The decline of Indiana’s offense

  • 04/03/2013 5:32 pm in

There’s been plenty of conversation in the days following Indiana’s loss to Syracuse on just what went wrong. Some blamed the coaching. Poor preparation against the zone, they said. Others blamed the players. After all, the coaching staff wasn’t out there missing all those shots and turning the ball over. The Hoosiers were bested by a lengthy, athletic team playing a terrific zone they’d never seen before. They admitted to overthinking things on the court — which only compounded the problem.

Yet, a closer inspection of Indiana’s numbers reveal this: Its offense, the most efficient in the nation heading into the tournament, was nothing more than average, if that, in the month of March.

A look:

Month OPPP DPPP eFG% 3p% Avg. Possessions
November (7 games) 1.265 .816 58.0 41.2 70.4
December (7 games) 1.214 .864 57.0 41.7 73.7
January (7 games) 1.162 .948 55.2 44.3 65.4
February (7 games) 1.185 1.018 56.6 43.4 64.9
March (8 games) 1.029 .981 47.6 31.5 64.4
March (minus JMU, 7 games) .987 .978 45.7 29.9 64.7

Striking JMU from consideration — a contest the Hoosiers scored 1.35 points per possession against a team with a talent level more on par with a November opponent than a March one — Indiana scored less than a point per possession in its other seven games. And its shooting absolutely fell off the table. The Hoosiers shot over 40 percent from 3-point range in November, December, January and February. But in March — whether we include the JMU game or not — Indiana shot around only 30 percent from distance.

Jordan Hulls’ March? Just a 9-of-32 (28 percent) performance from 3-point range. Victor Oladipo, who was once well over 50 percent from 3 on the year, shot 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) in March. Will Sheehey hit just 6-of-21 (28.5 percent). Against Iowa? The team hit only 2-of-14 (14.3 percent). There were back-to-back 5-of-17 performances from distance in the Big Ten Tournament against Illinois and Wisconsin. And the Hoosiers closed out the  year in abysmal fashion, hitting just 7-of-28 (25 percent) against Temple and Syracuse combined. The 3-point shot in conjunction with high-percentage looks around the rim from Cody Zeller and Oladipo was a deadly combo for this team all year. But without the 3-ball and the extra point it brings, the Hoosiers’ offense sputtered and the team finished the year 5-4 — with an efficiency margin of just +.048 and just +.009 (basically even) without JMU in the equation.

Can we figure out why this happened? Maybe. Of course, sometimes the shots just don’t fall, and Indiana’s happened to miss at the worst possible time. But Wisconsin was also the best defensive team against the 3-pointer in the Big Ten (28.1 percent). Iowa wasn’t far behind (30.1 percent defensive 3-point percentage in conference play). Syracuse’s zone made it difficult for the Hoosiers to get easy looks. But Temple wasn’t anything special in this regard (its mark of 35.3 percent ranked 243rd nationally).

So maybe it’s the last column that tells the tale here. March’s slate of games featured the lowest number of possessions per game, if only by a little bit. Let the Hoosiers get going in transition and easy looks were had at the rim and on trailing 3-pointers. It was what made them so difficult to contain for much of the season and why they were able to get away with a high-ish turnover rate of 19.2 percent.

But when defenses forced Indiana to execute and work and grind more in the halfcourt to find those same kind of good looks? It wasn’t its strong suit, and never was it more on display than last Thursday against the Orange.

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  • CutterInChicago

    Nice write-up.

  • Andrew

    There ya go. You can break it down until you’re blue in the face, but you have to hit shots. Especially when you start two 6’0 guards. When Hulls stopped hitting, IU lost its equalizer.

  • stillstoned2011

    I think this year’s team just wore out. They basically played six players and had to work extremely hard playing man to man defense nearly all of every game. Throw in the conference schedule that was back end loaded and you have a formula for a team that is tired and misses shots they would normally make. This was particularly true in the second half of games where they were outscored more often than not.

  • MillaRed

    We were hottest 2/3 into the season. Peaked early. Were we tired? Etc etc

    Its all speculation. No one or one thing to blame. Just like with everything else, the staff needs to learn from it, if there is something to learn.

    Cody, please stay. You are my hero.

  • Frangipani

    Coaches should learn from this and Cody hopefully learned as well that without a jumpshot, the options are limited. All season the offense feasted on dunks and 3 pointers. As the season wore on, the recipe for Indiana was clear: guard the 3 point line and abuse the big guy in the paint and the vaunted Indiana offense was just average.

  • I’ve considered fatigue as a possible factor in this. We’re a better offensive machine this year, but last year’s tourney was a lot prettier to watch when we played New Mexico St. and Kentucky (VCU being the one exception). Maybe we were just too easy to figure out. I don’t know. Looking back though, even with an offense struggling to find its shot, I believe turnovers were what cost us our season. This led to how many buckets by Syracuse? And not to mention how it took us out of what little offensive rhythm we had.
    On a side note: this is a fantastic article. I wish our offense never sputtered so you wouldn’t have to write up this article, but very well researched and documented. Another reason why this is my go to site for all news related to Indiana basketball.

  • shknqk

    Great article!
    Would be willing to award extra credit to see how we compared month to month vs the big ten or some peers.

    IMHO, the answer was all of the above. But I largely blame the lack of in and out. Only thing I learned in b-school is there is a value in options. By the time we got good at getting Cody the ball, we acted as if that was the end. Still just a means to an end.

    I think it’s why most coaches teach triple threat early and often.

  • SCHoosier

    The conference play was tough on EVERYbody..wonder how other teams compared on the same scale? Fact is we fattened up our point totals and shooting %’s..on the cupcakes.then went to to hard scrabble biscuts in the B-10… When the offense concentrated on “going thru Cody” appears that the shooting suffered in other areas.?? I don’t think the “Drive and Dish ” offense in the conference met its objectives. Wat, Jordy, Will, Remy all went thru shooting slumps often two or more at the same time. Nothing came easy. When Jordy lost his stroke (or wouldn’t look for his shot..another mystery)..things got tough all over.. Again the opponents mantra became: “get IU in a half court game….be physical i n the post..and u have a shot at beating them”..for whatever reason.

  • hoosierbbq42

    Bottom line the coaching staff failed to adjust when teams slowed the pace (syracuse, wisconsin, iowa, temple etc) Unless iu figures out how to play a half court game ie less possessions more of the same is to come.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    If Cody comes back I hope begins the Kirk Kaston/Jeff Newton growth chapter in his career. They could not hit from beyond the arc early in their careers at Indiana and look what they were able to accomplish late in their careers at Indiana. In both cases it was dramatic.

  • WALT

    It has been an exciting, very good season. Wish the seniors the very best. All year have been interested in what posters have written. Do not want this to come out like I am not happy with the season, but some of the later comments don’t register with me. There have been some great freshmen in the Big Ten. Should Jeremy H. show more emotion and get more involved. Maybe a bit angrier? The guy we talk about at Puke (JC), it seems the players (freshmen) come in and play agressive basketball, and yet we are here talking about Hanner and Peter, wishing one could catch the ball and the other had better feet. Plead ignorance on next year’s freshmen (am out of state) but feel encouraged by what I have heard. Just think it is time we stopped making excuses for any player, and if they cannot contribute then they should be helped to find other schools where they can. imho.

  • WALT

    It would be exciting to see Cody come back and ” spin to basket” and lay it up, or dunk. Learn some type of hook shot. Play a bit taller. Cody did save us and won some games. If he does stay, he must improve. Needs assistance on this.

  • WisconHoosier

    Agree. Yes, coaches were able to gameplan us. That’s a big factor. What was easy early in the season became difficult once other teams watched film and prepared.

    But we lost our bounce. Earlier, there were games Cody was flying, throwing down slams with his shoulders at the rim, daring anyone not in the NBA to stop him.

    The last 10 games, he seemed flatfooted and sluggish. Vic, too, seemed slower, and often played with hesitation.

    Worse, the killer look in their eyes dimmed. They didn’t seem alert, or fully engaged in the task at hand. They looked tired.

    I don’t know enough to say they were overcoached, but something was happening.

  • hoosier1158

    Anyone remember who won the 3 point contest during hoosier hysteria??

  • I think there’s a lot of truth to this analysis. The one exception I have is attributing the slow down to stellar defense by opponents. Did we face some – yes. However, when you watch Yogi and Co. saunter down the court, we played right into our own weakness – the half court game. I watched this happen more and more as the season drew to an early end.

  • Scott Berryman

    This was not a player fatigue issue nor was it an issue with the players not being focused. This was about a coach who refused to adjust to the half court game other teams forced IU into and a coach who thought two sub 6′ guards was the answer for long, strong, tall athletic teams.

    CTC cannot make proper adjustments to maximize our talents in games where flailing fouls are not called.

    Name me one coach in America who doesn’t press or trap in an NCAA tournament game when trailing by 11 with 5 minutes to go? The answer is CTC…unfortunately.

  • b_side

    Cody has a nice baseline move – had it since freshman year when he “spun” circles around Meyers Leonard. Not sure why he went away from it though…seemed fixated on dropping his shoulder all too often.

  • b_side

    Cody has a nice baseline move – had it since freshman year when he “spun” circles around Meyers Leonard. Not sure why he went away from it though…seemed fixated on dropping his shoulder all too often.

  • Great article and hits exactly on a point I was trying to make in the comments section of another article. Anyone who thinks that 1 bad match up (Syracuse) was the reason they lost is not seeing the facts. The team hasn’t looked like a top contender in some time unless the competition was of the Nebraska variety. We all got hyped up, and for good reason, but in the end we weren’t really one of the elite teams and didn’t have much of a chance to go much farther than we did.

    The program has improved dramatically but we need to be rational about were we are and what we need to do to close the gap. But the first part is you have to BELIEVE there’s a gap, if you simply say well it was one bad match up and we had just as good of a shot at winning the tourney as any other team than you’ll be saying that year after year.

  • b_side

    Come off it. Those same two 6′ guards swept Mich State and Michigan – both teams feature long athletic wingmen. What’s the difference? These same players have to put the ball in the bucket. Coaches coach, but players still have to play.

  • “the shoulder drop”. Perfect description of what felt like his only post move the last 3 weeks of the year. Although Illinois in the Big 10 tourney was an exception. He was really playing his game that day. Wish he could’ve kept that sort of confidence in the games following.

  • Faulty analysis – Our offense declined in direct correlation to the improvement in our schedule. We started with weaker opponents -then went to conference- then conference tourney and finally NCAAs.

  • Tom S

    Disagree that they haven’t looked like a top contender in some time, unless you consider “in some time” to be maybe three games, with Hulls injured in two. They had problems against Syracuse – I say bad match up and injured two-guard were large factors in that, you say no – and had difficulties against Temple (where things were going pretty well until Hulls injury, btw). We’ll throw out JMU. Before that they didn’t look good against Wisconsin – like always -, looked like a top contender against Illinois, looked like a top contender at Michigan, maybe didn’t against Oh State at home, did against Iowa, on the fence at Minnesota, did at Michigan State. Back further than that they pretty consistently did, with the possible exception of the end of the Illinois game.
    I’m on the record as saying that this team had a number of weaknesses. There’s no reason to pretend they didn’t. But ithere’s also no reason to say they weren’t one of THIS season’s elite teams. They were.

  • CreamandCrimson

    This is a pet peeve of mine…I’m not picking on you. I have seen Kirk Haston come up in quite a few posts….nearly every single time, his name is misspelled. It’s not Kaston, Hastin, Hastings, Hasting….It’s Kirk Haston.

    He’s one of the better Hoosier players in the last 10-15 years, let’s get his name right.

  • BlakeD1223

    yes, it was cody! Who would have thunk it huh? I would LOVE to see Zeller face the basket more. I know he has a great 10-15 foot jumper that he could use all game long. This would help him not get double and tripled teamed. It would also not force him to take contested layups down low. Once he gets the ball on the block he has 2-3 guys coming at him. By the time he’s shooting a layup he has 6 hands to go through. Square up to the basket, pop the shot or give them a head fake and explode to the rim. It sounds easy, just not sure why the coaching staff is not using him that way.

  • Hoosierfan2335

    okay can we please have a non-conference season next year? no reason we shouldn’t be playing multiple blue blood teams like MSU seems to do every year. I’m sick of central connecticut state and coppin state. I don’t care how tough the big ten schedule is. If we’re as good as everyone says we are now, then we have to play strong teams in every phase of the season. We were clearly not ready mentally or physically going into the tournament.

  • WALT

    Yes, I forgot about Meyers and how Cody outplayed him

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    It was a typo. I know how it is spelled. I have his autograph and am friends with the Tennesee native on facebook. We chatted some about the games this year. Telling you this I am trying to reassure you it was a typo when I spelled it Kaston. I since went back and fixed it.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    He actually has been dropping his shoulder for a large portion of his career. It seemed that the rate picked up late in the season. I wish there was a stat out there that measured how many shots each center had blocked in the B10. Unfortunately, I would say Cody would be at or near the top of that list.

  • CreamandCrimson

    No worries…the misspellings of Zeller (Zellers), Oladipo (Olidipo), Ferrell (Farrell), Watford (Wadford) and many others just bug me (but maybe it’s just me).

    Anyway, Haston always seemed like a good guy. That’s cool you have been able to chat him up about this year’s team.

  • Hoosierfan2335

    it didn’t hurt louisville. and msu consistently has a very tough non-conference road record and they’ve had a pretty good 15 years. at the end of the season it was pretty clear we backed down to physicality and relied on finesse. look at the minnesota, osu, wiscy and obviously temple and syracuse games. they played more physical than us and we backed down and weren’t tough enough to compete.

  • jermhoosierfan

    If you are on Twitter, it is worth following him. During some games, he would tweet back and forth with Mateen Cleeves and someone else who played for OSU. They were busting each other pretty good talking smack all in jest. You can tell they respect each other.

  • jermhoosierfan

    I remember in the 80’s and 90’s we would play a few true road games. If we had a player from Florida, we would play a team in his sophomore or junior year close to his home town. Throw in a pUKe or tournament somewhere, and you had a pretty good schedule. It would have been nice to play Alabama to get Watford to play close to home once. How about Oladipo near Washington DC to play a team near there? You just don’t see that anymore.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    So, the question is: Did Cody lose confidence in his shot or was he coached to pass up the jumper for something better?

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I think there are a number of factors here:

    1) A thin rotation and the team could’ve “tired”
    2) Sometimes teams just go “cold” and stop hitting at the wrong time
    3) Late in the season it’s easier for coaches to game plan against you

    4) #3 result – I don’t think Coach Crean is the best “Plan B” type coach in the country
    5) Defenses continue to get better throughout the year also

    It’s probably not just one thing, but I can say with confidence that I feel like CTC is a game plan guy and he can come up with a good one, but if plan A doesn’t work then there’s rarely a plan B and that could’ve contributed as much as anything to the offensive woes late in the season.

  • Looking at the whole season I guess I wouldn’t disagree that we were one of the elite teams. Probably didn’t state my opinion clearly but what’s really important in my view is were we one of the top 2 or 3 teams with the best chance of winning it all. I get its a lofty goal but winning the tourney is still what its all about and if you can’t get there you want to at least feel that you had all the right parts to make it there and were a few bad bounces away from winning. I think it was ’92 when we got beat by Kansas after Henderson got hurt and we all knew if he was healthy we’d likely have won it all. This isn’t that kind of season, we were sputtering at the end and weren’t a healthy Jordy away from winning it all.

  • BlakeD1223

    I just don’t think the offense was ran around him being able to shoot that type of shot. To allow that to happen you have to have guys under the boards in case he misses. We would need Watford on the other block and Dipo running in for the board. A missed shot could lead to a fast break for the other team. When you are the ultimate big man on the floor then I think it makes it harder to shoot those type of shots. That’s why I was wanting to see Derek or Perea and Zeller on the court at the same time. Have the other two play on the block and let Zeller flash to the top of the key, feed them the ball, swing the ball or take the shot. I like that option more.

  • WALT

    Cody is the best player in the country. We will see this as he develops, and he will have help. A couple of previous posts have said he still plays as he did in high school, has someone been working with Cody, Hanner and Peter to improve their game? Or is the help just not taking hold.

  • Ole Man

    For whatever reason, the “Hurryin’ Hoosiers” stopped hurrying.
    They went away from what got them to near greatness; and attempted to become a half court team. Yes, some of that is dictated by the other teams. But if you let another team dictate its will upon you, rather than the other way around, then you deserve whatever happens.

  • Ole Man

    Might be the most concise thing, yet my favorite post that you’ve written!

  • Ole Man

    Don’t know. Don’t know if the coaching staff has a big man coach on it.
    CTC can’t be expected to do everything alone.

  • Ole Man

    Please explain to me, how, after playing 18 games plus the tournament in the “toughest” conference in America, that we didn’t have enough quality opponents to prepare us?
    I think the pre-conference schedule is almost fine; just tweak it a little.
    As you said, maybe add one or two.
    However, we need the time as a team to “get it together”.
    All the top teams generally have a fair amount of “dogs” on their pre-conference schedule.

  • Ole Man

    I agree that our B1G schedule was back loaded.
    I don’t think our opponents in the NCAA tourney were, despite the Cuse zone, better athletes or teams than we had beaten all season.
    It just wasn’t our year. And we are all scratching our heads: fans, players, and coaches.

  • b_side

    It was in regard to Jordy having to defend the likes of Gary Harris and Stauskas.

  • b_side

    Neither does missing free throws. Our 4 best scorers went a combined 15-24. Sure could have used those freebies before the game got out of hand.

    Adjustments were made in my opinion. Notice Will started the second half over Yogi. Double digit lead was trimmed to 6 points early on. Did you really expect Crean to teach a whole new offense during a 15 minute halftime? These guys missed wide open shots – many from Cody about 5 feet from the rim.

  • b_side

    According to vegas and the selection committee, we were one of the top 4 teams with the best chance of winning it all.

    Think about this for a sec though…as it stands, Wichita State is one of 4 teams with a chance to win it all now. The tournament doesn’t play out like the NBA/MLB/NHL. With win-or-go home, it’s much more like the NFL where luck/matchups/injuries play a huge role.

    How often are the #1 seeds in the NFL winning the SB? Look back, you’ll be surprised. It’s all about matchups, momentum and of course playing up to your talent level.

    We had a terrible matchup (probably the worst of all 4 seeds by far), momentum was obviously sputtering a bit and our players did not play up to the level they are capable of. Blame Crean if it makes you sleep better at night, but he didn’t clank free throws or shoot 33% from the floor.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    I know what you mean and I am the same way about correct spelling of names. No worries.

  • Tom S

    I’d argue that the coaching staff very much did try to adjust to slow-down, fewer possession, half-court games. The problem is that the coaching staff was working with a group of players that for the most part aren’t built for that game.

    As that changes, you’ll see an improved ability to play in the half-court.

  • I remember Cody saying we might see him shooting some 3’s this season. To my knowledge he never took one. But I agree with you, Blake, that he does need to take more 15 footers. Another thing that came to mind after watching a replay of our great ’76 team winning it all was seeing Kent Benson hitting hook shots. The hook shot used to be a staple for big men years ago and I would love to see Cody develop one. Today it seems to be all about the dunk, which is the most overrated accomplishment in all of sports. The only exception was when 5′ 6″ Spud Webb won the dunk contest.