Four games into Big Ten play, a look at the numbers

  • 01/12/2011 4:31 pm in

Four games is only representative of 22.2 percent of Indiana’s 18-game slog through the Big Ten schedule.

There are a lot of games left on the docket — which, may further downward spiral your funk about this team, or give you hope that not all is lost, depending on your current mental state in regards to these Hoosiers.

But in the interest of casting a wider net on what’s wrong with this team in the present, here’s a look at the numbers angle.



Let’s just get this out of the way first: Indiana’s defense has been terrible through four Big Ten games. They’re allowing the competition to score 1.26 points per possession, ranking them last in the league. They’re also 10th in the league in opponent effective field-goal percentage, allowing a mark of 59.9 percent. All those open threes aren’t helping matter here, as the Hoosiers are also dead last in opponent 3-point percentage at 51.4 percent.

The Hoosiers also struggle on the defensive glass, as their defensive rebounding percentage mark of 62.4 percent ranks 10th in the league. (Though, I suppose it bears a mention that Minnesota, an opponent of Indiana in these first four contests, is the top offensive rebounding team in the conference so far.)

And don’t forget the constant fouls, perhaps IU’s most egregious defensive weakness. Indiana’s opponent  free-throw rate is 69.5 percent, ranking the Hoosiers last in the conference in that department. They’ve allowed 130 foul-shot attempts. The next closest is Northwestern with 88.

Indiana isn’t so middling in terms of  block percentage (7.5 percent, seventh) steal percentage (eight percent, sixth), and opponent turnover percentage (fifth, 18.8 percent), but these defensive facets aren’t enough to overcome its shooting defense and rebounding shortcomings.

Allowing uncontested looks, second-chance attempts and a high rate of free throws is simply not a recipe for defensive success.


While there’s been plenty of jawing for offensive scheme changes, Indiana’s offense has actually been fairly efficient. It ranks fifth in the conference at 1.08 points per possession, ahead of Penn State (1.06),  Northwestern (1.06) and Minnesota (1.02) — all teams the Hoosiers have lost to in their 0-4 start. The Hoosiers’ eFG percentage of 50.9 percent also ranks them fifth in the league so far.

Remember: This is a team that’s tossed up 60 or more points in all four losses — and even hung 81 on Northwestern Sunday.

An offensive rebounding percentage of 32.1 percent (sixth) also has the Hoosiers hovering in the middle of the pack.

What’s particularly concerning about the offense in Big Ten play so far is the Hoosiers’ free-throw rate, which had  been a relative strength of the team in the non-conference slate. Through their first four conference games, Indiana’s mark of 26.5 percent here ranks them ninth, ahead of only Iowa and Michigan. (You wonder if the criticisms of Indiana’s lack of true grit and aggressiveness is of issue here.)

The Hoosiers are hitting 74.6 percent of their free throws — ranking them fifth in the conference. So if they’re able to work for more looks at the line, it should only help an offense that might not be struggling quite as bad as our eyes sometimes tell us.


Play respectable defense, and a win is bound to fall into this team’s lap.

But whether they are up to such a task yet remains to be seen.

Chart and stats via Statsheet.

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  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Well, if that isn’t pretty self-explanatory then nothing is!

    Our offense isn’t that bad (middle of the pack) – Only OSU, PUke, and ILL are scoring more PPP than we are and only Wisc, PUke, OSU, and ILL have a better offensive efficiency rating? WOW – this makes it completely obvious that despite most of our complaints about the offense (and rightfully so I still believe) it’s the defense that is absolutely KILLING IU!!!

    The sad part of that is that I still feel like defense is half talent/half effort where offense is skewed more towards talent. You can be a good defensive team even when you’re outgunned just by playing harder than the other guy and that just doesn’t seem to be the case with this team.

    Guess we’ll see where it goes from here. IU really needs to get a win. Maybe getting one will turn the momentum and get us on a little run?

  • Anonymous

    The free throw rate demise = Watford’s (free throw rate) demise

    Just an assumption, could be wrong, but he was getting a ton of FT’s in the non-conference portion of the schedule.

  • Anonymous

    Simply put when we get better at defense a lot of our other stats change automatically and for the good.

    Think about it, better defense means:

    1) The other team shoots less free throws

    2) When the other team’s shots start becoming harder they start missing more shots which in turn leads to more defensive rebounds to be had. ( if we block out right )

    3) Better defense means less fouls and more forced turnovers.

    I’ll stop at 4

    4) Everyone knows a large percentage of a team’s easy points are usually a direct result of a good defensive play which in turn increases our FG % among other things.

    Better defense is the biggest key to us getting back in the W column IMHO.

  • InTheMtns

    IU’s lack of effective defense has been the thing that has puzzled me the most about this team:

    + In the preseason and early in the season, CTC and numerous players said tough defense was going to be this team’s identity.

    + CTC and numerous players talked about how their offense would be triggered by their tough defense.

    + Players expressed pride in being defense-minded.

    + Defense is less about talent and more about effort and desire, so being a tough defensive team seemed very achievable (at least to this fan).

    + After games where defense broke down, players said that they’d learned the lesson that defense was the key and that they were back on track with defense.

    + In the first four Big10 games, we haven’t played tough or even good defense for long stretches.

    + I sometimes wonder if this group is capable of holding on to only so many new things at once – and each game where they do one new thing, something we thought they’d mastered in a previous game slips away, sort of like it got bumped out by the new thing.

    + I hope they get back to playing effective defense. It could make all the difference in the world.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I have to correct myself. I see Wisc is ahead of us in PPP too. That makes us 5th in PPP and 5th in OE. Still doesn’t change the fact that D sucks though.

  • Diesel

    Good assessment, I agree.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I think it’s simply a case where they thought they were a good defensive team when they were guarding each other in practice and gained even more false confidence playing the likes of SUIE, NWSU, and SCSU. But, unfortunately, guarding themselves and guarding a guy like Sullinger, Shurna, or Battle is a totally different challenge altogether!

    The more I watch the more I begin to agree with the guys who have already given up and attribute the lack of success with the lack of talented players. That should begin to change over the next couple years if we can wait that long.

  • Anonymous

    Nice post, Ryan. This validates a few of the things I’ve thought about this team. For a team so dependent on outside shooting, IU has been better offensively than I thought they’d be.

    Two thoughts:

    1) We don’t have the personnel to get to the line. This is a team of jump shooters, no post presence, and limited drivers/slashers. The one who can get to the line can’t, for several reasons.

    2) Defense, more so than offense or rebounding, is dependent on athleticism. It’s not surprise our three best defenders are by far the best athletes. If you’re quicker and stronger than your opponent it becomes a heck of a lot easier to stay in front of them. While this can be mitigated by effort to some extent, you must have exceptional communication and experience to compensate.

  • Anonymous

    Agree, the fact that we can’t really put our finger on which one we lack the most is a statement in itself I guess. If I had to guess I would like to believe that desire would be the least of the three but I just don’t know at this juncture.

    The game against UM is pivotal it has the potential to be a game that puts us back on track to salvage this season somewhat and gain some much needed confidence or could possibly put this team in position of wanting to throw in the towel.

  • InTheMtns

    Good point — when they measured themselves against each other and the SUIE and NWSU’s of the world, they probably did get a false sense about being good on defense. And if our guards aren’t quick enough to keep in front of their man and our bigs aren’t big enough – well, as you said – it’s going to be a challenge. Even given all that, I’m still surprised we aren’t better on defense. Things ARE going to change with the incoming talent, so if we have to wait for that, then I guess we’ll wait. I’m still optimistic about growth this year though, and not ready to give up. Maybe Michigan will be tired after their two close games this week! Go Hoosiers!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting info, certainly is consistent with what we have observed on the floor. The defensive effort just doesn’t seem to be there early in our last six losses.

    This team just isn’t good enough to get down by 15-20 points and have any hope to comeback. Hopefully CTC will start demanding effort defensively and send those not giving full effort to the bench to regain the energy to play defense.

    Have we ever seen players/team foul at a rate that the Hoosiers are doing this year. We have had numerous players max out their fouls in less than 10 min of court time- mind boggling.

  • DM

    Aceman, I agree with your statement regarding our players guarding good players. I only have one statement – that is Shurna has got the ugliest shot I have every seen in a college basketball player – so he is not that good – just gets it done. Why can’t we do that!!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Because we don’t have the confidence or swagger that he has.

  • It’s cyclical because better defense will lead to fewer fouls, which means our better/bigger defenders can stay on the floor longer (instead of fouling out), which will lead to better defense…

    I hope we’re up in Novack’s grille the entire night. Let Hardaway, Jr. do his dad’s crossover or whatever, but prevent Novack from catching fire.

  • JerryCT

    I truly fear a loss to UM. They have the same explanation for losses we do:

    + The My Cousin Vinny explanation : “too many yutes ”

    + The Graduate explanation: Not enough upperclassmen

    + The Wait till Next Year explanation : not enough talent

    + At Least we Played Hard explanation: what if they out work us , play with more energy and destroy the myth that we are at least playing hard enough to win.

    + Weak Pre-Season Schedule:

    As such, a loss to me takes away the popular explanations for our season thus far. UM has been competitive despite the losses. Folks like CTC give credit to Bielein.

    I truly expected a ton of losses but in competitive close games. None of our losses have been close in the sense of our having a better than 50% chance of winning in the stretch.

    Where will we place the credit for our performance this time if we lose ? It scares me

  • Anonymous

    I guess the only solution is to win this one. Hopefully, they do.

  • Anonymous

    I know that this has been hit on in other threads, but I feel like this team is full of catch 22 players. By that, I mean players who are good in one area and bad in others. By playing the likes of DE, CW (usually), VJIII, etc. you get good numbers on offense but poor defensive stats. I like what Ace said about defense being skewed toward effort where offense is skewed toward talent. I clearly see the lack of effort in many of the players jogging down to the defensive end, while running up court to get their shot off.

    I think the good defenders have showed they can score when it is necessary or the shot is there, and I think it is time for CTC to truly put defense first in his lineups. We may not get off to a fast start, but if all works well, the other team won’t either. I would rather have a close, low-scoring game in the first 30 minutes, since we only seem to want to go on a scoring run in the closing minutes of the game when we are usually down by 15.

  • JerryCT

    IMHO we seem to put in effort …………. just the wrong kind. Here is what I mean:

    + High Ball Screen: when the perimeter guys sense a screen coming …….. they let it happen to them. How many times have they been backed into the screener by the handler ? I think this comes from an attitude that defense is a “reaction” to offense instead of an “offensive” move of its own.

    One Answer: make an aggressive attack on the handler to force him to move , perhaps over play away from the screener or back toward the help BUT never just let it develop.. JR always tightens his position and then hand checks the screener so he cannot get close.

    + Over Help: Too many players are turning their heads to worry about the other man’s assignment especially DE. OR they get extreme positions on help side enabling the skip pass to their open man.

    One Answer: Usually help is a good thing unless your position takes away the “recover” . I think I would change to emphasize ball denial vs help and let the chips fall.

    + Confused Switching: Too often our weakest defenders switch resulting in 2 guys on 1 leaving a wide open shot. Also it enables a player to make the easy play vs the tough play

    One Answer: No switching unless on the low post screens. Take responsibility for your assignment

    Sounds easy but it isn’t. I watched Wisc the other night continually switch on the high ball screen leaving Nankavil on Lucas ( who then drove him ) or Taylor on Green who either posted him or shot over him. At one point Green drove and drew a switch/help from Leurs making the situation even worse for them. Taylor never figured out how to attack Lucas to escape the screen or force it way out from the basket.

    Now on the offensive side I never understand why Watford does not set the high ball screen and then follow the MSU formula they have for Green. If they switch Watford is defended by Hulls or Jones man …………. the mismatch we mythically think we have with him at the 3. Jones or Hulls then draws a 4 defender who they are capable of messing with.

    ( Geezuz IUMike , I am gettign as long winded as you )

  • JerryCT

    Yes a good defensive performance would be refreshing

  • FightingHoosiers

    hopefully they can improve…still plenty of time to win some games. also, just wanted to remind ith about this post…

  • Anonymous

    I really liked this information. Thanks for the work in preparing it. Also, the explanation was very precise. I had no clue as to what “FLR%” might actually mean. Indiana MUST improve on defense, rebounding and toughness! The coaches CAN do this! Play Rivers, Oladipo and Sheehey with Watford and Hulls, each at 30 min/game (or until they foul out). Use Creek, Jones, Elston and Pritchard as fill in players until they “get” defense and rebounding (I do not really include Creek in this criticism because the kid is a warrior who is now physically hampered). The only other guy to put on the floor is Danny Moore when the opponent has a good offensive “little guy”. Everything has to be focused upon winning the “next” game!

  • Anonymous

    I agree in general, but I disagree specifically as to the MN loss. We did have a good chance of winning that game.

  • Casey B.

    So do you think if IU had played tougher opponents earlier on, they’d be playing better at this point in the season? Or would they simply have a worse record and perhaps even less confidence?

    I think a tough non-conference schedule helps a good team become great. IU is not a good team. For them, a tough pre-conference schedule just means the team gets demoralized earlier in the season, and goes into Big Ten play with absolutely no confidence.

  • InTheMtns

    Oh, those were the days, my friend . . .

  • marcusgresham

    It made me sick to see him flip that thing up like a 4th grader shooting beyond his range, but it kept going in. He also has an enormous head for that thin body. It’s like we got lit up by the bratwurst from the race at a Milwaukee Brewers game.

  • marcusgresham

    Not so sure about that. Dane Fife, Steve Eyl, Dan Dakich, etc, are examples of pretty damn good defensive players in IU’s past who were, by no means, elite athletes. You can be a good defender with determination and smarts.

  • Anonymous

    Now Jerry let’s not go overboard with the comparisons you still have a good ways to go to obtain that kind of lofty status. LOL The way IU bball has been as of late it is pretty easy for a person to just get on a roll and then it just seems to flow out, at least that’s what I’m goin’ with and I’m stickin’ to it. My keyboard has taken more than it’s fair share of abuse over the last 6 games and something tells me mine isn’t the only one taking above normal wear and tear.

    CW not ever coming up to set the high ball screen puzzles me even more than why he is at the top of our zone defense. It’s like you say one of the main reasons we were supposedly putting him at the 3 was to create mismatches and I’m like you it would seem like that would be the perfect way to do just that. Hell, I wish they would at least try it and see what happens.

    When we have used the high ball screen correctly and got the smaller man on one of our bigs it seems like the ball handler is more interested in continuing to pound the ball uselessly or in VJ3 ‘s case gets wrapped in forcing their way to basket when there is not a lane to do that. I cannot begin to count the number of times that we have ended up with the other team’s guard on one of our bigs and our guard either doesn’t get the ball to them or they don’t create the proper passing angle to make a good entry pass. VJ3 seems to be the one guilty of this more than any of the others. As much as he dribbles the ball you would think it would not be a problem for him to take 2 or 3 dribbles to create this better passing angle. Of course that is 2 or 3 dribbles AWAY from the basket. On the rare occasion that we have made the pass after forcing them to switch we have had a pretty high success rate seems like to me.

  • JerryCT

    Just got done studying the UM vs OSU game

    1. UM passes to the high post or the wing then runs 2 perimeter cutters thru the lane one behind the other rubbing off the post player. The last one then sets a screen for the weak side wing. They seemed to get open shots.

    2. The post player also screens off the ball for the wing and then they do the same thing with 2 cutters then he sets a high ball screen or gets a pass for #1 again

    What is my point ? Since we are neither feeding the roller nor are we successfully driving then lets just tweak the set and feed the post player and run these cuts to get perimeter type shots.

    It appears to be movement we already do

    After watching this I suddenly realized that :

    + our bigs are pretty good but underutilized passers

    + we have nobody on the team that I think of as a cutter

    Am I wrong ? Do we cut at all ?

    So why not pass to the high post and cut off of it instead of trying to drive off of it. It is not like we are feeding the roller anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds somewhat similar to what Denny Crum used to run at UL. I like the idea of the second cutter setting a screen for the weak side, gives the player with the ball at the high post a chance to be able to turn and quickly survey the situation.

    Do we have players that could be cutters, yes, do have players that consistently cut to the basket the way they should, no, might it work if they did, yes but this team’s guards would have to do some things that they have not shown that they are capable of doing up to this point, or not in a consistent manner anyway,. At this point it’s time to start trying other things. Crean doesn’t have to completely abandon his style of play but rather, like you said, just tweak it a little here and there.

    If CW is going to have success at the 3 then this should be something that works for him but then again I don’t know if the has the footspeed, or maybe put in a better way, the determination to run a play of this kind the way it would have to be run for it to be successful. I’m with Dakich in that why does he look like he just got hurt a lot of the time and why does it take him, what seems like forever, to get from point A to point B. It looked like at the end of the NW game he finally figured it out as far as playing hard and with a little bit of an edge. Strangely enough it was after he had time to think about it on the bench. If I’m CTC I think I tell him that the way he starts the game against UM better look a whole lot like his play did at the end of the NW game or he is going to be seeing the game from the angle that the bench provides and it won’t be for just a short while. I think he has it in him it’s just a matter of getting him to show it and keep showing it.

  • Anonymous

    Too young for Eyl and Dakich, but Fife was an underrated athlete. I was a few years younger than him, but I remember hearing about him taking Cory Maggette apart at Nike Camp when he was in high school before going to IU.

    I don’t like to use names, but we’ve had a number of non-scholarship players at IU who would have given everything to be on the court. That passion didn’t mean they could play Big-10 level defense.

  • WestCoast Hoosier

    First, I like the work done on this by ITH. Great job! Interesting!

    Second, what I notice on the team and what I think leads to some of the defensive problems is a lack of lateral foot speed — coupled with lack of effort in some cases.

    E.g., I think Maurice Creek has very little lateral foot speed, albeit because of the injury.
    I think Verdell lacks lateral foot speed – it just isn’t his forte. Plus sometimes he lacks effort. His matador defense in the Minnesota game was noticeable. I would add that I think Verdell is quick but not fast, if you know what I mean.
    I think Jordy lacks lateral foot speed.
    I think Roth lacks lateral foot speed.

    Capobianco and Elston also and maybe Pritchard too.
    Not sure about Watford or if his problem is more effort, or perhaps injury. I continue to wonder if we’re getting the full story on his back, which I think has significantly hampered him in at least some games..

    The guys who can move side to side are: Sheehee, Oladipo, Rivers, maybe Danny Moore, who has other liabilities.

    And where is the help defense coming from? It isn’t there. Blame that on Guy Marc-Michel who, and I’m sure everyone will agree on at least this, hasn’t played up to expectations.

    I would add that, with this team, the fit together may be an issue, at least to this point.

    In other words, the whole adds up to less than the sum of its pieces..

  • millzy32

    Our opponents shoot 51.4% from the 3 point line as a team? Are you kidding me? No team can win giving up that stat line. How many times have we all screamed at the TV watching their players shoot 3’s with no one around them and we can’t get an uncontested shot to save our lives.

    I pray that something different happens for the next 14 games but my expectations couldn’t be lower.

    Go Hoosiers beat a bad Michigan team at home. Please beat somebody. Anybody. Please Please Please.

    I don’t want to turn my TV off for another year. I want to watch and I want to see progress, that’s all. A little progress, any progress. Dear Lord show me a sign. Amen.