That’s A Wrap: Team defense

  • 04/10/2015 8:49 am in

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

Final stats (34 games): 71.7 ppg, 45.3 FG %, 50.3 eFG %, 50.9 2PFG%, 15.9 TO%, 32.8% FTR.

If turnovers defined Indiana’s disappointing 17-15 season in 2013-2014, it was the defense that prevented the Hoosiers from truly realizing their potential in 2014-2015.

Despite an elite offense – one that ranked in the top ten nationally in adjusted efficiency – Indiana never figured things out defensively and the result was a roller coaster season in terms of results. When the Hoosiers had things rolling offensively, it didn’t matter how poorly the defense was playing. A prime example of this was Indiana’s home win over Maryland. Indiana allowed the Terrapins to score close to 1.10 points per possession and the Hoosiers still won that game by 19 points.

But expecting those types of performances with any consistency is unrealistic and when the Hoosiers struggled to make shots, the defense simply couldn’t be counted on.

Going down the list, some of the offensive outputs by IU opponents were hard to fathom.

Eastern Washington came into Assembly Hall and scored 53 points in the second half in a stunning loss. EWU’s Venky Jois would say postgame that IU’s defense “wasn’t doing anything.” Ohio State, which averaged 1.08 points per possession in Big Ten play, hung 1.32 points per trip on the Hoosiers in Columbus, a season-best in league play for the Buckeyes. And Northwestern, a pedestrian Big Ten offense, hung 72 points on IU in 58 possessions up in Evanston, their best output in a conference game this season.

The problems were complex, but started on the perimeter as Indiana’s guards allowed far too much dribble penetration. As the season wore on and the Hoosiers were well scouted in conference play, opposing offenses knew the risk of Indiana turning ball handlers over was slim and thus drove to the basket relentlessly and often times unchallenged. It was a theme we saw early in the season as guards like Tyler Harvey of Eastern Washington and Terry Rozier of Louisville shredded IU’s perimeter defense for easy drives all the way to the final buzzer of the year when Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet made finishing at the basket look easy against the Hoosiers.

Indiana switched defenses often throughout the season, going from man-to-man to zone mid-possession frequently, a concept that was deployed with the idea of causing confusion.

“Through the evolvement (of it), it’s just become something that we do specifically for actions inside of something that somebody runs,” Tom Crean said of the concept on a Big Ten teleconference in early March. “Usually we’re pretty successful with it or we’re good at getting into it and then sometimes, we’re not as good. It’s just something that we feel brings, it just brings a little more uncertainty to the offense and it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to make the shot, but it gets them maybe potentially out of their comfort zone of what they want to run at a certain point in time.”

But it often led to confusion among teammates, as pointed out in the Film Session from the loss at Northwestern in late February:

The Hoosiers also lacked a shot blocker or deterrent at the rim, which was a major reason that Big Ten opponents shot 54.3 percent on their 2s, which ranked last in the league. Indiana ranked 13th in the conference in block percentage, 12th in steal percentage and 12th in defensive turnover percentage, all measurements that prove Indiana didn’t pressure the ball much nor provide resistance at the rim.

To provide context on just how bad Indiana’s defense was, the national ranking of 214th in adjusted defensive efficiency by is the worst ever recorded by the website for an IU team since it began tracking the statistic in 2002. The only power conference team to be rated lower in the statistic this past season was DePaul (Big East), which came in 228th nationally.


If there was a positive to draw from Indiana’s defense that could perhaps carry over to next season, it was the fact that when the Hoosiers did pressure the ball, good things did happen. Two examples were the losses at Northwestern and at home to Michigan State when Indiana was down late and was able to use ball pressure to get back into the game, although it came up short of getting a win in both instances. Indiana also did a nice job of keeping opponents off the foul line as it ranked 81st nationally in opponent free throw rate (FTA/FGA).

Bottom Line: Last offseason, there was the question of whether or not Indiana could fix its turnover woes. This offseason, the question is: Can the Hoosiers fix their defensive issues? No team with a defense as poor as Indiana’s this past season is equipped for consistent success. That was proven by the fact that IU didn’t win consecutive games after beating Maryland on January 22. An elite offense can only carry you so far as this year’s team learned when it bowed out to Wichita State in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64. The Hoosiers have major work to do in terms of improvement individually and as a team if the goal next year is to contend in the Big Ten and to also make a deeper run into March or perhaps even April.

Quotable: “It all starts on the defensive end. When we give up easy buckets and things like that, that sparks the other teams’ runs. And we just can’t have that. ” – Robert Johnson following Indiana’s loss at Wisconsin 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, Team offense

Filed to:

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    When I clicked on the link, I was halfway hoping that the article would simply be a sentence that said, “It was really, really bad.” and leave it at that.

  • Gregory Spera

    “…Indiana didn’t pressure the ball much…”


  • ‘Nuff_Said

    How can you write a wrap-up article on team defense when there was none?

  • Kyl470

    62% opponents were shooting right around the rim. Hopefully adding Bryant can help fix that. It’s still going to take a team effort and probably a change in the mentality of some of the players.

  • PBzeer

    Defense starts on the perimeter, if you don’t have it there, you don’t really have any defense. While getting Bryant may give us a “rim protector”, that should be the last line of defense, not the one and only.

    Though we’ve had individuals who could play good defense, our team defense has always been suspect, and I’ve seen nothing over the past 7 seasons to think that will change. And again, this goes to my basic problem with the Crean system, philosophy, or what ever you want to call it. We aren’t a better team at the end of the season.

  • SCHoosier

    It’s pretty simple. IU’s individual (except for Yogi), team and “switching defenses” were awful this past season. It takes mindset-technique and effort to play good defense. Thanks to what AAU ball emphasizes..rated kids want to run, dunk and shoot the three. Playing lock-down D is apparently a foreign concept. No excuse for coaches or players..defense must be a top priority next year. If IU continues to play “All Star Game” defense..all the good recruiting effort won’t mean much.

  • HoosierInChapelHill

    Or just “Not applicable.”

  • Hoosier89

    I like to try to forget that I watched that Northwestern game.

  • Hoosier89

    Agreed. I think the off ball defense and awareness is by far our biggest weakness. Maybe this is also a product of AAU ball as you referenced.

  • Ole Man

    Even Yogi was not fun to watch at points this season.

  • Ole Man

    Because he was too egotistical to admit that Oleman was right!

  • IU track Alumni

    Defense is a culture that must be created and worked on non stop every practice. Defense is how you get better through the extent of the year. Defense unlike offense you always have control of and that’s what separates good and great teams. I really hope that more time is out in on defense this year with this group. We know we can score with anyone in the country.

  • CreamandCrimson

    If it is strictly “a product of AAU ball” as many have referenced (I don’t know if that’s correct or incorrect…but many have suggested this), why do some programs consistently play really good defense with “rated kids”? Programs like Arizona, Kentucky, San Diego State, Virginia (although the latter two aren’t getting many blue-chippers) have players that probably spent the same amount of time in AAU ball that IU’s players did and they play solid to excellent defense year-in and year-out. What makes those teams and those players different (if it is strictly an “AAU thing” as many have suggested)?

    I’m not suggesting that anyone is right or wrong and I think this could be a pretty interesting on-line dialogue in this thread…I just wonder why if it’s an AAU thing, some programs consistently excel at defense and we have recently consistently been average or much worse on defense.

  • A question, because I don’t have the games saved to go back and watch them: how many times did our perimeter defense suffer tremendously because one of our best (or best) on-ball defender was guarding the post? I seem to remember Yogi and SR guarding a big man on many occasions, leaving a perimeter player to be guarded by someone less effective–but, for the life of me I can’t remember exactly how often that happened.

    Really, I think I’ve mentally blocked out most of our defensive possessions.

  • ATG08

    This exactly. We all watched Duke and Kentucky play some serious defense in the Final Four (so did Wisky and MSU). There were certain times I watched and went “wow” that’s what on ball defense looks like. A lot of those guys played AAU ball.

    The players need to “embrace and invest” in the defense. Everyone who has ever played the game, at any level, knows it is hard work. Then, the coaches have the responsibility to “enforce” those defensive principles. I don’t think we saw much of that from either the players or the coaches this past season. I hope that changes.

    Alex- you must have drawn the short straw on this article. Great job as always, but I’ll bet that was as painful to write as it was to read. Go Hoosiers.

  • Kyl470

    Agreed. I would say 85% of division 1 basketball players played AAU.

  • I’d like a straight answer to that question. Especially against teams with good big men who ate IU alive inside. Georgetown, E. Washington, Purdue, Wisconsin, and especially the second time around against Purdue, to name only a few. Extremely frustrating. There is no rational explanation. Expecting Hartman to guard Hammons is wholly unfair to Hartman and the rest of the team. Having Zeisloft on Purdue 7-footers was simply idiotic. I believe there was even a time when Yogi was on one of them. Without a better strategy, especially the second time around, he would have been licensed to smack Crean in the face during a time-out, in my book.

  • I think the picture attached to this article says a lot. What else would they have chosen, besides somebody blowing by James Blackmon or Zeisloft guarding a center?

  • I think they were a much better team by the end of the season, compared to the beginning. The problem was that they plateaued 2/3 of the way in, while others continued to improve…as in MSU.

  • lowest point of the season, in my view. they just gave up. and during a game that basically would have been a ticket into the tournament, all the “bubble” talk avoided.

  • I think he might have mentioned something like this in the podcast posted recently, if I’m not mistaken.

  • calbert40

    Guys, I was having a pleasant day. Do we have to discuss team defense?

  • calbert40

    I’m not saying I agree or disagree with this, but I think the lack of having any true interior defensive presence is what kept Crean from pressuring the ball more. Extend the floor to either full, 3/4 or half court pressure D, and it opens up the interior even more than it already was.

    Personally, I thought we played pretty well when we pressured, but at the same time, that was typically done at the end of games when we were playing with some desperation. Would we have been as successful playing pressure D with 15 minutes left and we are up 6? Hard to say.

  • Gregory Spera

    The “WTF?!?” looks on everyone’s faces kinda says it all.

  • millzy32

    Second that. N/A All the way.

  • Yeah, point taken. And I might be wrong about this, but wouldn’t it make sense to press, directly because we lacked a big interior presence? My thinking the whole time (against teams with very tall big men) was that we should press as much as possible, to prevent them from settling into their offense and getting the ball down low, seemingly with ease (on their part). This seemed to be particularly the case against Purdue. We knew they would eat us up on the inside. They proceeded to do it, and continue to do it for 3 consecutive halves, and nothing changed on the defense on IU’s part. I thought a press should have been attempted, at least as an emergency measure to stop the bleeding. Like you said, it did work when tried, but was only really tried in desperation. Our defense against some of these 7-footers was pretty desperate, yet no press.

    I remember my hand hurting very badly the next day after some of these games, from pounding the table too hard, too many times, and yelling at the screen. I think a press would have saved me at least a little of that pain.

  • calbert40

    If I was the coach, I probably would have pressured occasionally, but not all the time. I don’t think we were deep enough to play a UL or VCU type pressure D, but strategically placed it could have worked, I think.

    Still, this team’s perimeter D wasn’t great (or good or average) either. I don’t think that extending the floor defensively would have necessarily made our D look any better. In fact, it may have exposed it more than it already was! But it probably would have worked from time to time. At the very least, it would have been a change for which opposing teams would have had to plan.

  • SCHoosier

    Crean said more than once that without a rim protector at the end of the press..he was afraid of IU giving up too many easy baskets…if/when the press was broken. That’s what he said..but hell..they gave up way too many layups when they were in a traditional half court defense! If you can call it that)

  • Bill Graham

    What do IU basketball and football have in common (besides Fuchs)?
    the matador defense of course. Olay!

  • IUBizmark

    I posit this is the case because of the over-complication of our offensive schemes. We spend so much time perfecting the offense, there’s little time left to work on defense. This is exacerbated by the fact we over recruit and there are, therefore, so many transfers out. Thus causing the new guys to have to be taught and learn the offense at the beginning of every season.

    Imagine what we could do with a consistent group of guys that doesn’t have to start from square one every year. Look at Wisconsin. Bo Ryan can focus on whatever aspect his team needs to improve upon.

    For us, we could spend season one focusing on offense. Then season two focusing on defense. The rest of the seasons are spent fine tuning the weakest points and then you’re at least positioned to make a deep run.

  • SCHoosier

    It just blew me away how many times our defenders just watched the ball instead of keeping tabs on their man or area (in the zone) Even Yogi did that with bad results. Have n o idea what these guys were thinking on defense..or maybe they just weren’t (thinking)):

  • Jrod

    Good Offense makes good Defense or is it the other way around 🙂 IU’s defense was embarrassing this year. You don’t need a rim protector when you leave the basket wide open. I hope the defense drastically improves for Creans sake.

  • Jeremy

    Indiana team defense – A true oxymoron!

  • RB11

    That’s what I was saying. At least if we press it creates a better chance of a bad pass and a steal. If a tall team/or a half decent pg brought the ball down and set up, they were coming away with 2 anyways. If we pressure then at worst they score their 2 more quickly and gives us more possessions to try our hand at 3’s. But all that’s past now, we finally brought someone taller than 6’9″ to btown again. Someone better alert the manager to add some longer sizes to the order this year

  • David Gaines

    I smirk at the parenthesis now that is a true oxymoron

  • PBzeer

    We had sporadic games where we were a better team, but we weren’t consistently a better team.


    BING freakin’ O !! If all trying to press the other team is going to do is give the other team some of what they’re already getting than there’s not much risk in at least trying a press. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, playing two true bigs at the same time would’ve fallen under the, what do we have to lose by at least trying it, heading.


    I think AAU is a “contributing” factor, but not so much of a factor that it would cause our defense to be as embarrassing as it was this past season. I am beginning to think more and more than it is more of a case that Crean doesn’t emphasis it like it should be and truly isn’t that good at being able to coach kids up enough in that department to have an overall good defensive team. Maybe deep inside he realizes that fact and subconsciously tries to offset that fact by overemphasizing the offensive. I think this type of philosophy also plays into the fact that he pretty much refuses to start and play two true bigs at the same time. Maybe I’m just plain out and out wrong and he will prove me wrong and make it look like a lot of us don’t have a clue about what we are saying…..but I don’t see that happening either. Here’s to hoping I’m totally wrong.


    I’d be willing to bet more than a small amount of money that the percentage is higher than that. Having at one time been around the AAU circuit and coached more than a few games at that level, I’d feel pretty safe in saying that the percentage is in the mid to high nineties.