The way too early pre-season rankings mean nothing really, but slight evidence that the Indiana Hoosiers are righting this ship. Short thoughts.

Well there’s a little faith booster for you. While these ultimately mean nothing, it means we are on the radar. CBS writer Gary Parrish said on the Hoosiers in his 19th spot, “The Hoosiers’ ranking is based on Indiana returning the top three scorers from a team that made the NCAA Tournament – among them Trayce Jackson-Davis, who could be a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year. Indiana’s recruiting class is ranked in the top 20 and highlighted by 5-star guard Jalen Hood-Schifino”.

ESPN staff writer Jeff Borzello ranked the Hoosiers 21st saying, “Trayce Jackson-Davis falls into the same category as Cockburn, Dickinson and the UNC and UCLA players — not projected to be drafted in 2022 at this point but could certainly opt to leave. If Mike Woodson does get Jackson-Davis back, however, Indiana will return most of the core that got the Hoosiers back to the NCAA tournament. Miller Kopp was the only senior, and he appears likely to return for another year. Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson are back in the starting lineup, and Woodson had other options in Trey GallowayJordan Geronimo and Tamar BatesJalen Hood-Schifino is a top-25 recruit, and I’m very high on fellow incoming freshman Kaleb Banks.”

While ultimately, these “far too early” preseason top 25s mean less and less now the the transfer portals come to be more active than any professional free agency, but Indiana fans should see this as a great validation in our reasserting of the Indiana University basketball program. The Hoosiers under Mike Woodson in their first year have established a trend upward in national prominence. While our end may have ended in an objectively terrible fashion, however you may try to defend what the game against St. Mary’s was (tired, overworked, etc), our team’s season was still a success. We know the ultimate success is a national championship but it doesn’t happen overnight and having made the tournament is a genuine success for any coach in his 1st year following a firing of the prior head coach.

We are on the national radar. And that is the first step back to prominence. We need to be in the discussion to go and get the guys that will absolutely cement us as one of the top programs in the nation. By finding ourselves ranked in the preseason (albeit these will shift drastically with the transfer portal) it’s fair to say many will have their eyes on the Hoosiers, most rooting for us to fail, but nonetheless watching us. Getting into the mix is a step in the right direction for a program that lacked direction under Miller’s tenure.

After the ephemeral drought that was the Archie Miller era. Mike Woodson has immediately started steering this ship in the right direction. Say what you will about all these transfers. But that is just the nature of the beast now, and I genuinely believe that both Indiana University and the guys leaving mutually benefit from the breakups. All the guys leaving are not irreplaceable and we also can free up room for the needs of our team that truly need addressed. Least of which are shooting and a larger presence in the paint.

And again, these rankings don’t mean a thing. But it can lend insight into the thoughts of the nation in general and often manipulate thinking of the people reading these rankings. Just glad to be on them and be a topic of discussion and observation for fans outside our fine state.

Also…

Purdue finds themselves behind us among all of these pre season rankings, and I’ve got to say I’m not surprised… Ivey’s gone. Painter’s a proven dud, and that loss to St. Peters, whatever you think about that team, was the type of loss that leaves a shadow, a stink on your program for a few years to follow. Not good Matt… not good.

How inept do you have to be not to exploit this matchup nightmare? They don’t come up to the Big Man’s shoulders.

While the transfer portal could have these shifting by the hour, we currently sit higher than little brother. After all of the frustration from Xavier Johnson’s latest actions, it is nice to get a win. As small and meaningless as it is, the nation thinking we are going into next season better off than Purdue has me feeling just a minuscule amount better. And I’ll take it!

We comin’ for your job next year Matt.

LUX ET VERITAS!!!

“The Honorable Judge Mike Woodson” (Thoughts on the Xavier Johnson charges and how this could be handled).

So I’m sure everyone has read the news being spread around regarding Xavier Johnson’s arrest… and boy it does not sound great. If you haven’t heard the details here’s a solid, to the point explanation. I don’t feel like really retreading the details here. While Xavier was included in those previous “curfew violations” that resulted in self imposed suspensions for those players involved, this one is far more serious. Whatever those previous curfew violations entailed of, I can’t imagine that they were potentially so dangerous.

Driving 90 down Walnut Ave. for anyone unfamiliar with Bloomington, IN is an absolutely bananas move. This should result in some games missed for the Hoosier guard, that much of our success may hinge on next year. While I know we have some serious guards coming into the program next year, we will still need Xavier’s game to develop so he can contribute at a high level if our team wants to build on this year. Such an absolutely terrible look for Xavier Johnson. I am just so happy for this young man that he hadn’t been drinking prior to his flight from police.

It’s inexcusable but I am going to cut him some slack. While extremely dangerous and stupid, in such a pedestrian and bicyclist community like that area of Bloomington is, this behavior is truly reprehensible. But we need to remember that while these guys are top of their level athletes, they are still relative children. They are still learning how to conduct themselves and operate within the “real world”. They are superstar celebrities in this world. Especially in Bloomington. I’m self conscious as it is. I couldn’t imagine being ogled everywhere they go around Bloomington, as they are.

It’s moments like this that can either be the worst or the best moment in a young man’s life. For Xavier Johnson, the challenge isn’t defending your actions. The challenge is addressing the issue and finding out how you conduct yourself from this moment on. This needs to be a learning opportunity for a boy to realize what it takes to be a man and not a menace. Ruining a young man’s life is no way for this story to end. Xavier needs the opportunity to rebound from this. And hopefully even look to commit harder to his game so as to avoid the more destructive distractions that may present themselves from time to time.

For this reason I really hope that no heavier toned facts come out. Because at this current stage I believe this is repairable. No one was hurt. While people possibly could have been, thank the Lord above that no one was injured during the course of these events!

All that being said think about the Good Book itself, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone” John 8:7. Especially some of us kids in Bloomington for our college years. I’ll be the first to say while I never endangered others so drastically I still am not without fault. Kids learn from their mistakes, you just hope none of their mistakes are irredeemable. For this reason I hope Mike Woodson seeks to use this as an opportunity to show mercy and investment in these boys rather than just wield a strict hammer of discipline to make an example out of him on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I think Mike Woodson’s handling of this situation and Xavier Johnson’s next season could speak volumes to recruits one way or another. Show these guys that we don’t give up on the boys who choose to throw on the Cream and Crimson and show them that we are invested in making these sometimes naive boys, great men.

On a separare note, sadly for Xavier Johnson the big ten is home to some of the most passionate and educated fans and home court advantages there are. And unfortunately this will be brought up each time he goes to the line this year. Every stadium he goes into chanting some b.s. about this crime, it’s not going to be fun for him. I hope that he can persevere and find a sense of peace, maybe this will aid his game on the court, slow down his own mind and maybe he will slow down his game a bit. I believe that Xavier Johnson could be an Indiana great if he were able to slow down and let the game come to him. Maybe a long reflection is exactly what the doctor ordered.

I would have to hope that we will make him sit 4 or 6 of the first games of the season. Following that, let him get back at it. We need the development of Xavier Johnson to continue to contend. Let’s not give up on this one!

LUX ET VERITAS!

Thad Matta Leaves Indiana for the Butler Head Coaching job. Short thoughts.

Alright, so another unexpected departure in the Woodson era. But this one should be seen as much more comforting and I don’t think there should be much issue with anybody from it. I was so pleased when I read the news on this hire. Thad Matta taking the Head coaching job at Butler is great for him! I have to think anyone with a grain of sympathy or a grain of intelligence, should know this is for the best, while we will miss his input on our program. If the man wants to coach and he finally sees that he can again, he should get out there and coach.

After his tenure aiding Mike Woodson in structuring his program, an opening has presented itself to Thad Matta and I wish him all the luck running the Butler program, so long as it isn’t against Indiana.

He’s heading home and good for him. He’s been battling illness while he’s been getting older and him accepting this job is a sign of good things for him and his family. Heading up a program as Head Coach is no job for somebody who can’t get up and get at it to get recruits while managing the guys you got. So I hope this means he’s got a full tank and can get a second life as a head coach. Just stay outta the Big Ten Thad and we won’t have any problems.

With his all-time record at 439-154. Thad Matta brings a breadth of knowledge to the Butler Bulldogs that can rival any active NCAA coach. His tenure at Ohio State should be known all too well to us Indiana fans who found themselves on the receiving end of much of those teams’ success.

That head coaching record places Thad Matta at 4th in best winning percentages among all active NCAA head coaches. While already revered throughout College Basketball, Thad is looking to even further cement himself in the history of the game. If he’s able to win anything of significance for the Butler Bulldogs I don’t see how he doesn’t go down as a truly great coach within collegiate basketball history. While still not winning a title is a black mark on the record, he will go down as one of the more storied coaches there are.

Indiana fans shouldn’t feel too bad for the departure either. Mike Woodson seems set to run the program as he likes. For better or worse, we shall see. If he needed Thad’s input Indiana would throw any and all necessary cash his way to keep him on within his pseudo-advisory role. While I would think I’d be fine and comfortable getting paid by Indiana to advise on basketball, apparently Thad wants another crack at it and thinks he’s up for it. More power to him. I sincerely wish him all success that doesn’t directly interfere with that of the Hoosiers. While yes, he is going to an instate school, we don’t deal with them enough for this to be a problem!

Going back to coach for a second time at his Alma Mater is a great privilege. While Butler hasn’t been the Butler of the Brad Stevens days, it’s still a very storied program. Cheers to them for going to Thad with the job offer. Ya gotta love a school going and getting one of their own. Almost like promoting from within. Ya love to see it in business, and ya gotta love to see it in basketball programs. Indiana made that move, and now Butler is as well.

Here’s to Thad’s second wind and here’s to him remaining healthy enough to start up his career again at age 54. Man… I thought he was older than that.

LUX ET VERITAS!

Let me convince myself this is a good move for Indiana. Thoughts on the Dane Fife dismissal.

So Dane Fife was dismissed from duty as assistant coach yesterday, and I’m sure most of us have seen the statements made. So I won’t dive into those any further. We’ve seen visible contention and frustration between Dane Fife and Mike Woodson this year. I just had no idea it was to this extent. So here’s just a few thoughts on the matter.

I’m going to first delve into some of my reservations before allowing to let my unrelenting loyalty to this program take over and convince myself this is a good thing. At the end of the day I’m just a self proclaimed fanboy who will ride with this team until the day the good Lord calls my number… heck even then, I’ll be using my totally awesome angel magic or whatever superpowers I get to help raise the Hoosiers’ shooting 5% at the least.

But on to my reservations…

This seems flippant. This seems illogical. After a long tenure as Michigan State Assistant, Dane Fife had decided to leave what looked like the heir apparent role for Tom Izzo. I was convinced this was to help Mike Woodson redefine a once storied program looking to get back to national relevancy. That’s the type of guy I personally would ride with. That’s the type of guy who will take chances and risk it for a cause he believes in, and one close to his heart.

Dane in the Knight era

I know the animosity between the two was sometimes visible, but I never thought that losing Dane was even on the radar. I for one thought that his decision to leave Tom Izzo and his ever so sweet role waiting in the wings would have bought him Mike Woodson’s loyalty for life. I thought we had the Robin to Mike Woodson’s Batman. It appears this was not the case.

If Tom Izzo held him in such high regard, he must be a great addition right?

And while this does seem like a gut punch out of the blue, I am beginning to almost delusionally sell myself on the idea that this is for the best…

For one, in his year at Indiana Dane Fife was unable to secure a single recruit. Now, I can’t speak to how difficult it may have been to get the guys that Woodson may have had Dane Fife targeting, because I’d imagine as our most recognizable assistant Woodson probably had him focused on some of the top tier guys. The same guys getting offers from programs firmly established, not programs looking to reassert themselves. So to be fair that sales pitch could be more difficult. But honestly. We need the guys who can get those guys in spite of that… we need some salesmen at assistant coach.

We need assistants who can get THE GUYS. Nothing less will get us to national prominence again. RECRUITING IS KING! In today’s NCAA you need a game changer or two that can dictate the game when it’s truly on the line. And if Mike Woodson doesn’t think Dane Fife was the guy to do it for us, we owe it to him and the program to trust the vision, until we can no longer do so.

Mike Woodson deserves the freedom to establish his network of lieutenants in the manner he sees fit. This isn’t a democracy, it’s an advised dictatorship. And honestly, that is how it has to be. In his first year, he’s got us trending upward. Give him every resource and allow him any action he needs to keep that trend elevating.

We don’t need some Head Coach-Assistant Head Coach tandem to lead us too our elusive 6th banner. I mean how many true HC-AC tandems are title winners? I’m going to say coaches are like quarterbacks, in that if you have two, you don’t have THE ONE. Yeah Dane Fife was a big name assistant, but assistants come and go, a program is defined by their leader.

Also it seems like this should weirdly be seen as a win for those among us who are convinced that we need to find “the next Bobby Knight”. This action should tell you that Mike Woodson is committed to creating a program that will be held to his standards and his expectations, under his direction and vision. So honestly in this regard this is a very “Bobby Knight” move. Being ruthless in the pursuit of athletic dominance is soooo Bobby.

On an almost totally unrelated note, while I’m starting to convince myself this is a good move, one thought that I’ve been having over the course of a few years now is I may think the answer to winning in today’s NCAA is not “the next Bobby Knight”. Sadly, I feel like the Bobby achetype may have no place in today’s NCAA landscape. It seems more and more that today’s top tier recruiting game is dictated by the carrot, not the stick. Seems more and more like the slimeball coaches are the ones finding ways to win, Calipari and Coach K being my prime examples. The priorities of these top athletes now seem more focused on “their brand” than a commitment to winning. Call me the oldest 29 year old you’ve ever heard, but they just don’t have the same priorities as they did back in the days of Bobby. So while reverting back to discipline and determination is Mike’s way, I can only hope at this point that this is the answer.

I really am hoping that all of this culminates in Mike Woodson establishing a program, nay a culture of commitment to excellence. Both on and off the court. His self imposed suspensions were my personal prime evidence of him willing to cut off a leg to stop an infection of unaccountability. Which I love. It’s Mike’s way or the highway now, for better or worse. He is looking to establish accountability at Indiana, in an age that accountability seems to be less and less of a priority for others. I will rooting for him to pull that off and I have to think I can’t be alone.

I really hope we can find the guys who will recruit with the best of them. But just lastly in regards to our breakup with Dane Fife (still always a Hoosier), I’ll ask you to ponder a quote from the oft revered thespian and cultural supericon Marilyn Monroe…

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things could fall together.

Here’s hopin’ your right Marilyn!

LUX ET VERITAS!!!

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