The Minute After: Northwestern

  • 01/23/2016 2:51 pm in

Thoughts on an 89-57 win over the Wildcats:

What is left to say?

At this point, the Hoosiers are playing so well so often we’re running out of ways to heap praise on this group. It’s another blowout win at home where the opponent stood no chance from the opening tip. Ohio State came and Indiana embarrassed the Buckeyes by 25. Illinois traveled to Bloomington and lost by 34. The Wildcats, try as they might, were just no match for the Hoosiers this afternoon in a 32-point blowout for the home team.

Forget the level of competition so far, there’s no denying Indiana is playing at an incredibly high level on both ends of the floor. The Hoosiers are not just winning. They’re dominating. This is the team’s first seven-game winning streak in Big Ten play in 23 years (1993) and its 12th straight victory overall.

When Indiana went through its struggles in Maui, there was no sign the Hoosiers had given up and tuned out their coach. Far from it. And that’s proven more than true. They’ve simply kept working at it in practice and the hard work and dedication to getting better has shined through.

On defense, this team is night and day from earlier in the season. Sure, they still get beat from time to time. But there is no head-scratching man to zone switching. No repeatedly getting beat off the dribble on the perimeter. The ball screen defense is much improved. Indiana kept its seventh straight conference opponent under a point per possession (.87) and it’s maybe the most impressive stat of all during this run. No one would have expected this just one month ago.

On offense, Indiana is coming at the opponent from every angle. It starts with the 3 ball. Over its two blowout wins at home this week, the Hoosiers have hit 50 percent from distance (32-of-64). That’s 96 points. A healthy handful of those misses were halfway down and rimmed out. Pretty much everyone on the team that’s capable of hitting from distance has. The looks have come from incredible ball movement in the halfcourt or zipping up the court ahead of a set defense for open looks.

When Indiana isn’t ending a possession with a 3-point make, it’s making sure the most efficient freshman big man in the country is getting looks in the paint. The Hoosiers are making sure to find Troy Williams and reward him for his off-ball movement. They are getting offensive rebounds and putbacks. IU is working till it finds the right look, whenever that comes in the context of a possession.

This team is playing with incredible confidence and chemistry. They are having fun. They have turned a corner. Flipped the narrative. There’s no question the Hoosiers are in great position to take on the more challenging part of the Big Ten schedule.

And that’s just about here.

KenPom gives the Hoosiers just a two-point edge against the Badgers in Madison on Tuesday. And after getting Minnesota at home a week from today, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland are just over the horizon.

Don’t expect Indiana to run the table. And it’s too premature to call them conference favorites despite the strong start. But this team is about as well prepared as possible heading into the the back half of its schedule.

Its a credit to its coach, its senior leader and a group of kids playing together and for each other on both ends of the floor.

Filed to:

  • Sandra Wilson

    Do you know that practices are shorter or less intense ?…I’ve wondered about this for the last few years since each team seemed to fade late in the season…The amazing part of the latest surge is that the defense is doing things they’ve never done in all the other Crean years…They help with a purpose and actually double up and trap the ball…They no longer do the jab step and swat at the air…Today, NW drove the baseline and TB had to rotate over to stop him….Much to my amazement, CH rotated to guard the post and actually stole the pass….This has never happened before with Crean’s teams…My question is, what happened – why now ?…That play alone gives me hope for the second half of the season that I never would have had a month ago.

  • IUMIKE1

    Excellent comment, I totally agree.

  • BL

    Read again. Obvious many of us are on the same page. Be great if JBJ could rejoin the team before the tournament.

  • ForeverIU

    In his post-game presser CTC mentioned that they are limiting practice team, which was music to my ears and one of my biggest takeaways. I don’t know how it’s been in the past though, but I’m also inclined to think that our mid-season dip has had something to do with exhaustion.

  • ForeverIU

    Every time I read one of your posts, the word “Hallelujah” starts involuntarily rolling off my tongue. I don’t know what your pull is with CTC, but I would def want to see you as his personal consultant. Great respect for you MIKE.

  • BL

    Again, I’d argue it’s recruiting or the players. Zeller/Oladipo team didn’t play good help defense?

  • IUMIKE1

    Am the same way when it comes to the pressers. Enjoy listening to Collins in a presser have respect for him and think he has done an awful lot with not a whole lot, and expect him to have NW competing at an even higher level next year. The powers that be in Evanston better be sticking every dollar they can in the bank, cause if he is able to somehow get them into the tournament this year (that would not be a really big surprise to me) and turns it up another notch or two next year, some major school will be coming after him with a whole lot of greenbacks.

  • BL

    Really? Listen to the players describe the coaching approach. Swallow your pride and admit your were wrong. TC is an outstanding coach and I love the way he represents our university. As long as he can recruit I’ll take him all day long.

  • BL

    Nice.

  • BL

    Not that far off the ’87 team.

  • Ben thorne

    Maybe the coach is also developing as a coach? The same way he talks about player development?

    How about not is a outstanding coach…..but is becoming….

  • BL

    Fair enough. Coaches should have the same opportunity to improve as folks do in their non-athletic careers. Successful AD’s/GM’s get that. For example, hoping Grigson/Polian prove such for the Colts.

  • ForeverIU

    I lived in Queens (Astoria). I miss NYC.

  • IUMIKE1

    Thank you, kind words indeed, but in my best Wayne’s World voice….I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy. lol

    I can’t help but wonder though if JBJ had not gotten injured would TC had eventually took the 2 guard approach or would he have stuck with the 3 guard approach. My hope is that this has forced him to understand that playing a 2 guard lineup (and with others in the future) with this group is a better approach than the 3 guard way. I will have to say this for him though he did seem to do away with the switching from one kind of defense to another type of defense within the same possession and that certainly hasn’t hurt us defensively wise.

  • IUMIKE1

    Yep, some don’t think that ” fit ” isn’t that big of a deal when it comes to players and where they end up playing, but it is a lot bigger factor in my opinion, than what a lot of people think it is. Sometimes too, just the fact that it’s a fresh start is enough to rejuvenate a player. Whatever the case with MB, he has been a big and important addition for this team, and moe of one than I thought he would be. MB and NZ have lent a good amount of credence to TC being able to see, and maybe more importantly get, more out of a player than most. OG is looking like he will be mentioned in that way as well.

  • It’s been discussed elsewhere as well that practices are less intense in the B1G. The implication is that CTC is generally less intense, something we heard from him at the beginning of the season.

  • Speaking just for myself, of course I wouldn’t say the Zeller/Oladipo teams didn’t play defense. They did. However, last year and at the beginning of this year CTC was doing some weird stuff with defensive schemes that was confusing our players more than the competition. That’s all gone now–everything is simpler, which I think couple with the increased effort on the players’ part is resulting in the defensive improvement we’re seeing. So, of course, it’s a combination of coaching and the players executing, and my only point is that CTC deserves some kudos just like he deserved some criticism.

  • Now, at the same time, I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. I’m really excited about how the team is playing (which I think is obvious from my many comments), but a part of me is still reserving final judgement until we see how the team does in the upcoming, much tougher part of the B1G. Heck, I’m looking forward to seeing how they do at Wisconsin. If they play like they have been and tough out a win (seriously, I can’t imagine it’ll be a blowout up there), then I’ll start thinking they can really do something special. I really don’t want to get too overconfident as a fan, and I hope the players aren’t as well.

  • PBzeer

    Barring a major collapse, I think it’s safe to say Crean is safe for another year. Yes, he has made some major adjustments that are working out very well, and he certainly deserves credit for that (as do the players). It does though remain a question of, is it an evolution or a one-off?

    That’s not to take away anything that CTC has accomplished, but to this point, the major flaw in his resume is a lack of consistency in playing our best when it counts the most. If what were seeing is indeed an evolution, then he’ll be fine. If it’s not, then he won’t be.

  • kaponya44

    I have something you can say …Max was a steal from Michigan ..Well,not so much a steal as a gift ..Thanks Michigan ! ;P

  • Gary

    Sitting here listening to Sportscenter U. Commentator is reviewing the highlights of the Mich St vs Maryland game. Female commentator is talking about her favorites to win the Big 10, and she says it’s these two teams, maybe Iowa. IU doesn’t even get recognized by her. I can’t wait to shut all of these people down! I believe this team is for real, and I can’t wait to see this play out. Go IU!

  • Koko

    TC developing as a coach….what a great observation. I never looked at it from that point of view.

  • “Forget the level of competition”???!!? Wish I could but I just can’t shake the feeling that the wheels are going to fall off the first time we play someone in the top 25. I guess the Notre Dame game means something, currently at #28 in Pomeroy but the highest ranked B10 team we’ve beaten is Wisconsin sitting at #60 and that was at home.

  • Ben thorne

    You know, I have been vocal in the past because I thought he was over coaching. Nobody looked relaxed and in the flow of the game. Everyone looks more dialed in AND relaxed now….still an urgency, but now the players are showing more instinct. Awesome to watch.

  • toughest road test in conference, to date. I’d say duke was tougher.

  • the toughness and level of play in general makes me more optimistic. They’ve shown they can play through adversity now, so I expect them to at least make any future challenges a good game, at least. I think the whole “wheels are going to fall off” thing is past. They’ll probably drop a few in the coming weeks, but I don’t expect to be on the receiving end of any blowouts. Except possibly at MSU, by maybe 10-15, but that’s it. The wheels are firmly attached.

  • just a fan

    An absolutely perfect example of BOTH players and coach now being on the same page–Alex, can someone give us a breakdown of how many “almost” uncontested drives to the basket we had in early season versus how many we NOW allow. The mindset of “not in my forecourt” is 180 degrees. Personally I think CH is a major part of that change in mentality, but it comes from team defense and coaching.

  • BL

    I think last year and early on this year TC was experimenting with zone and switching defenses in an attempt to fix the unfixable – bad D played by our 3 guard lineup. Once we went back to a more traditional lineup with CH/OG/JM replacing JBJ, TC realized we could effectively play straight up man-to-man. Point is, I wasn’t critical of him trying as you call it “the weird stuff” because exclusive man-to-man simply wasn’t working. Last year he really had no options because we didn’t have the personnel to go big (e.g. EH would struggle guarding wings). Thank God he brought in OG and JM. Along with MB, they have truly transformed our team defensively. With better personnel we’re seeing that TC can in fact coach D.

  • BL

    Understand the paranoia. The good news, we’re not just squeaking by the the lower ranked teams.

  • Right, that’s fair.

  • Yes, agreed, of course. I would argue that we do have signs of “playing our best when it counts the most” so far in the B1G, with the team winning precisely those games that have to be won. Yes, it’s been the weaker part of the schedule, but this team is making a statement with how it’s simply dominating that weaker competition. Tuesday will be a real test, and I can’t wait to see how they handle going into Wisconsin.

    But, yes, we need to reserve judgement until after the season plays out. It’s just that with as much grief as CTC was getting earlier in the season, I wanted to point out that things are much, much better right now and CTC deserves to get some of the praise that’s being heaped (rightly) on the players.

  • We had a stretch where the pick-and-roll was being very poorly defended and NW scored on a few possessions in a row. CTC let Yogi run the timeout to address it, and things improved dramatically from there. The ability to address issues in the middle of the game like that is a huge improvement in this team. Also, I could be wrong, but I consider it growth on CTC’s part that he’s letting Yogi run this team when it’s appropriate. So, yes, credit needs to be spread around some.

  • dwdkc

    I agree with you. This team looks different than they did the last 2 1/2 years. I think we all sense a toughness we didn’t see before.

  • dwdkc

    Mentioning MSU who already has 4 losses just shows complete ignorance. They can be the best team in the conference from here on out and still end up at 13-5 which won’t get it done. IU will get “discovered” with probably two more wins. That would probably put them in first place alone with Iowa travelling to Maryland (hoping it doesn’t take that long, go Boilers)

  • I submit that CTC should have made the adjustment sooner–it shouldn’t have taken JBJ getting hurt for OG and JM to be utilized more and to have the epiphany that we have the players to execute an effective defense. And, I would also argue that, eventually, consistently practicing and executing a man-to-man system would have resulted in at least decent defense, albeit not what we’re seeing right now. With all of the experimenting, the team was just confused.

    However, that’s all bygones if this good play continues. I’m not going to quibble about how long it took him to make the adjustments nor even that it took JBJ getting hurt–and, maybe, there were signs that CTC was already making the adjustment. JBJ was starting to ride the pine a little more when his defensive lapses were hurting the team.

    But, again, I’m trying to give CTC credit here for making the adjustments and improving the defense. If it’s all been behind-the-scenes stuff with good justification, then fine, my apologies for doubting CTC earlier. I’m certainly liking the product he’s putting on the court right now.

  • dwdkc

    There are other possible explanations for the improvements. For one thing, Max has said that the first year IU players (freshmen and Max too) took some time to figure out what they were trying to do. Also we’ve seen TB’s improvement, which is to be expected. But OG and JM have particularly been revelations, but they didn’t show up that way–they’ve shown rapid improvement as they’ve gotten used to the college game. I agree that JBJ’s injury forced them to play bigger, and it’s worked, but maybe the simple improvement of the new guys is the biggest thing.

  • Well, like I said, if it’s all been behind-the-scenes stuff, then my apologies to CTC for my earlier harshness. It still seems to me like he’s made some adjustments, and deserves credit for those specifically. But I’m just a fan looking in from the outside, and all I can do is speculate to no real purpose.

    Bottom line: they’re playing well now and are a real joy to watch. So kudos to everyone in the program for turning things around. Can’t wait for Tuesday.

  • bojak

    Coach does represent the university, I will go along with that. I don’t have a problem with his recruiting. Do you really think the players are going to say negative things about there coach? I doubt it or they are going to be sitting the pine.

  • bojak

    A lot of the things you are talking about, I agree with 100%. I hope you are right about CTC maybe listening to his coaching staff and changing his coaching style. After all that is how it should be. Yes, I do give credit to the players for playing more of a team concept now. We will wait and see how the rest of the season goes before I change my mind about his coaching abilities. I am not just talking about wins and losses either. I am referring to his subbing patterns, his way of coaching defense. Both of those things has changed in the last several games and I hope it is because of CTC changing his way of coaching. But I am hesitant to say that right now, because it is hard for me to believe that he can change from a average coach to an excellent coach in the matter of weeks. I hope I am 100% wrong because I think IU and the fans deserve to have a great coach.

  • bojak

    Nothing to do with the players having there heads on straight. They were just following coaches instructions which wasn’t working. You and everyone watching IU play there first 12 games or so could see that there defense sucked. Yes, things have turned around lately and I hope it was because of the coaching staff. Time will tell if that is the case.

  • BL

    It’s about what they’re saying that makes it substantive. Not just simple pats on the back. They’re giving concrete examples of coaching (practice and prep wise) that is translating to success in games.

  • Yeah, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse here. It’s entirely possible, though, and yes it definitely remains to be seen, that CTC is a really good coach held back by some specific traits. It’s not inconceivable that he could learn and adjust. He’s always seemed like a smart guy, and he definitely cares about his players and running a clean program. He’s a good recruiter and can develop players. All of those are huge positives.

    At the same time, he’s also seemed over-intellectual to me at times, applying too much “theory” and missing what’s actually happening on the court. Hence the overly-complicated defensive schemes. If he’s learned to let go a little from the micromanaging, and to be ready to adjust his game plan for what’s happening in the moment, those sorts of things, then maybe his positives start counting for more. Certainly, _something_ major has changed since the start of the B1G, and whatever it is, it’s working so far.

  • bojak

    About 90% of the people on this site wanted Crean to go 4-5 weeks ago.

  • justlikenebraskafootball

    Nothing in CTC’s tenure at IU gives me any confidence that we can compete with/beat the better teams in the BIG. I’m surprised that everyone who was calling for CTC’s firing a few weeks ago has jumped on the bandwagon after beating the terrible bottom half of the conference. Crean was given too much rope to turn things around in his first 4 years, survived off of one good recruiting class for 2 years, and his team’s under performed the last 2 years. Its been a fun 3 weeks or so and I would love to be wrong, but I need to see them at least compete with a top 20 program.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I agree with you about Purdue in general but Haas is really, really struggling at the moment. Interestingly, he has only played more than 15 minutes in one conference game (17 against Penn State). He’s only scored in double figures (in conference) one time and has yet to exceed six rebounds. Somehow, he only has three total blocked shots in B1G play.

    I’m sure their size will still be a problem when we take them on but Haas has been a disappointment thus far.

  • pcantidote

    I loved how Iowa attacked Haas yesterday. He really only has one move, which is to go right and shoot a hook. As soon as he started going right the help went straight for the hook. They actually blocked it at least once.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Yeah, they dug down hard and doubled aggressively every time he even began to move to the right. The color guy on BTN (Crispin I believe) made a good point about Haas being rather predictable when he received the ball and Iowa made him pay. Credit to the Hawkeyes, they are a tremendous team at the moment.