A deeper look at Indiana’s strong start

  • 11/30/2010 2:51 pm in

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 23: Christian Watford  of the Indiana Hoosiers shoots the ball while defended by Samuel Chasten  of the North Carolina Central Eagles at Assembly Hall on November 23, 2010 in Bloomington, Indiana. Indiana won 72-56. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)All stats below are from Ken Pomeroy, unless otherwise noted.

Six games in November against lesser talent isn’t an ideal measuring stick for any college basketball team. Yet, there still exists enough encouraging signs that even when the Hoosiers play more talented teams, they’ll be better equipped for success.

Let us count the ways:

1) Block percentage.

The first two years under Tom Crean, this team has been downright awful at getting off shots without the other team swatting them. In 2008-09, IU got 14.3 percent of its shots blocked — which ranked WORST IN THE NATION.

In 2009-10, IU fared better. But not by much. With 13.2 percent of its shots getting blocked, the Hoosiers finished 342nd out of 347 Division I team in this category.


So far this season, IU has improved by a large margin. Hoosier opponents are swatting 8.1 percent of their shots, good for 124th in the nation.

Credit is due to this team — namely a guy like Christian Watford — bulking up over the summer and asserting a little more authority with their offensive game. IU also has more talent and experience in their rotation, which helps matters here as well.

It’s certainly not an elite mark. But even if the Hoosiers slide some, the days of ranking near the bottom of the country in this category appear to be over.

And more shots making their way to the rim equals more chances to score — which means a better shot at winning.

2) Much-improved defense.

Many have praised Indiana’s defense so far this season. But a peek at the numbers reveals this team is functioning at a higher level on D than you may have previously thought.

They are holding opponents to a 41.5 percent effective field-goal percentage (24th in the nation) and are creating turnovers on 27 percent of their opponents’ possessions (14th in the country). And in adjusted defensive efficiency (adjusted basically means how IU would perform against average competition at a neutral site), the Hoosiers are allowing 93.1 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 37th in the nation. They’re also allowing their opponents to grab just 26.6 percent of available offensive rebounds, good for 33rd in the nation.

That’s some stingy defense.

But the Hoosiers do have a weakness on D: Free-throw rate. Their opponents’ rate is 49.5, which ranks a woeful 290th in the country.

It’s certainly slipped past me, but outside of North Carolina Central, the Hoosiers have let their opponents get to the line 20 or more times in all contests with two games — Wright State (34) and Northwestern State (31) — topping 30 free throws.

IU has simply racked up the fouls too early in each half on many occasions, which is letting the opposition get to the line a lot. Whether this improves at all remains to be seen. But it’s certainly a black mark on what has been an impressive defensive performance thus far.

3) Improved offense, too.

Yeah, there is still stagnation and some scoring droughts here and there.

But fancy this: The Hoosiers’ effective field-goal percentage of 55.9 percent is 21st in the nation. Last season, they ended with a 46.4 percent mark, ranking them 270th in the country. And their adjusted offensive efficiency is seeing them score 105.0 points per 100 possessions, good for 86th in the country. Last year, Pomeroy had them at 99.9 points per 100 possessions for offensive efficiency, which was 188th in the nation.

And four-factor categories where IU was solid last year (offensive-rebounding percentage and free-throw rate) have only improved this season (ORP: 39.7, 31st in the nation; FTR: 46.6, 60th in the nation).

(Perhaps this team is just destined to get to the line a lot and send their opponents there a lot as well.)

IU may have a tough time keeping up the hot shooting all season once they face longer and more athletic perimeter defenders, and the efficiency may suffer as a result. But it’s likely not going to regress to last year’s unimpressive standing.

4) Depth.

A look at John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Ratings reveals that IU’s freshman are doing more than passing the eye test as this team’s glue guys and sparks off the bench.

Of all Big Ten players, Will Sheehey ranks third in PER (35.01), while Victor Oladipo ranks 18th (25.09). Unlike the first two years of Crean’s tenure, there’s quality depth — which is only helping on both sides of the ball.

5) About those turnovers …

Things are about the same here. After turning the ball over on 26.4 percent of their possessions in 2008-09 (342nd in the nation) and 23.0 percent in 2009-10 (306th in the nation), IU has so far turned the ball over on 24.4 percent of possessions in 2010-2011, which ranks them 288th. (Hey: At least more teams are faring worse than IU this season despite such a high mark from the Hoosiers, right?)

Part of the culprit here is opponents are stealing the ball from the Hoosiers on 11.2 percent of their possessions, which ranks IU 270th in the country.

Most everything mentioned above has improved enough to keep this team much more competitive. But turnovers are still at issue at this early juncture.

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  • stonaroni

    I am impressed with WS and VO. That is awesome to hear that they are such efficient players in their limited roles. That means the bench is much deeper this year and the competition at practice is far better.

    I can’t wait for our first true test tomorrow night. I am interested to see who steps up in tough situations and who wants to show they are Big 10 road ready. I am hoping CW, VJIII, and Mo are strong tomorrow night.

  • Anonymous

    Any chance the increased opponents’ free throws and stingy D are related? Granted, there have been some dumb fouls, but maybe a byproduct of playing tough aggressive D with a young team is that it takes guys longer to get a feel for where refs are drawing the line. Along these lines, I’d be okay with the high free throw numbers if it meant the rest of the time the other team is getting seriously hounded on our end of the court.

    Overall, considering plenty of teams start with cupcake schedules, this is certainly encouraging. As we all know, we’ll be learning a lot more in the next week or two. I’ll be at tomorrow’s game, hoping to see more of this!

  • A high free-throw rate being a byproduct of aggressive defense is a fair conclusion that can be drawn.

    Good point.

    But yeah: We’ll see if they can corral the fouls a bit as the season progresses.

  • Our football team had great stats too …before they entered Big Ten play. I have great stats when I play against my 10 yr old daughter.

    Here’s a good new story on Boston College. http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/story/14378764/new-bc-coach-donahue-alters-lesson-plan-after-yale-loss

  • What, precisely, are you trying to say? I think Ryan was perfectly clear when he said that the numbers have a good chance to dip once the competition heats up.

  • Anonymous

    The Hoosiers’ defense this year has vastly improved from years past. Honestly, I think a lot of this comes from VO. The intensity and passion he brings to the floor every game makes the rest of the team around him better. Seriously, how often do you see a player pick up their player full court and really pressure them anymore? Not much. But VO does that and causes stress for whoever is up against him and causes them to rush or panic resulting in turnovers.

  • MillaRed

    I know the team still fouls, but there were a few games where the refs were just terrible. Literally calling fouls when no contact was made at all. I think NCAA officiating is getting worse rather than better.

    The defense has to be better with the kids getting stronger. JR is buying into it, VO is just natural at it. What kind of difference would Guy make in that category? We still give away too many layups.

    I think Sheehey may be the biggest surprise for me thus far. It seems like everything he does is productive. Always in the right place. Just a high basketball IQ. Plus he has a little ‘tude. I saw a player trying to get his hands on him before an in-bound and Will shoved his hands away three times. The kid has courage. And probably needs more minutes. Can’t wait until Will and VO are comfy with the jumper. They have the ability, but still have a few jitters.

  • In addition to that, don’t officials normally start the season trying to enforce certain rules and call games tighter? That may be contributing to foul rates on both sides being high.

  • Improvement is improvement. I think one of the biggest things that should come out of this article is that progress is being made. I especially like the consistency we are getting from our Freshman who can be leaders off the bench which is huge for us. I am tired of being negative about this team and I for one welcome any improvement in any aspect of our game.

  • IndyHoosier

    Better stats are better than worse stats, but let’s see this again half way through the BT season. We have been better than terrible against below average opponents………not a ton can be taken away at this point in my opinion. Def better than last year, but we played a much tougher sked last year at this point.

  • Anonymous

    That is something I was going to mention also. I think the high free throw rate can be attributed partly to a youngish team learning how to play aggressive D without fouling, move your feet hands up guys.

    The other part has to be officials, they have been calling the game so tight in the first few games and some of the calls, regardless whether they are in our favor or not, are making me scratch my head. I’m hoping once we get into the Big Ten season we’ll finally see some officials who let players play, every single piece of contact doesn’t need to be followed by the shrill whistle.

  • Anonymous

    I would be really curious to see the numbers last year early in the season vs. the end of the year stats. I know the numbers will dip once the competition heats up, but that doesn’t mean we still haven’t made progress and I think any fan can and should acknowledge we’re making progress as a team. Thanks for the analysis ITH

  • Anonymous

    I would enjoy knowing the stats/rankings from Pomeroy for IU’s first 6 games last year and then comparing them to this year’s first 6 games. Ryan is correct in saying our stats will change (good or bad) once we play more teams and games. Right now, last Year’s stats are being compared to this year’s six Games’ stats. It’s ok to like the new stats and be excited, we just have to keep it in perspective.

  • Beekeeping, French Club, Debate Team, Astronomy Society, student council, Model United Nations, Coin Club, Bombardment Society, calligraphy, fencing, and the Kite Flying Society … how do you have time to contribute to ITH?

  • I wrote a hit play, and directed it, so I’m not sweating it either.


  • jcopey

    Remember, in Big Ten Play you sometimes can’t get a foul if you tackle a guy – so hopefully some of these bumps, pushes and shoves won’t be called then. Advantage to the aggressor.

  • Diesel

    288th on turnovers isn’t too bad when you consider Verdell is 108th all by himself!
    (sorry Verdell, couldn’t resist)

  • Diesel

    Ernie – I’ve been wondering also about Jordy’s stats this season compared to the first 6 from last season, I just haven’t done the leg work (hint hint Jerry, Loop). I would assume the maturation so far has been huge.

  • JerryCT

    Diesel- I think you already know the answer. BUT …….. I liked the challenge so here it is for the first 6 games ( excluding Howard and USC Upstate ):

    Avg Min = 14+, Total Pts – 16, Assists – 6, TO’s – 4, Rebs – 6

    This was against much tougher teams as many have pointed out. Hulls was a non-factor as you can see and almost non existent against Pitt. I saw 5 of the first 6 games in person and can attest with my eyes as well.

    So is he better this year ? IMO ………….you bet your _ss he is better.

    I believe he passes the stat test and the eye test so far .

    I have totally reversed myself and like him w the ball and Jones off the ball.

  • Thank you for not writing your articles in an obsolete vernacular.

  • Diesel

    Well done Jerry. I only caught the Ole Miss game on TV, and the kid was overwhelmed. Excellent to see the development.

  • Brian Evans

    we don’t know if we have made progress from this year to last given the fact that last years stats included big ten play and this years don’t. i think that’s steve’s point and i agree with him. the fact that florida gulf coast wasn’t blocking our shots this year doesn’t mean much if we still can’t get a shot off in the big ten. im not saying we won’t be better but it is too early to say, we haven’t played anyone.

    also, on christian watford. i don’t care how beefed up the guy gets, he is still going to get blocked until he learns to use his ankles to jump. this sounds basic but the guy seriously jumps off his heels, which is why he got blocked so much last season.

  • I’m so love this blog, already bookmarked it! Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    He doesn’t always drink beer, but when he does he prefers Dos Equis.