Monday, November 28, 2011

Seeing Red: A Trip Behind Enemy Lines (and Gumbo)

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. 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 ammo info.

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.

Other Junk
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.


BoilerBloodline said...

You said he deserves a much better ending to his career than going down this way. I know this MAY be his 3rd ACL but do you think it would be career ending if it was? If he asked for a medical redshirt next year, he could come back in 2013...that is if he isn't risking lifelong debilitation.

zlionsfan said...

The volleyball team had their best season since, well, when I was at Purdue: tied for second in the conference with former #1 Illinois and perennial national contender Penn State, 27-4 overall, only one loss at home the entire season. They kick ass. I only saw a couple of matches this season - my first times watching the volleyball team - and it was impressive to watch a strong Boiler team taking out ranked opponents. (There are also many worse things I could be watching than athletic women in tight uniforms. Where the hell was this when I was at Purdue?)

Unlike basketball, volleyball only seeds the top 16 teams in the country, so even though 64 make the tournament, there aren't four 1 seeds, four 2 seeds, etc. Purdue is effectively the #2 seed in their region, thus they get to host the first and second rounds. Morehead State first (heh heh, he said more head), then Ball State or Louisville Saturday.

Holloway is small and thus quite loud: the student section is well organized (of course) and is a significant factor ... but it's also a different atmosphere. Purdue makes it clear that we should be respectful to visiting teams, and the crowd definitely does that. It's kind of neat to see.

As a bonus, I think the team actually dresses in Ross-Ade, so after the match, you can sometimes catch them on the way to change and congratulate them in person. That's something you don't really get with the revenue sports.

I know, it's not the same as having a dominating football or men's basketball team, but hell, right now, the best chance we have of seeing trophies added to the cabinet seem to be coming from women's sports. Last year, the team was an untimely injury away from a Final Four appearance. Maybe this will be their year. (See, it is just like basketball.)

I don't even know what to say about Bolden. I don't know how much damage you can do to your knee before it just doesn't work any more. Would it even be worth it to come back if it's possible? I don't want him to be in a wheelchair the rest of his life just to play one more year at this level.

J Money said...

You sound so jealous. Hater!

Boilergal said...

IU fans are so creative! They have a cheer that can adapt to fit most any player... A J Moy-E Co-Dy Zell-ER. In some cases, they get so giddy if their cheer fits a current or future player, they will type out the cheer all over their posts at ITH, complete with the claps! Makes me as jealous as watching their embarrassing football cheers! I can't wait for them to start the Big Ten season 0-3, losing to the 2 Michigan teams that Dakich thinks they are better than! Also, I hope Butler continues to look mediocre-horrible until after we play them!

ruascott said...

Why are you using RPI to rank teams? The RPI is useless right now....unless you believe Kentucky is #20, and Denver is #2.