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College Basketball: The Five Best Matchups of the ESPN Tip-off Marathon

The start of the college basketball is still a few months away, but schedules and matchup are slowly being released throughout the offseason. Beginning at 11 p.m. on August 11, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan began releasing the matchups for the annual ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. The Tip-Off Marathon begins at 7 p.m. on November 11 and there will be games broadcasted consecutively on the network for more than 24 hours.

To make the marathon work, games will be played across the country and ESPN is using time zone differences to its full advantage.

The Tip-Off Marathon will feature title contenders (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State), some of last season’s Cinderella teams (Florida Gulf Coast, La Salle and Wichita State) and every other type of team in between.

While most fans are unlikely to be up at a the crack of dawn to watch Hawaii host New Mexico State, there are a number of intriguing matchups to be played on November 11 and 12.

The headliners are obviously the two Champions Classic games: Kentucky-Michigan State and Duke-Kansas.

Each of the four teams in the Champions Classic will have played each other in the event after this season, which is the third year of the Classic. With four of the best programs in college basketball competing in the Champions Classic, there are destined to be compelling matchups every year.

The Champions Classic website acknowledges that the 2011 games included Mike Krzyzewski breaking Bob Knight’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball all-time wins record as well as a preview of that year’s championship game with the Kentucky-Kansas matchup.

This year’s Champions Classic games will be filled with compelling story lines, highly touted prospects and very good basketball.

Here are the five best games in the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon based on how the teams performed last season, the players returning and the strength of their 2013 recruiting classes.

5. Western Kentucky at Wichita State

The Shockers are coming off the heels of their run to the Final Four last spring, and it’s time for them to try to build off of last season. Wichita State’s best player, senior forward Cleanthony Early, returned to school in hope of another tournament run. However, Wichita State will have to move on without Carl Hall and Malcolm Armstead, who averaged a combined 23 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.

Creighton has moved to the Big East, which means that Wichita State has a chance to assert its dominance in the Missouri Valley. The Shockers’ game against Western Kentucky will be their first time in the national spotlight since April.

The Hilltoppers are no slouches, even though WKU isn’t known for its basketball. In their opening matchup in last year’s NCAA tournament, they were beating Kansas with 18 minutes left in the game and only lost by seven to the Jayhawks.

Western Kentucky’s leading scorers, T.J. Price and George Fant, will be juniors this season. The duo averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds per game last season. WKU lost only two seniors to graduation from last year’s team that went 20-16, which means that the Hilltoppers could be chosen on selection Sunday next spring.

4. North Carolina State at Cincinnati

Both North Carolina State and Cincinnati had early NCAA tournament exits last season. The two schools each lost by four points in their first matchups.

The Wolfpack lost most of its star players to graduation, the NBA or another school via transfer. Sophomore forward T.J. Warren will lead the new-look North Carolina State team along with the nation’s 13th best recruiting class that Mark Gottfried assembled. Five freshmen will join the Wolfpack this season, and three of them (point guard Anthony Barber, center BeeJay Anya and power forward Kyle Washington) are in ESPN’s top 100 players of the 2013 class.

The Cincinnati Bearcats lost three key players–guard Cashmere Wright, center CheikhMbodj and guard JaQuon Parker–to graduation following last season. However, UCbrings back its leading scorer, Sean Kilpatrick, who averaged 17 points per game last season. Senior forwards Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson, as well as junior guard Jeremiah Davis III will have to step up this season for Cincinnati to make it back to the NCAA tournament. The Bearcats have the 24th best 2013 recruiting class, which is led by power forward Jermaine Lawrence.

Cincinnati and North Carolina State lost several starters from last year’s squads. They hope that their top 25 recruiting classes are enough to make it further in the NCAA tournament next year than they did last season.

3. Florida at Wisconsin

The Florida-Wisconsin matchup will be overshadowed because it falls in between the Kentucky-Michigan State and Duke-Kansas games, but it is certainly a treat for college basketball fans. Florida and Wisconsin are two programs that are consistently good.

Florida won the national championship in 2006 and 2007 and the Gators have made the Elite Eight for three consecutive seasons.

Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament every year since 1999.

Florida will be led by senior center Patric Young, who averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season. The Gators also have two of the top 12 2013 recruits, per ESPN. Point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker are five-star recruits who made Billy Donovan’s two-player freshmen class the 10th best in the country.

Wisconsin returns its leading scorer, Ben Brust, who averaged more than 11 points and five rebounds per game last season. The Badgers also have sophomore Sam Dekker, who could be ready for a breakout season after averaging more than nine points and three rebounds per game in 2012-13.

The Badgers’ top incoming freshman is power forward Nigel Hayes, who was ranked 83rd overall in the country by ESPN. Wisconsin’s five-player freshman class is ranked 32nd in the country.

These schools played in November last season and Florida won at home by 18. Now it’s Wisconsin’s turn to have home-court advantage and try to pick up a key non-conference win.

2. Duke vs. Kansas

The two incoming freshmen with the most hype will get to square off at this year’s Champions Classic. Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils will challenge Andrew Wiggins and the Kansas Jayhawks.

While Parker and Wiggins will get most of the attention, other highly ranked recruitswill get the chance to make a name for themselves on a national stage.

Kansas also has the top center prospect in Joel Embiid (ranked 6th overall by ESPN), small forward Wayne Selden (ranked 14th overall by ESPN), point guard Conner Frankamp (46th nationally) and shooting guard Brannen Greene (47th nationally).

Duke also signed Matt Jones (36th nationally) and Semi Ojeleye (40th nationally).

The Blue Devils also return starting guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, who both averaged more than 11 points per game last season.

Kansas lost all five starters from last season, but the Jayhawks return Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe, who were the team’s best bench players.

Both teams reloaded on talent and they are poised to make deep tournament runs this season.

1. Kentucky vs. Michigan State

After Kentucky’s fourth-place finish in the SEC last season, John Calipari is bringing the best recruiting class in the country for 2013 to Lexington, and it includes six players in the top 25 spots of ESPN’s top 100 players.

The Wildcats also return Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, who were both ranked in the top 40 players of the 2012 class by ESPN.

UK will likely begin the season as the No. 1 team in the country and the Wildcats are ready to turn the page after their season-ending loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

Michigan State doesn’t have a single 2013 recruit ranked in the top 100 players by ESPN, but the Spartans are returning four starters from last year’s team that advanced to the Sweet 16. Michigan State will be led by senior point guard Keith Appling, star shooting guard Gary Harris and senior forward Adreian Payne. Tom Izzo has the roster to make his seventh final four at Michigan State.

This may be the best test of the regular season for both teams, and it comes in November rather than in conference play.

Click here to read this article on BleacherReport.com. 

Streaking Hoosiers return to Big Ten play

After defeating No. 2 Duke 4-2 on March 15, the No. 38 IU women’s tennis team will look to continue its success against No. 37 Penn State and No. 53 Ohio State this weekend. The Hoosiers will face the Nittany Lions at 5 p.m. Friday at the IU Tennis Center and the Buckeyes at 11 a.m. Sunday.

“I’ve never been in a situation before where we lost the doubles point and lost the first set on every court and then came back and won the second set on every court,” IU Coach Lin Loring said. “I’m not sure why we’re able to win five second sets when we lost five first sets. If I can figure it out, I’ll bottle it and sell it.”

IU is 11-4 this season and lost its only Big Ten dual match to Purdue. The Hoosiers have the No. 52 doubles tandem of senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre.

Penn State is 10-1, with wins against No. 49 VCU and No. 61 College of Charleston. Penn State suffered a 5-2 defeat March 3 at Ohio State. Penn State and IU’s two common opponents this season were Kentucky and Marshall. Both teams topped the Thundering Herd 6-1. Penn State bested Kentucky 4-3 while the Hoosiers fell to the Wildcats by the same margin.

Penn State has the No. 41 singles player in Petra Januskova, who has been named the Penn State Student-Athlete of the Week twice this academic year, and the No. 57 doubles combination of Januskova and Chelsea Utting.

IU and Penn State participated in the Western Michigan University Super Challenge last November. The Nittany Lions won two of the three singles matches against the Hoosiers, but IU won both of its doubles matches against Penn State.

The Hoosiers enter Friday’s match with a 10-match win streak against the Nittany Lions.

The Buckeyes are 8-6 (1-1), and they have a dual match against the No. 21 Boilermakers on Friday before they travel to Bloomington. Both Ohio State and IU have faced Cincinnati, Kentucky and Tennessee. IU and OSU defeated Cincinnati 7-0. Both teams suffered losses to the Wildcats and Volunteers.

Ohio State freshman Kelsey Dieters is ranked No. 53 in singles.

IU is 6-5 against Ohio State for the past decade, but the Buckeyes have won four of the past five dual matches against the Hoosiers.

In last year’s Big Ten Women’s Tennis Tournament, Ohio State defeated Penn State 4-2, but then Northwestern knocked off Ohio State in the quarterfinals.

Loring said Penn State and Ohio State are very good. He said Penn State plays better indoors, which is where he said he expects the match to be played. Loring said this weekend’s matches will be very competitive and will likely be decided by 4-3 margins.

“We’ve been playing well, and maybe this (win against Duke) will give us just a little extra confidence that we need, but we really haven’t played badly all year,” Loring said.

Reactions to college basketball conference awards

Where I agree:

  • ACC Coach of the Year-Jim Larrañaga-University of Miami: The U was projected fourth in the ACC preseason coaches poll and the Hurricanes did not receive a single first place vote. Larrañaga led a Miami team with four fifth-year seniors and a flashy sophomore point guard to the school’s first ACC Championship. The Hurricanes were ranked as high as second in the country and will likely be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 
  • Big Ten Player of the Year-Trey Burke-University of Michigan: The Big Ten POY race came down to two players–Burke and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. There wasn’t a wrong choice but I think that the Michigan sophomore was more deserving. Trey Burke averaged 19.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game this season and had a strong finish to Michigan’s Big Ten schedule by scoring at least 20 points in five of the team’s final six games. He won the game against Michigan State by picking Keith Appling’s pocket in the final 30 seconds and giving Michigan a two-point advantage with a dunk at the other end; he makes Michigan go. While Burke’s efficiency isn’t ideal (20 points on 20 shots and 25 points on 24 shots against Indiana, 19 points on 21 shots against Wisconsin, 19 points on 19 shots against Illinois, etc.), he gets the job done. Both Oladipo and Burke have talented running mates but Indiana has more depth and offensive weapons, including the preseason national player of the year in sophomore center Cody Zeller.
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of www.freep.com)
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of http://www.freep.com)
  • Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-Victor Oladipo-Indiana University: Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is probably the best on-the-ball defender in the country and he showed the Hoosiers his peskiness on March 5 when he led the Buckeye defensive effort that resulted in 12 Indiana turnovers. However, Oladipo is a more versatile defender. Oladipo can lock down almost any player from a point guard to a power forward. He has had multiple 20+ deflection games this season and has 69 steals (Craft has 60, for a point of comparison). There was no way that Victor Oladipo was going to go home empty handed on both the Big Ten POY and DPOY awards.

Where I disagree:

  • ACC Player of the Year-Erick Green-Virginia Technical Institute: It’s time to dust off the files containing the arguments about whether or not Alex Rodriguez should have won A.L. MVP in 2003 when the Texas Rangers finished 71-91 and were 25 games out of first place in the A.L. West. This is a similar situation in a different sport but this time there is no discussion. This is blatantly wrong. Green’s Hokies finished dead last in the ACC with a 13-18 (4-14) record. Three of Virginia Tech’s conference wins came against the three teams that are immediately ahead of them in the league’s standings–Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson, whose cumulative record is six games below .500. Yes, Green leads the country in scoring at 25.4 points per game but  VT hasn’t accomplished much this season besides knocking off then-No. 15 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1. What’s wrong with Miami’s Shane Larkin, who led the ACC Champion Hurricanes in points, assists, steals and three-point percentage? What’s wrong with Mason Plumlee, who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game for the No. 2 Blue Devils? The ACC voters were way off in their POY vote. 
  • SEC Player of the Year-Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-University of Georgia: I have a similar beef with the SEC voters that I do with the ACC voters. The Georgia Bulldogs finished 9-9 in the SEC. They tied for eighth place in a power 6 conference that barely has three teams in the current projection of the 68-team NCAA Tournament field that will be released on Sunday. There’s no doubt that Caldwell-Pope is a good player–he is in the top 10 in the SEC in nine of the 13 statistical categories. Plus, he is projected to be a future first round draft pick in the NBA. However, the combination of his occasional struggles with inefficiency and inability to excel against ranked opponents do not make him deserving of the honor. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had difficulties with inefficiency in the beginning (17 points on 21 shots against Souther Mississippi on 11/15), the middle (16 points on 18 shots against Georgia Tech on 12/4 and 19 points on 19 shots against Ole Miss on 2/16) and the end (14 points on 15 shots against Alabama on 3/9) of the season. Coincidentally, Georgia lost all of those games. Also, Caldwell-Pope scored below his 18 ppg average in all five of UGA’s games against ranked opponents. In fact, he averaged nearly four fewer points. Star players step up in big games instead of backing down. Maybe I should just accept the SEC’s POY award as a sign of how bad the conference is this season but I think that Tennessee’s Jordan McRae was robbed. The Vols tied for fifth in the SEC and are only a win or two from making the tournament. McRae led UT in scoring with a 16.2 points per game average but he averaged over 24 in the team’s final seven games. In that stretch, Tennessee went 6-1, demolished No. 25 Kentucky by 30 points, defeated No. 8 Florida and McRae scored over 34 points on two occasions.

IU women’s tennis ends losing streak, wins two matches on Sunday

After losing three consecutive 4-3 dual matches, the IU women’s tennis team bounced back with a 4-3 win against No. 66 DePaul and a 7-0 victory over UNC-Wilmington at the IU Tennis Center on Sunday.

The Hoosiers took an early lead against DePaul by winning the doubles point for their tenth time this season.

IU Coach Lin Loring said that winning the doubles point is very important in close matches because he said it is difficult to win four or more singles matches against any team.

“Pretty much all of the good teams these days are splitting singles three to three,” he said. “Even though the doubles is just one point, in all of these matches it is turning out to be a really important point.”

Indiana lost the doubles point in its previous two matches against Kentucky and Notre Dame, which put them in an early deficit in both dual matches. This time, it was Indiana who took the early lead and IU Coach Loring said that is was especially important for IU to win the doubles point because DePaul Coach Mark Ardizzone tried three new doubles combinations against the Hoosiers.

“We didn’t know what to expect in the doubles because he’s looking for answers in the doubles,” Loring said.

The Blue Demons took the No. 2 doubles match when Patricia Fargas/Kelsey Lawson blanked sophomores Katie Klyczek and Carolyn Chupa 8-0.

“I think his best team may have been at two,” IU Coach Loring said. “He didn’t do it on purpose but I think his two team played really well. We were never in that match.”

Indiana responded in the No. 3 match when sophomores Alecia Kauss and Shannon Murdy topped Zaina Sufi/Ana Vladutu 8-2.

IU won the doubles point after the Hoosiers’ No. 44 doubles team of senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre defeated DePaul’s Matea Cutura/Jarret Fisher 8-5 in the No. 1 match.

“Winning the doubles point was huge and it helped us going into the singles and we were pretty confident,” Garre said.

She said that Indiana tried to play with as much energy as possible in the doubles matches.

“In singles, we started pretty well, especially in the first set one every court,” Garre said. “It helps when you watch the scoreboard and see that everybody is doing well in the first set.”

The Hoosiers extended their lead when Garre bested Fisher in the No. 5 singles match. In the final game, Fisher had a deuce advantage twice but Garre fought back. Ultimately, Garre’s forehand proved to be too strong for the DePaul freshman to handle and she won the match 6-0, 6-2.

Chupa followed in suit with a victory over Lawson in straight sets in the No. 4 match, which gave Indiana a 3-0 lead.

DePaul earned its first point of the match when Vladutu defeated Kauss 6-4, 6-1 in the No. 3 match.

In the No. 6 singles match, Murdy gained the advantage at deuce with a lob over the head of Sufi that fell just within the confines of the court. Other than the low hum of the IU Tennis Center’s heater and the sound of forehands and backhands being traded across the court, there was silence. It was the game, set and match point for a team that had fallen on the wrong end of three competitive 4-3 matches. Murdy held off an attempted comeback by Sufi and won the singles match 6-3, 6-4, which secured the win for Indiana. This time the Hoosiers were on the winning end of a 4-3 match.

“I told the girls after the first one that we’re going to have a whole bunch the rest of the year and sooner or later one will go our way,” IU Coach Loring said. “This is a match we could have lost because they’re a very good team. It was just nice to win a 4-3 match.”

IU Coach Loring said that the Hoosiers have played very good singles and doubles tennis as a team this season. He compared IU’s three consecutive 4-3 losses to a basketball team losing on a buzzer beater.

“If you lose on a three-pointer on the buzzer, you don’t have to re-invent your offense and defense,” he said. “We haven’t changed our doubles teams and we haven’t done a lot different because we’ve just been a little bit unlucky with the way some of those 4-3 matches fell. Literally, we’re probably 12 points away from being undefeated this season.”

After defeating DePaul, IU Coach Loring said that Indiana needed to come out with energy against UNC-Wilmington in order to win. He said that the Seahawks are very solid and that they lost 4-3 to William & Mary, who he said is always a top 50 team.

“They’ve struggled in some other matches but we know they’re good and if we just show up, it’s not going to be good enough,” he said. “If we play as well as we did in this first match, I don’t think that it will be really close. If we don’t play as well as we did in this match, they’re going to make us hit a lot of balls and they’re going to put a lot of balls back in the court. We’ve just got to be ready to stay out there longer than we want to stay out there.”

Garre said that it was a great feeling to win after suffering three close losses in the previous two weekends but she said that IU needed to focus on recovering for its match against UNC-Wilmington.

“We need to bring a lot of intensity,” she said. “We’re playing really well since the beginning of the season so we’re pretty confident with our game. We just need to stick with our game plan and we should be fine.”

And the Hoosiers did just that en route to their seventh 7-0 victory of the season.

In doubles, IU lost only six games in its three wins. Indiana followed up its strong start to the match by winning five singles matches in straight sets. Hureau defeated UNC-Wilmington’s Angie Sekely in the No. 1 position 6-7, 7-6, 11-9. In the No. 2 match, Klyczek topped Alyssa Ritchie 6-3, 6-2.

IU Coach Loring said that the Hoosiers had two good wins on Sunday.

“The UNCW match was a real gut check for us,” Loring said. “The whole team was coming off being sick this week and we used a lot of energy in our first match. We had to dig deep because they hit a lot of balls back. Many of the scores don’t indicate how long the points were.”

IU women’s tennis ends three-match losing streak against DePaul

After losing three consecutive 4-3 dual matches, the IU women’s tennis team bounced back with a 4-3 win against No. 66 DePaul at the IU Tennis Center on Sunday. It was the first of two matches on the day for the Hoosiers, who face UNC-Wilmington on Sunday evening.

The Hoosiers took an early lead by winning the doubles point for their tenth time this season.

IU Coach Lin Loring said that winning the doubles point is very important in close matches because he said it is difficult to win four or more singles matches against any team.

“Pretty much all of the good teams these days are splitting singles three to three,” he said. “Even though the doubles is just one point, in all of these matches it is turning out to be a really important point.”

Indiana lost the doubles point in its previous two matches against Kentucky and Notre Dame, which put them in an early deficit in both dual matches. This time, it was Indiana who took the early lead and IU Coach Loring said that is was especially important for IU to win the doubles point because DePaul Coach Mark Ardizzone tried three new doubles combinations against the Hoosiers.

“We didn’t know what to expect in the doubles because he’s looking for answers in the doubles,” Loring said.

The Blue Demons took the No. 2 doubles match when Patricia Fargas/Kelsey Lawson blanked sophomores Katie Klyczek and Carolyn Chupa 8-0.

“I think his best team may have been at two,” IU Coach Loring said. “He didn’t do it on purpose but I think his two team played really well. We were never in that match.”

Indiana responded in the No. 3 match when sophomores Alecia Kauss and Shannon Murdy topped Zaina Sufi/Ana Vladutu 8-2.

IU won the doubles point after the Hoosiers’ No. 44 doubles team of senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre defeated DePaul’s Matea Cutura/Jarret Fisher 8-4 in the No. 1 match.

“Winning the doubles point was huge and it helped us going into the singles and we were pretty confident,” Garre said.

She said that Indiana tried to play with as much energy as possible in the doubles matches.

“In singles, we started pretty well, especially in the first set one every court,” Garre said. “It helps when you watch the scoreboard and see that everybody is doing well in the first set.”

The Hoosiers extended their lead when Garre bested Fisher in the No. 5 singles match. In the final game, Fisher had a deuce advantage twice but Garre fought back. Ultimately, Garre’s forehand proved to be too strong for the DePaul freshman to handle and she won the match 6-0, 6-2.

Chupa followed in suit with a victory over Lawson in straight sets in the No. 4 match, which gave Indiana a 3-0 lead.

DePaul earned its first point of the match when Vladutu defeated Kauss 6-4, 6-1 in the No. 3 match.

In the No. 6 singles match, Murdy gained the advantage at deuce with a lob over the head of Sufi that fell just within the confines of the court. Other than the low hum of the IU Tennis Center’s heater and the sound of forehands and backhands being traded across the court, there was silence. It was the game, set and match point for a team that had fallen on the wrong end of three competitive 4-3 matches. Murdy held off an attempted comeback by Sufi and won the singles match 6-3, 6-4, which secured the win for Indiana. This time the Hoosiers were on the winning end of a 4-3 match.

“I told the girls after the first one that we’re going to have a whole bunch the rest of the year and sooner or later one will go our way,” IU Coach Loring said. “This is a match we could have lost because they’re a very good team. It was just nice to win a 4-3 match.”

IU Coach Loring said that the Hoosiers have played very good singles and doubles tennis as a team this season. He compared IU’s three consecutive 4-3 losses to a basketball team losing on a buzzer beater.

“If you lose on a three-pointer on the buzzer, you don’t have to re-invent your offense and defense,” he said. “We haven’t changed our doubles teams and we haven’t done a lot different because we’ve just been a little bit unlucky with the way some of those 4-3 matches fell. Literally, we’re probably 12 points away from being undefeated this season.”

Women’s tennis loses ranking, looks to recover

After losing the past three dual matches 4-3 to Tennessee, Kentucky and Notre Dame, the IU women’s tennis team has fallen out of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings. The Hoosiers will look to rebound with a pair of duals on Sunday against No. 66 DePaul and UNC-Wilmington. IU will face the Blue Demons at 11 a.m. and the
Seahawks at 5 p.m. at the IU Tennis Center.

The Hoosiers are 8-3 this season after winning their first eight dual matches, in which they lost only two singles matches, but have lost three consecutive duals since their hot start.

IU Coach Lin Loring maintains a positive attitude about the team after narrowly losing to Notre Dame last Sunday and he said the women are playing very well.

“It was the best team singles we’ve played and the only matches we lost were three-setters,” Loring said. “It was a situation where we don’t have everybody totally doing everything on the same day. It’s just that a little something always goes wrong in these big matches. We put ourselves in a position to win.”

Loring said this week the team practiced having better depth in the court in singles to prepare for this weekend’s dual matches.

After defeating Notre Dame’s No. 30 doubles pair of Britney Sanders/Julie Sabacinski, IU senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre are ranked No. 44 in doubles.

DePaul boasts the No. 85 singles player, freshman Matea Cutura. Cutura was named the Big East Player of the Week in the first week of February after starting the season with a 14-3 singles record that included three wins against ranked opponents.

The Blue Demons are 9-3 with two dominant wins over Big Ten opponents. They defeated Iowa 5-2 and Michigan State 6-1. DePaul is undefeated on the road this season and will play at No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday before facing IU on Sunday.

Loring said DePaul is as good as Notre Dame, Kentucky and Tennessee.

IU is 7-3 against DePaul in the past decade. IU sophomore Carolyn Chupa was the hero in last season’s 4-3 victory against the Blue Demons when she came from behind
to defeat then-sophomore Kelsey Lawson 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) to give the Hoosiers in the deciding singles match.

UNC-Wilmington is 4-2 this season. The Seahawks’ two losses were both in competitive 4-3 matches, including a loss to then-No. 53 William & Mary.

UNC-Wilmington is 2-1 on the road and will host South Florida on Friday before travelling to Bloomington.

Junior Angie Sekely was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Women’s Tennis Player of the Week on Feb. 12, after winning a pair of singles matches in the No. 1 position against conference opponents.

Loring said UNC-Wilmington will be tough because IU plays them in the second dual match this weekend.

“I think we’ll be the better team but it just depends on what the DePaul match takes out of us,” he said.

Loring said he expects IU to play another 4-3 match against DePaul.

“You can have a three hour 4-3 match or a four and a half hour 4-3 match and I’m hoping it’s not a four and a half hour match,” he said. “We’re going to need a little bit of recovery time to get ready for Wilmington because they’re going to put a lot of balls in the court.”

The rebuilding of Indiana’s women’s basketball program

This news feature was written for my JOUR-H 200 Reporting, Writing and Editing course. I would like to thank IU Coach Curt Miller for being honest about the IU women’s basketball program when I talked to him in January as well as Jeremy Gray and Robby Howard for their insight on the Hoosiers.

Indiana University is rich in basketball tradition and success. Five men’s national championship banners hang from the rafters in Assembly Hall.

However, the Lady Hoosiers have recently experienced some dark years with a 29-60 record over the past three seasons. Indiana hired Curt Miller, who won six Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year awards and advanced to the NCAA Tournament five times at Bowling Green State University, to replace former IU Coach Felisha Legette-Jack, who was fired after the Hoosiers went 6-24 last season.

IU Coach Miller won MAC Coach of the Year six times in his tenure at Bowling Green State University.
IU Coach Miller won MAC Coach of the Year six times in his tenure at Bowling Green State University.

IU Coach Miller said that the Hoosiers are building the program by improving team chemistry, being involved in community service work and competing in the classroom.

“The wins—it’s going to take a couple of years,” Miller said. “It’s not going to be as easy to see the building on the court but we’re doing a lot of things to build the program and not just a team. A lot of that is off the floor that people don’t see.”

While IU Coach Miller is focused on improving the team off the court, he said that the Hoosiers are excited about winning because he said wins are hard to come by for his Indiana squad that is limited offensively.

On Wednesday, Feb. 20th, the Indiana women’s basketball team showed signs of growth when it earned its most significant win in the Curt Miller era. IU defeated No. 22 Purdue 62-61 after senior guard Jasmine McGhee hit the game-winning shot as time expired. It was Indiana’s first win over a ranked opponent since Dec. 5, 2010 and it was a promising result for a program eager to rebuild.

A Fierce Rivalry 

Jeremy Gray, IU’s Assistant Athletic Director for Broadcast Services, said that the two Big Ten in-state rivals are on the opposite end of the spectrum in college basketball, which made the Hoosiers’ victory even more impressive.

“Purdue is a tournament team and Indiana is absolutely in a rebuilding effort,” Gray said.

He described Assembly Hall as having one of the two largest crowds for an IU women’s basketball game this season.

“There were a lot of students there for that game, they stayed throughout and they were a factor in the end,” Gray said.

Robby Howard, one of the two Indiana Daily Student women’s basketball beat writers, said that IU Athletics, the Crimson Club and the IU Varsity Club did a very good job marketing the game to students.

“They were really trying to attract students to the game and it obviously worked because it was the first time you had an actual student section at the game,” Howard said. “That obviously played a large role when you actually have audible fans and the team was really able to feed off that energy. You could see them making a lot of hustle plays and the crowd would come to its feet—that’s something that hasn’t happened all season long.”

Jeremy Gray said that the teams traded baskets the entire night, the play was at a high level and that the entire game was exciting. The excitement peaked when McGhee’s shot fell through the net as time expired, which prompted pandemonium on the court.

“As soon as the ball went through, literally as the time expired, her teammates charged her and hugged her,” Gray said. “Some of the men’s basketball players came on the floor and gave her big hugs.”

Indiana’s Assistant Athletic Director for Broadcast Services said that the win was huge for the Lady Hoosiers.

“It made SportsCenter’s top ten plays the following day, it got over 10,000 hits on YouTube and it was one of those games that when the program gets turned around in a couple of years, you can look back on this game as one that helped change everything for Indiana,” Gray said.

IU Coach Miller’s Rebuilding Effort

When asked how he was going to build IU’s women’s basketball program, IU Coach Curt Miller said, “Well a lot of areas, although they are not necessarily going to equate statistically. We believe that you build a championship team in the locker room first.”

He said that he knows statistical success will take a few years to develop but in the mean time, he is trying to change the culture of the program in his first season at IU.

Robby Howard said that Miller has told members of the media all season that Indiana is the worst team in the Big Ten. Despite having limited talent and few scholarship players on his roster, the Hoosiers’ first-year head coach teaches his players to give their best effort every day, whether in games or in practices.

“The big thing with Curt Miller and this program is that he wants his team to play hard and aggressive every single night,” Howard said. “It’s just tough to do when you only have seven scholarship players and eight players who are playing on the roster. It’s tough to play physical in that nature when you just don’t have a lot of bodies on the court.”

Howard cited the transfer of former Hoosier Quaneisha McCurty as an example of Miller making tangible changes on the culture of the program, especially with an emphasis on effort.

“It was simply due to the fact that she wasn’t playing hard in practice,” Howard said. “Miller’s whole philosophy is if you don’t play hard in practice, then you don’t play [in games].”

A Blueprint Right Across the Hall

Indiana’s women’s basketball team isn’t the only program that plays in Assembly Hall that has recently undergone a rebuilding process.

According to an Indiana Daily Student article from May 2008 that was written by Chris Engel, former IU Men’s Basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson’s impermissible phone calls caused the NCAA to put the program on probation.

ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote an article recapping the sanctions against Indiana in November 2008. Katz wrote that Indiana was placed on a three-year probation, the men’s program lost scholarships and that the coaching staff was severely limited in its access to high school players.

As a result of the penalties, IU’s men’s basketball team went 28-66 in IU Coach Tom Crean’s first three seasons. It took Crean three seasons to achieve his first win against a ranked opponent as well as to eclipse 10 wins in a single season.

While IU Coach Miller took over a Hoosier basketball program under different conditions, the Hoosiers’ win against Purdue allowed him to accomplish both of those achievements in his first season at the helm of Indiana’s women’s basketball team.

Robby Howard said that entering the season, a lot of comparisons were being made between IU Coach Crean’s revival of IU’s men’s basketball program and the rebuilding process that IU Coach Miller embarked on when he became the new women’s basketball coach at Indiana University.

Miller said before the season that the blueprint for the women’s program was right across the hall in the men’s program, which has been ranked No. 1 in the country for the majority of the season.

The most iconic element of IU Coach Crean’s rebuilding of IU basketball was the Hoosiers’ 72-71 victory over No. 1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall last season, which was completed by then-junior Christian Watford’s last-second three-pointer.

The Lady Hoosiers followed in a similar suit this season with a buzzer beater of their own, also against a major rival, when Jasmine McGhee’s 18-foot jump shot connected at the buzzer on Feb. 20th.

“Obviously the Indiana men’s team is a lot better than the women’s team but the analogy holds up in that it was a moment that got a lot of notoriety,” Jeremy Gray said as he discussed the comparison between the rebuilding processes of IU’s men’s and women’s basketball programs. “It showed that Indiana can compete in the Big Ten against high quality teams and player for player, Indiana was out-manned in that game. They found a way to get that done and I think that speaks to coaching.”

The Hoosier players have been the ones competing on the court but it has been the relentless preparation and determination of IU Coach Miller that has willed Indiana to two Big Ten victories in a season in which he told the media that “prognosticators said that Indiana wouldn’t even win a game [in the Big Ten] this year.”

Jeremy Gray and Robby Howard agree that IU Coach Miller needs to bring in great recruiting classes in order to elevate Indiana to the top of the Big Ten. Miller may have found his Cody Zeller—his All-American player around whom he can develop a championship program—in 2014 commit Tyra Buss, who Howard said was leading the country in scoring average per game earlier this season at roughly 38 points per contest.

“He knows what he has to do and now that he has a name like Indiana behind him, I think he’s just going to do phenomenal things,” Howard said.

IU Coach Miller is ready to turn the women’s program around because there is no job in the country that he would rather have.

At Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 20th, 2012, in front of 17,472 excited Hoosier fans, IU Coach Miller said, “This is my dream job and I’m living my dream now.”

With his passion for Indiana University and his positive attitude about rebuilding the IU women’s basketball program, Curt Miller may just be the right coach to bring Indiana’s first women’s national championship banner to Assembly Hall.

Falling short: IU loses third straight by one point

The No. 60 IU women’s tennis team fell to No. 22 Notre Dame on Sunday at the IU Tennis Center. The Hoosiers lost their previous two matches 4-3 on the road against Tennessee and Kentucky. For the third consecutive dual, the Hoosiers lost 4-3 after losing the final singles match.

The Fighting Irish defeated Baylor on Saturday in South Bend, Ind. before traveling to Bloomington.

There was fierce competition for the doubles point. Notre Dame’s Jennifer Kellner and Chrissie McGaffigan started off the dual by defeating IU’s sophomore duo, Katie Klyczek and Carolyn Chupa, 8-2.

In the No. 1 match, the No. 44 combination of senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre held off the No. 30 pair in the nation, Notre Dame’s Britney Sanders and Julie Sabacinski, 8-5.

IU sophomores Alecia Kauss and Shannon Murdy started the No. 3 match with a 3-0 lead. The Fighting Irish responded to tie the match 6-6, then went up 8-7. Kauss and Murdy fought back to tie the match at eight, Notre Dame’s Quinn Gleason and Katherine White won the tiebreaker, which gave the Fighting Irish a 9-8 victory and the doubles point in the dual match.

IU quickly stole the lead from Notre Dame by winning the No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 singles matches in consecutive sets. Murdy defeated Julie Vrabel 6-3, 6-4 in the No. 6 match and Garre gave IU its second win just minutes later when she bested Molly O’Koniewski 6-1, 6-3. Chupa topped McGaffigan 6-2, 7-6 to give the Hoosiers a 3-1 lead.

The No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles matches were all decided in three sets. In the No. 2 position, Kellner defeated Klyczek 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to bring Notre Dame within one point of IU. The Fighting Irish tied the match when Gleason bested Kauss 7-5, 1-6, 6-2 in the No. 3 match.

For IU’s third dual in a row, the match came down to the final singles match. Against Tennessee, Garre’s match in the No. 4 position was the deciding point. Against Kentucky, it was Murdy who played in the pivotal No. 6 match.

This time it was Hureau competing with Sanders, who is ranked No. 74 in the country, in the No. 1 singles match with the score of the dual tied at three.

After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, Hureau lost the second set 7-5.

Loring and Notre Dame Coach Jay Louderback sat next to each other in folding chairs sharing observations about the match at the start of the final set.

The players from the two Indiana schools took a different approach as they occupied opposite sides of a nearby court.

Hureau’s eight teammates lined the service box of court No. 3 as she and Sanders swapped points time and time again on court No. 4.

Whether they won or lost their singles and doubles matches, the other Hoosiers’ contributions on the court were done. However, they were still fulfilling their role as teammates in supporting Hureau.

“I definitely needed them because it was so hard,” Hureau said. “Every point was a battle. They really helped me get through it.”

Hureau came out firing at the start of the third set. She took a 3-0 lead that kept the players’ parents on the edges of their seats as they refused to head home until the match was finished.

Then fatigue kicked in for the senior from Annecy-le-Vieux, France.

In between points, she stretched her quadriceps as her legs began to tire. Her first step was slower than it was at 11 a.m. — when she played her first match of the day — but she persevered through.

Hureau said she tried to keep moving because if she stopped, it was hard to move again.

“You don’t want to think too much about [fatigue] because there’s always a ball coming back,” she said.

She fought off a 2-0 run by Sanders by winning her fourth game, putting the final set at 4-2.

However, in the following game, she called a ball out of bounds that was immediately corrected by the line judge. Sanders cut the lead to 4-3.

As the set continued, the cheers and the score announcements from the line judge progressively began to favor Notre Dame. Sanders pulled ahead with a 5-4 lead and Hureau dug deep to find the energy to return each ball played to her.

In the final game of the three-hour match, Sanders blanked Hureau and clinched the dual by a final match score of 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.

“It was pretty hard physically, the points were long and I started to cramp in the second set but I really wanted to win for the team,” Hureau said. “It was a good battle and she hit some good shots in the end. Congrats to her. I tried my best.”

Loring said the loss was especially disappointing though, considering how close the team was to victory.

“They came back from down 6-3 in the deciding doubles match so I give Notre Dame credit, they found a way to pull that out,” Loring said. “It’s just disappointing. It’s the third one in a row where we’re literally four or five points from the match and couldn’t close it out.”

Notre Dame wins the doubles point against Indiana

The No. 60 Indiana women’s tennis team hosted No. 22 Notre Dame on Sunday at the IU Tennis Center. The Hoosiers lost their previous two matches 4-3 on the road against Tennessee and Kentucky. The Fighting Irish defeated Baylor on Saturday in South Bend, Ind. before traveling to IU.

There was fierce competition for the doubles point. Notre Dame’s Jennifer Kellner/JoHanna Manningham defeated IU’s pair of sophomores Katie Klyczek/Carolyn Chupa 8-2.

In the No. 1 match, senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre were down 30-0, while leading 4-3 in the match, but rattled off five straight points en route to the Hoosiers taking a 6-3 lead. An overhead smash off the racket of Sophie Garre gave Indiana a 7-3 advantage and brought the Hoosiers within one point of taking the No. 1 doubles match. However, Notre Dame was not done yet. The Fighting Irish won the next two games to close the gap to 7-5. With her teammates slow clapping on the adjacent court, Hureau hit a rocket across the court that Notre Dame’s Julie Sabacinski couldn’t handle and IU won the match 8-5.

Indiana sophomores Alecia Kauss and Shannon Murdy started the No. 3 match with a 3-0 lead. The Fighting Irish roared back to tie the match 6-6, then went up 8-7. Kauss and Murdy fought back to tie the match at eight, which sparked an “IU” chant from their teammates. Notre Dame’s Quinn Gleason and Katherine White won the tiebreaker, which gave the Fighting Irish a 9-8 victory and the doubles point in the dual match.

Team ready for Fighting Irish

After suffering its first losses of the season to Kentucky and No. 25 Tennessee on the road last weekend, No. 60 IU will look to rebound against No. 22 Notre Dame this Sunday. The Hoosiers will face the Fighting Irish at 11 a.m. at the IU Tennis Center, where IU is 5-0 this season.

Despite losing both matches last weekend, IU Coach Lin Loring said he did not modify the team’s practice regimen leading up to the match against Notre Dame.

“[After losing] 4-3 matches you always second guess yourself, but we’re probably going to have eight more of those the rest of the year,” Loring said. “You just have to get a break, there’s nothing really big that we need to work on. There’s really no reason to re-invent the wheel.”

He said IU played well enough to win both matches against two good opponents.

“It’s just one of those perfect storms where if it could go wrong, it did,” Loring said. “We had a lot of positives from it. We were literally five points from winning the match against Tennessee and we were probably two points from the match against Kentucky because the No. 1 doubles was 6-6 and we had some deuce ads.”

Loring said he expects IU to play another close match against Notre Dame.

“They’re really good,” he said. “They’re out of the top 20 right now, but they’ve been in the top 20 for the past seven or eight years. I wouldn’t doubt if this one is going to be a 4-3 match.”

Notre Dame is 5-3 and has played host to Big Ten opponents. The Fighting Irish have defeated Bowling Green, Illinois, No. 22 Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Iowa. No. 17 Nebraska, No. 24 Purdue and No. 10 Northwestern have all topped Notre Dame in dual matches this season. The Fighting Irish will face Baylor at home on Friday before traveling to Bloomington.

Notre Dame junior Britney Sanders is the No. 74 singles player in the country. The Fighting Irish have three doubles pairs ranked. Julie Sabacinski/Sanders are No. 26, Sanders/Julie Vrabel are No. 30 and Jennifer Kellner/Molly O’Koniewski are No. 59.

IU has faced Notre Dame twice in tournaments last fall. At the adidas Hoosier Classic, IU was 5-5 in singles and 1-2 in doubles against the Fighting Irish. At the Western Michigan University Super Challenge, the Hoosiers were a perfect 3-0 in singles and they split their two doubles matches against Notre Dame.

“We played well against them in our fall tournament so we’ve seen them before,” Loring said. “They’re really good, they’re really deep and we’re going to have to play really well to beat them.”

The Fighting Irish have had IU’s number in the new millennium. The archived results on IUHoosiers.com dating back to the 1997-98 season and IU has not recorded a victory against Notre Dame in that time span. In the past seven years against the Fighting Irish, IU hasn’t scored more than one point in a dual match.

“We’ll probably have to play as well as we did against Tennessee and a little better if we’re going to beat them,” Loring said.