SOC - Indiana (With Basketball!)
I don't really have time to crank out two posts tonight. Well, I could - just split this into two half-posts - but that's the kind of thing a clickbaiter would do and I don't clickbait. So I'll start with some thoughts on the basketball game tonight and then get around to tomorrow's football game.
Last Friday night, not so good. We go on the road, little brother starts hitting shot after shot, and we melted.
This Friday night, really good. Granted it was Southern (KenPom #332 out of 351), so you can't really take anything from it. (Fun fact - Southern is #332 but they're only the 6th-worst in their conference. Five other SWAC schools are ranked between #333 and #351). This was only a few rungs above the McKendree game last year. And last year's team beat McKendree by this same 47 point margin. So, it means nothing.
Still, after last Friday's debacle, it was nice to see everything clicking. We took good shots, got to the line, played decent defense, and got some balanced scoring (eight players between 7 and 17 points). We were always going to beat Southern, but I'm not sure winning by 47 was expected. That was a really solid performance. Some thoughts:
- I'm a Kipper guy. I think I'll just always be a Kipper guy. Kipper's my guy. #Kipper4Ever
- Mark Alstork led the team in points, rebounds, and assists. I think the rebounds were the most impressive. He seems to have that Rayvonte Rice rebounding gene. That will be helpful.
- 37 free throws (made 34) was the key to the whole game. We aggressively took the ball to the hole and drew fouls. We shoot 19% from three and win by 47. Great stuff.
- Aaron Jordan with a surprise (career-high) 17 points. It was a little bit deceptive. 13 of the 17 came in the second half (and it felt like most of it was the second half of the second half). But still, after sophomore-year "just spot up and shoot some threes from time to time" Aaron Jordan, driving, dishing, put-back Aaron Jordan was a nice surprise. Not sure if that's in any way sustainable, but it was nice to see. Could really use a junior leap.
- For the freshmen, Mark Smith again looked like the real deal, Trent Frazier was pressing a lot (0-5 from three), Greg Eboigbodin had two really nice blocks (we could use a shotblocker), DaMonte Williams still looked a step slow (still wearing a large brace on his ACL-repaired knee), and Matic Vesel looked a bit lost (especially one time when he waved off the guards and tried to bring the ball up). But hey, first game.
- Kipper 4ever.
This win probably means as much as the EIU loss (which wasn't even a regular season game). It really doesn't mean much at all. But hey, it was fun.
I went on the radio before the Rutgers game and said "I just don't have a good feeling about this Rutgers game, but I have my eye on Indiana as the Big Ten win". I've been focused on this game for a long time. I didn't think Indiana would be 0-6 in the Big Ten at this point (remember how they hung with Ohio State opening weekend?), but that makes me feel a little better. Nearly every opponent has worn us down by running the ball, and Indiana can't run the ball (they're worse than us, if you can believe it), so that means they'll have to throw it to win. With QB Payton Ramsey injured (game time decision) and Richard Lagow struggling with interceptions, maybe this is that "lots of INT's" game I've been waiting for.
Indiana is an 8.5 point favorite (makes sense to me, given our struggles). They have a solid defense, and we don't have an offense, so it would make sense that Indiana's D wins this game by 7 to 10. I get what Vegas is seeing.
But I've had a good feeling about this game for several months. Not just "we keep it close", but "we get that Big Ten win". I like the matchup, and these young kids are going to play well at some point soon.
The question, of course, is the injuries. It came out today that Cam Thomas likely won't play, so we're back to the "defenses know Jeff George won't run" offense. That will make things a struggle. And the injuries at the skill positions keep piling up. Last week, Epstein, Bonner, and Brown were all injured at tailback and Dudek, Trenard Davis, and Carmoni Green were all out at wideout. And then Malik Turner left the game with an injury. With that much depletion at the skill positions, and that's on an offense that's one of the worst in college football, at some point you reach "there's just no way we can move the ball". So as each injury has piled up, I've questioned my gut feeling about this game. It keeps saying "no, we win this" while my brain says "OK but now Cam Thomas is out".
Which means I'm in opposite-Rutgers mode. For the Rutgers game, I had a feeling for weeks that we'd lose. All week I tried to talk myself into how we'd likely win (it's at home, Rutgers is still bad, we're going to play well soon), but in the end I had to stick with my gut.
And I feel the same way about tomorrow. My gut has been saying "this is a win" for weeks. All week I've tried to talk myself out of it (injury upon injury, we're still crazy young and inexperienced). But I've gone with the gut all year so I can't change now.
Illinois 27, Indiana 24