Smile Politely

Big Ten Basketball Report: Week 11

I tend to not flout my ability as a college basketball prognosticator. After all, this is really my first year as a sports writer, let alone as a fan-turned-journalist who predicts the outcome of Big Ten games. Thus far, I’ve been trying to report the facts of the games and some of the history, mainly recent, that has been the driving force behind who the teams are now.

Last week, however, was an exception.

In addition to going perfect in my predictions — I am proud to say that I picked that Purdue over Wisconsin game — I also made it clear that I didn’t think that Indiana and Kelvin Sampson have the real fire power to outlast teams that know how to defend against Eric Gordon and D.J. White. For the first time this year, I am honestly patting myself on the back.

Perhaps my moment of glory has something to do with my major disdain for college basketball coaches who cheat. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have very little respect for players like Eric Gordon, who de-commit to schools after definitively giving a verbal intent to sign. More than likely though, it has to do with the fact that I bleed Gold and Black — to the core — and that watching Indiana potentially go down, at home no less, to a future Hall of Fame coach/class act like Jim Calhoun and his suspended and depleted squad would be like Christmas all over again.

I quietly kept interjecting my opinion into the fold: Indiana is not as good as they appear on paper.

Sure enough, the Hoosiers didn’t have the stamina to outlast the feisty Huskies of Connecticut.

Not only did they not have the stamina, they also didn’t have these three 3 things that will prevent Indiana from reaching any level of real glory this season:

1. A weak bench does not create wins. No question: Indiana is deep. But their depth lacks talent. Every time Eric Gordon goes cold or D.J. White starts shuffling his feet, Sampson is forced to play sub-par second stringers who really aren’t much better than your average Northwestern starting five. This is fine against Georgia Tech at home — but against a Big East power house, it will come back to bite.

2. Kelvin Sampson has not learned how to teach effectively in the Big Ten. I am not sure what happened to Sampson since the time that he was taking the Sooners to the Dance each year, but it seems to me that his is hung up on teaching 1–3–1 motion offense in a league that clearly demands a different approach. Set plays are key for a team like Indiana — exploiting their strengths in Eric Gordon — but he doesn’t seem to be able to rein these talents in.

3. Eric Gordon will ultimately fail. This year. I think he is a great player. I think he is a great shooter. I think he knows how to penetrate the lane. I think that he doesn’t use his supporting cast to his benefit, and in the end, it will come back to bite them with a short run in the NCAA Tournament as a 4 seed in the West.

Let’s see what’s on tap for this week:

Season’s Record: 99–25
Last Week’s Record: 9–0
Big Ten Record: 31–7


Ohio State 76
Penn State 64


Purdue 69
Iowa 63

Michigan State 75
Illinois 68


Michigan 74
Minnesota 65

Wisconsin 78
Indiana 72


Purdue 68
Illinois 66

Iowa 73
Ohio State 70

Michigan State 82
Penn State 66


Indiana 88
Northwestern 80

Wisconsin 77
Minnesota 74

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