Indiana University players love Brooklyn. The Hoosiers won an early-season tournament there, over a rapidly improving Georgetown team. Last night, the Hoosiers won again-- as their two 2 players were selcted in the first four picks in the NBA Draft-- again, in Brooklyn.
In case you missed it, Victor Oladipo went second to the Orlando Magic, while Cody Zeller was drafted second by the Charlotte Bobcats. It was a strange draft-- one which saw Anthony Bennett selected first overall, and erstwhile first pick Nerlens Noel wait to Number 6 to get his name called-- then promptly get traded to Philadelphia.
The whole thing got me thinking though... if Zeller and Oladipo were as good as the NBA thought they were, why couldn't they meet expectations in the NCAA's? For that matter, why couldn't they win three Big Ten Tournament games? Gramted. Indiana wasn't that great Kentucky team of a year earlier, but something just doesn't fit here. Further-- does that mean Indiana may not be as good as everyone thinks they might be next year? IU is preseason Number 23 nest year-- but needs great contributions from the incoming freshmen to make the kind of continuing impact that the last group did.
But regardless of what they do in the NBA, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo-- along with Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls-- did the impossible. They, along with coach Tom Crean, reversed the darkest days in recent Indiana basketball history. Crean is still there-- as is Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell. Sheehey and Ferrell has made the team for the World University Games-- and that exposure will be invaluable. Can they give the leadership this team is missing without Zeler? Only time will tell... but know this-- Indiana University has weathered the storm, and is returning to its rightful place as one of the state's top entertainment values.
Finally, the last two times Louisville has won national championships, Indiana has followed with one themselves. Louisville in 1980, Indiana in '81. Louisville in 1986, Indiana in '87. Louisville in 2013-- Indiana in...?? It isn't likely, but history is in their corner.
The 2012-13 High School season is over... now it is time for the first annual TTOS (Tom's Take on Sports) Awards...
-- Inspirational Story of the Year: How could you NOT go with the Rivet Patriots' run to the Class A Baseball final? The Rivet tournament run had all the makings of a great novel. A near brush with tournament "death" in the Loogootee Sectional, a coming together, brilliant baseball deep into the tourhament, and a State Championship-- that fell from their reach in the final two innings. This story may have been better than the 2009 run to the final. Both times, Lafayette Central Catholic ended their dream; but both times, the teams far outweighed expectations to get to the final. One note: a sequel may be coming for Rivet next year. Let's see how the Patriots handle being favorites...
-- Inspirational Story of the Year, runner-up: The Linton Miners basketball team. Austin Karaszia's crowning moment. You heard the saying "a loss is as good as a win"? That was extremely true of the Miners. Linton lost at fellow SWIAC member Clay City in early February-- but that loss proved a catharsis, as the Mimers regrouped. And how-- they blitzed through the 2A Basketball tournament, all the way to Conseco Fieldhouse. Ironic though-- a team who keeps falling a step short of the State Finals in football makes the state championship in basketball. A fitting final note; Karaszia will play at South Alabama; the Jaguars are coached by another area star-- former WRV and Butler University standout Matthew Graves.
-- Boys' Basketball Player of the Year: Karaszia. He was the leader of that team, and he got the job done on the hardwood. Enough said.
-- Girls' Basketball Player of the Year: Rhagen Smith. She took her Sullivan team as far as she could, but Mater Dei was just too talented. A "Just Imagine" footnote... Just Imagine if Sullivan's girls had more than six-player depth...
-- Underrated team of the year: Rivet's golf team. Brett Melton-- of WAOV's "Sports with Brett"-- talked about them all year; they were every bit as good as advertised.
-- Teams on the rise: North Knox and South Knox basketball. Christoper Graman and Jordan Meurer for the Warriors; Isaiah Stafford for the Spartans. These next 2 years are gonna be fun...
-- Team of Right Now: North Knox girls' basketball. This is Maria Gugliotta and Co.'s final shot. If it is going to happen for them, the time is now...
-- Co-Hosts of the Year (or any year): Doug Carroll and Jeff Hendershot. My Friday Preview buddies have been with me through everything... and I welcome them back for another year. Remember..the Preview starts again on August 23rd...
-- It is always refreshing when both the Reds and Cardinals are in the thick of things in the NL Central. The Reds are my team-- dating back to the Big Red Machine days of the 70's... boy, talk about spoiling a kid early in his life-- and the Cardinals are the preferred team of this area. Always a pleasure to have those two duke it out...
-- Hockey ratings are up this year for the Stanley Cup finals. It lasted one game less than it should have, but the Chicago Black Hawks win in 6 games was a satisfying end-- just not as great as if the Hawks would have taken it back at the United Center in Game 7. But... a series that began with a 3-overtime game, had 4 overall overtime battles, and ended with 2 goals in 17 seconds for the Hawks? Yeah, that works...
-- How valuable are good assistants to head coaches? We will find out with the Pacers next year... as Indiana loses assistant Brian Shaw. Shaw has become coach of the Denver Nuggets; he was coach Frank Vogel's right hand man for the last couple of years
-- Turnaround of the Year candidate...the U-S Men's Soccer team. After basically being left for dead a year ago, Jurgen Klinsmann's side has recovered to lead their World Cup qualifying group with five games left to go. It looks like they are going... to Brazilllllll... for the 2014 World Cup.
-- The Colts' Tailgate Tour is coming to Vincennes tonight. Great idea by the Colts' promotion group to bring the Colt experience throughout the state of Indiana. Go see it... it has been here serveral years, and is worth the time.
-- Finally, we are just under 2 months away from High School football season. Here's to hoping for another great season across the area.
Summer is here, and that means fishing in many of the area's lakes, rivers, and streams. Not to mention fish stories around a campfire about "the one that got away." Only this isn't a fish story-- this ia a Rivet story.
An ancient writer-- I am not sure at this point who-- wrote these words... "The saddest thought of tongue or pen-- Is knowing what "could have been." For five innings Saturday in Indianapolis, Rivet had the largest fish in the sea squarely on the hook-- the big, bad, Black Knights of Lafayette Central Catholic. Rivet led 3-0 after five innings-- six outs away from an elusive state championship. After six, they were 3 outs away and still leading 3-1. Howver, the hardest thing in sports is leaving the door open a tiny crach... and Rivet did.just that. L-C-C pushed across 2 more runs in the 7th to tie it 3-3, and they won it with a single run in extra innings. L-C-C 4, Rivet 3. The Knights are champions again for the fifth time in a row. For Rivet, it's "wait 'til next year"-- the brave cry of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers finally got their title in 1955-- and looking at the Patriots for next year, this coming-up year has the feel of 1955 to it. I hope I am right-- because THIS "one thatr got away" is more than a fish story. It will make Rivet players sick to discuss it-- and motivated to win it all in 1955-- excuse me, 2014. With all but one player coming back-- and L-C-C moving up-- don't count it out.
The one that didn't? Look about 90 minutes up the road to Bloomington, Indiana. The Hoosiers baseball team is the talk of college baseball fans. The first Big 10 team to get to the College World Series since 1984, and the first now to win a game since Barry Larkin's Michigan team did it in 1983. Indiana is 6-0 in the postseason, and defeated a fantastic Louisville team 2-0 on Saturday night. Up next: Mississippi State. Will the magic carpet ride end before the final? It might-- there are an awful lot of good teams out there... but Indiana is showing that hey, they aren't bad either-- and they belong among college baseball's elite this year. Go Hoosiers!!
It has been a sport I shouldn't love...but I do. I did not grow up in an area with a National Hockey League presence, but nonetheless, I found myself drawn to hockey. It started when I was a young child-- 7, 8 years old-- and I started listening on the radio to the old Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA. After the Stingers folded in 1979-- along with the WHA-- hockey left my life, until I found the St. Louis Blues-- again, thanks to radio-- in my high school junior year, 1984. Legendary announcer Dan Kelly was my entre into keeping up with the Blues in the old St. Louis Arena.
I said all that to say this. I love the Stanley Cup... and especially the Stanley Cup Finals. Last night put that affection on display. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Black Hawks-- two of the "Original Six" in the NHL-- played close to two full games in one night. Final score-- Hawks 3, Bruins 2... in triple overtime. They played almost five hours of hockey before coming to a decision-- and guess what... it was only the FIFTH longest hockey game in history.
Playoff hockey is a different animal. First, players in the playoffs grow beards until their teams are eliminated-- that is the reason for all the post-season facial hair. Second, there are no ties, no shootouts, no replays in overtime.. you just play until you get a winning goal. One of these days, there will be a "Breakfast with Stanley" game that will go five, six overtimes-- of 20 minutes each. You heard it here first...
Third, the Stanley Cup is the sole property of the CLUB who wins it, until the NHL season starts again in October. Each player gets at least a day with Stanley, to use it however he wishes. Try doing that with the NFL's Vince Lombardi Trophy. The most famous Stanley celebration? The New York Rangers, after winning the Cup in 1994 for the first time in 54 years. That thing was so beat up, they had to set new rules for its care. How wild was the Stanley party that year? Even Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin stuck a snout inside the bowl of the Stanley Cup.
Finally, it is sport's only true pan-North American competition-- at least in the U.S and Canada. It was-- and is-- really Canada's game, but it was absorbed down here, and Americans have dominated the Cup competitions in recent years. Can anyone remember the last time a Canadian team won Lord Stanley's Cup? The Toronto Blue Jays won baseball's World Series in 1992 and 1993, but that has been the only time it has been taken outside America. Canada at least has a fighting chance of bringing their most famous trophy back home. How crazy is Canada about the Cup? Vancouver's most famous park is Stanley Park-- named after... yup, you guessed it... former Governor General-- and original cup provider-- Lord Stanley.
Last night was a great start to the Stanley Cup Finals. Let's hope the other games live up to the promise-- and longevity-- of Game 1. Oh, and by the way... I am still a Blues fan to this day. All condolences are welcome...
OK I admit it... for three decades, I have had a strange sports affectino. I have been a long-time fan of the U-S Men's National soccer team. I started with them in the mid-1980's...before they made the first of so far six straight World Cup appearances in 1990. This was when American soccer was starting its turnaround from third-rate (at best) soccer nation, to a perennial World Cup contender, if not perennial favorite.
Last night, the MNT-- or Men's National Team-- defated Panama 2-0 to go top of its six-team qualifying group... or the Hexagaonal. The U-S is 3-1-1, with 10 points-- 2 up on a Costa Rica team they beat at home in the "Snow Bowl" in Denver. They are also 3 up on Mexico, with one game in hand against "El Tri." Next up... a trip to Salt Lake City to face Honduras. The Americans lost the "Hex" opener to the Hondurans in Tegucigalpa, on a day considered a national holiday. The atmosphere was too good for Honduras not to win... now it's the Americans' turn to welcome the Hondurans to a game at Salt Lake City's altitude.
Experts say the Americans have a 98 percent chance now to qualify for the World Cup. I am not sold on their imminent qualification....yet. Did they look good against Panama? Yes, undoubtedly. Goalkeeper Tim Howard had to make one good save late, but that was it. The U-S had 2 goals...and it could have been four. A Michael Bradley shot ticketed for the corner hit Clint Dempsey and deflected away, and a DaMarcus Beasley shot-- that would be Fort Wayne, Indiana's DaMarcus Beasley, by the way-- struck squarely against the post. The U-S dominated the game-- but at times, I still thought the American offense lacked direction, and at times, precise passing. To be fair, at others, they were wonderful-- and that Eddie Johnson goal from a pass by Geoff Cameron was stellar.
The U-S is 21-0-2 in games at home since 2001. As I said, next up is Honduras at Salt Lake City. They also have Mexico and Jamaica at home, and Costa Rica and Panama on the road. The experts say the Americans are almost shoo-ins for the World Cup-- but a win this coming Tuesday would ease some of my nerves.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourself again for another chance-- maybe the last one-- to see Tim Tebow bring his undersize quarterback talent and oversize leadership skills to the NFL. The New England Patriots threw Tebow a lifeline yesterday, with a chance to become their third string signal caller.
Leave it to Bill Belichick to think he can manage Tebow Time. Actually, the credit here goes to the man who originally draftted Tebow-- Josn McDaniels, former Denver Bronco coach and offensive coordinator under Belichick. You remember McDaniels-- the man who drafted Tebow in the first round-- against all odds...and started Tebow-- against all odds...and for whom Tebow won games and got Denver to the playoffs-- say it with me class...against ...all... odds. (I feel like Phil Collins now...)
So can Belichick do what Rex Ryan couldn't-- manage Tebow Time? It all depends on three things-- Josh McDaniels' innate ability to use Tebow, Belichick's Germanic ability to marshal Tebow's talent (whatever THAT may be), and Tebow's ability to swallow his pride. He did it once for McDaniels-- including a shift at wide receiver against my Cincinnati Bengals a couple years back.
Remember Mike Vrabel? The linebacker whom Belichick turned into a pass-catching tight end in short yardage situations? Hmmm... Could Tebow become a short-yardage TD specialist as a running back? He would be a triple threat from that spot-- running, receiving, and catching.
There is a prototype for that-- a former Indiana University QB of some note named Antwan Randle El. Passed for 2,000 yards and ran for 1,000 more at IU-- and became a great specialist wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can the same thing happen for Tebow?
We have seen the early 20's show up in Tebow's attitude. Many want to make him into a saint-- but like all of us, this saint has some flaws...not the largest of which is a healthy ego. By the way, that is typical of a lot of 25 year-olds. But if Tebow can swallow a bit of his pride, and use his versatility to his advantage, he can become what many think he could be-- a unique NFL-caliber talent. Whether or not that is as a quarterback has yet to be seen. Only Belichick knows-- and like usual, he's not telling.
Making history. The Indiana Hoosiers' baseball team did something historic-- something that has not been done for 29 years, or 118 years-- depending on your point of view.. Indiana's baseball program started operations in the mid-1890's, but had never been to a national championship-level series-- like the College World Series is now. The other date is 1984-- when a Michigan team, headed up by future Reds Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, made the College World Series. Until Indiana get there yesterday, that was the last Big Ten team to make the trip to Omaha, Nebraska.
The Big Ten's time is coming. Indiana was joined by Illinois in the collegiate NCAA Tournament regional round. That was the first time in many years the Big Ten has received more than one bid to the tournament. But what Indiana did was amazing, but not necessarily unexpected. Indiana was rated between 15 and 20 the entire year, and the Hoosiers are 42-17 on the season.
The Indiana bandwagon is growing. How much is it growing? Mark Cuban is on board. Cuban is known for his work in Texas, but he is an IU Business School graduate. His first multi-successful broadcast venture-- Broadcast dot com-- was based on a love of Indiana basketball. As expected, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean lent his support. Expect other reaction before long from other successful personages...
Now, onto the Series. First up-- another successful supririse...the University of Louisville. The Hoosiers took two of three from the Cardinals when they played earlier this year. Louisville knocked off Number 2 seed Vanderbilt in Nashville-- much like Indiana defeated Florida State in Tallahassee. These two teams will come in relatively even-- but the winner of this one will have a big leg up in Omaha.
Indiana and Louisville-- two of the Midwest's best, and both in the middle of very successful athletic years-- play this coming weeeknd in the College World Series. No matter what happens, Indiana has made history. Let's hope the history lesson can continue at least through next week.
Exceeding expectations. We celebrate a man this weekend who did nust that-- Red Skelton. Skelton got a break by hanging around the old Pantheon Theater and was "discovered" by performer Ed Wynn. Skelton used that break and made a fantastic career out of it.
Exceeding expectations. The Rivet Patriot baseball team came into the IHSAA baseball tournament 1 game above .500, at 13-12. They won their first tournament game with an out play at the plate against Loogootee. They won their second tournament game with a final out throw pulled a Shoals player off the first base bag by 2 inches. What has happened since? Rivet beat three teams, two of them excellent ones, without breathing that hard. Now they get a chance to do it again tomorrow against Rising Sun.
Exceeding expectations. Another Rivet team exceeded expectations.. the 2009 edition of the baseball Patriots did it too-- a team I call the "Talented Ten." It included a girl who played a boy's game-- Emily Montgomery-- and did it respectably. That team too bolted out of nowhere, and didn't stop until reaching Victory Field.
Is a similar stop coming for the Rivet baseballers of 2013? We will find out Saturday... but one thing for sure-- win or lose, Rivet's baseball Patriots are getting used to exceeding expectations.
We hear a lot-- and rightfully so-- about the great success of the Rivet Lady Patriots in the IHSAA Class A basketball tourhanment. That success includes four Class "A" semi-state titles in the last five years... in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013-- and a state title in 2011. But this column isn't about the RLP. It is about RPB-- Rivet Patriot Baseball.
This is the second time the Patriot baseball team has exceeded expectations. In 2010, the "Talented Ten" got to Victory Field, before falling in the state championship game. In 2013, the Patriots were within 2 inches-- TWO INCHES!! of elimination to the Shoals Jug Rox, when a final out throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag. That miscue led to the tying and winning runs being scored on the same play.
You talk about taking advantage of second chances. RPB got their wakeup call-- and rose and shone against Barr-Reeve in the sectional final, and big time in the regional against both Trinity Lutheran and Number 5 South Central.
Next up... Rising Sun. The Shiners are 22-3 and ranked fifth. Here though, I have to favor Rivet, for various reasons. (Boy I hope this isn't the kiss of death...)
1. Regardless of whether this one is played at Jasper or Plainfield, it is a much longer trip for Rising Sun. They are 45 minutes from Cincinnati, and have quite a haul to either place.
2. Rising Sun is 22-3, but again-- strength of schedule kills the Shiners. They play in the Ohio Valley Conference-- and in my opinion, as a former resident of that area, that conference is still weaker than Rivet's Blue Chip Conference year-in and year-out.
3. Strength of sectional. The best training ground for a deep run in Class "A" is the North Daviess/Loogootee Sectional... in any sport. Playing teams in the "Amish Triangle"-- Loogootee, North Daviess, and Barr-Reeve-- is a great proving ground. Those three teams' athletic success proves it.
4. The Tom Lee adage, after living in both areas. In Class A and 2A, mark it down-- a good Southwest Indiana team is always favored over a good Southeast Indiana team. There ARE exceptions (read: Southwestern Shelby last year), but more often than not, it is a pretty consistent rule.
All those point to a Rivet return to the baseball state championship. The major wild card though-- this IS baseball, and baseball is THE most unpredictable sport in all high school sports. You want proof? Ask the 2010 Rivet baseball team...
The Indiana Pacers lost last night to the Miami Heat in seven games. Miami did what Miami does-- they proved why they are the defending champions. King James recaptured his throne, with help from his "princes"-- Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, along with Ray Allen.
it is well known that "winners write history." The Heat move on, and the Pacers go home-- proud, confident, and focused as a power for 2013-14-- but going home nonetheless. The Heat win, the Pacers lose. But did they? Let's look at what the Pacers have won...
1. Respect. Who knew the Pacers even existed after Reggie Miller retired? It took Frank Vogel, a blue-collar work ethic, and budding starts like Paul George and Roy Hibbert to turn the Pacers into a contender. They have become a pale copy of the Boston Celtics from 1981 to 1986. The difference? Those Celtics had stars-- Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale. The Pacers don't have that caliber of star-- yet. But the legend is growing...
2. Prominence. This team reminds me of the Pacers of just under 20 years ago, when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time, versus the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. They would lose Conference finals to the Bulls, the Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks before breaking through to The Finals themselves in 2000. They lost that Finals appearance to the L-A Lakers. I hope they can get back earlier than that-- but the Heat still await.
3. A "what might have been" scenario. How would this series have been different if the Pacers had won Game 1?
4. A future. Note to Pacer management-- keep this team together. Are the Pacers a star away from winning the NBA finals themselves? You never know what the future and free agency may hold...
All that aside, thanks to the Indiana Pacers. You did Indiana proud. You put the best capper anywhere on what was a GREAT basketball year for the State of Indiana.
The Capital One Cup. The trophy goes to the best men's and women's all around college sports champions each year. Most years, Indiana University is not scaring the top 10 of the cup-- but this year is a different year. Let me put it simply-- overall, 2012-13 has been one of THE best overall years for Indiana University.
Duke leads the Capital One Cup standings with 82 points. Not surprising... Duke is to collegiate athletics what Carmel is to Indiana high school athletics. Indiana is second, at 76 points-- and tied with overall Big 10 power Michigan.
Not only is a great year for Indiana, but it is a big year for the Big 10. Along with Indiana and Michigan, Ohio State is tenth in the Capital One Cup. Indiana won the NCAA men's soccer title, and had deep runs in the men's basketball, and so far men's baseball, tournament. The only major sport Indiana had problems in? Football-- but that is another record in futility.
It is a long way from 2003, when the Indiana athletic department was in disarray. The department was deep in debt, the football team had like 35 scholarship players, and the Indiana basketball team was about the only thing that kept the program afloat. The basketball team had its own nadir, following the Kelvin Sampson debacle in 2008. Tom Crean came in and picked up the little that was left, and eventually rebuilt the program.
Is it possible that the basketball team's rising waters is floating all the other Indiana boats? The results-- second in the Capital One Cup, and a return to sports prominence-- say Indiana is back-- and quite possibly better than ever. Now if they can do something about that football thing...