Our possessions apparently have yet to leave the Portland warehouse, so we’ve got time for extended stay in Indianapolis. Two extra days are now in the plan before we head to Atlanta, one step away from moving into our new home. The troublesome kidney stone was extracted yesterday and my wife is feeling much better. Even though the doctor has cleared her for travel, we decided it’s best to rest for a few days here and reschedule what we missed with Indy friends. Getting back behind the wheel can wait.
It was too rainy yesterday for Tally and I to sit outside and wait for the urologist to complete surgery. Instead of TD Alibi’s as planned, we drove up to a friend’s house in Noblesville. We dropped my wife off at the hospital downtown and spent three hours in waiting. Texts and phone calls kept me up to date on the procedure, since we were not allowed to stay. As she begins to heal, the freedom of retirement allows us the flexibility to adjust our schedule to eventually hook up with the movers, provided my brother-in-law can tolerate my presence for a few extra days. We’re in no rush – at least today, but house guests can begin to stink like dead fish when they overstay their welcome. Glad to have great, tolerant relatives!
I have a Leadership Zoom meeting this afternoon, continuing the once face-to-face Friday lunch tradition started back in Portland years ago. I can still be with my friends despite being thousands of miles away from them. I’ll catch them up on the trials of tribulations of moving to Florida and we’ll certainly discuss the fate of the I.U. basketball program that has been gaining credibility these past few weeks. Xaviar Johnson from Pittsburgh will take Armaan Franklin’s guard position as he moves to Virginia. Dane Fife joins the coaching staff and there’s no one from last year’s IU roster left in the transfer portal. The next step will be finding a big man or two to make us more competitive under the basket. The future of IU basketball has grown from dismal (almost as painful as a kidney stone) to bright in just the past two weeks. I’ll continue to monitor it in the local papers as we’re now in for an Extended Stay.
Today’s Easter leg (not egg or even leg of lamb) of our cross-country trek takes us from Utah into Wyoming with an overnight stop in Burlington, Colorado. My wife continues to battle a painful kidney stone, but made it through her two driving shifts. The scenery through Oregon was spectacular as usual and not as burnt-out in the Eastern section as it was seven years ago when we first crossed the state line. Idaho was short and sweet while Utah had some long stretches of boredom as the day wore on. We did catch a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake just before arriving at our hotel about 9 p.m., despite an hour loss from the Time Zone change.
I was monitoring the UCLA vs. Gonzaga NCAA Final Four match-up, hoping to get in front of a TV for the overtime. There were unfortunately too many hassles getting checked-in and hauling all our luggage to the room. As a result, I just missed the Zags buzzer-beater to remain perfect. I still have mixed feelings about their quest to tie the unbeaten 1976 Indiana 32-0 National Championship, but with the fortune of that final bank shot, all they have to do is beat Baylor Monday night. From the beginning of the 2020-21 season, this pairing has been on everyone’s radar since it was cancelled back in December due to the pandemic. We’ll soon have the answer. I did watch the White Sox blow an 8th inning lead against the Angels before I turned in for the night on a sour note.
The Sox have started an ominous 1-2 despite some record breaking performances by Yermin Mercedes – 8 for 8 in his first two games and the first grand slam of 2021 by Jose Abreu. Mercedes has filled in “perfectly” at DH for injured slugger Eloy Jimenez, who could be out of the line up for most of the regular season. Basketball, baseball, and the map app kept me occupied while I navigated 1-84 from Portland to Ogden/Layton. Today, as we cross the Continental Divide, it’s I-80 through Cheyenne, I-25 into Denver, and I-70 to our Burlington bed – the Easter Leg!
A few years ago it was Miller Time (See Post #35), and the Champaign flowed in celebration of I.U.’s new leader. Well, it’s that time again and fans are reasonably skeptical about the hiring of Mike Woodson as the new savior for the good old days of Bob Knight glory. Four failures have happened since his firing over two decades ago. Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson, Tom Crean, and Archie Miller have each fizzled in his wake. None of them had a Hoosier player legacy to gamble away in addition to their coaching records. Now, it’s Woodson Time! Can basketball at I.U. really get any worse?
Will this be the fifth failure or a welcome relief? I.U. is sadly no longer a blue-blood program and teetering on the edge of disaster. Can two heads replace Knight, as Thad Matta joins the charge in the newly created position of Assistant A.D.? I guess we’ll never know until the two of them consistently win twenty games a season. Up until then, they’ll be under the microscope trying to salvage existing players and recruits. Coach Woodson has NBA contacts that are appealing to up-and-coming players. Thad Motta knows the college basketball wars. I’m not familiar with another arrangement like this where coaching and recruiting are handled separately. The odds of it working are probably not favorable and could be confusing. Two minds are not necessarily better than one.
Scott Dolson took what he could get under the circumstances. Once the student manager of an I.U. basketball National Championship team, he has risen to make one of the biggest decisions in the history of the school. “The Glory of Old I.U.” is tarnished and no longer appealing to the current masters of the game. Brad Stevens, who many feel is a sure bet, flat-out turned it down. Sentiment wanted a Hoosier native who could restore the winning culture dating back for decades. In all fairness, Archie was successful bringing Indiana Mr. Basketballs into the program but it was not enough to win compete. He also had to deal with Covid in the process and clean-up the mess that Sampson and Crean left behind. Fans were impatient, just as they will be with Woodson and Matta.
We’ll have to take advantage of the transfer portal while building for the future. Next year could be a train wreck if players leave the program as they’ve implied. The hiring of assistant coaches is critical, perhaps building on the theme of alumni and in-state ties. I’m not confident we can pull this off to the satisfaction of the disgruntled fanbase. Immediate gratification may not be possible, while Woodson is not a young man and another change may be necessary in the not too distant future. At any rate, it’s Woodson Time!
I’m back home again from Indy with a busted bracket, hangover, and little sleep. Not quite as bad as the 1987 Final Four in New Orleans, but 34 years older and out of drinking shape. O’Reilly’s Irish Pub turned out to be our rendezvous spot between games. My friend who secured the hard-to-get tickets was following Illinois to their disastrous end, while my Indy buddy and I saw an assortment of teams live at both Lucas Oil Stadium and Banker’s Life. Purdue failed to please, falling to The Mean Green, as the sole representative of the state’s once-renowned round-ball heritage. IU stumbled once again and missed the Big Dance altogether. Oregon’s opponent was eliminated by Covid and the only other Beavs fan I met was due to a rest room break at a bar appropriately called The Wild Beaver. I was wearing my Oregon State baseball shirt.
The three flights in from Portland to Indianapolis went relatively smoothly but sleep was hard to come by. A 5:30 a.m. run through a nearly abandoned terminal at O’Hare got me through the night – that’s 2:30 a.m. Portland time! The first stop after the airport was The World of Beer where I enjoyed my first cold one. Former IU star Dan Dakich hosted a live radio show that was organized by another friend of mine. I tried my best to work in some of my oldest media pals into our fast paced schedule while I was in town, while grabbing some BBQ wings. The Day 2 lunch was at the Workingman’s Friend with other dudes from my past. Next, on the agenda were stops at The Yardhouse, Slippery Noodle, Harry & Izzy’s, and 10 West. For me, it was an exhausting trip down memory lane in the town where I spent 15 years of my life. I was proud that the Hoosier State could pull off this basketball extravaganza, but without the packed arenas and screaming crowds these efforts were futile.
Over the two night span, I got together with 7 fellow basketball buds and made a few phone calls to those who couldn’t be there. Everyone was curious about the unprecedented experience of all these games in central Indiana, but the crowds were disappointing and the venues seemingly empty thanks to Covid. Zip ties were used to disable seats that were strategically socially distanced. At first, it looked like you could move down to empty chairs closer to the courts, but you couldn’t sit in them. Entire sections were blocked off and the atmosphere was sadly sterile. Plus, the mask patrol was monitoring everyone on cameras and warning us of ejection. I’m sure the players were glad to have live supporters, but their voices were lost in the cavernous void. It was better to stay home and watch the action on TV, because the party crowds on the street or in the stands were sorely missing. A year ago downtown Indy was bustling with activity even on a normal day, but the tourney came off as a ghost town despite all these teams and fans in attendance.
One of my highlights of being back home again in Indiana was a bacon and maple cream long john, made by a popular donut spot. This was a late night surprise left on the doorstep of my good friend’s condo. His place is a bit far from the downtown action, so he did a lot of shuttling us around. We had a great time as always, bemusing about the miserable IU season and speculating on a new coach. March MADness took on new meaning with the anger we expressed in both 2020 and 2021. I’m home and back in the blog business, with lots of good weekend memories.
It’s laundry day – how’s that for excitement! Yesterday, I did get out the apartment for some wine tasting at L’ Angolo and Eminent Domain. It was good to spend some time with two lifelong friends – our first get together since November. In the meantime, it’s been Zoom calls, phone, and text, as we suffered through the downfall of I.U. basketball. The time together gave us a chance to discuss the upcoming NCAA tournament action and the uncertain fate of our Hoosiers as fellow alumni. There was little else to talk about. I will miss them both when we move from Oregon to Florida in less than three weeks.
The stress is building, as we continue to work on closing, packing, and traveling. I’m taking a break this weekend for some basketball games in Indianapolis, once I make my picks. A former business acquaintance in Austin lets me participate in her family pool. I’m sure they’re glad to take my money every year, so it’s become a tradition. With the cancellation of last year’s event, it was the first time I at least broke even. I’m inclined to pick the nine BIG teams to go as far as possible, but I’ll we’ve been able to see is them beat up each other down the stretch. There’s no means of comparing how they stack up to the other conferences, and frankly all I’m familiar with in making my selections.
I leave Thursday night for my flight to Indianapolis, and will wait until then to fill out my brackets. Covid could become an even bigger factor in determining who will be able to play. For the first time in history, there are also stand-by teams in case any of the 68 invitees can’t participate. It’s been an unusual year in college basketball, culminating with the firing of both the Indiana and Minnesota coaches – more conference fall-out from the teams that failed to punch their tickets to the Big Dance.
Basketball is always the big news in March, and when you’re team isn’t in the tournament, all you can talk about it what went wrong. A lot went awry at Indiana University. The only course of action for the fledgling Hoosier program was to fire the 10 million dollar man. Archie is out! One of the other mistakes after the Bob Knight era was the hiring of Kelvin Sampson, who ironically has his Houston Cougars playing at Assembly Hall (Simon Skjodt) in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Davis, Sampson, Crean, and now Miller – four strikes and you’re out!
It was a year when Bob Knight returned to Assembly Hall, tournaments cancelled, masks required, Trump fired, and a dismal finish in the BIG. An Archie Miller buyout was heavily discussed, but I didn’t feel the university could financially pull the trigger. I was wrong! As a good friend pointed out – all they needed to do was ask 7 million Hoosiers to each donate a $1.50! A new coach will undoubtedly be announced once a National Champion is crowned. Cheaney, Drews, Alford, and Smart – the list of potential successors is endless, but finding the right fit will not be easy. Michigan and Georgetown have had quick success with former players. While other teams are enjoying March Madness, only Indiana will experience true madness. The “Big Dance” for a new coach begins, if it hasn’t already been decided. Archie Miller – You’re Fired!
It’s March and on the last two days of the regular season I don’t have a dog in the fight. I.U. was the first to be eliminated. Their season is mercifully over. Purdue was beaten a few days ago by Ohio State. The undefeated Zags easily won their tournament a few days ago so they aren’t playing this weekend. The Beavers beat the Ducks in basketball, while the Ducks prevailed in baseball, a rare flip-flop of program strengths. My four most hated teams are battling it out for the BIG bracket title, a tournament that I.U. has never won since inception. Not much to look forward to over the next few days except the tourney draw.
When I get to Indianapolis next weekend, I will struggle with allegiance. The Ducks and Boilers will get another chance for post season glory, while the Zags should cruise through their first two games. Oregon State will only get in, despite three straight Pac12 wins, if they beat Colorado today, a team they’ve lost to twice. The number 12 has been added to their jerseys as a reminder that they were picked to finish last in the conference by the pre-season pollsters. They could win the Pac12 tourney for the first time in program history. Now that’s a fighting Dog!
The Hoosiers were the worst kind of dog, finishing with six straight conference losses, rather than peaking for a March Madness run. They face an off-season of uncertainty as Archie Miller’s fate is determined. Trayce Jackson-Davis will not be back though I don’t see much of a future for him in the NBA. He certainly got to the free throw line frequently but the rim doesn’t favor his short game and he can’t shoot well from the charity stripe. He could be a star if he stayed in college two more years, but Archie is not a teaching coach. The G-League is his certain destiny. The only guy that did hit free throws this year, Al Durham, could come back for another year – but probably won’t. I’m not at all looking forward to next year without the shooters, big bodies, or innovative coaching that can effectively compete in the BIG. Unless there is change, my hapless Hoosiers are nothing but a barkless dog without a fight!
It’s depressing irony that four Indiana basketball schools will probably be playing in Dallas or done for the year while the NCAA tournament takes place in their back yard. Only Purdue will represent what was once the greatest basketball state in the nation. Indiana, Butler, Ball State, and Notre Dame will all end the regular season with losing records. Will the NIT even have them? Indiana will probably finish 10th in the BIG with the first nine likely going to the Big Dance. Notre Dame is looking at 11th in the ACC, just behind Duke that still has a slim chance of making the field. Butler sits at 10th in the Big East and Ball State 8th in the MAC. It was also a bad year for Valparaiso (10-18) and Evansville (9-16). Indiana State topped both of them in the Missouri Valley conference at 15-10 but tourney winner Loyola and runner-up Drake will probably get the nod. Could Dallas also be a destination for the Sycamores?
The #4 seed Boilermakers got a March Madness double-bye in the BIG battle and have a chance at favorable NCAA placement in their home state if they win on Friday. I will support them once I.U. has officially been eliminated, which will probably be sooner than later. Purdue will sadly be the sole state representative once the Big Dance starts next week. I hope to see them in person, fully vaccinated, when I travel to Indy on the 19th. Boiler Up and Go Ducks!
#10 seed I.U. plays #7 Rutgers tonight in the BIG tournament, facing the possibility of going 0-3 this year against the Scarlet Knights. If the Hoosiers can pull of the upset, they would face Illinois on Friday, who also swept them in the regular season. As poorly as the Hoosiers have played this year, two big upset wins could get them in with a 14-14 overall record, although they’d have to win at least one more to assure a .500 season. The conference games are in Indianapolis, after all, and maybe the rims will be kind for once. Fat Chance!
Well, Indiana is not going to the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis but I am! A friend surprised me with tickets yesterday morning to the first rounds at Bankers Life and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. I’m amazed he got tickets considering only 25% capacity, but this was presumably repayment for taking him to the MLB All Star Game a few years ago. We had planned to go to Arlington a year ago for a Cardinals spring training match-up against the Rangers in the brand new Globe Life Park, but that game was cancelled like everything else last year. I was glad that he thought of me and will stay with a long-time friend in Indy who’s attended several tourney games with me. I will throw my allegiance this year to the Ducks, Zags, or maybe even the Boilers or Illini.
At first I was reluctant to go, bitter about the I.U. season and their inability to go to the Indiana-based tourney – some of which will be held on their own floor. However, it’s a historic occasion with all 68 teams playing in the state. It will also add some excitement to Sunday’s tournament draw that will determine who we’ll be seeing on Friday, March 19th and Saturday, March 20th. In addition, the games fall in a small window between doctor & dentist appointments, my vaccine shot, closing, packing, and loading for the move to Florida. We’ll also pass through Indianapolis for the Final Four, but chances are slim for a ticket to that event. With tomorrow’s single-dose Johnson & Johnson appointment, I should be somewhat safe on the flight and at the various venues.
March Madness started on a positive note with my high school team winning the Elkhart sectional. The merger of the two schools has once again made them sports competitive with success in both football and basketball this year. When I graduated in 1969 we were often a state powerhouse with enrollment exceeding 4,000, but the addition of a second school weakened both athletic programs. I’m glad they are now competitive, but disappointed that the once unique Blue Blazer nickname has be changed to the all-to-common, boring-roaring Lions. Why not Tigers or Bears? Oh My! Charger and Blazer fans are still revolting, but it’s still our team. They play a talented Gary West Side team in the regionals this Saturday. I’m excited about going back home to Indiana and seeing some of the NCAA tournament action. Tourney Bound!
It’s another lackluster Saturday with just a touch of sunshine. Normally, I might be excited about gameday and the I.U. vs. Purdue rivalry, but I’ve lost all hope, relying solely on the women for a victory. Yes, I’m a pessimist who typically forecasts doom, but I honestly don’t see a way. I’ve come to expect turnovers, missed layups, bad free throw shooting, and air balls. I don’t understand how these players can be exceptional in high school yet somehow fall apart under the guidance of coach Archie Miller. It seems like both Miller brothers are in jeopardy of losing their jobs, with Sean’s recent NCAA violation allegations. Miller Time (See Post #35) has turned into a really bad hangover at both Indiana and Arizona!
Purdue football was mercifully saved from sure slaughter with the cancellation of the Oaken Bucket Game in 2020. There’s no such luck for Hoosier basketball – the game will tip-off as scheduled. I’m certain to hear from all my Purdue buddies before, during, and after the game, drooling with anticipation. I.U. is in danger of losing five straight conference games and nine straight to the #23 Boilermakers. Miller Time for the Hoosiers has never happened. The 60 point mark is the key with I.U. 0-5 this year when under and 12-8 with the over. The Hoosiers are 6-0 when they hold an opponent under 63. The January game ended with Purdue winning 81-69. It’s too bad there’s a time clock, thinking of the once popular Four Corner offensive stall also known as “Keep Away.”
I.U. was an unbelievably pitiful 2-20 shooting threes in their last game against Michigan State. They were 3-18 versus the Boilers in the first loss. How can these guys possibly be this bad and Purdue so good? Also, it’s not just a game here and there – it’s every game. This is why we probably should not show up on Gene Keady Court this morning. To make matters worse, it’s also Senior Day, adding more fuel to the West Lafayette fire. I’m not sure I can even watch – perhaps my mask should cover my eyes instead of mouth. However, I will also need a gag to keep from scaring our dog once the basketball starts clanging off the rim. Please prove me wrong, but I’m embarrassed already of our consistent game of Hopeless Hoops.