Bryant And Blackmon Jr. Lead Indiana’s Rout Of McNeese State

Against IPFW on Wednesday, Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr. were afterthoughts on offense as both scored a mere four points each during the Hoosiers’ win over the Mastodons. However, tonight it was Bryant and Blackmon Jr. leading the Hoosiers’ offense as Indiana defeated the McNeese State Cowboys 105-60 for the Hoosiers third straight win. It was also the team’s third game this season where they have scored over 100 points.

Blackmon Jr. led all scorers with 24 points and also added five rebounds and a career-high two blocks. Bryant scored 18 points on 7 of 7 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds, five of them on the offensive end of the court.

After McNeese State scored five straight points to tie the game at 11-11 with 13 minutes to go, the Hoosiers outscored the Cowboys 28-9 over the ensuing seven minutes and the Hoosiers maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the game.

A total of five Hoosiers scored in double-figures, with Troy Williams (13 points), Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell (12 points), and Max Bielfeldt (11 points) joining Blackmon Jr. and Bryant. Ferrell also had seven assists.

Tevin Jackson, who was averaging only 4.9 points per game for McNeese State heading into Saturday, scored a team-high 13 points and also grabbed seven rebounds. Jamaya Burr, the Cowboys leading scorer on the season with 13.9ppg, added 12 points.

The Hoosiers will get the week off to focus on final exams but will get a big test when they face Notre Dame next Saturday in Indianapolis as part of the Crossroads Classic.

Stats From The Boxscore:

  • This is the third time this season that the Hoosiers have scored 100+ points in a game. The other two occasions were against Austin Peay (102 points) and Alcorn State (112 points).
  • This is also the third time this season that James Blackmon Jr. scored 20+ points. All three games have occurred when the Hoosiers as a team scored 100+ points.
  • Blackmon Jr. recorded a career-high two blocks against the Cowboys. He had two blocks during his entire freshman season.
  • Thomas Bryant’s performance Saturday (18 points and 9 rebounds) might be his best this season. The nine rebounds tied a season-high he set against Eastern Illinois and the 18 points were one off his season-high 19 that he scored against St. John’s.
  • Bryant is also clicking from the charity stripe. After shooting just 58.3% (21 of 36) over his first eight games, Bryant has hit 85.7% (12 of 14) of his free throws during his past three games.
  • Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell recorded seven assists to give him 11 games in a row with five or more assists, which is the longest such streak of his career.
  • In addition to his 13 points, Troy Williams again stuffed the statsheet with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. Williams also made his first three-pointer in the last six games.
  • Not only did the Hoosiers only commit nine turnovers, they also scored 30 points off of the Cowboys’ 19 turnovers.
  • McNeese State was ranked tied for 312th in the NCAA in points allowed per game, but had yet to allow another team to score 100+ points until the Hoosiers did Saturday night.
  • This is the third straight game the Hoosiers have limited their opponent to under 35% shooting. Morehead State shot 31.4% (16 of 51), IPFW shot 34.8% (23 of 66), and McNeese State shot 31.7% (20 of 63).

All In The Cards: Thursday Night Football Edition (Week 13 Recap and Week 14 Preview)

Because the Arizona Cardinals are playing on Thursday night I decided to yet again combine the previous week’s recap this this week’s preview. This week the Cardinals will be hosting a Minnesota Vikings team that was just destroyed by the Seattle Seahawks and is looking to bounce back in a huge way. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Before we get to this week’s matchup, let me make a couple of comments about last week’s games:

How I Did With My Week 13 NFL predictions:

  • Arizona 27, St. Louis 3 – (1-0)
  • Green Bay 27, Detroit 23 – (2-0)
  • Tampa Bay 23, Atlanta 19 – (3-0)
  • Buffalo 30, Houston 21 – (3-1)
  • San Francisco 26, Chicago 20 – (3-2)
  • Cincinnati 37, Cleveland 3 – (4-2)
  • Tennessee 42, Jacksonville 39 – (4-3)
  • Miami 15, Baltimore 13 – (4-4)
  • Seattle 38, Minnesota 7 – (4-5)
  • New York Jets 23, New York Giants 20 – (4-6)
  • Denver 17, San Diego 3 – (5-6)
  • Kansas City 34, Oakland 20 – (6-6)
  • Philadelphia 35, New England 28 – (6-7)
  • Carolina 41, New Orleans 38 – (7-7)
  • Pittsburgh 45, Indianapolis 10 – (8-7)
  • Dallas 19, Washington 16 – (8-8)

Week 13 Observations:

  • I understand that referees don’t want to get in the way of the final play of the game and thus let the players play in those situations, but if you just called a facemask penalty on the Detroit Lions that extended the game to an untimed down, you should stay consistent and call the holding and block in the back penalties on the Green Bay Packers offensive line during the “hail mary” throw. Maybe they were ticky-tacky calls but so was the facemask call.
  • Was it a fluky win that required everything to go right? Yes but I still give a lot of credit to the Philadelphia Eagles after a two-week span that looked like they had given up. Also, I can’t help but feel that what happened to Arizona last season is happening to New England this season. Patriots fans are literally putting all of their faith on players returning for the playoffs. News flash: it may take awhile for those players to get re-acclimated so even if they do come back they won’t be like their old-selves.
  • It’s weird how the media defines a team as “hot”. Two teams that are considered the hottest teams are the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks. The reason they are considered hot is because they are on long winning streaks, with Seattle winning three in a row and Kansas City winning six in a row. However, by that definition the Arizona Cardinals, winners of six in a row, should also be considered a hot team and the Carolina Panthers, who have won 12 in a row, should be considered the hottest team. Maybe a “hot” team is a designation for a good team playing great lately while the Cardinals and Panthers are great teams who have just won a bunch in a row? I don’t know the answer but that’s just my best assumption.
  • We have put up with division-winners making the playoffs despite not having winning records because the argument has been that it doesn’t happen very often. Well it’s going to happen for the fourth time in the last six seasons (2010 Seahawks, 2011 Broncos, 2014 Panthers, and the 2015 NFC East Winner as well as possibly the 2015 AFC South Winner). That list doesn’t even include the 2013 Packers who won their division at 8-7-1. This seems more like a problem than a coincidence and should be looked at by the NFL during this offseason.

Minnesota Vikings @ Arizona Cardinals

Last Meeting: L 21-14 @ Minnesota (10/21/12)

Due to the fact that the Minnesota Vikings were just obliterated by the Seattle Seahawks, there are mixed opinions on how that will affect the team when the Arizona Cardinals host them Thursday night.

One side of the argument is that the Vikings will be playing with a chip on their shoulder and will throw everything they have at the Cardinals to prove that they really are contenders this season. Crazy things always tend to happen on Thursday night (see the Hail Mary in Detroit last week) so this may be an instance where the Vikings just want this one more and so they will pull out the win.

The other side of that argument is that the Vikings were exposed against the Seahawks as a “good but not great” team that benefited from an easy schedule and can be easily shut down if you can contain Adrian Peterson and force Teddy Bridgewater to throw. The Cardinals will see that the Seahawks are rounding into playoff form and will want to clinch the division as soon as possible to prevent Seattle from making a last-second push. With the wounds of Sunday’s game still fresh, the Vikings will fall behind early against the Cardinals and will give up, clinching Arizona its second straight playoff berth.

As you might expect from me, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I do think this is a “kitchen sink” game for the Vikings as they have a lot to prove after being blown out their last two home games. Cardinals fans know how the Vikings feel as Arizona has been in this position before,  trying to recover from a Seattle beatdown. That being said, Cardinals fans also know how a huge loss like the one Minnesota had last week can affect a team. The Vikings will give it their all but if at any point during the game the Cardinals have a two-score lead, the Vikings will start to panic and things will fall apart again for Minnesota. As long as Arizona gets off to a quick start they should win this one, but the longer they let Minnesota hang around the better chance the Vikings have of pulling off the upset.

Prediction: Arizona 31, Minnesota 20

My Week 14 NFL Predictions:

  • Carolina 27, Atlanta 16
  • Buffalo 30, Philadelphia 27
  • Chicago 23, Washington 17
  • Pittsburgh 35, Cincinnati 31
  • San Francisco 20, Cleveland 6
  • Detroit 28, St. Louis 10
  • New York Jets 27, Tennessee 24
  • Indianapolis 29, Jacksonville 26
  • Kansas City 38, San Diego 14
  • Tampa Bay 31, New Orleans 24
  • Seattle 28, Baltimore 17
  • Denver 24, Oakland 20
  • Green Bay 23, Dallas 18
  • New England 28, Houston 23
  • New York Giants 24, Miami 17

Week 13 Record: 8-8
Season Record: 118-74 (.615)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2
 

A Recap Of Ferrell and Williams’ Career-Highs During IU’s Win Over IPFW

Last week James Blackmon Jr. set a career-high for points scored when he poured in 33 points against Alcorn State, which marked the most points ever scored by a Tom Crean-recruit at Indiana. That distinction lasted all of eight days as Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell scored a career-high 38 points to lead the Indiana Hoosiers to a 90-65 win over the IPFW Mastodons.

Ferrell wasn’t the only Hoosier to set a new career-high against the Mastodons, as Troy Williams grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds and blocked five shots. Williams also finished with 15 points, two assists, and two steals as both he and Ferrell picked up the slack for a Hoosier squad that only received a combined eight points from James Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant.

So how exactly did Ferrell score 38 points? How did Williams grab so many boards? Let’s take a look at the play-by-play to analyze how these two feats materialized:

Under 16 Timeout (1st Half): Ferrell – 2 points, Williams – 1 rebound

  • When a player finishes with a career-high they usually get off to a fast start in that particular statistic. However, nothing about Williams or Ferrell’s performance to start the game hinted at either of them having career games. In fact, at this point Williams had more turnovers than rebounds (2 to 1) and Ferrell hadn’t even attempted a shot (his two points came off of free throws).

Under 12 Timeout (1st Half): Ferrell – 2 points (4 total), Williams – 1 rebound (2 total)

  • Second verse, same as the first. Things aren’t looking good for the Hoosiers at this point as John Konchar of IPFW had just tied the game at 17 and was heading to the free throw line after the break to complete the “and-1”. Again at this point Williams has more turnovers (3) than rebounds.

Under 8 Timeout (1st Half): Ferrell – 6 points (10 total), Williams – 4 rebounds (6 total)

  • It’s not a coincidence that as soon as Ferrell and Williams started picking up the pace that the Hoosiers started to separate themselves from the Mastodons. A 17-17 deadlock turned into 29-22 Hoosiers lead by the next media timeout. At this point all 10 of Ferrell’s points are either layups or free throws

Under 4 Timeout (1st Half): Ferrell – 5 points (15 total), Williams – 5 rebounds (11 total)

  • We finally get Ferrell’s first jump shot, a three-pointer, which would set the tone for him in the second half. Meanwhile, let’s take a moment to realize that Williams just grabbed nine rebounds in an eight-minute span. It happened so fast in realtime that it caught many people off guard, including myself. To put it into context: Williams had more rebounds between the 11:43 mark and the 3:55 mark of the first half than any other Hoosier had the entire game (Max Bielfeldt was the Hoosiers’ second-leading rebounder with eight boards).

Halftime: Ferrell – 2 points (17 total), Williams – 2 rebounds (13 total)

  • Ferrell’s career-high for points heading into this game was 30 so Ferrell was on pace to break it. Only problem is that no one noticed because Williams finished the first half one rebound short of his career-high. Want to hear another outrageous stat? Williams outrebound IPFW by himself in the first half. I’m serious; the Mastodons had 12 team rebounds heading into halftime while Williams had 13 by himself. Before Williams had his nine rebounds in eight minutes run, IPFW was leading the rebounding battle 7-6.

Under 16 Timeout (2nd Half): Ferrell – 7 points (24 total), Williams – 2 rebounds (15 total)

  • Williams tied his rebounding career-high on literally the first play of the second half by rebounding a missed layup by Brent Calhoun. Williams set his new career-high just a few plays later by rebounding the shot he blocked. Yet it was during this time-frame that people started to realize that Ferrell was within range of his career-best point total. He scored these seven points on three different shots: first a three-pointer, then a layup, and finally a mid-range jumper.

Under 12 Timeout (2nd Half): Ferrell – 2 points (26 total), Williams – 0 rebounds (15 total)

  • With the Hoosiers cruising by 20 points at this point, it looked like Ferrell would fall short of breaking his career-high for points. Williams was busy setting a different career-high as he blocked his fourth shot of the game during this time-frame. He would finish with five.

Under 8 Timeout (2nd Half): Ferrell – 2 points (28 total), Williams – 1 rebound (16 total)

  • While Ferrell and Williams didn’t do a lot in this period, it was crucial for the next four minute period as IPFW went on a 12-5 run to cut the lead to 14. This forced the duo to come back in and make one final run of their own.

Under 4 Timeout (2nd Half): Ferrell – 8 points (36 total), Williams – 3 rebounds (19 total)

  • The Mastodon’s comeback attempt basically ended in a 20 second sequence where Williams grabbed an offensive rebound and found Rob Johnson on an open three followed by a defensive rebound that Williams drove to the basket to draw a foul. Ferrell then provided the exclamation point with back-to-back three pointers, the first of which tied Blackmon’s point total against Alcorn State before surpassing it with the second one.

Final Buzzer: Ferrell – 2 points (38 total), Williams – 0 rebounds (19 total)

  • A lot of starters were subbed out during the timeout but Williams and Ferrell were still out there with a chance to hit 20 and 40 respectively. Williams did get his fifth block but an offensive rebound prevented him from getting his 20th board of the game. Ferrell made one last jumper as he finished the game making his last three shot attempts.

Hoosiers In The NBA: Making Sacrifices To Help Their Teams

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Every basketball player who makes it to the NBA has some form of motivation that helped them reach this level. Some of the most common motivations are statistics, fame, and money. However, our former Hoosiers have a different motivation: winning games. It takes a complete team effort to consistently win so some players have to sacrifice things like stats, fame, and money to help their team achieve its ultimate potential. This week I will go over how each former Hoosiers has adjusted their play during this season to help their teams:

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

Vs Memphis (L 113-104): 8 points (2-5 FG)(4-4 FT), rebound, 4 assists, block, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 20 minutes.

@ Houston (L 108-101): 10 points (4-10 FG)(1-1 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 33 minutes.

Vs Cleveland (W 114-108): 19 points (7-9 FG)(1-2 FT), rebound, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 31 minutes.

Coming into this week, Eric Gordon has played 384 regular season basketball games. In all but 17 of those games he has been the starting shooting guard. So it says a lot about how much Gordon values winning to openly accept Head Coach Alvin Gentry’s proposition to come off the bench for the New Orleans Pelicans, especially since he is in a contract year and is playing some of his best basketball since his Clippers-days. For the record, Gordon’s move to the bench was not performance-related but, similar to Victor Oladipo’s situation with the Orlando Magic, is so that he can add scoring to a bench unit that doesn’t have much punch besides Ryan Anderson. The move didn’t last very long as Gentry put Gordon back in the starting lineup after one game and placed Jrue Holiday with the second unit for the last two games. It’s unknown whether or not this change is permanent or if Gentry is just trying out different lineups, but what is known is that Gordon has publicly stated he’d happily return to the bench if it’s what is best for his team.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ Minnesota (W 96-93): 13 points (5-11 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 28 minutes.

@ Utah (W 103-94): 14 points (5-13 FG)(3-3 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, block, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 24 minutes.

@ Los Angeles Clippers (L 103-101): 24 points (10-20 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 34 minutes.

Oladipo’s recent move to the bench is the perfect example of a player sacrificing something (the sacrifice in this case being his place in the starting lineup and about five fewer minutes of playing time) to help his team win. I wrote a lot about Oladipo’s move to the bench last week so I’m not going to go in-depth again on the situation, but just know that things have worked perfectly. Although it did come to an end against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Orlando Magic was still able to achieve their first five-game winning streak since January of 2012. The fact that Oladipo, who a good percentage of Magic fans feel is the team’s best player, has not only accepted but has embraced his new role just confirms his dedication to winning. Then again, Hoosier fans knew that already, but it’s good to know that three years removed from his time in Bloomington that his approach hasn’t changed.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

@ Los Angeles Clippers (L 102-87): 2 points (1-4 FG), rebound, 4 personal fouls, 13 minutes.

Vs Dallas (L 115-112 OT): 0 points (0-1 FG), rebound, personal foul, 6 minutes.

Vs Indiana (W 123-111): 6 points (3-3 FG), 4 rebounds, turnover, personal foul, 18 minutes.

@ Minnesota (W 109-103): 4 points (2-4 FG), 3 rebounds, assist, steal, 2 turnovers, 15 minutes.

Nothing has changed for Noah Vonleh from last week, which is very interesting by itself. Vonleh has still been starting at power forward for the Portland Trail Blazers despite the team having Meyers Leonard, the previous starting power forward that Vonleh replaced, back from injury for more than a week. Instead, Leonard has anchored the second unit and has played power forward during crunch time. Being in the starting lineup, Vonleh doesn’t have to sacrifice as much as other former Hoosiers but then again he’s only a starter in name, averaging only 15.6 minutes in 10 starts. Vonleh could complain about not getting starter minutes but he’s smarter than that. He understands that his role is relatively small at this stage of his career and so he’s just going with the flow so that he can help his team.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

Vs Golden State (L 116-99): 6 points (2-6 FG)(2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, turnover, personal foul, 17 minutes.

@ Chicago (W 102-96): 17 points (6-10 FG)(5-7 FT), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, steal, block, 4 personal fouls, 32 minutes.

Since being drafted fourth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the formerly-known Charlotte Bobcats, Cody Zeller’s role with the organization has changed so many times that I’ve lost count. No former Hoosier currently in the NBA has sacrificed more for the sake of winning than Zeller. It started right from the start of his rookie season when Zeller, drafted for the purposes of being the franchise’s starting center, was forced to back up Al Jefferson for a team that would go on to clinch the eighth seed in the eastern conference. Since then, Zeller has been in and out of the starting lineup based solely on what the Charlotte Hornets need him to do. Yet he’s accepted every new challenge and has used his time in different roles to improve different basketball skills. That’s why it’s so awesome that Zeller is playing very well filling in at center for the injured Jefferson. The position is still Jefferson’s when he returns, but the Hornets have to be thrilled to see Zeller succeed doing what he was initially intended to do for the franchise.

Season averages:

Eric Gordon: 17.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.0apg, 0.90spg, 0.20bpg, 1.7tpg, 2.2fpg, 41.1% FG, 35.4% 3FG, 86.6% FT, 34.4mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 14.7ppg, 6.1rpg, 3.9apg, 1.22spg, 0.83bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 39.5% FG, 27.0% 3FG, 80.3% FT, 30.8mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 2.9ppg, 3.0rpg, 0.3apg, 0.14spg, 0.29bpg, 0.8tpg, 1.8fpg, 39.7% FG, 18.2% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 14.2mpg.

Cody Zeller: 7.4ppg, 5.1rpg, 0.8apg, 0.71spg, 0.53bpg, 0.8tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.7% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 69.5% FT, 21.2mpg.

Hoosiers Aggressive On Offense and Defense During Blowout Win Over Morehead State

There was little doubt that Indiana would play better defensively after embarrassingly giving up 94 points to Duke on Wednesday. Yet the Hoosiers showed a defensive aggressiveness in their 92-59 win over the Morehead State Eagles that hasn’t been shown all season.

“Really proud of the effort, energy, attitude, the way they responded”, said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about the aggression his team showed against the Eagles. “It’s been a long couple of weeks and I thought they did an outstanding job of learning and applying it and bringing their practice game and practice preparation to the course, and they did it for a long period of time.”

After giving up quite a few open shots when playing zone against Duke, Indiana stuck to playing man-to-man for most of the game against Morehead State. The Hoosiers not only succeeded in man-to-man coverage, but they looked a lot more comfortable than they did when playing the zone the past few games. That comfort aided a suddenly confident defense as they held the Eagles to a season-low 59 points and only let them shoot 31.4 % from the floor.

“We were a little more connected in our coverages, and especially with our switching”, said Coach Crean. “Their mind-set was excellent. They were rotating well. We were drawing charges. We didn’t spend the game in rotation.”

Indiana was also aggressive on offense, attempting a season-low 15 three-pointers and instead they scored 46 points in the post by driving to the basket, scoring layups in transition, and getting the ball in the paint when a Hoosier was either open or had a mismatch. Because the Hoosiers went to the basket so much, it led to a season-high 36 free throw attempts. The Hoosiers took advantage as they shot 75% or better from the free throw line for the third game in a row after failing to reach 70% in five of their first six games.

The Eagles, who came into the game allowing the second fewest points per game in the NCAA at 55.2, ran a Wisconsin-style grind-it-out offense to limit Indiana’s offensive possessions and it worked for the first seven minutes as Morehead State held a 13-12 lead. Yet the Hoosiers were able to speed up the pace and from the 13:30 to 4:00 minutes left in the first half the Hoosiers went on a 27-6 run to take control of the game and would never relinquish it. Due to the faster pace, the slow-it-down Eagles committed 23 turnovers, which the Hoosiers turned into 27 points. The Eagles also committed 28 personal fouls.

The Hoosiers will be off for a few days but will return to action this coming Wednesday against IPFW in Assembly Hall. The game will start at 7pm but will not be broadcasted on television so check for radio stations, such as IU’s student-run WIUX 99.1 FM, if you can’t attend the game.

 

Stats From The Boxscore:

  • Indiana had five players score in double-figures. Troy Williams led the Hoosiers with 16 points, James Blackmon Jr. and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell both had 15 points, Thomas Bryant had 14 points, and Max Bielfeldt scored 12 points off the bench.
  • Both Bryant (4 of 4) and Bielfeldt (5 of 5) were perfect from the floor while Williams only missed on shot (6 of 7).
  • Ferrell’s layup with 14:07 left in the first half made him the 16th Indiana Hoosier to score 1,500 career points.
  • Ferrell also recorded seven assists, which now has him four away from claiming third on IU’s all-time assist list.
  • Not only did the Hoosiers attempt a season-low 15 three-pointers, but they only made 33.3% of those shots, tying their worst mark of the season (IU also shot 33.3% from deep against Eastern Illinois).
  • In addition to holding Morehead State to a season-low 59 points, the Hoosiers’ 92 points are the most the Eagles have allowed all season, with the previous high being 66 points allowed to Illinois State.

All In The Cards: A Matchup Of Different Emotions (Week 13)

Emotions will run high in St. Louis this week as both the Rams and the Arizona Cardinals get set for a must-win game. However, the reason for needing this win is different for both teams based on their emotions heading into this weekend. This week I’ll go over those different emotions and explain why this battle between a playoff team and a non-playoff team will end up a lot closer than you might think. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Without further ado, let’s dissect the emotions that will influence this divisional battle:

Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams

Last Meeting: L 24-22 vs. St. Louis (10/4/2015)

After barely getting past the San Francisco 49ers last week, I can understand some people’s hesitation about picking the Cardinals to beat the Rams. I can also understand the viewpoint of those who think the Cards will roll because the Rams look like they have given up. The truth is somewhere in the middle, as I expect a close Arizona win.

The reason the game will be close isn’t because the Cardinals are going to underestimate their opponent like they did with the 49ers or because the Rams only try against the NFC West. While both have the potential to be underlying factors, the main focus for both teams will be simpler emotions: desperation for the Rams and anger for the Cardinals.

It’s hard to believe that this is already Jeff Fisher’s fourth season with the Rams. Despite failing to reach .500 each of his first three seasons, Fisher’s job was never in jeopardy as the franchise and the fanbase accepted the rebuilding process and knew that soon the Rams would finish above .500 for the first time since 2003 and would then proceed to retake control of the NFC West. With one more loss (the Rams are currently 4-7), that streak of 11 seasons without a winning record will extend to 12. You can only sell hope to a fanbase for so long without showing results and right now the Rams are not showing results.

The Rams have proven to be thorn in every NFC West team’s side as they are currently 3-0 against the division. However, even if they sweep the division, 7-9 won’t get the Rams anywhere (this isn’t the 2010 NFC West were 7-9 earns you a division title) unless they can win games out of division against teams that they don’t know like the back of their hand.

With everything crumbling around them, the one thing they can hang their hat on (being undefeated against the NFC West) is on the line as a loss to the Cardinals would tear down the last remaining positive for this team and force the franchise to face the fact that it isn’t improving.

With all that being said, the Cardinals want this win just as much. Arizona’s loss to St. Louis during week four not only marks the Cards’ only loss in the division but also their only home loss. If the Cardinals had made one less mistake (Arizona committed three turnovers, one of which was an opening kickoff fumble that gave the Rams right from the start), a win this week would wrap up the division and the constant fear that the Seahawks will catch up would be gone.

However, this anger isn’t just from one game. There’s also the fact that last season not one but two Cardinals’ quarterbacks saw their seasons end against the Rams. While you can’t really blame the Rams for causing the injuries (especially Carson Palmer’s since it was a non-contact injury), the Cardinals still feel an emotional grudge against the Rams for being the opponent when their championship chances last season vanished.

With both teams showing such emotion, I expect a close game. However, I think that with both teams giving their all to win this game that the better team will triumph. The Cardinals are undoubtedly the better team.

Prediction: Arizona 26, St. Louis 20

How I Did With My Thursday Night Pick:

  • Predicted Result: Green Bay 23, Detroit 21
  • Actual Result: Green Bay 27, Detroit 23

 My Week 13 NFL predictions:

  • Tampa Bay 27, Atlanta 20
  • Houston 17, Buffalo 12
  • Chicago 23, San Francisco 13
  • Cincinnati 35, Cleveland 17
  • Jacksonville 21, Tennessee 20
  • Baltimore 20, Miami 17
  • Minnesota 26, Seattle 24
  • New York Giants 30, New York Jets 23
  • Denver 27, San Diego 17
  • Kansas City 28, Oakland 23
  • New England 38, Philadelphia 10
  • Carolina 30, New Orleans 14
  • Pittsburgh 34, Indianapolis 33
  • Washington 27, Dallas 16

 
Week 12 Record: 10-6
Week 13 Record: 1-0
Season Record: 111-66 (.627)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

 

Three (Very Small) Positive Takeaways From Indiana’s Blowout Loss At Duke

When you face a team that has won 120 straight non-conference home games in a row (translation: they haven’t lost a non-conference home game since 2000), then there was a pretty good chance that the Indiana Hoosiers would leave Cameron Indoor Stadium sitting with a season record of 5-3. Well the Hoosiers did lose to the Duke Blue Devils Wednesday night, but it was by an ugly score of 94-74.

The Hoosiers actually looked like they were going to give the Blue Devils quite a challenge as Indiana responded to Duke’s 10-4 start by going on a 17-5 run that had the Hoosiers up 21-15 with 11:40 left in the first half. Then after the TV timeout, Troy Williams, who to that point had a team-high six points, collected his second foul on a Derryck Thornton and-one that cut the Hoosiers’ lead to just three points. From that point Indiana never recovered as Duke outscored the Hoosiers 33-21 during the rest of the first half and started the second half on a 9-0 run to put the Hoosiers too far out of reach.

Williams finished with a team-high 17 points and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell added 15 points and five assists. The Blue Devils were led by star freshman Brandon Ingram, who has struggled for parts of the season but caught fire and scored a career-high 24 points. Upperclassmen Matt Jones (23 points) and Amile Jefferson (8 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists) also had big games for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.

You’ll probably find a lot of articles about what went wrong for the Hoosiers (and rightfully so as both the defense and the rebounding were horrendous), so I’m going to go the other way. I dug deep into the game’s boxscore to find three positive takeaways from the Hoosier’s blowout loss. All three of them will feel fairly insignificant considering the lopsided loss but they are still positives nonetheless. Let’s take a break from all the negativity and take a look at three things that sort of went Indiana’s way:

Hoosiers were able to keep Grayson Allen in check: It seems weird to start off a list of positives by bringing up the Hoosiers’ defense, but when it came to limiting Allen, who came into the game averaging 22.6ppg, the Hoosiers became only the third team this season to hold him under 20 points and the only team to hold him under 30 points when Allen plays at least 35 minutes (Allen played a season-high 38 minutes vs IU). In fact, his whole stat line (16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) looks a lot less impressive when notice that 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists came after the Blue Devils had already pulled away from Indiana in the first couple of minutes of the second half, making those stats look fairly empty. I am aware that part of the reason Allen didn’t score much was because Ingram was having a career-night, but if you take a closer look you’ll see that Ingram had nearly no scoring help from his teammates for the first 14 minutes, as he scored 18 of his team’s 32 first half points before going to the bench with two fouls. The Blue Devils would go on to score 19 more points before halftime but without Ingram’s offensive explosion, the fact that the Hoosiers bottled up Allen early would have been a bigger deal.

IU is finally hitting their free throws: One of the weirdest and most underrated subplots of this season is the fact that this year’s Hoosiers are considerably worse at free throw shooting than they were a year ago. It’s even odder because they are basically the same group of players with Thomas Bryant and Max Bielfeldt switched in for Emmitt Holt and Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Last season the Hoosiers shot a passable 71.9% from the charity stripe, but coming into the Duke game this year’s team was only hitting 64.9% of their foul shots. The fact that they had their best free throw shooting performance of the season on Wednesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium (76.5%) is actually pretty impressive. It’s also only the third time all season the Hoosiers shot above 70% from the foul line (the other two games being Wake Forest and Alcorn State). It’s also interesting that two of their best foul-shooting games have been their most recent ones, which points to them having improved during the season. If the Hoosiers are able to bring the team’s overall average up it could be the difference between winning or losing a handful of close Big Ten games.

First game of the season with fewer than 10 turnovers: Another trend that is much worse this season than it was the previous is turnovers, which have jumped from the 12 per game last season to 17 per game heading into Wednesday. The Hoosiers had three checkmarks that they needed to hit if they wanted to beat Duke: play competent defense, compete on the boards, and limit turnovers. For as bad as some will say this loss was for the Hoosiers, know that even though this team fell impossibly behind they still only committed a season-low nine turnovers. Hey that’s progress.

All In The Cards: Week 12 Recap and Ranking Every Team By Category

Welcome to the Week 12 NFL recap! We are entering the final month of the season so that means it’s time for the NFL Playoff Machine! It also means that by now most teams have fallen into a particular category and this week I will designate which category every team falls under. In addition I’ll have my takes on last week’s games but they will be a little shorter this time. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Let’s see which category each team falls under with a month to go:

The Super Bowl Contenders: Carolina Panthers (11-0), New England Patriots (10-1), Arizona Cardinals (9-2), Denver Broncos (9-2), Cincinnati Bengals (9-2).

Obviously these aren’t the only teams that can win the Super Bowl (after all we have quite a few examples of fringe playoff teams getting hot over the last month and riding that momentum to a title), but right now I think no one would be surprised if any of these five teams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. I thought about giving the Panthers their own spot as they are the only undefeated team left, but perfect season or not their goal is still to win the Super Bowl. I do think that they have become the favorite thanks to all of the Patriots’ injuries but they are not a lock by any means. The Cardinals will want revenge for losing to the Panthers in last year’s playoffs while the Patriots and the Bengals have offenses capable of overcoming Carolina’s defense and the Broncos have a defense capable of shutting down Cam Newton.

Want A Little More Than Just Make Playoffs: Minnesota Vikings (8-3), Green Bay Packers (7-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), Seattle Seahawks (6-5), Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Kansas City Chiefs (6-5).

These are teams who will not be satisfied with just making the playoffs. If there is a “hot playoff team” this season, it will probably come from this group with the Seahawks and the Steelers as the likely suspects. The Vikings are here and not in the contenders group for the time being, but could easily jump if they beat the Seahawks this week and either beat or come close to beating the Cardinals next week. The Packers are also a team that could jump up but they have been so unimpressive the last few weeks I don’t think you can call them contenders at the moment. The Chiefs are currently the hot team but I wonder if they might have peaked a few weeks too early and will cool off by the start of the playoffs. The Colts are only in this group because they are still placing high expectations on themselves even though those expectations seem a little unrealistic at the moment.

Just Happy If They Make The Playoffs: Atlanta Falcons (6-5), Houston Texans (6-5), New York Jets (6-5), Chicago Bears (5-6), Buffalo Bills (5-6), New York Giants (5-6), Washington Redskins (5-6).

In college basketball this group would be called the “bubble”. At least one of these teams will make the playoffs (because the rules state someone has to win the NFC East) but there is a possibility that two or even three could play in January. What separates these teams from the group above is that there are no expectations if they make the playoffs. The Texans and Bears have turned things around and can already consider this season a success as long as they don’t self-combust over the last few weeks. The playoffs would just be icing on the cake for them. The Jets and the Bills want to make the playoffs just so they can start off their new coaching regimes with some promise for the future. The Falcons want to make the playoffs just so they don’t become one of the few teams in NFL history to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs. The Redskins just want to make their fans proud of them again and winning the division, and subsequently making the playoffs, would be the best way to do that. Finally, while you can never count out Eli Manning in the postseason, I’m pretty sure that Giants’ fans know that expecting more than a playoff berth would be asking for too much from this team.

Teams Trying To End The Season With Some Momentum: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6), Oakland Raiders (5-6), Detroit Lions (4-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7), San Diego Chargers (3-8).

While the Buccaneers, Raiders, and Lions all still have an outside shot of winning a wild card spot, I placed them in this category because they also still have a chance at a top-10 draft pick if they tank the rest of the season. Honestly, either direction would help the team in the long run but they need to decide now before they go 7-9 and miss out on both. The Jaguars and Chargers on the other hand would actually benefit from finishing 7-9 or 8-8 so they can gain momentum going into next season, where they would have a shot to take a step forward.

Want Nightmare Season Just To End: New Orleans Saints (4-7), Miami Dolphins (4-7), St. Louis Rams (4-7), Baltimore Ravens (4-7), Philadelphia Eagles (4-7), Dallas Cowboys (3-8).

While all of these teams theoretically still have a chance to make the playoffs, all are very unlikely to be in contention much longer due to the turmoil that is currently surrounding them. The Ravens and the Cowboys are actually decent teams that in a parallel world where they avoided injuries and bad luck would be in the thick of the playoff race. The Saints and the Rams are on the fence as to whether or not they should blow things up and start rebuilding. The Dolphins are doing their best not to have to rebuild by getting rid of coaches left and right. Then we have Philadelphia. The Eagles shouldn’t be in this category as they are only one game behind the Redskins and the Giants in the NFC East race. With neither of those teams likely to run the table, the Eagles still have plenty of chances to make up the deficit and win the division. That is, if they hadn’t imploded these past two weeks. I don’t see how they turn things around after just allowing 10 passing touchdowns to Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford back-to-back. In fact, I’d be surprised if they win another game this season. Even if this team somehow wins the division, I doubt this season would still be considered anything else than a failure unless they won a playoff game.

Fighting For Draft Position: San Francisco 49ers (3-8), Tennessee Titans (2-9), Cleveland Browns (2-9).

The difference between these three teams (since technically they aren’t yet eliminated from playoff contention) and the ones above is that the expectations for these teams were considerably lower heading into the season, making these situations nowhere near as dire. I know some may argue that the 49ers are a proud organization and so this should be considered a nightmare season for San Francisco, but everyone else knew this team would stink this season. You could also make an argument for the Titans and Browns, stating they will probably have to start over after this season. However, neither was expected to do anything this season so a rebuild was always possible from the beginning. There’s a chance that some other team earns the first overall pick, but right now these three teams are the leaders.

How I Did With My Week 12 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 19, San Francisco 13: This was maybe the worst officiated game I have ever seen. People have been talking about the terrible “roughing the passer “call on Quinton Dial’s sack of Carson Palmer and how the Cardinals weren’t penalized for snapping the ball after the play clock expired, but there were some equally horrendous call that went against Arizona. The referees called the 49ers’ “too many men on the field” penalty as a live ball foul and cost the Cardinals a down in the redzone and on another play an incomplete pass was ruled as “illegal touching” because they thought the receiver caught it with two feet in-bounds and you can’t review penalties. (1-0)
  • Detroit 45, Philadelphia 14: I actually thought the Lions might obliterate the Eagles but I didn’t have the guts to make the prediction last week. Now that I know that the Eagles’ defense has checked out, I won’t be afraid to make this prediction in the future. (2-0)
  • Carolina 33, Dallas 14: Maybe it’s for the best that Tony Romo got injured again so the Cowboys can tank the rest of the season and get a high draft pick instead of fighting for a useless playoff spot that will do nothing to help the franchise going forward. (3-0)
  • Chicago 17, Green Bay 13: You are on national television, during Thanksgiving, where you are retiring Brett Favre’s number and have the great Bart Starr in attendance, and you play like that? Bears deserve a lot of credit for the win, but I just don’t understand how the Packers have fallen off so much. (3-1)
  • Minnesota 20, Atlanta 10: I gave up on the Falcons last week so this didn’t come as a surprise. What did catch my eye was how the Vikings rebounded from the home loss to Green Bay. Also, I stand by what I said last week about Adrian Peterson deserving to be in the MVP conversation. (4-1)
  • Kansas City 30, Buffalo 22: The Chiefs look like the hot playoff team at the moment but I’m not sure they can keep up this level of play for the rest of the season and during a playoff run. I mean, sooner or later Alex Smith will throw another interception. (5-1)
  • Cincinnati 31, St. Louis 7: Bengals got back on track with a dominant win over a Rams team that is falling apart fast. Also, since the Texans are playing great ball and have a shot at either a division title or a wild card spot, the Bengals no longer have a bad loss on their resume. (6-1)
  • Oakland 24, Tennessee 21: Entertaining game between two young teams. However, the fact it was this hard for the Raiders to win tells me this isn’t the same team from the beginning of the season and that even though they won they probably aren’t in the playoff race anymore. (7-1)
  • Indianapolis 25, Tampa Bay 12: A humbling loss for the Buccaneers, who may have gotten caught up in all the media excitement of them possibly making the playoffs. Also, how well does Matt Hasselbeck have to play before we start talking about whether or not Andrew Luck gets his job back? (I’m talking strictly this season. It may be in the Colts’ best interest to sit him out the rest of this season and guarantee he’s healthy for next season.) (8-1)
  • New York Jets 38, Miami 20: A season-saving win for the Jets, who have somehow found their swagger after looking rather bland the last few weeks. Then again, it may just be a product of facing the Dolphins. Their game against the Giants will be a better test to see if they can make a run. (9-1)
  • Houston 24, New Orleans 6: As I already mentioned, the Texans have not only played their way into a tie for the division, but have also put themselves near the top of the wild card standings. Such a huge turnaround for a team that couldn’t decide on quarterback for the first several weeks. (10-1)
  • Washington 20, New York Giants 14: If the Redskins win the division that means they will play a home game in the playoffs. That means the Redskins will have good Kirk Cousins (11TDs, 2INTs at home) in the playoffs and will give the NFC East a chance to actually win a playoff game. (10-2)
  • San Diego 31, Jacksonville 25: What little hopes of the Jaguars somehow winning the AFC South probably ended this weekend when you combine this loss with how the Colts and Texans are playing right now. However, there’s still a lot going for this team if they finish strong. (10-3)
  • Seattle 39, Pittsburgh 30: A huge win for the Seahawks that currently has them in the final wild card spot. However, in that game they also lost Jimmy Graham (who was starting to click with the offense) and confirmed that the Legion Of Boom is no longer an elite defense, just a good one. (10-4)
  • Denver 30, New England 24: It should be made clear that the Broncos, not Brock Osweiler, beat the Patriots on Sunday night. That being said, with every win Osweiler gets, it becomes harder and harder to argue that Peyton Manning should get his job back. (10-5)
  • Baltimore 33, Cleveland 27: Just read this. It’s a list of all 43 games the Browns have lost in the last minute since they returned in 1999. I thought as a Cardinals fan I had seen heartbreak. Aside from the Super Bowl loss, I can’t begin to comprehend the amount of heartbreak the Browns have endured. (10-6)

 
Week 11 Record: 10-6
Season Record: 110-66 (.625)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

Five Takeaways From Indiana’s Bounce-Back Win Against Alcorn State

NOTE: Due to some transportation issues, I was unable to attend Assembly Hall on Monday night. So instead of the usual game recap, this time I’m going to just go over five things I noticed during Indiana’s win over Alcorn State. Expect normal coverage to continue when Indiana faces Duke on Wednesday.

The Indiana Hoosiers bounced back from a disappointing trip to Hawaii by obliterating the Alcorn State Braves 112-70 on Monday night. The Hoosier offense was on fire as James Balckmon Jr. scored a career-high 33 points and the team as a whole shot an insane 67.2% (39-58) from the floor. It was a much needed confidence booster after the Hoosiers received heavy criticism from the national media for finishing sixth at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational last week.

Unfortunately the Hoosiers won’t have long to savor this win as they have to travel to Durham, North Carolina to take on the Duke Blue Devils this Wednesday as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Combine the short turnaround with the fact that the Braves are rated as one of the worst teams in the NCAA according to KenPom and there doesn’t seem to be too many takeaways from this game. However, I was able to find five that will be worth following up on after Indiana’s game with Duke. Here are the five things I noticed from the Hoosiers’ 112-70 victory:

  1. The defense is still a problem…: Most of the criticism from last week revolved around the Hoosiers’ abysmal defense and how the team hasn’t improved much from last season on that side of the ball. Short of holding the Braves under 50 points, there wasn’t anything that the Hoosiers could do this game that would convince the doubters that they have turned it around defensively. Unfortunately the Braves actually did very well offensively against the Hoosiers as their 70 points is the team’s second highest total of the season (Alcorn State scored 71 points against Florida A&M). The Braves also dominated the glass in the first half coming away with a 17-14 rebounding edge that included nine offensive rebounds. There were also quite a few defensive lapses and missed rotations that led to either easy buckets or second chance points (Braves had 14 second chance points).
  2. …but the Hoosiers are taking the steps to correct their defense: Yet with all that being said, there were also some positives from the Hoosier defense. In the second half Indiana outrebounded Alcorn State 23-9. The defense played with more aggression as it recorded 12 steals and turned those into 26 points for the offense. Most importantly Monday night the Hoosiers showed some new defensive coverages, switching to zone for a while during of the second half and finding success with it. Above all else, the fact that the Hoosiers are willing to try new things is a step in the right direction.
  3. Some high-profile players may have to play a supporting role instead of a star role: The Hoosiers aren’t going to score over 100 points every game so some players will have to accept that there will be games where they barely score or don’t score at all. The most intriguing player who could see his scoring numbers drop is Troy Williams. Williams was expected to have a breakout season where he would make the leap from potential NBA first rounder to lottery pick. However, as seen Monday night, the Hoosiers really thrive when Williams focuses more on crashing the boards and making athletic defensive plays. I’m not saying Williams won’t have the occasional night where he leads the team in scoring but with so many other players on the team who can score, Williams will be a bigger asset if he concentrates on his other strengths.
  4. The three-guard lineup may become the norm for Indiana: This isn’t the first time the Hoosiers have started a three-guard lineup, but this game showcased its potential. The Hoosiers came roaring out of the gates to take an early 12-0 lead and never looked back. The Hoosiers have tried to matchup against their opponents by playing a bigger lineup but, as seen against the Braves, they could go the other way and force the opponent to matchup with their smaller but faster, high-scoring lineup. Rob Johnson is the main reason why the three-guard lineup works as shown when he recorded three points, two assists, and two steals during that opening 12-0 stretch.
  5. The Hoosiers actually have depth at the forward position: Another advantage to starting three guards means you are only playing two front court players. This can really help the Hoosiers as fewer starting spots for forwards means more depth for what’s consider the thinner part of the roster. The worst-case scenario for the Hoosiers every game is if Thomas Bryant gets in foul trouble. If Max Bielfeldt and Collin Hartman aren’t starting that means that either can fill-in down low in that scenario and would be more likely to have zero fouls when subbing in for Bryant. While it does make the Hoosiers thinner in the back court there are plenty of players on the roster who are good enough ball-handlers and athletic enough to play guard in a pinch.