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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