Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Dear Hoosiers,
How you been?

Listen, about that coaching vacancy. I know you're getting lots of unsolicited advice but I've really been giving this some serious thought. I think I have an angle that will take care of this once and for all....

First off, let me admit that I, like every non-Hoosier Big Ten fan, used to be completely baffled by your evident obsession with hiring Steve Alford. After all, Alford, as has been pointed out time and time again, has had even less success in the Big Ten (50-60) than Mike Davis has had (53-41). (Gosh. Good thing Brian Ellerbee (26-38) didn't go to IU--you'd be hot after him!)

So, yeah, I used to be skeptical of this Alford mania. In fact, I'm pretty sure I even said something like:

Now ensues the talk about finding a new coach "with IU ties." Can I just ask one thing? How has this preoccupation arisen? Indiana enjoyed its greatest success with an Ohio State graduate as head coach. North Carolina enjoyed its greatest success with a Kansas graduate as head coach. UCLA enjoyed its greatest success with a Purdue graduate as head coach.

But that was then! Now I think I'm pretty clear on your criteria for this hire:

1) IU graduate.
2) Big-time name recognition.
3) Less success in the Big Ten than Mike Davis.

OK, I'll grant you: Alford fills the bill in each of the three criteria.

But you know what? I've appointed myself as a one-person search committee. And I've found someone who beats Alford in all three categories.

Allow me to introduce you to the next men's basketball coach at Indiana. Ladies and gentlemen: Subway Jared. He is the ideal candidate to take IU basketball to the next level. Here's why....

1) You say the new coach has to be an Indiana graduate? Jared Fogle, as he was then known, was an IU student in the spring of 1998 when he decided to slim down his 425-pound frame by restricting himself entirely to two Subway sandwiches a day. Heck, he's not just a Hoosier--he's a proven benefit to the local economy! (How many Subway franchises did little Mr. Steve "I won a National Championship" Alford create during his time at IU? Well, then!)

2) You say the new coach needs big-time name recognition? I guarantee you Jared's Q-score whomps the crimson and cream out of Alford's. Has Alford been parodied on "Saturday Night Live"? Has Alford made appearances with the USO at Guantanamo Bay? Has Alford landed a mention on "The Simpsons"? (Homer: "You mean that guy who used to be fat but now he's just ugly?") I think not!

3) You say the new coach must have had less success in the Big Ten than Mike Davis? OK, admittedly this may be a problem for Jared. Alford's winning percentage (50-60) is .455, while Jared's (0-0), I suppose, is .500, in a way. So, if you're going for sheer statistical ineptitude in Big Ten play, I suppose Alford's your man.

Still, think of the possibilities with Subway Jared roaming the sidelines at Assembly Hall! For one thing, he'd be a terrific role model for the young people--something you haven't always had in this particular position, to wit....

1997-era Indiana coach's response to a bad call: You (BLEEP) piece of (BLEEP)! I'm gonna take a (BLEEP) and ram the (BLEEP) (BLEEP) thing up your (BLEEP) until you (BLEEP) your (BLEEP) and cry to your (BLEEP) mother for a (BLEEP) (BLEEP)!

2007-era Indiana coach's response to a bad call: Gee, what you need is a Veggie Delite sub with under six grams of fat. It's a delightfully crunchy combination of garden fresh lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, olives and pickles and your choice of condiments served on freshly baked bread. It’s like a salad sandwich!

And that's just for starters. I also envision an ESPN reality show where Coach Jared conducts tryouts for currently overweight walk-ons (waddle-ons). Your program's visibility will skyrocket!

In conclusion, what Indiana needs now is a fresh start. Who better to give you that start than the beloved Hoosier who's seen in millions of homes daily encouraging us to "eat fresh"? I urge you to give some serious thought to this weighty matter (har!).

Blogospherically Yours,


In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Minnesota plays Illinois in Minneapolis tonight (ESPN, 9 ET). It's senior night for the Gophers--group profile of Vincent Grier, Adam Boone, J'son Stamper, Moe Hargrow, and Zach Puchtel here. Profile of Hargrow here....Bruce Weber says the Illini are playing to improve their seeding in the NCAA tournament. "If you can be a one, two or three seed, it gives you an advantage. There's a chance you might get to play a little closer to home and that first game is usually a little easier. There's a lot on the line." Problem is, his team's been inconsistent: "One game you think we made some progress, the next game we're awful."

Purdue plays Indiana tomorrow night in West Lafayette--and tickets are still available? Heresy!...Apparently not satisfied with my selection of Subway Jared as the next IU coach, the New York Post has wondered aloud if maybe Isiah Thomas might be a good candidate for the job.

Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp says even though Michigan coach Tommy Amaker "merits kudos," the Wolverines "won't close the basketball gap with Michigan State until the deep-pocketed Blue hairs upgrade facilities charitably categorized as pathetic."...Michigan doesn't play this week and Amaker says his team will use the down time to go back to basics: "Hopefully this is a week that will allow us the opportunity to work on fundamentals."...As for the Spartans, Tom Izzo says he still believes in his team: "This is a talented basketball team with good guys that has had a horrendous schedule and it's taken its toll."...Matt Trannon's broken jaw is reportedly doing better than expected and Izzo now says he hopes to have his power forward back in time for the Big Ten tournament....Yesterday cbs.sportsline's Gregg Doyel said Michigan State doesn't have the look of a team that's going to do any damage in March. Doyel's assessment has produced this spirited rejoinder from die-hard Spartan fan and intrepid blogger Jason Kent at Critical Fanatic--make haste!

Oracular Hoosier observer Terry Hutchens says Ohio State big man Terence Dials is the favorite to win Big Ten POY. Hutchens also volunteers his if-the-season-ended-today All-Big Ten team: Dials, Greg Brunner (more here), Alando Tucker, Mo Ager, and Dee Brown. (But the season doesn't end today! And so the All-Wonk Team (2.0) will be unveiled here next Wednesday, March 8.)

Tuesday--the day after the weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference--is the time-honored day for a college hoops miscellany column. And no one does the genre better than oracular Nittany Lion observer David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Enjoy.

COMING Monday!
Ah, 'tis the season: Wonking seven days a week, March 6 - April 7.

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

In defense of Paul Davis--but not Izzo
You say the following:

"Michigan State has had four years to inculcate the Izzo ethic in Paul Davis and he's still getting

I think this is an unfair comment. If Izzo didn't like the shots Davis was taking, that's fine. But I don't think it's a matter of "ethic." Davis has shown nothing but strong work ethic and hustle all year--simultaneously becoming one of the two best rebounders in the conference and remaining an offensive force. Further, when Davis did start taking the ball toward the hoop, he had to score over double teams. Why? Because MSU consistently has to play lineups including Travis Walton, who is a fine back-up point guard but can't consistently hit a jumpshot.

This leads me to my next point: I will never take Izzo for granted (his bad years would have been good years during most of the Heathcoate era), but I have to lay a great deal of the blame for this season's failures on him. At this point, this team only has three and a half players who can score more than four points a game--the big three plus Neitzel about every other game. I don't understand why Izzo has just given up on Gray and Suton. In the old days, he played his younger big guys at least 10 minutes a game with a religious zeal (Granger, Ballenger, etc.). This hurt us early in the season, but by the end of the season those players became real contributors.

Izzo says he's played Walton so much in a four guard lineup because of match-up problems. In my opinion, this has played right into our opponents' hands. Why not create a match-up problem for them on the other end? Further, playing Ager, Brown, and Neitzel nearly the entire game has clearly hurt their ability to finish games strongly.

Clearly, the loss of Trannon hurt. But this program should be at a point that an injury to a walk-on shouldn't be the end of the world--especially this year, which wasn't exactly supposed to be a rebuilding year. I hesitate to think what this team will look like next year after Ager and Davis graduate and Brown more than likely goes to the NBA.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that you can't win in the Big Ten with three really good players and almost nothing else.

Still bleeding green,
Kyle J.


Maybe "ethic" is a loaded word. Davis has, on balance, had an outstanding year and if I'd said instead that he's failed to embody the Izzo "brand of ball," my word-choice would have been less otiose but my meaning would remain unchanged. My meaning was this: Indiana's interior D has been a points ATM for a parade of who-dat opposing bigs all year, from Gary Ware to Shaun Pruitt. With my own two eyes I saw Joe Krabbenhoft drive to the tin, score, and draw the foul against IU. Beat writers have taken to auto-texting the words "career-high" before a big man's name when said big man's team is about to play the Hoosiers. But NBA-bound Davis, anything but a who-dat, didn't capitalize in a game his team had to have.


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