One factor stands out for this group of Hoosiers

  • 03/02/2011 8:39 am in

“The most statistically extreme team behavior in the Big Ten — even more extreme than the scarcities in Wisconsin turnovers or Michigan offensive boards — is the frequency with which Indiana’s opponents shoot free throws. In this year’s book I took Northwestern to task pretty severely for their frequent fouling in 2010. I owe the Wildcats an apology. The 2011 Hoosiers are setting a new hacktastic standard.” – John Gasaway, Basketball Prospectus, March 1, 2011

As I was browsing through the comments following Sunday’s loss to Ohio State, I noticed a healthy amount of chatter regarding the officiating. Perhaps some of it was due to the fact that the Buckeyes reached the line 36 times and the Hoosiers only got there 20 times.

But having kept a close eye on the four factors since the opening game against Florida Gulf Coast, this free throw discrepancy is not a new trend: opponents have been getting to the line against Indiana at an unhealthy rate all season. Case in point: Florida Gulf Coast shot 34 free throws. In Assembly Hall.

Gasaway is spot on with his hacktastic remark: Indiana is the worst among all BCS conference teams (and just about everybody else, too, for that matter) at sending opponents to the line.

The free throw rate stat, defined for defense as opponent free throws attempted divided by opponent field goals attempted (FTA/FGA), shows the Hoosiers at 51.7 percent, 337th out of 345 Division I teams. For perspective, the next worst team in the Big Ten, Northwestern, checks in at 37.4 percent (164th in the country).

With no answer as to why Indiana was so far down the totem pole in this statistic, I went back to the KenPom archives to see if high opponent free throws rates were common with Tom Crean coached teams.

Here are the numbers:

So what are we to make of this?

1. I’m not sure how significant it is, but it is worth mentioning that Crean’s teams at Marquette regressed in opponent free throw rate in every season except one from 2003-2008. There will also be regression from season one to season two and from season two to season three at Indiana. The good news? It can’t get any worse in season four.

2. As our friend Hugh Kellenberger pointed out over at The Hoosier Scoop, a good chunk of this problem this season is personnel related. Consider these fouls per forty minutes figures: Bobby Capobianco (10.9), Tom Pritchard (6.3), Will Sheehey (5.4), Derek Elston (5.4) and Daniel Moore (5.3). The inexperience card can be played for Sheehey, but the defense, as we’ve said all year, has been disappointing to say the least. Poor positioning. Poor footwork. And not nearly enough communication.

3. No team can overcome sending quality opponents to the line at such a frequent rate. Indiana’s free throw rate is 37.3, which means there’s a huge discrepancy on how often the Hoosiers are getting to the line in comparison to opponents. And anytime you give major conference teams the opportunity to cash in at the line, you’re creating an uphill battle from the get-go. You can overcome the alarming free throw rates against the likes of Florida Gulf Coast, Mississippi Valley State and Northwestern State. Against Purdue, Ohio State or even Iowa? Not going to happen.

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  • Diesel

    You caught me! My post was just a bunch of Creanisms.

    To answer your questions, I think he is too slow with not enough handle to be an effective three, and too predictable (no post moves) with no desire to bang/rebound and not strong enough to be an effective four.

    I will follow that up and say he is a really good player, he just has a lot of development needed. I bet he just owns Elston in practice though, hopefully Zeller will be good for him.

  • Anonymous

    “Half-talented”

    “Lacking a full arsenal of skills…to be complete”

    “Limited bandwidth.”

    That’s this team. There IS talent, there IS an arsenal of skills, there IS bandwidth — just not enough right now. Sometimes things jell just right and teams overcome that for a long stretch or a season, but it’s not the norm.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    We’ll see Pritch drastically improve next year if 2 things happen:
    1) If Zeller is as good as we expect him to be
    2) If Watford will start guarding someone and our guards stop getting beat like red headed step children.

    I also contend that our personnel is, yes, poor and worth about 6-8 extra fouls per game just because they’re slow and out of position. But I STILL THINK that officials are screwing us because of a lack of respect and RMK’less sideline and that’s also good for 5 fouls per game. I counted THREE OBVIOUS phantom foul calls just in the second half against OSU and IF and when the team gets better and CTC starts to ride officials more I think this will get better too.

    It’s a bit of an overrated stat as well. You don’t have to be number one, but I agree you can’t be last. Duke was 97th last season and Butler was 110th and they made the championship game. On the other hand, Iowa was 28th and they sucked so it’s obviously not THE determining stat when it comes to winning. I would say you have to at least be in the middle of the pack to above average though or it’s hurting you too bad.

  • millzy32

    No problem, it just comes naturally to me at times for I am in the world’s most boring profession. Yes, you guessed it accounting.

    Now lets defy the odds and the stats tonight and beat Wisconsin on National TV. Lets send out Rivers with a win.

  • millzy32

    Watford has the 3 position on the brain but way too slow and very poor dribbler/driver. The only position he could ever be good at is the 4 but he needs to get tougher and stronger. He serves no real purpose at all just sitting around the 3 point line chucking up ill advised shots. He was great at the 3/4 early in the season because when we play the sisters of the poor he is just too large for them to handle. In the big ten all of the guys playing the 4 are bigger and stronger than him and all the guys playing the 3 are shorter but quicker than him and can out leap him. He is a good shooter when open but he just needs to get bigger and become somewhat of a banger. If he ever wants to get in the NBA he needs to hit the weights or he just has no chance. The 3’s in the NBA are way stronger and way quicker than he is and the 4’s are also quicker and much much stronger. This offseason should be in the weight room and in the lunchroom for him. The only way he’ll truly reach his potential. It’s hard to get faster but you can definitely get stronger and tougher and meaner in the offseason.

  • millzy32

    One more thing. Sullinger for OSU can’t jump either but he is so big and strong that no one blocks his shots. It’s not all about athleticism. Girth counts big time especially in college.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Yeah, I noticed PUke was pretty low on that ranking last year but they really, really got into guys and forced a lot of defensive pressure. Maybe that’s the goal and the focus but the players we have just can’t do it? I’ll tell you what it looks like right now. It looks like a bunch of mental patients turned loose at a Victoria Secret fashion show! Our guys just look like they’re running around aimlessly looking for the first person who will give it up to them rather than effectively pressuring the ball as individuals and as a team.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I understand what you’re saying and it makes sense. There’s only 7 or 8 teams worse than us in the country at this stat! Really? I agree that I’ve seen far worse teams this year while watching Big 12, SEC, and ACC games and yet we are the worst.

    I agree that we could be more towards “slightly below average” with proper coaching and adequate effort by the players to get better and play D with their feet and their heads rather than their hands.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I pointed out last week that he hurts the team playing the three also because a lot of times there’s not a 4 on the court! We almost exclusively have CWat and another big (Pritch or Elston) on the court at the same time and therefore, CWat is the 4 who is just standing outside the three point line waiting for a pass to go 1 on 1. This leaves Pritchard or Elston to try and get open down low alone or screen for the ball out top because there is nobody to screen for down low. Most offenses feature big men screening across for each other and floating out to set off ball screens for guards and wings to cut to the basket or out to the 3-point line. Our offense has none of this with CWat in the game because he’s determined to just stand 25 feet from the basket so he can be ready to drive or shoot when they finally throw him the ball.

    Now I better stop because as I sit and type this I start to picture it in my head and it starts to piss me off more and more! How the he[[ can we have an offense where we have a slow point guard dribbling the air out of the ball, 2 off guards and a supposed 3 in CWat standing around doing nothing, and a big man left on an island with nobody to screen for and expect to win in the Big Ten??? I just don’t get it. It goes against everything that is holy in the game of basketball. We don’t pass well. We don’t screen well. We don’t move well without the ball. And we don’t have a single player who can DWade it and go by somebody for a dunk or a dish! AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!

  • JerryCT

    I don’t see any real changes in schemes and not much team improvement . What is wrong with me , coach?

    I get a picture of a coach with a narrow comfort zone with a propensity to “breathe his own exhaust”.

    Some kind of change , even if it fails, would be welcome relief and restore some faith.

    Are we all believing that the players are bad and there are not schemes they could handle better ?

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a good point that certain kinds of success in one position can successfully influence another. They spiral each other up (or down). Small successes can multiply, without being able to pinpoint any exact one cause for the improvement. A few key, small, improvements can lead to big changes.

  • Anonymous

    It’s almost as if, as several have said, someone has decided to implement a system for the long haul, and not to interrupt that implementation for any possible short-term gains.

    As if someone has been encouraged to weather the storm and discouragement of short-term failure, if they think it will get them to long-term success.

  • YimYames

    I wasn’t too happy with MoF at first but after a couple listens it really grew on me and is now one of my favorites. Look for the new My Morning Jacket album Circuital somewhere around April or May.