Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Bizarro Game

So last night's matchup between Indiana and Wisconsin (HD box here, albeit with some possession counting oddity) wasn't really a bizarro game. Not everything was opposite.  However, overall, it was opposite of what happened in Madison (thoughts, HD box). In that game, the defenses were absolutely dominant, with both teams registering efficiencies under a point per possession, and Wisonsin's D holding IU to 0.778 PPP. In last night's rematch, the D was an afterthought, and an ineffective one at that.  The offenses did pretty much what they wanted, to the tune of 1.14 PPP for IU and 1.12 for Wisconsin. That's against two of the best defenses in the Big Ten, both of which are in the top 25 in the country!

The thing that is sticking in my craw, overcookin' my grits, really chapping my ass, is one call down the stretch. I know it's petty and futile to talk about the refs, and I believe John Gasaway suggested that it should never be done. However, I have to admit that I was furious with a non-call last night. Looking at the play-by-play, it isn't completely clear which sequence it was, but I believe it was right around 44 seconds left in the game. Trevon Hughes dribbled up from the baseline and was engulfed by the Hoosier D. He picked up his dribble and fell to the floor, and the officials called a held ball, possession arrow Wisconsin. I was hollering at the TV that it was a travel. I'm pretty sure he pivot came up after he fell down. After looking at the replay, it may not have been a travel, but yadambetcha it was a double dribble. Hughes touched the ball with both hands before he fell, but he failed to catch it. The ball then bounced on the floor, and he caught it, before going to the floor. The Badgers ended up scoring on the possession, and those two points equaled their margin of victory. I know that IU had later chances to stop them, but that one stuck with me because I thought it was an obvious call, and it's not like it happened in a dim corner of the court away from the ball. OK, let's move on.  I just had to vent.

That said, this game was a toss-up. Given that neither team could get a stop (even when the other team seemed to double dribble -- sorry, I'll let it go), I thought the team with the last realistic possession would win. Thus, when Hughes fouled Eric Gordon with 17 seconds lost, I told the Girl that it might be good for the Badgers to foul that early (about the same time that analyst Shon Morris said the same thing on TV). Even though the Hoosiers played very good D on that last play, Butch banked in a 3 for the lead. The Hoosiers walked around dazed and eventually got the ball in to Jamarcus Ellis, who did a good job trying to get a winning shot off. The dazed movements after the bank reminded me of Syracuse after Keith Smart hit The Shot in the '87 championship game. Luckily, they've changed the rule since then so the clock doesn't run after the shot goes in. A timeout would have been very handy there, as they could have maybe gotten someone other than shoots-23-percent-on-his-threes Ellis to take the final heave.

Still, while neither team got a lot of stops, the two keys might have been Jason Bohannon, who scored 18 points, all on his 6 of 11 3-point shooting, and the second half shut down of DJ White. The Badgers did an excellent job keeping the ball out of DJ's hands in the second half. DJ ended the game with a stratospheric 147.6 O rating, but he was only able to use 20% of the team's possessions, and that's low for him. DJ's first half offensive numbers were even more wow-ish: O rating of 205.8 on 23% of possessions. Eric Gordon picked up the slack in a big way, using 44% of possessions for the game and still posting a quite good 111.9 O rating. That means that Gordon used an incredible 64% of possessions in the second half, while posting a 108.0 O rating. Those are two workhorse guys on the offensive end. Still, as evidence that Wisconsin severely limited DJ in the second half, he had a 70.1 O rating on 17% of possessions in that period. That's an impressive half time adjustment.

I thought that the Badgers were very smart, both in how they shot Indiana out of that 2-3 zone, and in how they recognized and attacked. Any time Stemler was stuck on Butch in the post, that's where the ball went.  Score. Any time Taber was on Landry at the top of the key, Landry drove. Score. Taber's valuable to the team, but he's not tall enough or big enough to guard Landry one on one.

This is turning into some serious diarrhea of the keyboard, but the Hoosiers were just one play short of a big win last night. Maybe one just has to look at it as karma. The Hoosiers took two tough road games last week, including a double-OT game in which Gordon banked in a three to keep them in it. If they can win the next two against the Spartans and Boilermakers, they'll be in very good shape. If you had offered them 4 out of 5 wins before this brutal stretch, I think they would have taken it.

One last note on the Kelvin Sampson issue. Pat Forde has an interesting article up on the subject, and I think IU might do well to do just what Forde suggests at the end: suspend Sampson until everything is finalized with the NCAA. If the allegations turn out to be incorrect, reinstate him. If they're correct, fire him.  In the interim, let Dan Dakich lead the team. I suggested to the Girl that Dakich might do an OK job last night. I don't know how good at a head coach he is, but there's no indication that he's a cheater or a liar. It might hurt the team's chances for the rest of the season, but it doesn't really punish these players too much for what the coach might have done, and it gives them the chance to do what they can on the court. It also precludes an possible tainting of any success they might have in the postseason.

Bah. Have a good Hallmark Day, everyone.

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