good read.

By teh way, Stacey Dales-Schumann isn't looking too shabby/busty.

Thermocaster said...

Thanks man.

Also, I must say...seeing Stacey Dales in person is a remarkable event. I highly recommend it.

More Credible said...

Big ups to me spelling many words wrong in my comment.


hoosier87 said...

nice arguments. but i hope you have fun being proven wrong this year. it will be a fun time.

Thermocaster said...

I always have fun being proven wrong. Particularly if Stacey Dales is involved!

More Credible said...

By the way, she's made a HUGE leap since her days in the WNBA.

She went from f-ugly to kinda cute. Rachel Nichols rocks my cock though.

ECombs said...

This just proves that in todays world you don't need to know anything about todays sports to write an article about it.

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