Welcome to 2015, finally

Wait a minute, is that a new link over on my Sportswriting page?

Yes, I’m back at it. For a variety of reasons, Saturday’s Rutgers-IU game was the first sporting event I covered this year. No need to delve into the reasons other than to say my schedule conflicted with IU’s home schedule pretty much all month. I’m counting on February and March working out a bit better.

So are the Hoosiers, I imagine, at least when compared to, say, last February and March. Midway through the Big Ten schedule last season, the Hoosiers were 4-5 in conference play and would go 3-6 in the second half. They then lost to Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament and that was it for a 17-15 season.

After Saturday’s 72-64 win over Rutgers, the Hoosiers are 16-6 overall and 6-3 in the conference. That 6-3 mark had them in a five-way tie for second place in the standings going into Sunday, with a matchup between Michigan (6-3) and Michigan State (5-3) to be played, behind Wisconsin (7-1). The Badgers just happen to be IU’s next opponent.

How about that.

It won’t be easy, of course, considering the last Indiana win in Wisconsin came in 1998. But with all the drama surrounding the program from preseason suspensions and accidents to in-season injuries, that a young IU team is in this position is impressive.

Of course, what would be really impressive (awkward transition) would be me keeping this blog up to date. Let’s see what happens …

IU football looking for new defensive coordinator; IU hoops heads to Penn State

Indiana fired defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and defensive line coach Jon Fabris on Friday–well, announced that they would not return to the football coaching staff in 2014–after the Hoosiers again ranked near the bottom nationally in virtually every defensive statistic.

The timing of the announcement seems a bit unusual simply because IU’s season ended well over a month ago.  Per the Bloomington Herald-Times, head coach Kevin Wilson wasn’t available for comment. So it’s hard to say why the change came now instead of, say, the day after IU’s season ended with the win over Purdue.

Meanwhile, IU’s men’s basketball team plays at Penn State today. There was no pre-travel media availability, so my preview for the Post-Tribune leans heavily on Penn State quotes. You can check that out here.

Michigan State 73, Indiana 56

For the third time in Tom Crean’s six seasons at Indiana,  the Hoosiers start the Big Ten schedule 0-2.
The first time was his first season, 2008-09, when IU started 0-8 in conference play before finishing 1-17 in the Big Ten. Two years later, it was an 0-4 start for the Hoosiers, who ended up with a 3-15 Big Ten record.
There’s no reason to think these Hoosiers will mimic those kind of records in conference play; there’s too much talent for that.
And realistically, it’s not as if either of IU’s losses so far are really bad losses. Yes, 23 turnovers against Illinois is nothing to be proud of, but the fact that the Illini needed overtime to beat a young IU squad that turned the ball over 23 times says something about both teams.
And Michigan State is one of the top teams in the nation, with loads more experience than the Hoosiers.
But if IU is to make it to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season, the Hoosiers are going to have to learn momentum.
“The more you (play), the better the understanding you have,” Tom Crean said. “It’s not like we can all of a sudden put three months of Big Ten basketball into these guys’ bodies.”

Here are my game stories for the Tribune-Star and the Post-Tribune. And you can catch up with all my sportswriting on the Sportswriting page of the site.