A preseason look at the stats that matter for Indiana

  • 10/31/2014 11:39 am in

While it’s true talent is the biggest factor in winning big at any level in sports, there are also numbers and trends that we can correlate to success. Advanced statistics are the reason why Ken Pomeroy’s ratings are often more predictive than any top 25 poll or preseason prediction.

This preseason, Indiana is being picked all across the board and the season that lies ahead holds more uncertainty and intrigue than last for a variety of reasons.

Among them:

The Big Ten, beyond Wisconsin, appears to be wide open.
Indiana underwent major roster turnover for a second straight offseason.
Indiana added several players who appear capable of shoring up a major 3-point shooting deficiency.
Indiana lost the best rebounder in the conference and it’s fair to ask: “Does this roster possess the pieces to replace that production?”

All of those themes and questions will come more into focus over time as the games are played and the season rolls along. It’s quite possible the Big Ten will have a more defined hierarchy than many believe. It’s also possible that Indiana’s shooting will be better (or worse) than many are predicting. And the rebounding and roster turnover pieces may (or may not) play as big of a role as we think.

But as we study the numbers and look at what it’s going to take for Indiana to be successful this year, several things stand out. Here they are:

· Turnovers should be a major focus: Many of Indiana’s failures last season were blamed on turnovers. This was not unjustified. The Hoosiers ranked 330th nationally in turnover percentage, last in the Big Ten and last among teams in a BCS conference.

Interestingly, something not many are talking about is Indiana has been average at best in this department for the last six years. Here’s Indiana’s turnover percentage and Big Ten rank for conference games over the last six years:

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When Indiana was No. 1 in 2013-2014 for several weeks and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Hoosiers ranked eleventh in turnover percentage in Big Ten games. No one talked about turnovers then because Indiana’s offense was elite in other areas (top two in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free throw rate) and was able to mask the deficiency.

In 2013-2014, the rest of the offense fell back to the pack last year and the turnovers became the focus. Indiana must make strides in taking care of the ball if it hopes to climb into the top half of the league standings, but expecting improvement of more than a few percentage points while continuing to attempt pushing tempo may be an unrealistic goal.

· Rebounding looms large: There’s a reason Tom Crean is bringing up Indiana’s rebounding frequently this preseason. It’s a major question mark heading into the season, particularly when you consider that Noah Vonleh, a major force on both the offensive and defensive glass, is now in the NBA.

Crean’s best teams excel on the offensive glass and right now, this roster lacks a proven commodity on the boards. Both Hanner Mosquera-Perea (10.8 OR%) and Devin Davis (11.4 OR%) were solid on the offensive glass a season ago, but as their minutes expand, it’s no given that either player can continue that level of production.

The defensive glass, however, may be the bigger concern. Vonleh was a one-man wrecking crew in that area as he grabbed more than 27 percent of available defensive boards while he was on the floor a season ago. There’s no heir apparent to replace that type of production and the question of just how Indiana plans to clean up the defensive glass is a legitimate one.

· How well will Indiana defend at the rim? Indiana was a middle of the pack team defensively in league play last season, finishing sixth at 1.04 points per possession allowed.

The Hoosiers had the best 3-point percentage defense in conference games, but the second worst 2-point percentage defense at 50.8. Having a go-to shot blocker (or alterer) isn’t necessarily a prerequisite to defending well at the rim, but it’s helpful. Indiana’s best returning shot blocker, Mosquera-Perea, has been foul prone, which makes the prospect of fully unleashing him a scary one.

Indiana’s best chance of success defensively is to stop the ball from getting into the paint with any regularity, which means containing ball handlers and forcing more mid-range shots.

· The free throw line is IU’s friend: Another staple of Crean’s successful teams is making trips to the foul line a major part of the offense. In IU’s two Sweet Sixteen seasons, the Hoosiers were first in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in league play. Cody Zeller was a big part of that number in both of those seasons and with his departure prior to last season, a regression was a near certainty.

The Hoosiers fell back a bit more than Crean probably would have liked (fifth in league play) and that was with Vonleh, who was third best in the conference at getting to the stripe. With Vonleh gone, where will the free throw attempts come from?

Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson are both essential pieces in this regard and Robinson’s free throw rate of 77.7 percent was impressive in Canada, but guys like James Blackmon Jr. (24.1% free throw rate), Robert Johnson (23.9%) and Yogi Ferrell (34.6%) simply didn’t get to the line frequently enough on that trip.

Indiana doesn’t have the premier post talent capable of producing a ridiculous free throw rate figure like Zeller or Vonleh, which makes a by-committee approach essential to preventing another dropoff.

Filed to:

  • N71

    Q: “Does this roster possess the pieces to replace that production?”
    A: Yes. That’s like saying do you have a replacement hub cap for my 1998 Chrysler minivan.

    Q: How well will Indiana defend at the rim?
    A: Like wild dogs

  • Gregory Spera

    Limiting turnovers, rebounding, defending the rim, and getting to the free throw line… EVERYTHING will be “by-committee” this season. They must truly be a team, were the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Synergy or bust.

  • KmanCRK

    Q: Chrysler made something in ’98 that is still on the road?

  • INUnivHoosier

    Q: Does the shoulder count as “on the road”?

  • KmanCRK

    I think the A/TO stat will be the most important stat, based on my belief that the Assists speak to how well these guys play together and share the ball. If they do this like I think they will, we will be hard to beat. We were so easy to guard last year. I also believe teams that play well together on offense tend to also play well as a team on defense. I’m glad these guys are getting better competition this year in the pre-conference schedule to sharpen these skills before the Big Ten season begins.

  • Hoosier Taxidermist

    We probably caused more turnovers with Vic ad Cody on the floor in those years to help mask the turnover ratio. It’s not as painful when you turn the ball over if you take it right back.

  • The 2012-2013 season was strong in that regard, but the season prior was not.

  • FinEndNow

    turnovers, turnovers, turnovers… It is time for Yogi to take leadership and get on to everyone and himself when they make stupid plays. Don’t make the game too difficult. Simple passes, simple plays equal easy buckets. You can make a SC Top 10 list with simplicity(looking at you Troy).

  • millzy32

    How about in the front yard on blocks?

  • millzy32

    Average at best in turnovers? They are atrocious in the turnover department. Crean’s up tempo offense places no emphasis on reducing turnovers. How can you rank dead last or second to last 4 out of 6 years and not make that your primary focus? Turnovers kill. If you need proof just look at the self proclaimed “King” last night turning it over 8 times and the Cavs lost to a horrible Knicks squad at home. Turnovers are the single worst thing that can happen on the court. At least a bad shot allows for a potential rebound.

  • Clyde Escope

    Turnovers. This is Yogi’s responsibility this year. Any team that plays a highly up-tempo game is going to have gobs of turnovers, and IU has always played such a game under Crean.

    Here’s the question: does a very fast-paced game create more opportunities and points (including the losses by many turnovers) than a slower game with more half-court sets and fewer turnovers?

    I personally like the current style and think it should continue. However, as last year’s overall performance attests, I also think more emphasis should be placed on half-court sets, sharp and quick ball-movements…basically an ability to slow it down and produce buckets if/when necessary. Last year, it seemed like half the time in half-court, most guys were just standing around, leaving it to Yogi or someone to heave up a prayer at the last second. Maybe they need to have more of an offensive mix this time around. A quick defensive rebound (assuming they can board it up this year), pushing the ball up the floor, and shooting a 3, all within 5 seconds, will guarantee another season of record-breaking turnover stats.

  • PBzeer

    Offensive style definitely plays a part. The real problem with turnovers are the careless ones, of which there were way too many last season. I have a feeling though that what will be the real key is playing solid team defense. It won’t be enough to get in a shootout every game, we need to shut the other team down below their averages. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee that happening, as defense comes from solid fundamentals, and that doesn’t seem to be a priority with TC.

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    Admire your optimism regarding the team’s projected offensive & defensive production in the paint! Truly wish I could share in it, but the stars don’t align quite the same for me. To date, neither HMP, DD or EH have shown any offensive (or defensive) skills to even warrant being compared to CZ or NV–individually or “by committee”. JA remains an unknowable. Arguably, w/o a viable post presence, opponents will be able to concentrate on more closely guarding the perimeter and that could have an immediate and severe impact on our ability to score from anywhere on the court. Simply having a group of players who are individually or collectively capable of filling it up is no guarantee that any of our opponents are going to let them try. Significantly better ball movement will be clutch.
    Same situation on defense. EH showed tremendous abilities to guard and get on the glass in HS and AAU Summer games. I hope he can carry forward at the D1-level where the pace is faster, players are better and the refs will remain inconsistent at best. He’s got the biggest learning curve of the bigs, and probably will need some game time to adjust himself to big time ball. Will HMP and DD be able to avoid foul trouble and be productive? Who knows? Lots of questions remain…

  • OhioHoosier

    Come on I am still depressed, I thought I could escape from that game on this site!

  • yimyames

    everyone sweating the turnovers is setting themselves up for disappointment. If this team is gonna run, they will turn the ball over.

  • millzy32

    If you don’t like that one then you’d probably not like my other analogy of Francona’s Indians having the most errors in baseball. Errors are pretty similar to Turnovers and Tito’s teams seem to lack fundamentals but he’s won 2 titles and he gets a pass.

  • Ole Man

    Left out is assists. If Yogi doesn’t average a ton of assists, then IU isn’t using it’s best offensive weapons.

  • b_side

    Disagree that it all falls on Yogi. Similar to how some mention that Hanner needs to average 10+ rpg (you and I have both noted repeatedly that Vonleh led the league with under 10 last season), Yogi just needs to be near the top at 4-6 per game. Tim Frazier led the league at 5.5 last season. Our offense will be better, so Yogi’s 3.9 should jump slightly. But for comparison’s sake, as a freshman, he average 4.2 with an array of weapons and a team much more familiar with the offense (Jordy also chipped in 3.1 apg).

    What’s more important is Yogi getting the hockey assist. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but if he’s not dumping off to Troy and Hanner down low for dunks, he needs to make the pass that leads to the assist (e.g., drive the lane, kick to RJ who dishes to JBJ/Nick for a wide open 3). No credit to Yogi other than knowing without his effort, the play never would have happened.

  • marcusgresham

    Here’s a stat I’d be curious to see, as I don’t know if it’s ever been addressed…
    Many of you are referencing the turnovers that are the result of an up-tempo offense, but it seems to me (and it could just be my perception,) that the bulk of IU’s turnovers tend to happen when the opponent gets back and forces us into an offense rather than in transition.

  • TampaHoosier

    I get that the free-throw line is their friend, but too often last year it seemed that getting fouled was the sole purpose for a drive into the trees and there was little thought given to actually making the shot. The back court should be able to spread the defense quite a bit more so they are not all packed in the lane like last year. Still, I hope the focus moves from simply getting fouled to trying to get the and-one.

  • Ryan Pride

    can someone please tell me how we do not have one single vote to be ranked? That is comical. With what could end up being the best backcourt in the big ten I find this hard to believe.

  • Alford Bailey

    Can we step it up a notch on D and gets stops during those couple of key possessions that are always turning points in games? That’s the key to a good season and what great teams do. Do we have the mental toughness to get that done?

  • Alford Bailey

    Can we run any type of half court offense if forced to do so? That’s been an issue even on the good teams.

  • hoosierfan2336

    1. How good were we last year?

    Answer: not a good team

    2. What have we done in the offseason to show improvement?

    Answer: lost a lottery draft pick and our only big man, transferred a bunch of players out of the program, added some talented, but unproven players at the guard position.

    How does that justify getting votes for a ranked team? Plus, who really cares about preseason ranking/voting to begin with?

  • hoosierfan2336

    There’s turnovers that come from having a lot of possessions and playing at a fast pace and there are turnovers that come from playing out of control and making poor decisions. We made way too many of the latter. I think that’s what concerns people.

  • Alford Bailey

    Lay off Yogi. Turnovers are not a “Yogi” issue. They are a “system” issue. Turnovers have been high during Creans tenure with many different players handling the ball. Sure wish he would value possessions a little more.

  • CreanFaithful

    “Arguably, w/o a viable post presence, opponents will be able to concentrate on more closely guarding the perimeter and that could have an immediate and severe impact on our ability to score from anywhere on the court.”

    Actually, that would be an ideal scenario. These guards are multi threat. They can and will go around you on the dribble. Lanes would open up for Troy to slash and Hanner to comfortably maneuver…

  • OhioHoosier

    I’m just craving some type of title between my Cleveland tes and preferAbally our Hoosiers

  • Ryan Pride

    added some talent? Jimmy Buckets is not just some 2 guard you throw into a “some talent” sentence. Our two biggest issues last year were turnover and poor three point shooting. So much attention was focused on Yogi because we could not space the floor. With JBJ in the backcourt now everything changes. Taking the pressure off of Yogi and being able to spread the floor could make this team very dangerous come March. That is if CTC can get out of his own way.

  • millzy32

    Sounds great. 87 was a long time ago. Cleveland has waited even longer and since I live in Cleveland area now I wouldn’t mind them winning either.

  • John D Murphy

    Could not agree more. Crean seems to learn from his success but not from his failure. The teams that value ball possessions and execute half court almost always beat IU (Wisconsin, MSU, Syracuse). The game against UofL this year is going to be a disaster.

  • Kyl470

    Here are some reasons.

    1. ESPN did a poll of top 50 coaches in college basketball and CTC was
    not one of them.
    2. ESPN did a poll of top 100 players in college and Yogi was the only one
    on the roster to make the list.
    3. ESPN did another poll of top recruiting classes for this year and IU was
    not in the top 10. It was #22.
    4. IU did not make a post season tournament last year.
    5. IU on paper doesn’t have a proven or highly touted freshman PF or C
    on the roster.
    6. Voters who take their job seriously look at those logical factors and
    they don’t vote with rose colored glasses.

    I hope IU does well this year and I think they could, but to expect them to be viewed as a top 25 favorite going into the year is a little foolish to me.

  • InTheMtns

    I understand what you are saying about valuing possessions, but you might want to pick a better example than MSU. MSU is not a team that almost always beat us. We have an even split with MSU over the last 3 years – 3 Ws and 3 Ls.

  • Ole Man

    Who is the PG? Whose team is it? Who will run the show?
    Yogi.
    Besides, I wasn’t dissing Yogi; I was just pointing out some truth. If he doesn’t involve the other shooters we supposedly have this year, then IU will fail miserably.
    Why? Because as I pointed out, our offensive will not be using its best weapons.
    So, how does this not fall upon Yogi?
    I believe he can and will do it.
    But there is no need to “baby him” or “defend him” any longer. It’s his team and what he does with it is on his shoulders.
    Time for the excuses to stop and IU to grow as a team.

  • Bryce Kepner

    I like that people get hung up on the fact that we had players transfer out. Apart from Fischer I didn’t lose sleep over losing any single one of the players we did. And if Fischer didn’t want to be here, then good riddance.

  • Bryce Kepner

    I think our D will be just as good if not better than last year. We couldn’t stay in enough games last year because we couldn’t score enough points. Yogi was our only reliable scorer. With the shooters we now have, scoring will not be a problem like it was last year

  • Ole Man

    Not necessarily. As Hoosierfan2336 points out below, playing out of control and making poor decisions has been IU’s problem; not the running.
    If you check the stats, you will see that many, many running teams have far fewer TOs than IU.
    I will post them in a followup (because the link has to be approved)

  • Bryce Kepner

    Again I people view the Canada series as pure exhibition games but I think there are lots of take away from it. One was that Yogi wasn’t the leading scorer. He was playing as a facilitator the entire trip. I think that is noteworthy.
    Also he acted the same in the scrimmage last week. I think he is looking more to facilitate other players but if players back off, he is going to hit shots in their face

  • Ole Man

    You may be right about the Canadian trip. Wish we knew how many assists per game he averaged there.

    One point I disagree with, even you Alex, is last weeks scrimmage….Because it was mano/mano with JBJ, I think Yogi passed less than we hope he will during the regular season. There were times he had open shooters and still did some fantastic “jukes” to score.
    He was showing the kid who the boss was! LOL!

  • hoosierfan2336

    I didn’t either, but turnover and constant change is not good in business or sports.

  • hoosierfan2336

    Those guys haven’t played one college game yet.

  • IUMIKE1

    Some of the stats that Crean talks about, IMHO, are given too much importance, but one of the stats that he often talks about that I like is how many times did we get 3 consecutive stops on defense. Think this kinda speaks to the, getting stops at key times, that you mentioned.

  • Clyde Escope

    I mostly agree and will add what I think is missing. I’ll preface this by saying Yogi needs to be playing like he expects to be on the All-American team by the end of the season…and I think he very well could be.

    I’ll add to your point by saying that if Yogi doesn’t have his “fingerprints” on a ton of points, via either assists or buckets, the IU isn’t using its best offensive weapons. He is and needs to be a dual threat. One way or another, he is central. To fully live up to his potential (which is absolutely necessary), he needs lots of assists, but also should be able to switch to the 2 guard at times…which could very well make him all the more dangerous, and the team more dangerous, on the offensive end. The back-court is going to be one of the best in the country, and Yogi is the best scorer on the team. He needs points and assists. The more of a scoring threat he poses, the more others are freed up as the defense is forced to help out, which creates more opportunities for assists. Should be an interesting season.

  • Ole Man

    Very well said! Wish I had expressed it that well.

  • b_side

    To answer your first two questions, the answer is Yogi. My point is he doesn’t have to “average a ton of assists” for this team to be successful.

    Never said you were dissing Yogi – simply disagreed with your viewpoint that the number of assists he averages may not meet your expectations. What is “a ton of assists” after all?

    It still falls on Yogi, but may not show up in the box score per my example of the hockey assist. I’m not babying him or defending him, just pointing out that you might be overemphasizing one column in the box score.

  • Oh, well danke shoen, Mr. Man! (thanks)

  • The best slasher on the team last year was Stan Robinson, in my opinion. He was the most consistent. It’s all about the ball movement and movement without the ball.

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    Clyde brought up SR as the only real guard with a slasher mentality. None of the others are blessed with good enough foot speed to go around very many D1 ballers on the dribble…unless somebody learns how to set a legal screen for him. If that happens with any degree of regularity, any of the guards might have a chance to take it to the rack, but most nights it ain’t gonna happen in AH or any other arena.

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    Only counts if you have a mailbox nailed to it…or a small flower bed surrounding it. No petunias, though–lose points for them.

  • b_side

    So Yogi isn’t blessed with foot speed?

    Imagine we’ll see Troy attacking from the 4-spot too. Very few D-1 ballers will be able to keep up with him at that position.