The Morning After: Ohio State

  • 02/11/2008 8:20 am in

2-3zone.jpgI read as much or more sportswriting than anyone I know, and I have some pet peeves. One of the major ones I’ve developed happens when, in the course of the season, writers lose perspective. They forget the ebb and flow of a season, the upswings and downswings, and lose the forest for the constant barrage of trees. Some do it intentionally (cough *Jay Mariotti* cough). Some merely get caught up in it. But it’s frustrating either way.

I’m not sure if what I wrote Thursday after IU’s ugly gift of a win qualifies; it is, after all, what I’ve been saying all year. But with that caveat aside, and wary of the consequences of my defection, I’ll just come right out and say it: IU looked as good as they have all year Sunday. Better, even. They looked like a team that can beat Michigan State on Saturday. They looked like a team that can own games front to back. They looked, finally, like the team we have been hoping for all season.

I’ll try not to get too carried away. But hot damn, that was a different team, one I like a whole lot better than the one we saw at Illinois.

— First, the zone. Looking at game footage of Thursday’s game side-by-side with Saturday’s win, and it’s pretty clear to see the improvement on the defensive end in the zone. Here I was Thursday, blaming Sampson for his inability to coach a decidedly mediocre defensive guard group; here we are Sunday, watching the Hoosiers coalesce into a pretty formidable unit. What happened?

Most importantly, it looked like IU fully committed to the zone. They were active in pressure; they actually, you know, had their hands up. Shocking! Even more, they rotated well, closed corners, and forced the Buckeyes into jump shots they’d usually prefer not to take. If IU can keep improving the zone, I’m all for using it. If run well, it can help reduce the exposure of a sometimes-shoddy man-to-man defensive unit. Anything that works, right?

— I will admit: When two teams play zone, the game develops a certain quiet rhythm that I really enjoyed Sunday. I’m not sure what it is — the emphasis on ball movement, the slicing into gaps, the kickouts — all of it comes together to form a game that’s not exciting so much as it is steadily interesting. There were no real struggles of will Sunday. The pace was slow (57 possessions). But the way things came together on both ends of the floor was enjoyable. I’m still not really sure why.

— One last note on the zone: There were a couple of comments in the wrap thread yesterday that made a playful jab at having to hate zone defense as a prereq for being an IU fan. I know the comments were joking yesterday, but I think there are a lot of Hoosier fans who actually think this way, and to you, my friends, I say this: embrace it! Hating the zone because Bob Knight once hated the zone, well, that’s like hating the Internet because your grandpa can’t get his dial-up to work. Great men all have their blind spots, right? It’s a new day, and you know what you do with new days? You embrace them. Embrace.

/embraces computer

/loses metaphor completely

See? Now doesn’t that feel better?

— And the offense! The ball movement! The organization! The cuts to the rim! The open looks! All year we’ve been complaining about the lack of offensive cohesion, the way IU seems prone to getting isolated, relying on D.J. White and Eric Gordon for one-on-one production. I don’t know if I ever felt that way Sunday, save for a couple possessions when Armon took an ill-advised jumper or two. IU swung the ball from side-to-side, took what the defense gave it, found open holes — I could go on for 3,000 words about it. Mostly, though, the overriding emotion here is surprise. Really? That was IU out there? Wha?

— Finally, let’s just close with the most consistent positive story to this entire season: D.J. White. After his history of injuries, after his career lagged, after his first coach’s firing and his friend’s defection … well, isn’t it great to see him playing this well? It’s been throughly enjoyable. Almost as enjoyable as those zones were — almost as enjoyable as Sunday’s win was.

As always, your positivity (and negativity) in the comments. Embrace it!

Filed to:

  • Disco_Briscoe

    “Better, even. They looked like a team that can beat Michigan State on Saturday. They looked like a team that can own games front to back.”

    I have to disagree here. OSU was still in the game even though they were playing poorly. The offense is still hard to watch, but it did look better than past games. Yes, any team can be beaten on a given day but OSU is not MSU, UW, and even PU (can't believe it). We could have closed the game out a few times but failed to do so.

    The zone and the small lineup should be here to stay. Leave Stemler, Tabar, and the other “4's” on bench as subs.

  • Brett

    right on disco briscoe.. basset, crawford, gordan, ellis and dj should play 95% of the time. basset and crawford really play well together on the top of that zone. it will be fun to watch these two for a couple of years.

    good win.

  • Quincy

    Nice road win, the ball movement was better yesterday, and yes, the zone D really worked out well. Things are now in place for the Hoosiers to claim this B. Ten title. Wisconsin, mich state & purdue, all home games, Will be in the hall sat. night against the spartans, the house should be rockin… improve , as we go, and take a least a piece of this damn title!…

  • Jerry

    I agree with the analysis. Unfortunately the stellar play lasted mostly 1 half and sputtered a bit in the 2nd SO for more improvement we need to keep our focus and intensity for 40 min…………we will need it in March

    I believe the only reason OSU hung around was because they actually played well in the 2nd half ……….tight defense, got to's and shot well. We also missed shots we can make.

    I liked the confidence Sampson has in our endgame which we appeared to start with 3min left

  • kelin

    If you look at yesterdays game in comparison to others and the issues this team has…it was a GREAT win…..

    Will they cure ALL of the problems today…NO….
    Do we want improvements? ,……YES…
    Did we see them yesterday…..YES

    So I see where E is heading with this one…and it has forced me to actually give KS some “offensive” credit….reluctantly. It was a road win in the big ten that in the Big Ten is tough to come by and good Mo coming into a big week….

    Also…I heard Dickie V….gloss Tyler Hansbrough, Michael Beasly, and Kevin Love as his player of the year candidates…..ummmm I hope you heard this too DJ, convert your 15 double doubles to 25 double doubles……Keep doing what you are doing cause in 8 weeks roughly we won't have the pleasure of enjoying your work at IU…..

  • HoosierSmitty

    Agreed. We looked exponentially better against Ohio State. I hope it is proof of improvement!

    Here's my concern…did we look this good against Ohio State's zone, or did we look this good because we've improved offensively? That's where I worry. When we see the man-to-man against us again, will we fall back into our same old routine? I hope not, but let's see.

    I hope you weren't suggesting that we can't beat Wisconsin on Wednesday with the “We look like we can beat Michigan State on Saturday.” comment. I'll be at the game on Wednesday (thanks to my wonderful girlfriend) and I hate to see IU lose at Assembly Hall. Given how horrible we played at Wisconsin and still had a glimmer of hope for victory at the end, I think we can take care of the Badgers at home.

  • bleeding crimson

    Keep in mind Disco B, that one of the reason why that OSU played so poorly was our defense. OSU was taken out of their game, not even the crowd with their white-out and home court 12-1 record took IU out of their game. With the guards holding Butler (who ranks 5th in BT) to just 4pts is a showing that IU has what it takes. I've been a huge Crawford fan but his selfish and freshman play has kept me from being the team favorite but he will be a force to deal with for years to come. I think I seen him play one of his best games all year, not because of pt production but 31 minutes playing like a team player with no TO's and 7 assist adding 6 reb's with 8 pts. WOW. Not to mention the D.

    The zone is not only gel'ing but is used when need be. OSU is a great team that spaces the floor well and tried their 1/2 court zone press. IU played it well and with what has to be a game low 7 TO's. Overall IU did a great job in all aspects of the game.

    SO let's give credit where credit is due, KS has done a fine job on executing a zone and has done a wonderful job on keeping this team on their toes in tough times. Noone really expected IU to excel through the toughest road win in memory at Illinois but some how this them continues to win tough games. We play only one true senior and to be where we are at today is unbelievable….whatcha say?

  • ricky

    iu did not even do one thing very well that we know they can do well — shoot the 3 ball. just think if iu had shot the 3 at their season average or close to it how much we would have won by. on defense, the one thing i hope that does not happen is that we fall in love with the zone and totally forget the man defense. kinda like what happened against illinois. some teams we need to play zone, some teams we need to play man, and some teams we need to switch it up, so we need both, but we shouldn't fall in love with just the zone

    and dj white made kosta koufus his bitch. he is gonna see dj in his dreams for the rest of his college career

  • ALH_00

    “…game develops a certain quiet rhythm that I really enjoyed Sunday…I’m still not really sure why.”

    I felt exactly the same way. It was a fun game to watch, and IU looked really good, but the low score and somewhat tight finish wouldn't normally elicit such feelings. Anyway, why try to overthink this one. Quality win on quality play.

    I will say that there were fewer fouls and the game seemed less physical than normal. I like your description of “quiet rhythm”. You know it won't be that way on Wed., or Sat., or next week v. PU. Hopefully IU learned valuable lessons in the UConn, Wis., and Illinois games about physical play. Though we are less physical than the next three teams we play, I don't necessarily look at it as a disadvantage. So long as the Hoosiers take care of the basketball, they should be able to get to the line and possibly get opponents in foul trouble. I see the next two games as getting pretty sloppy on offense. But this team has won quite a few “sloppy” games. Let's sweep this home stand! Go IU!

  • Joe

    What I liked about the game was the matchup on Jamar Butler. In the beginning of the game, I thought that since we were playing zone he'd get some open 3 point looks. Man was I wrong. We shut him down.

  • Jerry

    I give our team AND the coach great credit. Thad Matta is a real good coach and he basically had no answers that enabled them to win. KS outcoached him in this one.

  • b_side

    Just wanted to bump the Crawford props while we're at it. That spin move on Matt “Sideshow” Terwilliger was redonkulous. It's that type of talent you just can't teach — you either got it or you don't. But on a one-man fast break, with JC's back to the basket, Sideshow was just left flat-footed and dumbfounded.

    I was a bit perplexed why we started JC over Bassett and Stem/Taber over Ellis, but Sampson obviously had his reasons. Given that we came away with a convincing W, I'm not one to argue. Ellis did some nice things slashing to the bucket, but still witnessed a few ill-advised shots that I'd much rather see flicked from the wrists of DJ/EJ/Bassett/Crawford. Know your role!

  • ChicagoHoosier

    Not sure this is new, but further cloaks the AJ Ratliff saga.

  • Hoosier_Hound

    Bassett and Ellis were three minutes late to a meeting on Saturday, so they didn't start.

  • ray

    kellogg said it right last night…”DJ White is my pick for b10 player of the year”. vitale omitted a very worthy contender from his list of nat'l POY candidates…but then again, i wouldn't expect him to give such recognition to a b10 player. gordon should be freshman player of the year in b10 and white the all-around b10 player of the year…but can they win the title on the national level? i would like to think that if dj continues his dominance in the paint he should at the very least make it in the elite list of players toward season's end.

    iu does have to play it's toughest segment of the season in the coming weeks, but that only means that the other title contenders have to match up to iu as well…AND IN THE HALL! i like our chances at this point. the fate is in the hands of sampson and his players. sweep at home the remainder of the season and i believe iu earns at least a share of the title.

  • ray


    do you think this is a situation where ratliff may declare himself a transfer, and if so can he still do this because he's played in only a couple of games? or, do you think that a redshirt is possible…then again, i don't think this is an option for a returning player because he played in the regular season…not sure what to think of this article?

  • Hoosier_Hound

    Yesterday's game had two plays that just made your jaw drop. The first was when Crawford had the ball during a one-on-one fast break against Terwilliger. Crawford hesitated in front of him than used an incredibly nifty spin move to go right past him for a lay in, leaving Terwilliger looking completely baffled.
    The second play was after Ohio State had cut the lead to 3 late in the second half. But with about 5:30 remaining Ellis took the ball at the top of the key, dropped it down low to DJ White who dunked it right in the face of OSU's Kosta Koufos plus a foul. Then the CBS cameraman zoomed in on Koufos hanging his head and staring straight at the floor like DJ had just stolen his lunch money. Two incredible plays from a good win.

  • kelin

    If IU can go 3-0 in these next three they are on the map for again for a high seed. These 3 would be quality wins and at the right time……

    As far as AJ I wish it would have worked out, but we may have to cut our losses and wish him well….give his minutes to Ahfeld.

  • He wasn't injured so there is no medical hardship. I highly doubt AJ could get any sort of waiver from the NCAA to return for a fifth season.

  • Quiet rhythm was right, especially with the back and forth of small runs. A bit frustrating at times, but good to see that IU was able to respond repeatedly to get critical stops and quality offensive possessions to stop runs that threatened to expand into long, backbreaking ones.

  • Hoping that means “no minutes.”

  • ALH_00

    As amazing as DJ has been, Beasley and Hansborough are better (as tough as it is to admit). Those two will keep DJ out of All-American and POY consideration (all else being equal the rest of the way). It would be really tough to argue against Beasley for POY…that dude's numbers are off the charts. (25.2/12.3) Seeing as he's a freshman also, that pretty much eliminates EJ from freshman POY nationally. Additionally, Kevin Love has been outstanding…another great freshman big man on one of the nation's top teams.

    I think EJ has to be in consideration (maybe #1) for shooting guards, but his A/TO ratio and minimal rebounding may hurt him. He'll be an AA, first or second (if he continues at this pace).

    Either way, we're privileged to have those two in cream and crimson.

  • Willis

    anyone found a good picture of the DJ dunk? that Crawford spin had me jumping up and down like the crowd at an “And 1” “game”.

  • b_side

    Yep, read that in the Indystar a few minutes after I posted this.

    How's that for loyalty ITH founders? Being born and raised in Naptown, you just reached new heights as to where I get my IU news first.

  • Disco_Briscoe
  • Aaron

    I have to disagree. The zone defense was effective because OSU can't shoot. IU consistently gave up open, uncontested mid-range jump shots. And, our poor rebounding is exposed in a zone (absent DJ White, of course).

    I'm not one of those purists who believe man-to-man defense is the end-all-be-all. A good zone defense is equally effective as a good man-to-man. But, I don't believe a team can casually go back and forth – it needs to specialize. And, if you're going to play zone, you'd better be a strong rebounding team – which we are not.

    I was happy to have Kelvin come to IU because I thought we'd return to being a solid defense and rebounding team. A little disappointed that we aren't either…

  • Nick

    Obviously, Michael Beasley will be a dominant force in the NBA! He's physical, athletic, and talented. Not to mention he is smart on the floor from what I've seen. Tyler Hansborough is an excellent COLLEGE basketball player but let's just try and think back to similar players in college basketball history, such as Eric Montross (convenient that he's also from UNC), who were dominant college players but average contributors in the NBA. Now, DJ is a BEAST! Did we all see the way he got up quickly and posterized Kufos yesterday!!! That's a future NBA stud! I see the athletic ability there and can think of other players in the NBA who remind me of DJ white. Players like White slip in the draft every year and then you see them a few years later averaging 15, 16, 17 points and 10 boards in the NBA and being the second most dominating player on a team. That's DJ White and he deserves to at least be mentioned as a National Player of the Year candidate!!! After all, it's like an MVP award (at least a portion of it) and think of where we would be without DJ!

    Thank you DJ White for making this season the first really enjoyable IU season in a long time and being the best IU player I've seen since Calbert Chaney and Alan Henderson (who both had solid NBA careers) and enjoy your millions of dollars and fame as a future NBA star!!!

  • Nick

    If the Hoosiers win the next three games then they finish the season with two home games, two winnable road games (PSU and NW) and the big game at Michigan State. If they go 3-0 over the next three it's realistic to think that they could lose one game the rest of the regular season and finish the year as the Big Ten regular season champs at 15-3! That has been good for a 1 or 2 seed in each of the past three years and they would make a solid 2 seed if they won the B10 tournament! 28-4 and Big Ten champs may be good enough to steal that last 1 seed if some other ACC and Big 12 teams beat up on each other. I'm an avid college basketball fan and have been since I was old enough to remember and I love this kind of talk!

    What do the rest of you think would happen in this scenario (even though the Big Ten will be scorned for being down) But don't forget the SOS and RPI will go up after playing UW, MSU, and PU the next three games!

  • ALH_00

    UConn and Xavier are non-conference losses, so if IU only loses once more, they finish 16-2 in the Big 10.

    By my count, if they end up 16-2 AND win the Big 10 tourney, they would end up 30-4. That's a valid case for a number 1, but imo, they won't get it. They will likely get a number 2 or 3. Memphis, Kansas, UCLA, Duke, Tennessee, and Georgetown will all likely finish with better resumes that the Hoosiers (and deservedly so). Then the darling Tarheels, a second Pac-10, Big 12, or Big East and maybe even an A-10/MV (big maybe) could sneak in front of a Big 10 champion IU.

    Whatever happens, I just hope they don't get hit with a 4 or 5 seed. I would hate to face this year's number 1's before the regional finals, whomever that might be.

  • Nick

    Thanks for picking up that miscue! That was dumb of me. I seriously can't believe that in a year when the big ten upped their schedule to 18 games that the Hoosiers would be bidding for a potential 2 loss league season!!!

  • Anonymous

    Have you watched IU this year? IU is a very good rebounding team. DJ White is the best rebounder in the conference, and Ellis grabs all kinds of boards too. Then the guards always seem to get their share. Other than against UConn, IU has been taking care of the boards.

    As far as the defense goes, I’d rather give up some open 3s in a zone than open layups in our man-to-man. Most of the Big Ten’s teams this year are rather bad at shooting, so forcing them to take outside shots isn’t a bad idea.

  • Snipper

    I couldn't agree more about our 4s. Has any ranked team — or team of any consequence — ever started a more mediocre pair of forwards than Stemler and Taber? Neither should ever take a shot.

    While IU's play was somewhat improved at Ohio State, it's true that Ohio State played poorly and still pushed the Hoosiers almost to the wire.

    IU still has not beaten a really good team. We'll find out if the Hoosiers truly deserve their high ranking this week and next. Sampson better get Gordon to come alive in a hurry if he's going to bring IU a Big Ten title.

  • chimoose

    Interesting commentary about IU's zone . . . I was thinking coming into the game that zone would be the way to go against OSU because only DJ could guard Koufos inside, but I wouldn't want him to be out on the floor when KK floated out to shoot . . . guess that it worked. However, there were several plays when OSU penetrated or made passes to the high post far too easily. Better teams will certainly exploit that.
    And I continue to worry about the heavy minutes logged by DJ, Gordon and Ellis (although Ellis had some breaks last night). We need to see more DeAndre minutes, too . . . the big D needs to find his flow.

  • Aaron

    I've watched IU. More importantly, I've watched teams outside the Big Ten…including Kansas and Texas last night. We've faired well with the soft Big Ten and pre-season schedule. But you watch games like last night's, and you have to realize we have a long way to go with defense and rebounding. Texas is 11 and IU is 12? No way. We aren't at that level. Not yet.

  • Aaron

    I've watched IU. More importantly, I've watched teams outside the Big Ten…including Kansas and Texas last night. We've faired well with the soft Big Ten and pre-season schedule. But you watch games like last night's, and you have to realize we have a long way to go with defense and rebounding. Texas is 11 and IU is 12? No way. We aren't at that level. Not yet.