Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Hoosier basketball.

Monday, February 26

IU Faces Must-Wins This Week

So here's what we know heading into Wednesday's game at Northwestern. For starters, it's the Hoosiers' last Big Ten road game and given the way they've stumbled away from Assembly Hall, it's a good thing. Call it a relief, call it a challenge, but IU must find a way to win. If so, they will certainly cruise on Saturday against last-place Penn State and thus clinch third in the Big Ten.

Of course, they could blow it with another road loss, which is why the coaches called a rare Sunday meeting with the players. The gist of it was to emphasize that IU has to beat Northwestern, and if it's ugly or lucky, nobody will care. Just win baby.

It should be easier with senior point guard Earl Calloway back after a shoulder injury. He could have played Saturday at Michigan State, but he was apparently held out as a precaution. In fact, if you have a bad anything, the rugged Spartans are the last team you want to face. Look for Calloway to play Wednesday and, health permitting, the rest of the way. IU will need him if it is to make some March noise.

And, yes, despite the recent slide of four losses in six games, the Hoosiers can have a successful noise. But they need forward D.J. White playing like a guy with NBA potential and not a guy who succumbs to adversity and frustration. They need freshman guard Armon Bassett (pictured) to continue playing beyond his years.
We've seen plenty of March flameouts in recent years. We don't need to see anymore. Figure, we won't.

Saturday, February 24

IU Not Quite Tough Enough Against Michigan State

If you're an Indiana fan (and you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't), the Michigan State loss hurt. The Hoosiers had a 10-point halftime lead, a 13-point edge early in the second half.

They were forcing turnovers and hitting threes. They weren't getting anything from D.J. White, but freshman guard Armon Bassett was playing like he didn't know he was a freshman. If senior point guard Earl Calloway was still out with a shoulder injury, Bassett would make it irrelevant.

Then it all slipped away. Rod Wilmont (pictured) and A.J. Ratliff became non-factors. Drew Neitzel broke free for three three-pointers. Raymar Morgan and Travis Walton broke loose for big plays. The Spartans surged and the Izzone fans roared and when it was over, IU was done, a 66-58 loser.

So once again the Hoosiers fought the good fight. They were tough minded and competitive and tenacious. They just weren't that way long enough. Once again the second-half road was their nemesis.

That's the bad news. The good news is that they will win their last two regular season games -- at Northwestern on Wednesday and against Penn State next Saturday. They will finish 20-9 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten and if that's not Ohio State good, it will be good enough for a NCAA Tournament berth. And doesn't that matter the most?

Friday, February 23

Tough Task For IU

How tough is it going to be for Indiana to win at Michigan State Saturday night?

Well, for starters, IU has struggled on the road, which puts it on part with every Big Ten team except Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Hoosiers are 1-5 on the road in the Big Ten, 2-7 overall.

Then there’s the fact the Spartans have surged since returning home following a four-game winning streak. They’ve won three straight, including an upset of No. 1 Wisconsin.

Finally, IU has lost 12 straight at the Breslin Center. It hasn’t won there since 1991, when Calbert Cheaney was leading the Hoosier charge.

Still, IU has won the last two meetings, and three of the last four. If Earl Calloway can play and play well, the Hoosiers have a chance. If not, maybe freshman Armon Bassett (pictured) is up to the challenge. If not, it’s going to be a long trip back from East Lansing.

Tuesday, February 20

IU Looks To Roll Against Minnesota

Kelvin Sampson was a little grumpy today (let's just say he's not a fan of the TV show "24"), but hey, when you've got a slump to fix and Big Ten opportunity to achieve, maybe grumpiness comes with the coaching territory.

Anyway, IU hosts Minnesota tomorrow night and the Hoosiers absolutely have to win to control their conference destiny. They will. They had a good practice Monday (D.J. White was especially sharp) and will be ready to run their home record to 14-0 this season.

The Gophers seem unlikely to do anything about it. They are 9-18 for a reason, and it's not because they have all-world talent. They are directed by interim coach Jim Molinari, a veteran guy who really has no chance for success. Not this season. Not with this group. So look for IU to roll.

Saturday, February 17

IU Must Play Tough At Michigan

Okay, sure it looks a little grim, with IU heading to Michigan with less than ideal preparation, injuries to two key players (Earl Calloway and Lance Stemler) and the confidence-jolting loss at Purdue to deal with.

Still, this is a game the Hoosiers can win if they have the right mindset and approach. Michigan is not the second coming of Florida. It is an emotionally fragile team that consistently lacks the toughness to play to its potential.

Yes, the Wolverines play better at home. Yes, they are desperate to turn around a slide that will seemingly keep them out of the NCAA Tournament yet again. Still, IU has the talent and motivation to win this game. It likely will come down to will. And in this area, the Hoosiers should have the biggest edge of all. That should be the deciding factor.

Thursday, February 15

Hard-Working Sampson Can't Prevent Loss

Kelvin Sampson might not be the hardest working sideline coach in the Big Ten, but he takes a back seat to nobody.

You should have seen his leaping pirouette during the closing minutes against Purdue. We'll give him a 10 for effort, an 8 for elevation.

Sampson couldn't believe guard Joey Shaw was called for a charge and shouted at the officials in general, Sid Rodeheffer in particular. It didn't matter. The call stood.

And have you noticed that Sampson doesn't fool around when he feels the need to call a timeout, such as when Purdue guard David Teague began burying three-pointers.

In the end, it wasn't enough. Teague scored a career-high 32 and Purdue won 81-68 to avenge last month's loss in Assembly Hall.

Now IU gets to do it again Saturday at Michigan. Maybe this time it will get it right.

Wednesday, February 14

Delay Puts IU In A Bind

While we wait for IU and Purdue to get it on, it's time to consider what the short-term implications will be.

For the Boilers, it's minimal. They don't play again until traveling to Iowa next Wednesday.

For the Hoosiers, however, it causes a problem. They are set to play at Michigan on Saturday afternoon, so the weather delay cuts a day off their preparation. They get Friday to prepare. That also will be a travel day.

Michigan, meanwhile, got its Tuesday game at Michigan State in (it lost 59-44). The Wolverines will have more than enough preparation time, plus they're at home.

Yes, this puts IU in a bind, but then, life is full of unexpected glitches. The Hoosiers are fully capable of winning this game. The Wolverines are known for not playing to their experience and potential, although they certainly are more formidable at home. No matter. This is a game IU can win.

First, of course, it has the Boilers to deal with. The Black & Gold will be ready, and Target No. 1 will be Hoosier guard Earl Calloway (pictured). Yes, he'll hear it from fans, but then, there's the old cliche that they don't boo nobodies.

So he should take it as a compliment.

Tuesday, February 13

IU-Purdue Game Moved To Thursday

Okay, hold off on your Indiana-Purdue anticipation. The game has been rescheduled to Thursday because of the winter storm.

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, in consultation with Big Ten and IU officials, plus state and county officials, decided to push the game back a day. It is set for 7 p.m.

"We spent a majority of the day gathering facts," Burke said. "The decision comes down to safety. We decided to move the game to Thursday to allow for more time to make the roadways safe for travel."

The game could be postponed again if the situation warrants it.

"We'll take a look at the situation again tomorrow," Burke said, "but we think we can play the game on Thursday."

Could IU-Purdue Game Be Postponed?

Whatever happened to global warming?

Maybe it missed Indiana because the weather just might cause the postponement of Wednesday's IU-Purdue game.

Purdue officials are consulting with Indiana, the Big Ten and state police to decide what to do. The Lafayette area is under blizzard conditions -- lots of snow, high winds, major drifting. As soon as the plows clear a road, it gets covered again.

Conditions are bad enough for IU to change its travel plans. It was supposed to leave today after practice. Now, it will wait until 8:30 Wednesday morning to bus to Purdue.

If the state police shut down I-65 and keep it closed for much of tomorrow, it wouldn't make much sense to play the game.

Figure if the game is postponed, it will be rescheduled for Thursday. We'll let you know as soon as we know something.

Purdue Fired Up For IU

The big snowstorm of 2007 is here, which can make you wonder what affect it will have on the Indiana-Purdue game. More than likely, nothing. The Big Ten requires teams to arrive at the game location the night before, so the Hoosiers should get to Mackey Arena fine. The crowd might be a different story, although you'd like to think the roads will be fine by Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime, the Boilers are firing themselves up about the game. They'd love to pay the Hoosiers back for last month's blowout loss. IU coach Kelvin Sampson understands that. Figure the Hoosiers will be ready for Purdue's early intensity. What they might not be ready for is continued hot shooting by guard David Teague. He killed Michigan State a week ago with some outrageous shooting. If he's that hot again, it could be a long night for the Hoosiers.
Indiana counters with its own hot-shooting guard, Rod Wilmont (pictured), and the kind of defense that can ruin even the best offense.

This game has NCAA tourney implications for both teams, more for Purdue, and we haven't been able to say that in several years. Snow or not, it should be a hot time at Mackey, and that's a welcome change for this rivalry, which IU has dominated lately.

Saturday, February 10

Indiana Rallies Past Illinois

Defense is a wonderful thing and if you don’t believe it, you should have seen what Indiana did to Illinois in the final 3 ½ minutes of today’s nail biter.

The Illini were lucky to get off a shot in that stretch, during which IU closed with a 7-0 run for a 65-61 victory.

Just when it looked like Illinois was poised for a dramatic victory, the Hoosiers ratcheted up the heat. Besides the tough-as-you-don’t-want-to-face defense, they got a couple of big D.J White free throws, a huge driving shot from Armon Bassett and more free throws from A.J. Ratliff and Earl Calloway.

This culminated an intense atmosphere in which Illini coach Bruce Weber faced constant student section verbal assault. Whether it was chants of “Eric Gordon!” or “Shut Up Weber!”, the crowd added the kind of home court advantage you need to win such a thriller.

And when that wasn’t enough, there was IU coach Kelvin Sampson urging his team on with a fist shake and “Let’s Go!” exhortations.

So Indiana heads into Wednesday’s showdown at Purdue with a 17-6 record, 7-3 in the Big Ten. Illinois is 18-9 and 6-6.

IU Fans Prepare For Weber

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, whatever that means. For IU fans today, it will be a chance to show Illinois coach Bruce Weber what they think of him. Sure, they'll boo, but student groups want to go beyond that.

One group wants students to dress like babies and taunt Weber, a reference to what they feel was his whining when recruit Eric Gordon rejected the Illini for Indiana. Another group wants to bring baby rattles, bibs, pacifiers, bonnets and other baby ware.

Meanwhile, IU students plan to dress like coach Kelvin Sampson, which means a blue shirt and red tie and kakhi pants.

Will it work? The Hoosiers, after all, lost at Illinois last month. One thing is sure, it certainly won't hurt.

Saturday, February 3

Indiana Misses Big Chance

Indiana missed a big chance to put the heat on Wisconsin and Ohio State in the Big Ten race. It also cost itself a ranking opportunity.

Funny, isn’t it, how fast things can chance.

All the Hoosiers had to do was win at Iowa, a team it had already handled at Assembly Hall. But then, as North Carolina found out against North Carolina State, nothing comes easy in conference play.

IU (16-6 overall, 6-3 in the conference) lost to the Hawkeyes 81-75, which was tough to take considering its upset victory over No. 2 Wisconsin a few days earlier. What was even more disappointing was the fact the Hoosiers were hammered on the boards, which is certain to be a point of emphasis in practice.

Coach Kelvin Sampson demands that his teams rebound. IU was crushed 42-15 on the boards and gave up 15 offensive rebounds.

Now the Hoosiers are two games behind Wisconsin and Ohio State in the league standings with seven games to play. That will be difficult to overcome.

IU gets a week off before hosting Illinois next Saturday. Then it plays four road games in the ensuing two weeks. To stay in Big Ten title contention, it will likely have to sweep those games. Given that the opponents are Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern, well, a sweep seems unlikely.

But then, you could have said the same thing a few weeks ago about the Colts making the Super Bowl.