Monday, January 26, 2009

Universal Free Pass doesn't apply to IU

Going into this season, everyone accepted the fact that Indiana would finish dead-last in the Big Ten. We knew they were undersized, we knew they were unathletic, and we knew that just about all of them were experiencing big-time basketball for the first time. Those are the things that this year's Hoosiers couldn't control.

However, something they can control has cost them three potential wins this season: free throw shooting.

IU missed half of their 16 attempts in an embarrassing 74-69 loss a Lipscomb team that is currently in eighth-place in the Atlantic Sun conference.

After blowing a 21-point lead against Michigan in regulation, the Hoosiers missed six free throws in overtime to lose by six 72-66.

On Sunday, Indiana missed 10 of 21 free throws - over half of which came down the stretch - in a 67-63 loss to Minnesota.

There is no excuse for IU's pathetic free throw shooting

My question is, if IU is going to suck anyway, why not cancel practice and have the players shoot 500 free throws each? At least that would give them a chance to win games, right? Their poor foul shooting is baffling to me. Walk-on guard Daniel Moore is 19-31 on the season (61%), Malik Story is 16-26 (62%), Devan Dumes is 45-66 (67%), Verdell Jones is 29-42 (69%), and Nick Williams is 21-30 (70%). The common theme between this group? THEY'RE ALL GUARDS. As a team, Indiana's backcourt has missed 66 of their 205 attempts this season, that's roughly 68% foul shooting just from the guards.

I've accepted the fact that IU would struggle, and I'm assuming almost all IU fans have done the same. At the same time, they don't get a free pass for failing to capitalize on something as basic as free throws. There are plenty of kids at 1A schools in this State that can do better than 68%.

If it doesn't improve soon, 0-18 is a guarantee.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Report: ESPN hates 2006 Colts

The normally even-keeled Sal Paolantonio goes medieval on the 2006 Colts, tabbing them as the "most overrated Super Bowl champion ever."

Here's where I agree with Paolantonio - that game was awful. There have been some bad Super Bowls before (XXIV, XXIX, XXXIII, just to name a few), but I don't remember any being as sloppy as SB XLI. Sure, the rain had something to do with it, but not all of both team's miscues were forced by weather. A couple of examples:

- Tony Dungy's inexplicably stupid decision to kick-off to Devin Hester to start the game.

- Rex Grossman's third quarter series when the Bears had the football trailing by five on their own 46-yard line: pass to Mushin Muhammad (+9 yards), -11 yards (sack), -11 yards (fumble), punt on 4th-and-23.

- Peyton Manning's MVP "moment" - lobbing a lame-duck ball 47 yards to a wide open Reggie Wayne in broken coverage.

- Grossman's "fade" pass to Muhammad that is likely the worst Super Bowl pass attempt you'll ever see. It was returned 56 yards by Kelvin Hayden for the game-clinching touchdown.

Don't blame the Colts for Rex's SB XLI suck-fest

I also agree that Peyton Manning shouldn't have won MVP. In fact, Manning may have turned in the worst performance (25-38, 247 yds, TD, INT, 81.8 rating) of any Super Bowl MVP in football history. But it's not Manning's fault - the face of the Colts and one of the star's of the NFL - that he won what was a pre-determined MVP Award (like Elway did in his first win). He wasn't bad that night, but he was hardly MVP worthy. Say what you want about Eli last year, but at least he engineered a game-winning drive and had a Super Bowl moment. Peyton's moment was when Danieal Manning fell down.

But, I disagree that the 2006 Colts were the most overrated Super Bowl champion ever. Just because it was a sloppy and crappy Super Bowl, that shouldn't tarnish what the Colts accomplished. The running game was outstanding (191 yards!) against a very tough Bears' defense, and the Colts' D played lights-out.

Have we overrated the 2006 Colts? Maybe. But, you can say the same about every Super Bowl Champion with elite quarterbacks. Look at the 1997 Packers or 2001 Patriots. Those teams weren't all-time greats, but because of Tom Brady and Brett Favre, we sometimes remember them for being better than they were.

Monday, January 19, 2009

No Flag?


What about this play isn't illegal?

It's an obvious helmet-to-helmet hit, Ryan Clark led with his head, and he wound up and launched his body at McGahee.

The NFL is ridiculously hypocritical about hits that draw fines and those that don't. Seemingly harmless hits, like Kenny Phillips on Mewelde Moore, draw flags and fines, yet a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit that sends a player to the hospital doesn't.

There needs to be a fine, and maybe a possible Super Bowl suspension.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pick 'em: Championship Sunday

After spending over a year in prediction hibernation due to an embarrassing 2007 (Bulls in the NBA Finals, Ravens/Saints Super Bowl, Tigers/Diamondbacks World Series, Texas A&M in the National Championship game), I've decided to start fresh with a new year.

Here's a look at Championship Sunday...

Philadelphia at ARIZONA (+4): The Eagles look like a team that's on a mission, and they are finally playing to their potential. The fact that Philly went 9-6-1 is much more surprising than the fact that they're just one game away from a Super Bowl berth. This is the team that we should've seen all season. All of that being said, with as wacky and unpredictable as this NFL season has been, I think people aren't giving the Cardinals enough of a chance. One of the biggest factors in this game is that Arizona is at home, where they're a different team. Anquan Boldin is going to give it a go, and his mere prescene is a huge impact considering that the Eagles won't be able to double Larry Fitzgerald. I'm basing this on nothing but I like the Cardinals because nothing this season has followed the script.
The Shots pick: Cardinals 27, Eagles 23

BALTIMORE (-5.5) at Pittsburgh: First off let me say that a 5 1/2 point spread in this game is ridiculous. The two regular season matchups were decided by a total of 7 points - why would the spread be anything more than 3 1/2? Too many people are comparing this Ravens team to the 2000 squad that won the Super Bowl. They're very different. The 2000 Ravens had an all-time defense, and while this year's version is outstanding, it's not legendary. However, this year's Ravens offense is much more capable than the Trent Dilfer-led squad of eight years ago. The Steelers are hosting an AFC Championship game for the sixth time in 14 years, but are just 1-4 in those appearances (the only win being in '95 against the Colts). The bottom line in this game is that I think the Ravens defense is more likely to make the big play than the Steelers defense is. Also, Pittsburgh's protection issues could be their fatal flaw.
The Shots pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 14

Of course this probably means that you should get ready for an Eagles/Steelers Super Bowl...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Underwhelmed by Purdue

At the beginning of this season, many thought Purdue was a serious Final Four contender. The Boilers shocked the college basketball world with a 25-win season a year ago, and that was with a core of almost all freshmen and sophomores. That led to a preseason top-ten ranking and Big Ten Championship "favorite" status. But a weak non-conference season with "eh" wins over Boston College and mid-major Davidson, left fans wondering if Purdue was overrated.

Bad feelings from an 0-2 start were erased by a dominating win over Wisconsin over the weekend. However, watching the Boilers claw back against a putrid Northwestern team tonight made me wonder what the ceiling is for this team.

Purdue had to claw back against a Northwestern team that is just 3-35 in their last 38 Big 10 games

The fact is, the rest of this Purdue team doesn't exactly scream Championship contender:

As good as E'Twaun Moore is (and will be), the kid is passive to a fault. He disappears for long stretches and the offense struggles. If he was more aggressive and looked for his shot, he could score 20 a night without breaking a sweat.

Robbie Hummel is a do-it-all player, but he isn't a prolific scorer and can't be relied on to score anything more than 15 points a night.

JaJuan Johnson is improving, but he's still a 25 pounds and 12 months away from developing into a dominant low-post scorer.

Chris Kramer is Dane Fife without a jump shot.

Nemanja Calasan is a 6'9 Charmin-soft shooting guard.

Keaton Grant is a streak shooter, and that's being generous considering he's shooting just 32% from the field this season and 29% from beyond the arc.

Lewis Jackson plays out-of-control at 100 mph in the fast lane while everyone else is going 65.

Marcus Green fills his role well, but he's just that: a role player.

Maybe I'm wrong about Purdue, and maybe they'll win the Big Ten and make an NCAA Tourney run. But, with the vast improvement of the Conference - specifically Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State - and a brutal stretch coming up (road games at Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio State in a five-game span), Purdue's Big Ten title hopes could vanish early.

They're a year away.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baggage Claim

When flying back from Connecticut to see my folks from Christmas, I turned on my phone once reaching the baggage claim at the Indy Airport. I had received two texts during my flight, and both were from my dad.

"Vikings long FG wins it...20-19."

"Dallas loses big, TB lost, bears lose, i can't believe we're going to get philly..."

Right then, I knew.

Maybe it's some warped kind of "mother's intuition" - I really don't know how to explain it. There are rare times when I know that my team is going to lose.

It hadn't happened since before Game 7 of the ALCS. The Red Sox had come back to tie the series after back-to-back walk-off wins and a lopsided victory in the infamous "A-Rod slap" game. Before Game 7, I cued up Sinatra on my computer, I put on my Mattingly t-shirt, I called my dad - I did everything to get fired up for that game.

But, I knew it. I knew that the completion of the all-time collapse was inevitable. I had the same feeling before Boston College handed Notre Dame their first loss of the 2002 season. I had the same feeling before Game 6 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers.

I felt bad about the Eagles/Giants matchup all this week and those worries came to fruition on Sunday. Home game, against a bitter rival and underdog. It was too easy.

If there is one undeniable truth I've learned in the unpredictable world of sports, it's this: The team that plays like they have nothing to lose, always wins.

Six weeks until pitchers and catchers report...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why even bother?

Sometimes I feel obligated to watch big games, especially Championship games, so I have a better grasp of what I'm talking about when on the show or writing in this blog.

That being said, I have zero desire to watch Florida and Oklahoma play for a fake National Championship tonight. I can't remember being this pissed off about a faux Championship game since Nebraska played Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl (1994 season) - and even then, I understood that the Conference ties wouldn't allow a Nebraska/Penn State unbeaten showdown.

The dude was nasty, but PSU earned at least a split

For the sixth time in the ten years, the fans get screwed.

I'm supposed to watch this crap?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome to the New Schultz's Shots!

For a long time now, I've been wanted to change the once-a-week (sometimes once-a-month) long columns into a blog that I can update a couple times a week. That is finally possible. I will leave up a link to this blog from our XL 950 site as always. Feel free to use the comment section to your heart's desire.

For those that don't know, the Xtra Large Lunch's year-long run is now over. There have been a couple changes to our morning/mid-day lineup, and the 12-1 slot has been taken by the last hour of the Tim Brando Show. I appreciate those of you that listened to the show - it was a lot of fun and I'll miss it. But, I'm looking forward to the new gig as co-host of The Zone with Rakestraw from 3-6 PM.

Happy New Year.

Colts' early exit is no Surprise

We should’ve known that this was going to happen.

Let me rephrase that: I should’ve known this was going to happen.

Immediately after San Diego clinched the AFC West with their win over Denver, I began prepping for their matchup against the Colts. That night, I began looking at the cumulative stats for the Colts this season. Even though there were a ton of red flags - no run game, worst offense since pre-2003, bad special teams - I talked myself out of it:

31st in rush offense (79.6 ypg) - Yeesh. That’s ugly. That’s like Maggie Gyllenhaal ugly. But, these guys still have Peyton and he’s going to find a way (done in my best fake Southern Indiana accent).

24th in rush defense (122.9 ypg) - Hey, remember 2006? The team was a lot worse than this against the run and that season worked out pretty well!

28th in kick return average (20.8 ypa)/32nd in punt return average (6.0 ypa) - So what? The Colts haven’t had a legit kick returner since Clarence Verdin 15 years ago. Even without the “Verdance” this team has rattled off 12+ wins for six straight years.

13th in total offense (23.6 ppg) – You know who was first in total offense? New Orleans. How did that work out for them?

The reality is that the statistics (which I chose to ignore) told the story: this team was never a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Now, that doesn’t change the fact that Saturday night’s loss in San Diego wasn’t a disappointing end to the 2008 season, but it also wasn’t even close to 2005 or 2007 like some fans are making it out to be. In 2005, the Colts had a 13-0 start and a franchise-best 14-2 regular season record. They were playing Pittsburgh who came in needing a four-game win streak just to clinch the sixth seed. That Colts' team was clearly the best in the NFL that year.

In 2007, the Colts were 13-3 and a ten-point favorite at home against San Diego only to watch backup quarterback Billy Volek march his team (sans LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, and Phillip Rivers) down the field for the winning touchdown. Those were choke jobs. Saturday night’s game was a pick ‘em on the road. It ended as a loss in overtime.

Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.

Sure, the season-ending nine game winning streak may have fooled us. But outside of the win in Pittsburgh, who did the Colts beat that they weren’t supposed to? That streak included wins over the pathetic Lions (0-16), Bengals (4-11-1), Browns (4-12), and Jaguars (5-11), not to mention the Titans’ scout team in Week 17, and a Texans team that they have owned since they came into existence in 2002 (13-1 all-time). In hindsight, I almost wish that they never won in Pittsburgh. At 11-5 and without a real quality win in the 2nd half of the season, maybe we all wouldn't have bought so much into the hype.

What happens if Eric Foster never makes this tackle?

This was an above-average team which was carried to a 12-win season because of an extraordinary regular season performance by MVP Peyton Manning.

I should've seen it coming.