Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Wish Lists

With another six days until Christmas I thought I would beat the crowd and get out my list of what I would give to a few teams in the Horizon League. No re-gifting allowed.


Youngstown State
: A "W" over a Division I or II team.

It's been a tough year so far for the Penguins but there is one Bright spot. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Kelvin Bright has shown that when he gets hot he is a force to be reckoned with. His per game averages do mask a pretty pedestrian 40% field goal percentage.

Wright State: A do over.

Remember when you were a kid and nothing seems to go right at the beginning of a game? You call for a do over, right? Coach Brownell needs to petition the NCAA for a do over after the Raiders 0-6 start. Can someone please tell me what has happened to Todd Brown? PLEASE?!?

Milwaukee: A victory over a team with a winning record.

The Panthers are 5-5.
Record of teams the Panthers beat: 10-39
That's bad. Like really bad. Did I mention one of those victories was against DIII Upper Iowa University? I really like the depth of this team and they are 2-0 in league play. But show up for a game against a team you shouldn't destroy.

Green Bay: Some rebounding.

Green Bay can shoot. Evans. Tillema. Cotton. They are a GREAT free throw shooting team. But they rebound by committee, and they don't do it particularly well. Their aggregate rebound margin for the season is -40, and -30 in the team's four losses. Losing 6-6 Chop Tang won't help.

UIC: ...

If you're like me you have a friend or family member that is really hard to shop for. That would be UIC this season. They have the leading scorer in the Horizon League, Josh Mayo. The Flames have the leading rebounder in the Horizon League in big man Scott VanderMeer. And they have the second best assist man in the HL, Spencer Stewart. Even the team defense has been impressive as the Flames have only allowed one team to score over 70 points against them this season, 77 in a victory against Northern Iowa. Consistency remains the only obstacle for UIC this season.



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Love it.

By now you've probably seen this...but I can't watch it enough.

Nice work, Vikings.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Day After...

If you're anything at all like me, then you've had mornings where you've woken up and said to yourself, "I wish I'd done that differently." Well, I had one of those this morning...but thankfully it wasn't due to a poor decision made within the previous 24-hours. Instead, it was due to what appears to be a good decision...one that can be expanded on to make this "video blogging" concept more enjoyable for everyone once league play begins in January.

Adam and I ran into some of the expected hurdles, like spotty wireless internet signals. This was a fear of ours out on the road (it worked out better than we expected), but not within the arena. At first we suspected it was because I was running a Mac computer...but we found out later (from Bradley's SID) that Carver Arena's wireless system has its issues. Luckily we found away around the problem, and we don't expect to run into that issue again, as all Horizon League arenas have great Internet systems because of what's required to webcast games on HLN.

Aside from technical problems, last night's dress rehearsal gave Adam and I an idea of what we "should" and "shouldn't" do during these video updates on location. We now know that it will be a priority for us to arrive at our selected arenas several hours before tip-off, in order to get you ready for whatever game is on tap. After that, we can begin finding students/fans that enter the arena as soon as the gates open to give you an idea of the atmosphere. While the game is going on, Adam and I will likely be relegated to providing text updates to the blog with thoughts and insights. Even though we can essentially turn around our video updates in a matter of 5 minutes...5 minutes in a basketball game is an eternity, and anything we say would likely be outdated by the time it makes it up to this blog. Besides, once we start traveling to league games, you'll already be watching whatever contest we're at on HLN, right? This way, we can point out a few things from our perspective, without distracting you while you're watching the game action on HLN. Perhaps we'll provide one video update at halftime...and we'll certainly continue to provide post-game soundbytes from players and coaches. We'll also have a day in between our scheduled Thursday/Saturday trips...so we'll have to figure out what to bring to the blog on those days.

We certainly appreciate the comments posted here last night...and there were other places where we noticed some "discussion" on what we were doing. All in all, we'd like to hear more from you to know if you like our plan, or if we're completely missing something with this idea. Let us know, and we'll do what we can. Once we start this back up again in January, it's sure to be much smoother and easier to follow. We'll keep things relegated to one "entry" for each game, and only update that entry throughout the game (placing the newest updates at the TOP...not the bottom).

Now, I swear we'll get back to basketball-related discussion next time I write. There's already one comment we received last night that I was planning to address anyway. I guess great minds think alike.


-DL

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Post Game Goodies

Brad Stevens

On tonight's win over Bradley...


video

On Avery Jukes' performance tonight...



video

On the growth of the freshmen starters...

video

That's it for tonight, look for more of this from the blog once league play starts. But better. 

More From Peoria...

Under 4:00 Timeout

Butler up 15 at 36-21. Bradley cut the lead to ten at 31-21 and a quick basket by Avery Jukes and another three pointer by Gordon Hayward got it back up to 15. Jukes looks strong with the basketball and has two easy buckets off of screen and rolls.
Coach Stevens was VERY animated about a possible missed defensive assignment by Butler freshman Garrett Butcher. I can't remember him ever being that animated. Bradley guard Sam Maniscalco keeping the Braves in it with his outside shooting.


Hey guys, we found a Butler fan here in Peoria! 

video

Someone asked about the size of the crowd. You ask and you shall receive...

video

Update: Butler now only up 5 w/8:00 to go, good run by Bradley. And Damon's computer hates him. 

6:37 mark 2nd Half

video

Shout out to the Valpo women's basketball team who defeated #23 Purdue tonight 71-60.

On The Road

We're on our way! In an effort to give YOU the fans a more full Horizon League experience we're on the road and video blogging along the way. Here's a quick look at the beginning of our trip:


video

6:55pm: We've arrived...but we're having a few technical issues at our destination. Stick with us...

7:03pm: OK...now for the reveal...
video

7:10pm: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." Or...in this case...pay little attention to the time frame in the video. Read the timestamp I'm including in these posts. video

8:35pm: Alright...this is why we do "test runs" with this sort of thing. Having some issues with the wireless connection in the arena. We're not giving up, but unfortunately, it'd be a little pointless to show you our "Pre-game Interview" with Butler Radio Analyst, Nick Gardner. Sorry Nick.

Anyway...Butler leading 31-17 with 6:30 to play. Bradley went to a zone defensively for a few possessions, but Gordon Hayward shot 'em out of it pretty quick. He's having a solid 1st half with multiple 3-point field goals. Defensively, Butler has held their own against a pair of trees in the post.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Road Test...For Us!

If you've been following along here on the HLN Blog, you may remember a couple weeks ago when we mentioned that this season we'd be trying something new with a gameday "video blog" of sorts. We're still in the planning stage, as far as figuring out which league games we'll be hitting once the calendar flips from 2008 to 2009...but there has been some progress to report.

The progress, essentially, is that our video camera arrived! It's about the size of an iPhone and fits in the palm of your hand. What makes it so useful for us, is the built-in USB Port...which will allow us to shoot a couple minutes of video, plug it into our computer(s), edit if necessary, compress the file for use on this blog (or HLN, or the HLN Facebook page, etc), and post it for you to see. I know, it sounds complicated...but the whole process when I tested it out today, took about 2-4 minutes. And the video is incredibly sharp for the camera's size...identical to what you see content-wise on HLN.

So, with that in mind...we're going for a test drive tomorrow (Wednesday) night. There are a few games on the Horizon League schedule (men's and women's)...and we'll wait to tell you which game we're planning to report from. We want you to check it out, and tell us what you think. All content tomorrow night will be posted right here, on the HLN Blog.

Two things will make this fun for everyone. 1) Your participation. 2) Strong wireless internet signals. Inside an arena, this shouldn't be an issue...but the whole point of this idea for gameday video blogs, is to be able to bring you thoughts/opinions/strange happenings...while we're on the road. In turn, we'll respond to your comments/thoughts/questions along the way. We'll be using a wireless internet card while we're traveling from site to site...so hopefully Bill Kurtis isn't a liar.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, December 5, 2008

First Full (Kind of) Night of League Action

If Thursday night is any indication of how good league play is going to be this year, then we're in for a great season. The ending of the Butler-Cleveland State game overshadowed what I'd like to talk about here first.

UIC's dismantling of Vanderbilt AT Vanderbilt.

With Wright State's current free fall, UIC is looking like the team that might step up and make some noise. It's probably the biggest win for the league out of conference so far this season. Very talented SEC schools are made to look foolish at Memorial Gym because of its uniqueness. The Flames seemed right at home shooting 63% on three-point field goals and withstanding the inevitable second-half Commodore run. Saturday's showdown with in-city rival Loyola will tell us a little more about the consistency of the Flames. Games against Georgia Tech and Illinois State will also tell us what kind of team the rest of the league is going to have to deal with this season.

Green Bay and Milwaukee both took care of business at home in their league openers and are probably asking themselves 'why not us?' The Panthers look balanced and deep. Newcomers Tone Boyle and Tony Meier look like a good inside-outside combination. (sidenote- can we please petition coach Jeter to find someone named Toni and get the band back together.) They have a good balance of youth and experience but I'm going to hold back any excitement until they beat a team with a winning record. Their first chance might not be until Dec. 20 in Milwaukee against Bradley.

Green Bay beat the hapless Raiders Thursday night and have now won four in a row. Glancing at their schedule, the Phoenix have a chance to put together a nice little run in the coming weeks. The only game in the December where they'll be the underdog is in Madison. We might not learn too much about Green Bay during this part of their schedule (unless they leave Madison victorious) but they'll have a nice record next to their name come the first week of January.

The Main Event

I could only watch portions of the Butler-Cleveland State game due to some other work, but here were a few observations:

- Neither team played close to their best game but the visitors came out winners. This is important because in games like this the team with the best player, in this case CSU with J'Nathan Bullock, normally win. Not Thursday.

-Teams are learning how to defend Matt Howard. It has been rare this season to see him carve out good position on the block and have the ball delivered to him in a position where he can make a play.

-Both of these teams can defend. Cleveland State's ability to seemingly always get their hands on the ball and play the passing lanes is effective. Butlers constant switching and solid positioning on defense will frustrate teams as it always has.

-Zach Hahn wants the ball at the end of the game. He's just that type of player. He struggled at times in the NCAA tournament last year and many had him buried behind a recruiting class of good guards at Butler, but none of that seems to matter to Hahn. The scary thought: He's only a sophomore.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

2008 HL Championship Re-Match...TONIGHT!

Since Adam is "on assignment" today...I'll try to answer this.

Anonymous writes:
With such a young Butler team going against a more experience Cleveland State team that made it to the tournament finals last year, I'm wondering how important you guys think the regular season is this year? I mean, home court in the tourney could be huge, but even if the very young Bulldogs win the conference regular season, I wonder how they'll hold up in the tourney against a CSU team knowing that this is their last shot? Assuming no Horizon team gets an at large this year, as big as this early season BU-CSU clash is, I suspect it will all come down to the tournament and who is playing best then. Thoughts?

I think the regular season is EXTREMELY important in the Horizon League every year, because of the HL Tournament format. Ask any coach if they'd rather have to win 2 games 4 days to go to the NCAA tournament...or would they rather have to win 3 games in 5 days, or even 4 games in 7 days to get to the Big Dance? Finishing in the top 2 of the HL in the regular season is crucial, and a huge advantage.

As it relates to this year...well, tonight's game between CSU and Butler may give us a clue as to who's really ready for prime time. CSU had chances to make statements against Washington or Kansas State, but couldn't. Butler, whom many thought would slide back a little this year, has mowed down everyone in front of them...while starting 3 freshmen and not having a single senior on the roster.

The scenario you posed with the "young Bulldogs" winning the regular season and potentially having to face the "back-against-the-wall Vikings" once again in the Horizon League Tournament is an interesting one. I'd argue, though, but by the time March rolls around...the Bulldogs won't be quite so young. They'll have an entire season's worth of experience under their belts. I'd suspect that Cleveland State would certainly have a sense of urgency, however, about breaking through and making it to the NCAA Tournament.

While thinking about at-large NCAA births are still way down the road...I can see scenarios where Cleveland State or Butler (if they run away with the HL regular season crown) may have an argument. CSU still has to play West Virginia and Syracuse. Butler still has games against Ohio State, Xavier, and UAB...so it's possible.

As for tonight, the Vikings are on their home floor. CSU was tabbed as the team to beat in the Horizon League this year. CSU is more experienced than the "young" Butler squad they'll face tonight. If the Vikings can't win this one...I'll have some serious reservations about thinking of them as the favorite in the Horizon League.

EDIT: 2:53PM - From today's edition of "Good Morning Hoops Nation" on The Mid-Majority. Way to go Flames!
Illinois-Chicago 74, at Vanderbilt 55 -- The Flames have a bonafide star in Josh Mayo, a rotation of bruising bigs (many with long names), a strong defense and a head coach in Jimmy Collins that is three parts wizened sage and one part Dolemite. So why aren't they taken seriously in the Horizon League this year? Probably their propensity to run themselves into dumb possessions. Last night in Nashville, Mayo got his 30, freshman Robert Kreps stepped forward for a career high 23, and UIC showed laser-sharp focus, dumping the SEC Commodores with a combination of muscle, ball control and skill. With a lost season in progress at Wright State and disappointments at Valpo, it may be time to put the Flames into that NCAA contender conversation with Cleveland State and Butler.


-DL

Oops!

Looks like we had a "setting" turned on, which required me to moderate all of the comments which were being posted.

It's OFF now, and your comments are up! Keep 'em coming...


-DL

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How Dare You...?

While perusing the Jay Bilas Blog over at The Worldwide Leader (It's an "Insider" article, if you're interested in following the link to his blog)...I came across a little nugget that all of you fellow Horizon League fans may enjoy.

In the interest of full disclosure, the blog entry is titled "Thoughts, trends and treats from November" and dated November 30, 2008.

In the midst of several observations about numerous college basketball teams, and their performance thus far...the following bullet point was tossed into the mix:

"What possible justification do we have for having over 340 Division I basketball teams? It is silly."

Silly?

Really.

Is this silly? What about this? Sometimes it happens simultaneously.

Yes (in the last video)...those are 2 of college basketball's super-powers, UCLA and North Carolina, being dispatched in the NCAA Tournament -- at the same time -- by 2 randoms in this world of 340-some-odd Divsion I basketball teams. 1999 was a good year.

I'll never deny the fact that teams from power conferences overwhelmingly outperform the teams considered mid-majors or low-majors. However, for every powerhouse like Duke...there's a Rutgers perpetually drowning in the bottom of the Big East. Similarly for every upstart program (lacking historical tradition) like Tennessee...there's a storied program like Indiana which is in shambles. You'll find similar situations in all of the Division I Men's Basketball conferences...it's relative.

Take a Horizon League member like Loyola (Chicago). They've only won 20 games once in the last 15 years. Should they not have the opportunity to play Division I basketball? Or does their 1963 National Championship carry any weight?

Writing in a blog about "Thoughts, trends and treats from November," that having over 340 Division I basketball teams can't be justified...is where the real silliness begins.

Just my opinion...not necessarily the Horizon League or HLN's view.

Who knows...maybe I'm reading too much into Mr. Bilas' comment. Or maybe I'm not...at all.


-DL

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cleveland State vs. Valpo - "Quasi-Live" Blog

Alright...so maybe you're like me and you're planning to watch tonight's league-opener between Cleveland State and Valparaiso.

If so, keep an eye on the blog tonight, as I'll be blogging while I watch. I call it "quasi-live" since I'm not actually at the game...but I'll be updating throughout the contest.

We're not set up to live-blog on this page, so you'll have to refresh the page every now and then to see my entries as they file in.

Send me your comments/questions...and I'll try to address as much as I can.

Now...as for tonight's game...our good friend Kyle Whelliston at The Mid-Majority has tabbed tonight's game as his "Game! Of! The! Night!" You can read his preview here. We love The Mid-Majority here at HLN...and I'm pretty sure all you Valpo fans are pretty familiar with his work as well.


6:50pm - 10 minutes to game time...stream is up on HLN!

7:02pm - Just looking over the numbers for both teams thus far...Valpo needs a little more production from Urule Igbavboa, especially in a game tonight where he'll be challenged every trip down the court by J'Nathan Bullock. For CSU...there's a reason Mr. Bullock's "Player of the Week" award has coincided with more victories for the Vikings. This is a match-up to watch.

7:12pm - Under 16:00 Timeout - 6-2 CSU
Didn't take long for Coach Drew to yank Igbavboa. Fumey, his replacement, has been logging almost as many minutes...and has been a tad more productive. We'll see what he can do against Chris Moore.

7:22pm - Under 12:00 Timeout - 8-4 CSU

Just plain ugly so far. CSU doesn't seem to have found a shooter that can stretch defenses and force opponents from double-teaming Bullock, or sagging off of Cedric Jackson. Valpo...is SORELY missing their floor leader, Brandon McPherson.

7:25pm - 13-4 CSU Nice quick run by the Vikings...Bullock playing with 2 fouls. Bold move by Coach Waters.

7:31pm - Under 8:00 Timeout - 20-6 CSU
Now this is the Cleveland State team I remember seeing last season. Scrappy defense, and turning that defensive pressure into offense. Bullock burying 3-pointers is never a good sign for their opponents. Valpo looks as out-of-sync as I've seen them in awhile. Every shot appears to be a good shot for the Crusaders. The veterans need to show the youngsters the way...

7:35pm - 20-12 CSU Amazing what a little intensity can do.

7:42pm - Under 4:00 Timeout - 25-12 CSU
Like I said...amazing what a little intensity can do...this time for CSU, extending the lead back to 13. J'Nathan Bullock is such a match-up problem. Kid can just about do it all..

7:53pm - Halftime - 31-14 CSU
I can't say I'm surprised that Valpo has went with a zone defense, as CSU has had it's troubles shooting from the perimeter. And honestly, the Vikings haven't been outstanding in the half-court...other than Bullock. Regardless of what Valpo does on the defensive end in the 2nd half, they're going to have to figure out a way to get better shots themselves. Valpo shot 5-25 from the field in the first half...not gonna cut it...ever. I hate to say it again...but it's really showing how badly they miss Brandon McPherson.

8:09pm - 37-14 CSU
Valpo fans...please tell me...have you ever seen anything like this before? Coach Drew pulling his starters less than a minute into the 2nd half? This is bad...but it looks like the 5 Crusader starters are returning to the floor.

8:14pm - Under 16:00 Timeout - 39-18 CSU

Valpo has gotta try something to get back in it...now going man-to-man and employing a full court press. I'm not sure those things can do much about the Crusaders poor shooting.

8:20pm - 48-25 CSU

I'd like to see someone other than Bullock consistently make a shot. It would benefit them in the long run.

8:24pm - Under 12:00 Timeout - 52-29 CSU

I can hear a rather large woman warming up her voice in the hallways of the Wolstein Center...

8:35pm - Under 8:00 Timeout - 53-37 CSU

It appears that Valpo's Michael Rogers and Howard Little have awoken from their slumber. Unfortunately, you can't spot your opponents a 27-point 2nd half lead and expect to win many games.

8:38pm - Homer Drew...ejected?!? I never thought I'd see the day. I'd love to know how many times that has happened in his career. Valpo fans...any idea?

8:43pm - Under 4:00 Timeout - 59-38 CSU
Still a little stunned by the Homer Drew ejection...and starting to think about Thursday's showdown between CSU and Butler...

FINAL SCORE: CSU - 66 VALPO - 42
Not too much to say about this one...it all sort of speaks for itself. One of those games where I feel like the losing team isn't as bad as they played tonight, and the winning team may not be as good as the margin of victory indicates. You can't argue with what Bullock did tonight, 29 points and 6 rebounds in 32 minutes, but I still contend that SOMEONE is going to need to be able to consistently hit a jumper come Thursday against Butler. As we all know...Butler won't turn the ball over as much as Valpo did tonight...and I'd expect those lanes to the bucket to be a little smaller for CSU on Thursday as well.

Hopefully the Wolstein Center is PACKED on Thursday...should be very entertaining!

That's all for now...

-DL

Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself

Hey all Horizon League fanatics!

I'm Adam Coppinger and I'll be sharing my thoughts on the league and other musings here on the blog. I'm excited to share my opinion on certain happenings in the league but I'm even more excited to hear and read about YOUR thoughts and suggestions for discussion and content. So never be afraid to share what you think or disagree with what we say, even if you're wrong.

Here are a couple things I'm looking forward to this week.

Cleveland State's big week

The Vikings seem to have rounded into form for the start of league play. Just in time. They start the week out tonight (Dec. 2) against Valparaiso. The Crusaders are struggling a bit now but this one should be a well contested game.

The game of the week in the league is Thursday night when Butler travels to Cleveland. This is a big game for both teams. Such a big game so early in the season can mean a lot. For the Vikings it's a chance to show the rest of the league that all the pre-season accolades they received were warranted. A loss at home to the up-and-coming Bulldogs could make for another long season of looking up at Butler in the standings. I just can't see J'Nathan Bullock and Co. letting this happen in Cleveland. I'm sure there will be more about this game on the HLN later in the week.

Wright State Reeling

The Raiders are now 0-4 and standing at a crossroads. They just lost their leading scorer for at least a month and their schedule doesn't get any easier. Duggins was the only Raider averaging in double figures and the team just hasn't been able to score consistently (see: 37 points against Miami OH). This week they make the Wisconsin double dip, and as if that weren't enough, WSU still has to make a trip to Wake Forest and has games against undefeated Arkansas-Little Rock and in-league foe Cleveland State. Games thought to be 'gimmes' in the preseason are looking tough as even Murray State is playing well with a 28 point win over Western Kentucky on their resume'. Tough sledding for the Raiders but they've started slowly before and rebounded. If any coach in the league can do it it's coach Brownell.

I'm just glad I didn't pick them to win the league. Right, Damon?