That’s A Wrap: Team offense

  • 04/09/2015 8:57 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2014-2015 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Indiana’s offense.

Final stats (34 games): 77.4 ppg, 46.4 FG %, 54.4 eFG %, 40.6 3PFG%, 17.2 TO%, 32.7% FTR.

As the sun faded on Indiana’s disappointing 2013-2014 season, it was clear the offense held the Hoosiers back from dancing.

Outside of Yogi Ferrell, the team had little in the way of ballhandlers. And as the Hoosiers tried to push the pace, it often resulted in catastrophe. They finished near last in the nation in turnover percentage (330th), opponent steal percentage (328th) and opponent block percentage (331st). When the Hoosiers were able to actually hang onto the ball and finish out a possession on their terms, the results were average — offensive efficiency (106.5, 127th), effective field goal percentage (49.8, 159th), three-point field goal percentage (34.3, 172nd).

A lack of shooting around lottery talent big man Noah Vonleh meant poor spacing. It was a collection of players that just didn’t have the necessary parts to play at a high level.

But Tom Crean plugged the holes and re-tooled the roster in the offseason. He studied David Blatt’s Russian national teams and the Euro game —  a style with multiple ballhanders and shooters spacing the floor. The result? The nation’s ninth most efficient offense. Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. gave the team more ballhandling, driving and shooting options off the perimeter. Troy Williams was almost an auto-turnover when he put the ball on the deck as a freshman, but improved handles and playmaking were apparent as early as the Canada trip. As such, the turnovers improved dramatically (17.2%, 60th) and suddenly Indiana had a starting lineup with guys you had to respect all over the floor.

As Alex noted in Ferrell’s “That’s A Wrap“, Indiana’s increased options on offense meant the team’s best player had to shoulder less load. This allowed him to become a more efficient offensive player while also setting his teammates up. Across the board, the Hoosiers were willing sharers of the ball — save for some takes from Stanford Robinson and maybe a few from Williams, too — and it made the offense hum. They spaced the floor like few others in the country and it made them a tough cover.

Crean continued to implore the team to push the tempo whether the Hoosiers took over possession on a make or miss from the opponent. If they got ahead of the defense before it was set or broke it down early, quick scores happened.



In the halfcourt, Crean also continued to implement the perimeter weave and aspects of the dribble-drive. With Ferrell’s ability to break a defender off the dribble and get to the rim, any defender who collapsed off their man to stop him he made pay. Sometimes it was Williams, who worked the short corner and baseline like few others.

Other times Ferrell would get up in the air, wrap around the defense at the cup and throw an impossible pass to an IU shooter on the wing for a 3-pointer.

Indiana executed its offense at its peak during a win over Maryland at home on Jan. 22. With Collin Hartman playing center, the Hoosiers essentially went five out on offense and had shooters, ballhanders and passers at all positions. They were on fire from distance (15-of-22) and Mark Turgeon and Maryland just had no answers for the onslaught.

“They were hard to guard,” Turgeon would say after the game. “I felt like we were a step behind them all night.”

Perhaps the most crucial new wrinkle to Crean’s system was its value of the 3-point shot. As the NBA gets smarter and more sophisticated about data and analytics — about the components of what makes an offense its most efficient — the league has migrated to one featuring a lot of 3-point shooting and looks at the rim. Death to the long 2, to the mid-range. Daryl Morey’s (the posterboy GM for the new analytics age) and his Rockets hoist 3-pointers at a high rate. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s number of attempts and high percentage from distance are redefining the definition of a backcourt in Golden State.

Crean’s teams followed this blueprint. It was rare a Hoosier took a long 2 or a shot in the mid-range. Indiana’s 18 made 3-pointers against Minnesota on Feb. 15, were both a school and conference record. Its 319 makes on the season set an IU record. Nick Zeisloft shot 51.4 percent in conference from distance and his ORtg of 139.1 was second nationally. Six Hoosiers in total shot 38.7 percent or better from 3-point range.

Simply put: No team in Indiana history produced from distance like this year’s squad.


Bottom Line: With such a poor defense, Indiana could have been headed for disaster this season. But its elite offense allowed the Hoosiers to overcome games it had issues guarding the opponent. They finished with the third most efficient offensive in conference behind Wisconsin’s record-breaking season and Iowa. Indiana had its struggles at times. Louisville’s size swallowed the Hoosiers whole and they only mustered .96 points per possession. And with no big man of serious merit, Indiana became too much of a one-trick pony at times. When Northwestern went to zone against the Hoosiers in Evanston, Indiana kept jacking shots in the second half and they weren’t falling. A post presence could have helped in a game like that. Blackmon Jr. and Johnson also got blocked too much at the rim on the season.

Still, this was a Top 10 offense nationally, one that reinvented itself on the fly.

Quotable: “One thing he’s so much better at is when there’s not a play, he can keep the ball and he can create something. And at the same time, he’s playing with his head up and attacking very well. When the game is constantly moving and, more importantly, he is constantly moving, then that makes us that much harder to guard.” — Crean on Ferrell in early February.

Previously: Robert Johnson, Max Hoetzel, Emmitt Holt, James Blackmon Jr.Stanford Robinson, Troy Williams, Collin Hartman, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Nick Zeisloft, Yogi Ferrell, The Other Guys

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  • hoosier93

    Our offense needs to be built off our defense. If we want to push the pace and run and fun then it is time to force turnovers and turn up the heat on d. We have the depth. Time to force the pace and stop sitting back and taking punches.

  • Gregory Spera

    As Ryan noted, a little more diversity would be nice. Fewer games where we have to watch the Hoosiers miss nine consecutive three point attempts like they did in the second half of the Maryland game in the B1G Tourney. And still think there is way too much dribbling in our “dribble drive” and that causes our half court offense to stagnate at times. That said, we were top ten nationally in AdjO, so putting the ball through the hoop was the least of our problems. Will be interested to see how Crean utilizes Bryant on offense. Hope no ITH “Data Dives” are necessary, next season, to try to explain why our all-star big man isn’t getting the ball.

  • AssemblyBall


    Let me save you a little time. Below is “It’s a Wrap: Team Defense”:

  • hoosier93

    California had the possibility of landing the #2 recruit Jaylen Brown(6-7 SF), #6 Ivan Rabb(6-11 PF) and #8 Caleb Swanigan(6-8 C)… that would go along with 6-5 PG Tyrone Wallace who average 17 ppg, 7 rpg and 4 apg. And 6-6 SG Jabari Bird who average 10 points and should be healthy next season. I know we’re Indiana fans…. but i think we’d all agree that’d it’d be very impressive if Cuonzo Martin pulled that recruiting class in for his 2nd season. And it keeps Swanigan away from Izzo.

  • I think it’s fair to say that with the incoming bigs (TB primarily, of course), the offense (and defense) will look very different next season. I believe 100% that CTC did some bizarre things last season because he rightly or wrongly focused on our lack of size and interior offense/defense. If we come out the first game looking anything like this year I’ll be both surprised and counting the days until CTC is booted.

    And really, I’m not trying to be negative. I think CTC’s biggest strength and weakness is his intellectual approach to the game. If he were just a touch more grounded, I think he’d be far more effective. Maybe with next season’s more traditional personnel, we’ll see a more traditional style of basketball.

  • Kyl470

    We never really featured Zeller or Vonleh when we had them so I don’t expect much to change with Bryant. CTC just doesn’t really run an offense that emphasizes post play. I’m guessing most of Bryant’s points will be off of rebounds or having a guard do a dump off pass to him when they drive.

  • TomJameson

    I think it depends on you definition of focus. CTC has always emphasized that Zeller and Vonleh had to touch the ball. “Going through the paint” was almost his mantra.

    When they do go through the paint, the big guy can either go one-on-one with the defender, or kick it out. That’s what they tried to do with Z & V.

  • Gregory Spera

    This. Would love to see the Hoosiers play a more “inside/out” game. Hope Bryant is a better (more willing?) passer than Vonleh was out of the double team..

  • Indiana_Banners

    Crean should be booted if we look the same on offense? We had a top 10 offense. Why wouldn’t we want to replicate that? I get that he isn’t a perfect coach but why does everyone focus on the offense where we’ve been in the top 10 of AdjO in 3 of the last 4 years? And that’s including the relatively unathletic 2011 team with VJIII, Hulls, and Watford… doesn’t add up.

  • Indiana_Banners

    Vonleh was willing to pass. He just wasn’t good at it. A lot of his TOs came from trying to get the ball back out.

  • I knew that would be taken as a serious negative, which really wasn’t my intention. Yes, I know the offense was effective _at times_, and I think that was the biggest problem. When everything clicked against particular matchups, the offense was fun to watch. But when the shots weren’t falling and against particular matchups (maybe related, as in a team that was tough at guarding the perimeter), things got ugly fast. Those offensive lulls where the outside shot wasn’t hitting and there was absolutely nothing going on inside were just painful to watch (a la, 10 minutes of the 2nd half against NW in the regular season).

    My point is, we ran a certain offense based on the personnel we had at the time. Short of calling time outs earlier to make adjustments, I think CTC did a pretty good job offensively. Next season, though, we’re going to have very different personnel, specifically a much, much stronger post presence no paper. And so we simply shouldn’t play the same guard-oriented offense.

    “CTC is booted” was hyperbole, I admit. I was just trying to stress that this is going to be a much different team next season with new strengths to go along with the same or even better outside shooting. And so CTC should (and I submit will) adjust to that and come out with a different look.

  • Oh, and I agree that the biggest issue last season was defense. I think CTC got caught up in trying crazy stuff and being clever rather than focusing on fundamentals. I’m willing to overlook that, however, assuming that with what looks like a dominant post player CTC will realize he doesn’t need to get creative next season.

    It might not always seem like it, but I’m in the camp that thinks the team did fairly well last season, everything considered. I’m still on the fence about CTC himself. I think he could make some adjustments and be a very, very good coach (or bring in some assistants to shore up his weaknesses), but I’m not 100% convinced he has the personality to make those adjustments. Time will tell.

  • “…highly intellectual (one might say, cerebral) approach…”

    What do you mean by that? I wouldn’t have seen it that way, but have never really thought about it before.

  • I wouldn’t fiddle with the offense too terribly much, but I agree with most everything else there. Fast breaks off steals usually only makes for a bunch of possessions and (ideally) baskets that only take a few seconds off the clock per each. Why not adapt the offense to include more post touches, and try to force 5-10 turnovers each game. Adding an extra 12 points to each game via turnovers would make this team very elite indeed, considering the offensive firepower already in existence.

  • Indiana_Banners

    I don’t agree that the teams’ strengths will be dramatically altered by the addition of Bryant. Some weaknesses, mostly defensive, will be mitigated but the strength of the offense will continue to be what it was last year.

    Which of our perimeter players do you think Bryant will be more effective than offensively as a freshman? Yogi? Doubtful. Blackmon Jr? Doubtful. Maybe Johnson? Definitely not Troy… I don’t see how the strength of the team is on the interior with the addition of one freshman, one that doesn’t have the same caliber of hype as Zeller or Vonleh despite being a McD AA. Bryant will make us much stronger there, but that won’t make the interior of the offense better than the perimeter.

    Crean’s offense looks more like the Spurs’ than the Grizzlies'(i.e. guard-oriented) and that is how we should play based on where we have the bulk of our talent.

  • Well, now that you challenge me to define it… I suppose I mean that he seems to studiously prepare for games and come up with strategies that sometimes seem disconnected from the actual games. I can’t speak to what he does in practice, because I’ve never seen one.

    It seems like he has in his mind how a game should be played and sticks with it because intellectually it made sense to him when he drew up his strategy. But he doesn’t seem to adjust that strategy for what actually happens on the court. That seems to match the complaints that he doesn’t make in-game adjustments and his substitution patterns are often out of sync with how individual players are actually performing.

    It’s almost an Ivory Tower method of coaching, if you will.

  • Well, that’s why they play the game, of course. 🙂 I might be giving TB more credit than any freshman deserves, but watching him play he seems like a man among boys at the high school level. That could all change going into college, of course, but he seems like a strong enough interior presence that he should adjust how we play offense.

    The bottom line is that we played at times last season like there was absolutely nobody in the post capable of making a play. That seemed to make us stagnant at times, particularly when the outside shot wasn’t falling. Maybe I’m too hopeful, but I just don’t see that happening next season.

  • BeatDuke

    A bit off topic, but with the Kentucky players announcing for the NBA, perhaps its time for an article or thread re: “The Case for Thon Maker to IU.”

    As it stands, Kentucky has Lee, Poythress, and Labissiere (no. 4) in the front court. Even without any other big men, Maker stands a good chance of NOT STARTING for Kentucky (so maybe 18-20 minutes a game vs. 32 minutes a game for IU).

    He also likely to be featured in Promos for IU, but probably not for UK nationally televised games.

    Finally, if we are ranked around 13th without Maker, then probably would be top 5 with him. Kentucky is probably top 5 regardless – so can’t say he would be on a lesser team if he came to IU.

    I know, he will probably pick Kentucky, but, seems like he would get a better deal going with IU.

  • SCHoosier

    Maker..NOT start at UK…surely you gest and I know your name’s not Shirely! Maker starts where ever he goes or he doesn’t go there.

  • SCHoosier

    I thought TC remade the offense this season to take advantage of what he had. It worked well in pre-conference . The defenses in the B-10 quickly figured out how to penetrate the weave, shut down driving lanes and keep IU guards from turning the corners (at the elbows). With no scoring from the post player..and little mid-range game (except Yogi)..IU lived and died by the three. Hopefully we’ll have a more balanced offense next year with adjustments when the Hoosiers can’t dribble drive like coach wants. More of our offense next year needs to come from turning over the opponent and getting some run-outs. The defense couldn’t do that often..and I guess that’s going to be the subject of tomorrows thread.

  • BeatDuke

    Well, if the high school rankings are correct (aren’t they perfect?), the no. 4 Labissiere starts over no. 5 Maker at power forward position (assuming that upperclassmen Lee and Poythress don’t start). So, now that I think about it, probably both Labissiere and Maker come off the bench …

  • HannerTime Hoosier

    Yes, but he never utilized their inside/outside skills . . . similar to Bo Ryan with Kaminsky and Dekker and Hayes.

  • ok, gotcha. I never really considered him “intellectual,” and so I asked. And I totally agree on lack of adjustments. This seems especially a problem in second halves; the other team makes changes to what IU is doing, figures things out, and Crean keeps going as if it’s still the first half. It was pretty obvious occasionally, and frustrating. I guess I would think a more “cerebral” coach would also be able to see all of that, and wouldn’t lack the perception of what’s going on, or the flexibility to react. Or the creativity to change things up, before the other team makes the adjustment. Is rigidity associated with being “cerebral”? I think your analysis is more or less right, but I think we need a better adjective to describe it. It seems more “mindless,” “stubborn,” or even “blind” sometimes, than anything else. Not sure what to call that, exactly. (but this is also not to say that he never does anything well…which he does. for example, the team’s offense and rebounding last season, and massive drop in turnovers. the out-of-bounds plays after time-outs generally worked very well, too)

  • Jeremy

    Personally, I think we push the ball to much. I mean take it when it is there but we have all the tools make the defense work. I think slowing it down a bit would also cut down on turnovers. It seems we are always trying to wear the other team down. I just wish I could remember when it actually worked.

  • Yeah, my terminology is off or needs a lot of clarification. When I say “intellectual” in this case, or “cerebral,” I mean as opposed to practical. He’s like an Ivory Tower professor who knows all of the statistics but never comes down to the real world to see how real people live in the particular moment. Bad analogy, maybe, but lunch disagreed with me and I’m thinking through an upset stomach.

    Anyways, terminology aside, I think we’re in agreement in general.

  • TomJameson

    I think CTC did utilize their inside/ourside skills. Zeller was great at kicking it out, but Vonleh had trouble in that area. So, different result, but the intent was still there … go through the paint.

    As far as Kaminsky is concerned – he didn’t really do much his first two years. Of course this year, as a senior, he got tons of accolades. Now if Zeller or Vonleh stayed for two years they would’ve both been awesome.

    Dekker’s not too shabby either.

  • Ole Man

    I remember screaming, along with the announcers, why isn’t Zeller getting any touches!
    So, I think your memory is imperfect by a bit.
    Crean is guard and wing oriented.
    Unless the center can get up and down, ala Cody, he is basically the last option in the offense.

  • Ole Man

    I don’t want to replicate the 7, 8, 9, 10 minute stalls on offense that IU has been repeating for 7 years.
    I don’t want to replicate the lack of attack against good zone defenses IU has suffered for 7 years.

  • TomJameson

    With respect Ole Man, I think your memory is being a little select. I think I remember the game you’re talking about, and it was mostly in the second half the announcers (weren’t “screaming) were puzzled by how few touches Zeller got. Hell, everyone was wondering what was going on. But after the game I also seem to remember CTC saying that wasn’t what he wanted either. Sometimes the game plan isn’t followed.

    I may not be able to remember every single time CTC said it, but I know he said many times that they “want” to play through-the-paint. Again, a person can pick a single game to make a point (didn’t play through the paint), but I’m looking at what CTC has said over time about how he wants IU to play.

    This year being an exception because there wasn’t a big guy, but this (hopefully) is an anomaly.

  • Ole Man

    The “play through the paint” mantra began this year.
    As to the other, it occurred almost every game, not one particular game.