A pal of mine sent me a text this afternoon asking if I'd like to go to the Butler v. IU game in Ass. Hall...so after making sure LBD, TBD and Mrs. Boilerdowd were all good for the evening, I took the trip to the
wretched squalor town of Bloomington, IN.
I worked on a project a few years ago that took me into the bowels of the Hall, and hadn't been back since...and tonight's visit provided me with some much-needed
First off, I was reminded of my first sports hate: IU fans congregating at Ass. Hall. Back when Knight was there, I loved watching Bobby clones in their red sweaters over-react to each of the two or three fouls called against IU each contest. While there's no doubt the Hall can be a loud venue, it's at its most-deafening when the IU faithful are giving a collective groan or boo. They've always been great at group-think negativity, but they've added chanting mediocre and underexperienced players to their repertoire as well.
After Zeller made an open dunk shot late in the second half, the crowd erupted in a chant of Zeller's first and last name (right now I can't remember which Zeller he is...I'll be sure to check on it). At that very moment, the roof of the Ass. opened, the clouds parted and light beamed in on the Freshman center...You could almost hear, "This is my Son...with whom I'm well-pleased." Almost.
While I was a neutral and subdued observer at the beginning of the game between the 107th and 247th-ranked teams in the land (according to the RPI), I quickly found plenty of reasons to root against IU.
The second thing I observed was what was on the court- two of our Boilers' future opponents squaring off.
Butler did what they've done all year- Play very well for between 20 & 25 minutes before faltering under the weight of their fatigue and lack of depth.
Nored did what he's done his whole career- penetrated very effectively, but had trouble finishing. Marshall showed flashes of brilliance especially when popping out to the mid-range. Hopkins is extremely-athletic and will get better and better as the season progresses...but he creates his opportunities to score very effectively. Foul trouble killed him. Smith shot from the perimeter too often and looked out of control at times.
I do think Butler will get better and better as the season progresses and their Freshman begin coming of age...I'm hoping that doesn't happen until January or February.
On the other side, Sheehy looked vastly-improved, especially when shooting jump shots...he even did a little ballet dance down the court after one of his buckets as he celebrated his own sharpshooting. He also has picked up on his coach's ability to be a cheerleader from time-to-time during the contest. Hulls worked hard and hustled for loose balls and used his quick-release girl-style set shot very effectively. Zeller was very effective on the glass and shut down Smith for much of the game on defense while hitting most of his shots from the free throw line. Unless Lawson comes along quite a bit, Purdue might struggle to match up with him (but there's a lot of basketball to be played between now and then). Watford and Jones were pretty quiet and Pritchard is still a bit of an orangutan on the court as is Elston...and Oladipo is a crowd favorite as the crowd never knows when Victor will decide to sing an R&B hit by Usher or another major recording artist.
IU is a much deeper team than last season...but has still not played a team higher than #147 in the RPI (their opponent's average rank is 234.8). But they're beating the teams they play soundly. As a point of reference, Purdue's opponent's average ranking is 152.4...and they've played two teams in the top-50.
IU fans and media hacks alike saw this win over Butler as very important to the program...and I think there's no doubt that it was their first near-quality win...but before IU fans get too high in the clouds, let's look to recent history a bit, shall we.
Last season, IU's average margin of victory in the month of November was 21.8 points versus their six opponents (the average rank was 218.8). This season, the average margin is 24.1 in their six games. Kind of sounds similar. While my eyes say IU is a better team, I have a tough time going all-in on this Hoosier team as some local/biased media types already have.
Since Saturday's games, Zook has lost his job at Illinois, Gill is out at Kansas, Erickson is done at ASU and UAB fired their coach. Two-to-four more college programs might not have coaches in mere days.
While the media has asked Hope about his future in West Lafayette on more than one occasion, he refuses to answer questions about it...but he's handling it much better than Zook did a week ago. That's probably because he's in a much better position. Zook's firing was as inevitable as the end of the season for the Illini. In our opinion, Hope has probably earned himself at least a one-year extension in the eyes of Burke since Burke made it clear months ago that a bowl was the goal for the program. Right now, many are projecting Purdue in the Ticket City Bowl. We'll definitely know where they'll be going on 12/4.
No Word on Ralph
I've heard multiple in-person accounts of IU fans reveling in Bolden going down on Saturday in the game v. Purdue. I even heard that IU's color guy made light of the epidemic of ACL tears just following Bolden's injury. But, there's still no definitive word out of Purdue's coaches or the athletic department about the severity of the injury.
Usually when they're mum this long, they awaiting the swelling to go down so they can take a definitive look at the severity of the soft tissue injury. At this point, I'm rooting for Ralph as just a fellow Boiler, not an athlete...I just don't want him to be permanently-crippled by what happened in Bloomington on Saturday.
Two blown ACLs is awful enough for one guy...but three is flat-out gut-wrenching.
I love the way Bolden runs; how he finishes and the way he came back with reckless abandon this season...He deserves a much better ending to his career than going down this way. We're hoping for the best.
VolleyBoilers Ready for Post-Season
At BS, we admittedly know little about volleyball. But we do know Shondell's girls had a great season in which they were ranked highly and beat a ton of very good teams. These Boilers begin the post-season on Friday at 7:00pm at Holloway Gymnasium in God's Country. They're a #5 overall seed for the NCAA Women's Volleyball tourney.