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.

Friday, March 23

Stemler Has Surgery

We’re about to tell you Lance Stemler’s status after ankle surgery -– if this surprises you then you missed today’s column –- but first we have to tell you about some good news.

Another perfect stranger, this time from Somalia, emailed us offering a deal to share in his stash of diamonds. Can you believe the luck? All we have to do is, well, we’re not sure what we have to do, because we deleted it to avoid one of those nasty scams or computer viruses.

Anyway, back to Stemler, the junior college transfer who started out shooting so well, but who struggled the second part of the season, had surgery today (Friday) to correct a chronic left ankle injury.

It had been bothering him for a while, but he reinjured it prior to the Feb. 15 game at Purdue. Still, he played the last eight games and averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds.

How long will he be out. The word from IU is indefinitely. The good news is he has the off-season to get healthy. And if that health includes getting his shooting touch back, all the better.

Monday, March 19

Final -- We Think -- Basketball Thoughts

As we wrap up this Indiana basketball season, we find ourselves still in Sacramento because of the uniqueness of air travel in which in would cost $173 to return Monday and $1,400 to return Sunday.

It's still sunny and warm, which is a far cry from Indiana, not that we want to rub it in.

Anyway, as we take a last look at Kelvin Sampson's debut season, consider this thought: if IU had scored at least 60 points in each of its 11 losses, it would have won six of them. If it had scored at least 55 points, it would have won three of them.

Thus, with just a little more offense, the Hoosiers would have been a top-4 seed in the NCAA tourney and, perhaps, still be playing.

We'll never know, of course. What we do know is IU will defend the heck out of you and that won't change. If it can develop a few more consistent scorers, who knows what could happen next season.

Hey, the Hoosiers might even play closer to home in the NCAA tourney, and that would be a big change. They haven't had a drive-able first-round site since 1993, when they played in Indianapolis.

Saturday, March 17

IU Looks For Upset

Are you like me? Did you pick No. 1 Ohio State to need overtime to get past Xavier today?

Sorry. Of course I didn’t see that coming. What I did see, in the hours leading up to Indiana’s second-round battle with UCLA, in a gorgeously warm morning (not to rub it in) was my first redwood tree and giant sequoia. They soared into a cloudless sky from Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento.

You bet they were impressive, but not so impressive as to make me lose sight of what is really important to IU fans -- a victory over UCLA.

To beat the second-seeded Bruins, the Hoosiers have to hit their three-pointers. They also need a big game from forward D.J. White. He’s the one IU inside player UCLA worries about. He can make a game-altering difference.

Of course the Bruins know that, which is why they will double team him hard and fast. That’s nothing White hasn’t seen before. They key, though, is how hard and fast the Bruins are able to swarm him, and White’s reaction to it.

If he does it well, who knows? Maybe IU, unlike Xavier, will close the upset deal.

Friday, March 16

Earthquakes and UCLA

Is it me, or is it a problem when you look in the newspaper and see a graphic box titled, EARTHQUAKE WEEK?

Okay, it's probably me, but just so you know, there were 84 earthquakes in the general area of San Francisco this week, and being in Sacramento, which isn't that far away, I am taking notice. Also so you know, there were no significant quakes along the San Andreas Fault, but there was a 2.8 quake near The Geysers. Where's The Geysers? I have no clue, but if it's close enough to mention in a paper, it's too close for me.

Anyway, on the basketball front, the Indiana Hoosiers are practicing as I write this in preparation for Saturday's West Regional second-round game with UCLA. The Bruins were dominant in their victory over out-gunned Weber State that snapped a two-game losing streak to the have-nots of the Pac-10. Figure they'll be in prime-time form against the Hoosiers.

They defend as well as any team in America, which suggests that this could be a very ugly game for the IU offense. Of course, even if the Hoosiers win 6-5, as long as they win, no Cream 'n Crimson fan will care.

By the way -- they won't win 6-5, but they might win 60-55.

Wednesday, March 14

Put Up Or Shut Up

OK, so Gonzaga showed up for Wednesday’s press conference about an hour late, the result of getting stuck in Sacramento traffic. It delayed their interview session and public workout.

Will it affect their performance Thursday night against Indiana?

Not likely.

No, the Hoosiers will have to play well. They’ll have to contain the Zags’ guards and get some inside production from D.J. White and, hopefully, somebody, anybody else. Mike White, Ben Allen, Xavier Keeling. It doesn’t matter. White needs some inside help.

White didn’t play last year against Gonzaga because of his foot injury. He’s healthy now. He’s ready now. Beyond that, this is a different team under Kelvin Sampson than it was under Mike Davis. It’s tougher, more focused, more committed.

“We’re playing defense a lot better,” guard Earl Calloway said. “Our focus is on defense mainly. The emphasis is on playing hard and competing harder. We’ll still go inside to D.J., but the main thing is playing defense.”

If they do, the Hoosiers win. It’s as simple as that.

Saturday, March 10

IU Looking At Middle Seed

So now that Indiana’s Big Ten tourney is over, it’s time to focus on what’s really important -- the NCAA Tournament.

That means trying to guess what the seed the Hoosiers will get. We could also try to guess the site, but that’s too complicated. IU didn’t play well enough to merit the kind of seed that would guarantee a nearby site.

CBS Sportsline projects the Hoosiers as a No. 9 seed. It puts Purdue at No. 10.

A No. 9 seed would mean a first-round matchup with a No. 8 seed. In this case, Sportsline lists Arizona, Villanova, Duke and Butler in that category. puts IU as a No. 10 seed and projects a matchup with Marquette in Winston-Salem.

Of course, all this is just speculation. There’s no way they know what’s going to happen unless they have a secret source in the NCAA Selection Committee, and they don’t. In fact, the Selection Committee hasn’t finalized everything because there are still conference tourney games to finish and, more than likely, upsets to occur that will mess up even the best-intentioned plans.

In the meantime, consider this -- with a few breaks, IU could make the Sweet 16. That would mean NOT being a No. 8 or No. 9 seed because that would mean playing a No. 1 seed in the second round. Anyway, we’ll know soon enough.

Thursday, March 8

Fearless Big Ten Tourney Prediction

Today we're going onto a limb and tell you exactly how the Big Ten tourney will play out.

How can we do this? First, because we have analyzed all the data, all the trends, all the history.

Second, because we're idiots.

Anyway, why bad mouth ourselves when we can bad mouth Michigan, which will again lose to Ohio State and again show why it is the most under-achieving team in the Big Ten.

But that's not our main point. Bet the house that Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois will advance to Friday's quarterfinals.

Yes, a sharp reader will note that Michigan and Michigan State have already won as we write this, but let's not get distracted. Anyway, in the quarterfinals, Ohio State will beat Michigan, Purdue will beat Iowa, Wisconsin will beat Michigan State and Indiana will beat Illinois.

In the semifinals, Ohio State will roll over Purdue while Indiana will edge a Badger team weakened by Friday's war with Michigan State and still hindered by the loss of Brian Butch.

Ohio State will win it all. The Hoosiers will take consolation in getting a much better NCAA Tournament seed. And if all this doesn't happen as predicted? Well, let's just hope you didn't bet the house.

Sunday, March 4

A Memorable Finale

There were plenty of pre-game hugs and handshakes to go around, an early game tongue lashing (sometimes Rod Wilmont needs a kick in the you-know-what) and the kind of grand finale you hope for on Senior Night.

In the end Indiana was way too much for under-achieving Penn State. So the Hoosiers ended the regular season with a 94-63 victory, a two-game winning streak and the third seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament.

Not a bad debut season for coach Kelvin Sampson.

Of course, fair or not, you’re remembered most for what you do in the postseason, which means doing well in the NCAA Tournament.

IU is almost certainly assured of an at-large bid no matter what happens later this week in Chicago. It received a first-round bye and will play the winner of Illinois-Penn State on Friday night.

The Hoosiers (21-9) are playing for a better NCAA seed and, perhaps, a first-round site close to home -– Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, and Lexington offer the best possibilities.

Until then, let’s remember the seniors and how they went out in style at Assembly Hall -– Wilmont rallying for 21 points and 11 rebounds after Sampson had to chew him out for some early lackluster defense.

How about Earl Calloway ignoring the soreness from a shoulder injury to total 15 points and 11 assists? Finally, there was Errek Suhr playing steady as ever in his fan favorite role.

“I’ve been about to live my dream,” Suhr told the Assembly Hall crowd after the Penn State victory. “I’ve been living it for four years.”

Added Wilmont about his height-challenged teammate: “Errek gives everything he has -– for being 4-2.”

For the record, Suhr is listed at 5-9.

Sampson called Suhr a “rock for this program.” He said Calloway “is a great ambassador for our program.” He praised Wilmont’s toughness and energy and passion.

Wilmont is a fifth-year senior from Florida who once was so unhappy about the Hoosier winters, he wanted to leave. Now, he basks in the glory of IU basketball.

“I’m going to miss this,” he said, “but I’ve been here way too long.”

Thursday, March 1

Stay Out Of Rod's Way

Sometimes it's important to have a well-organized, well-analyzed, well-executed offensive game plan.

And then sometimes, as when Rod Wilmont is shooting as if he's made a deal with the devil, it's best to stay out of his way.

So Wilmont got red hot at Northwestern. Specifically, he was record-hot from three-point range. He did what Steve Alford couldn't, what Jay Edwards and A.J. Guyton couldn't. He hit nine three-pointers and the Hoosiers needed every one of them in their 69-65 victory. He also set a career high with 31 points. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.

Can you say monster game?

All that led IU (19-9) to a much needed road victory. Now it returns to friendly Assembly Hall and a regular season finale with Penn State. The Hoosiers will roll. They will finish the season unbeaten at home -- 15-0. They will extend their home winning streak to 17 games.

How do we know this? It's our job to know. So bet the house on it.