Inside the Hall Twitter Mailbag: December 14

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 11: Christian Watford  of the Indiana Hoosiers is pictured during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats on December 11, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)The Inside the Hall Twitter mailbag is a weekly collection of questions tweeted to us via our Twitter account, @insidethehall.

Tweet us your questions each week and we’ll answer as many as we can. Now, onward …

@ni3t writes: What do you think more caused the loss Saturday? The uneven officiating down the stretch or just a lapse in concentration?

Ryan Corazza: While the free throws were lopsided, remember that Indiana has shown a propensity for fouling the opposition at a high rate all season. Through Monday, the Hoosiers sport a defensive free-throw rate of 50.4 percent, which ranks them 313th in the nation.

So I’d have to go with a lapse in concentration. Indiana slumped through a nine-minute scoring drought — which I believe was its longest drought of the season — due to poor shot selection. When everything began to speed up, the Hoosiers failed to slow things down, run the offense and work to get the good looks they were getting for most of the game prior to the drought.

Yes, Indiana hurt itself by putting Kentucky on the line so many times. But if it’s not scoring itself, there’s no way it can win.

@JayHorrey writes: What are realistic expectations for this team in their two games in Vegas?

Alex Bozich: IU should be slightly favored against a Northern Iowa team that is in rebuilding mode after knocking off Kansas in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. UNI has dropped three road games — Syracuse by 22, Wisconsin-Milwaukee by 2 and Iowa by 12. If the Hoosiers are to push toward the .500 plateau, this is a game they need to win.

Colorado or New Mexico will be the second opponent and both are beatable. Colorado lost early to an awful San Francisco team and New Mexico’s only loss was by 25 at California, a likely sub .500 team. Anything less than one win will be considered a disappointment.

@jcarr22 writes: What happened to Pritch, and is there a reason to keep hope alive?

Zach Osterman: Let’s address each question separately. If you’re asking what happened to Tom Pritchard’s offensive game, there are a few answers. First, his early production was a byproduct of a lot of attention offensively, and a lack of other options. As defenses learned to key in on him during his freshman season, he slowed, and eventually tired. It stands to reason that, given that he was always a project to begin with, he would split minutes once there were similarly able bodies behind him, which explains the drop in playing time. The offensive struggles last year appeared attached to at least some lack of confidence, as well as the fact that frankly, he wasn’t good enough then.

Is there reason to keep hope alive? That’s a hard question to answer, because it depends on what you mean by “hope”? Is Tom Pritchard a double-double player? Probably not. Is he Indiana’s best post defender, right now and probably next year as well? Absolutely. His footwork far exceeds that of Bobby Capobianco and Derek Elston, and many of his fouls this year — or at least a much larger portion of them than in past seasons — have actually been smart fouls, fouls committed to cover for teammates who lost a defensive mark, and the like. He’s also actually developed a pretty damn nice shot-blocking habit (like, almost three times as many blocked shots per game compared to last year, despite playing less minutes overall). So yea, there’s plenty of hope for Tom Pritchard. And some results to back it up.

@tylerawildman writes: what is the likelihood of some of the more premier IU players like Creek and Watford going pro before graduating?

Ryan Corazza: It’s possible. No question about it. But both players — especially Creek, who’s still not himself after his knee injury — have a lot of work to do to be able to sniff the draft.

Watford bulked up in the offseason and is showing he can score in a variety of ways. But he’s not in Chad Ford’s Top 100 Draft Prospects, which is put together based on where NBA general managers have kids on their big boards, as well as what scouts are saying about particular individuals.

If Watford shows marked improvement again in 2011-12, it’s likely he’ll test the NBA waters after the season and get some feedback on where he may be selected. If he finds he’s a mid-second-round pick at best, coming back for a senior season on what should be a good team should only improve his draft stock.

If projections have him in the first round, he could bolt for the NBA. As a first-round pick, kids get more guaranteed years and money, so that’s something to weigh.

(Although, a new collective-bargaining agreement, one that will be in place by the time Watford looks at the NBA, could change rookie salary structures, so that’s another variable here.)

Don’t expect either to leave after this season. It’s possible they could go after their junior seasons. But If I had to put money on it today, I’d say both play four years.

Neither possesses that elite athleticism or upside teams often drool over, nor do they have enough size or length to be legitimate frontcourt players in the NBA, and size can often help your draft stock if you are deficient in other areas. (This is why Hanner Perea has NBA written all over him.)

They also aren’t point guards, the position du jour of the NBA these days.

@jhobaby531 writes: When do you see Mo Creek getting back into last year’s form?

Zach Osterman: Honestly, not this year. It’s not the injury, so much as what the injury didn’t allow Creek to do, which was spend the offseason getting stronger. Instead, he actually probably spent it getting weaker, because he wasn’t able to work his legs out much at all, which has led to what you’ve seen on the court this year, in terms of less lift on his shots and a decreased leaping ability. He’s certainly gotten better, both according to what I’ve seen and what we’ve been told, and he’s shown flashes of the shooting ability. It’s not a stretch to say Creek could average double digits in the Big Ten season — although we have no idea how he’ll handle one, for obvious reasons — but getting back to last year’s form probably isn’t physically possible this season.

@jdhoosier writes: Hulls is a great shooter. Why doesn’t Crean design some offense to try to get Jordan some more solid looks?

Alex Bozich: Crean has been pretty open about the fact that he’d like to get Hulls more looks, but teams are beginning to key on him, making it more difficult to find open looks. This is especially true when he’s on the court at the same time as Tom Pritchard and Jeremiah Rivers, who haven’t looked for many shots through nine games.

There’s no question Hulls is IU’s best shooter — he’s hitting at a 57 percent clip — and he probably needs to be more aggressive in looking for his offense. But he’s not one to take highly contested looks and aggressiveness on offense is not something that’s been a primary focus for Hulls throughout his career. He’s an unselfish player, but at the same time, only 48 shot attempts to date is simply not enough when you’re shooting such a high percentage.

@IU11AJohnson writes: Should Oladipo and Rivers be getting more minutes than Creek right now?

Zach Osterman: Per ESPN: Maurice Creek, 21.3 minutes; Jeremiah Rivers, 20.7 minutes; Victor Oladipo, 16.2 minutes. Not trying to make light of your question, I just think the fact that the gap isn’t really that big right now should be illustrated. The issue is that the three aren’t entirely comparable players. Each serves a different purpose when in the game. Creek is very obviously helpful because of his scoring — even down significantly from last year, he’s still third on the team at 11 points per game.

Rivers brings defense for sure, but he’s also been a steadying hand, and a lot more protective of the ball this year, making him a great bench asset. And while Oladipo undoubtedly brings both flair and energy off the bench, he’s also prone to freshman mistakes, and the pace of game can wear him out on occasion. Again, I get what you’re saying, and I don’t wholeheartedly disagree with you. I think each player’s minutes, right now, is probably appropriate for their level of impact and involvement. But because Creek clearly offers the most offensively and is still at least an above-average defender, he needs to be starting. The other two are perfect foils for the still-recovering sophomore, who Tom Crean has admitted is on something of a “pitch count” with regard to his recovery.

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