Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Over and out
Mike Davis has apparently resigned as Indiana coach. A press conference officially announcing the decision will come later today. Davis is expected to finish the season as head coach. The news broke even while the Hoosiers were in the process of losing to Penn State 71-68 in State College last night. A report saying Davis would resign was posted at during the second half of last night's game.

Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz, rousted out of bed in Turin for the occasion, says Davis had to go: "This team--his team--has folded like so much origami." Ditto, says Jeff Goodman at Over at, Pat Forde wants to know "whether announcing a change in command Thursday--without an actual change in command--is going to serve any purpose for this IU team." Andy Katz says coaching vacancies "at Missouri, Cincinnati and now, apparently, Indiana will create a buzz that will permeate the NCAA Tournament." And Dick Vitale was upset about the situation even before he'd heard that Davis was resigning.

By the way, there was an Indiana loss last night. Watching this game was oddly compelling. You just knew this was it, that it was coming to a close here of all places, in the sparsely attended Bryce Jordan Center (redundant), where it's so quiet you can hear individual fans on the ESPN Full Court feed. (Example from last night: "Hey, Davis! You're gonna get fired at the end of the year anyway!") (Box score.)

In defense of those vocal, demanding, petulant Indiana fans
Indiana fans are passionate. I know it from personal experience.

Anybody with a blog about college hoops, I suspect, sees pretty much what I see on the site counter: the number of readers steadily increases as the season progresses. March is the peak time. November is sleepy.

But one of this blog's busiest days ever came last November 4 (!), at a time when the rest of the world is focused on football. That day a couple of Indiana sites linked to a Hoosier preview I'd posted the day before. I was flooded with both readers and with emails. The emails were for the most part remarkably well-informed and observant--in November.

Indiana fans do hoops about like Michigan fans do football--passionately and, often, intelligently. Hoosier fans were unselfconsciously parsing points per possession and defensive rebound percentages in November. (Michigan fans are unselfconsciously parsing linebacker coaches and third-down conversion charts in February.) They know their hoops. And they love their team.

None of which is to excuse the dumbest postings to any IU chat sites. But what people have to remember is that, viewed from sufficient altitude, this is still the best program in the Big Ten. Only Indiana has won five national championships, three in the modern era.

Davis had his shot. (Good grief, he's practically the dean of Big Ten coaches. Only Tom Izzo, Steve Alford, and Dan Monson have been around longer than Davis.) The one injustice that Davis can incontrovertibly point to is last year's ridiculous non-conference schedule. It unquestionably kept Indiana (a team that went 10-6 in the Big Ten) out of the tournament.

But even if the Hoosiers had gone to the tournament last year, this year would be proceeding just as it has. And Davis would be doing just what he's doing. Leaving.

I wish Davis the best. Purely as an entranced spectator, I've enjoyed his candor and even his weird Joycean verbal riffs. It's a pity the coaching profession is increasingly populated by bland and cautious corporate types.

Say what you will about Davis, he was never bland, never cautious. Here's hoping the new Indiana coach shares that much in common with the previous two.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Wisconsin beat Ohio State 78-73 in Madison last night. The Badgers, who trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, got a monster game from Alando Tucker, who scored 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting while gathering in 16 boards. ("He sold programs and popcorn, too," quipped Bo Ryan afterward. "His energy was everywhere.") Ray Nixon chipped in with 13 points, ten coming in the game's final five minutes. ("I felt pretty confident because so many people were dropping down on Alando.") Terence Dials posted a 24-11 dub-dub in just 30 minutes for the visitors but the Buckeyes hit only 4-of-17 threes. "They were due to miss some shots in some game," Ryan said. "I'm glad it was ours." (Box score.)

Illinois beat Northwestern 63-47 last night in Champaign. On a night when the Wildcats played without Vedran Vukusic (game-time scratch due to lower back pain), only the Illini's anemic outside shooting (6-of-20) prevented this from being a blowout of epic proportions, as Bruce Weber's team recorded a 78.3 2FG pct. and allowed NU precisely one offensive rebound the entire night. "We're not great and I've never said we are," says Weber. "But if we play hard and our seniors are great leaders, we can be pretty good." Rich McBride led Illinois with 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Brian Randle contributed the highlight of the night on a soaring one-handed slam off a Dee Brown miss. Randle was happy to silence Tim Doyle, who'd allegedly made on-floor comments about Randle's self-inflicted hand injury last year: "Doyle tried to be smart one time and say I should punch my hand through some glass or something." Mohamed Hachad led the Wildcats with 17 points. (Box score.)

Michigan beat Minnesota 72-50 in Ann Arbor last night, a game in which the Wolverines led 18-2 before the second TV timeout. UM stretched the lead to 35-6 and the game was effectively over with a little more than seven minutes to play in the first half. "I didn't think we played too bad after [the first 15 minutes], but it's easy to play when the game's over," said Dan Monson afterward. Michigan held the Gophers to 2-of-15 shooting on their threes. "For us to show the signs of life and energy and passion and defense, that's what we needed," said Tommy Amaker. The Wolverine coach benched Courtney Sims and instead started Chris Hunter in the low post. Hunter says a player-only meeting held Sunday night helped clear the air: "We knew we were a better team than we showed in the last three games." Daniel Horton led UM with 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting. (Box score.) BONUS Michigan injury updates! Latest thinking: Dion Harris and Jerret Smith figure to return Saturday at Michigan State. Lester Abram says he hopes to be ready for next Tuesday's home game against Illinois.

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The straw that stirs the drink

More needs to be made of Erek Hansen's shot blocking as it relates to the Hawkeyes' field goal defense.

We are not great on-ball defenders but do a decent job with our help defense. The thing is, teams simply don’t take it into the lane, mostly, which results in more perimeter J’s being shot. People think we really defend but in truth the key is almost 100 percent Erek Hansen. Lately we even get a little offense and rebounding from him.

This kid is going to be phenomenal in a few years down the road, when he gets stronger. He is unbelievably quick right now.

Roger W.

And don't forget the defensive rebounding, either. As I noted Tuesday, Iowa's in the enviable position of having more than one way to play great D. When Hansen's in the game, opponents--as you rightly note--fear to take the ball to the tin. And when he's not, the strong defensive rebounding provided by Doug Thomas (along with that already furnished by Greg Brunner) means the Hawkeyes' foes are most often one-and-done on their misses.

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