ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla sees “great effort” as IU opens practice

  • 10/02/2015 8:30 pm in

Indiana didn’t waste any time getting straight to work Friday, the first day of official practice for college basketball programs across the country.

The Hoosiers, who open the regular season six weeks from today, took the floor in Cook Hall for a pair of practices. The first began at 6:30 a.m. this morning and the day wrapped up with a late afternoon session in which Tom and Dick Van Arsdale, who played for IU from 1962 to 1965, observed and spoke to the team afterward.

ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla was in Bloomington for an up close look and left with high praise for an Indiana team that is likely to open the season ranked in the top 15 nationally.

The Hoosiers return nearly every key player from a team that ranked in the top 10 last season in adjusted offensive efficiency and add a McDonald’s All-American big man in Thomas Bryant.

“I saw a really good intensity, great team body language, great effort with two practices in one day,” Fraschilla told Inside the Hall. “Especially with one that starts at 6:30 in the morning. But I expected to see that because I know how Tom (Crean) is with his team.”

Specifically, Fraschilla, who will work the Maui Invitational next month for ESPN, believes the addition of Bryant has a chance to change things in a major way for Indiana.

Not only did Bryant impress Fraschilla with what he’s able to do on the floor with a 6-foot-10 frame and 7-foot-6 wingspan, his attitude is one of a guy who wants to learn.

“I thought Thomas had a really good two practices because he’s willing to be coached,” Fraschilla explained. “He did not walk through that door with a sense of entitlement. Great body language. He’s the perfect anecdote for what they were missing. I think he’ll have a chance to be a real factor come January in conference.”

Indiana is expected to be one of the nation’s top offensive units again this season and the addition of Bryant should help diversify an offense that relied heavily on perimeter shooting a season ago.

John Gasaway of ESPN Insider recently wrote that the Hoosiers will boast the best offense in the country, a notion that Fraschilla doesn’t dispute.

“I think John is right. John’s analytics probably back that up and the eye test I gave them tells me that they have an understanding of offense. Not everybody I watch practice has an understanding of offense and that’s why you see so many sluggish games.

“Of the teams I get to watch practice throughout the year, they spend the most time as far as teaching offensive basketball as anybody I see. And really the proof is in the pudding when you look at guys like (Victor) Oladipo come through here. There’s a real sense that they know what they want to be offensively. They want to be a team that plays fast, they want to play with good spacing because they have such good perimeter quickness and they want to shoot the 3. But now they have the opportunity to throw it inside to a kid like Thomas Bryant.”

Additionally, Fraschilla believes that Indiana could be even better than it was a season ago on the perimeter as guys like Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Nick Zeisloft, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson are all a year older.

Ferrell has been named to several preseason All-American teams released in recent weeks.

“I watched some tape before I came to campus this week just to make sure I had a good feel for the guys and I keep forgetting how good Yogi is nationally,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how good of a career he is in the midst of. He’s almost taken for granted.”

In his comments on Thursday afternoon, Crean spoke at length about the ways in which Indiana needs to improve defensively. From what Fraschilla observed, the work is already well under way on that end of the floor as well.

“Tom knows and his team knows they have to get better defensively,” Fraschilla said. “But it’s easier to teach defense than it is to teach offense.”

Filed to:

  • straight no chaser

    “It’s easier to teach defense than it is to teach offense”? Really?

  • Ms hoosier

    Sounds like this team is hungry to win. When you mix this kind of talent with hunger, great things can happen. Go Hoosiers!!

  • curtis south

    Easier to teach defense over offense? Really? If you can shoot you can shoot but being able to stay in front of a player moving the ball sometimes takes some teaching! Knowing when to switch up takes teaching! I have had 2 problems with Crean really. 1) Free throws! Folks how many more game would we have won if the team excluding Yogi could hit a free throw? 2) Defense im sorry I just think Crean has the mind set that offense trumps defense and that just isnt correct IMO!

  • Young Hoosier

    He’s right. Defense is mainly effort and athleticism. The workings can be taught wroth more ease than the movings of an offense.

  • Young Hoosier

    I don’t like and never will like such early practices. Try to practice in the afternoon. That’s when games are played. Players need rest. Let them sleep in.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Straight,, howdy and remember It came from Fraschilla, who I still cannot believe has a studio/announcing job in college basketball. Go IU football tomorrow vs Ohio State!!!!!

  • whomikewho

    The positive words are great to hear. Let’s hope the intensity stays and translates to play on game days. I am excited to get this season going. Thank you TB for committing.

  • SilentBob

    Or they could just go to bed early. With the amount of the court issues we have had I’d expect a lot of early morning practices for this group.

  • Young Hoosier

    It isn’t about off court issues. It just isn’t good. Same with starting school before 10. That’s scientifically proven. It is about getting the best out of the players. Physically and mentally.

  • inLinE6

    Offense is not just shooting. It’s more about finding the right guy at the right spot at the right time. That’s a sophisticated and dynamic process with skills, vision, and creativity. Not saying defense is easy, but it’s easier than offense in the sense that it relies more on effort, quickness, athleticism, and experience.

  • inLinE6

    You start practice in the afternoon, then players won’t go to sleep until early morning. You really think they’ll quit party at 10pm if they don’t have to get up early?

  • TomJameson

    Defense is easier to teach because a lot of defense is effort and intensity. The WANTING to play defense, so to speak. Of course, there’s teaching needed for defense as well, but it’s a little easier, then comes the individual effort and desire.

  • Young Hoosier

    They’re going to party no matter what. Put practice on around 5. Then have a mandatory study session. You obviously have to have a curfew. By the time they’re done with practice and studying then they’ll be under curfew. They can party on the weekends.

  • SCHoosier

    “Teaching” it.. i s easier than executing that teaching. Defense takes an emotional and mental commitment as well as great communication & conditioning. At least everybody is talking about the need to improve defense. IMO it is really the key to an outstanding season for IU.

  • Arch Puddington

    There are more variables in offense and thus more to remember, but defense is most assuredly not “mainly effort and athleticism.” Team defense of the sort played by Duke, the Butler teams under Brad Stevens, and the old Hoosiers under Bob Knight is every bit as challenging to learn and execute as team offense. Players must be able to read the entire floor, communicate, and react in perfect concert at all times. An offensive set can be successful even if somebody makes a mistake or gets a little lazy, but on defense even small mistakes are immediately exploited.

    I find it both telling and unsurprising that Fraschilla says Crean spends more time coaching offense than any other coach he has seen. With only one team having been ranked higher than 47th in Kenpom defensive efficiency since he got here, it has been apparent for many years that defense has not been taught as much or as effectively as offense by CTC. If that does not change, the Hoosiers will continue to disappoint and CTC will eventually be shown the door. He can recruit good players and teach them how to play offense, but legitimate contenders for Final Fours play defense much, much better than any Hoosier team in a long time.

  • marcusgresham

    Of course it is. Which sounds easier–“Bend your knees, get in the way,” or explaining the mechanics of a jump shot?

  • Arch Puddington

    Excellent post. If making them get up early is done even in part to encourage them to stay clean and go to bed early, then either we have the wrong guys or the coach is using a counterproductive strategy.

  • Young Hoosier

    Well I never said you didn’t have to have an understanding of defense. But defense is mostly effort and athleticism. If Troy and Yogi would just put in some effort then they’d be good wing defenders.

  • marcusgresham

    They’re practicing in the afternoon, too. That’s the thing with early season–get two practices in the get yourselves rolling.
    You also have to factor in their schedules–classes begin around 8 and I think they’re probably supposed to be done with classes by noon or 1. They have another practice in the afternoon and probably tutoring in the early evening.
    Hell, I hate 8am practices on our Christmas break when I played (I’d have hated 11am practices because I hated getting up early) but that’s really the only time they have available. Maybe it also encourages them to get to bed early which might keep them out of trouble!

  • Arch Puddington

    Aaron Craft was a great defender without being a great athlete. Troy Williams is a great athlete without being a great defender. And I disagree that what limits Troy is his effort. I think he is an extremely hard working player at both ends of the court. What he lacks is the ability to read the movement of a half court set. He does not have great anticipation, a vital (and teachable) skill, and he does not communicate effectively at times. He is often out of position, but not because he lacks athleticism or doesn’t work hard. He just hasn’t yet learned how to work within a team defensive concept. Maybe CTC’s renewed focus on defense will help him grow as a defender.

  • IUMIKE1

    Couldn’t agree more, especially with what you pointed out in your second paragraph.

    “Tom knows and his team knows they have to get better defensively”.

    If that’s not the understatement of the year I don’t what is. They don’t need to just, “get better”, they have to drastically get better if they harbor any hopes of a conference title, a B1G tournament title, a very deep run in the Big Dance or any combination of those. Jumping 50 to 75 spots would be getting better and would be no small feat, but jumping a hundred or so spots from last year’s team defense ranking would be drastically improving, and an even bigger feat. Even doing that would still put us right at the edge of still having a triple digit ranking, so maybe we need something more than whatever drastic is. We go only as far as our team defense takes us this coming season. Simply saying that adding TB and others being a year older does not automatically equate to us becoming a team with a defensive ranking of 50 or higher. Reaching a ranking of 50 would mean that we jumped 164 spots from last year’s ranking and I have to wonder if any team has ever made that kind of jump in just one offseason, let alone one that has a head coach that doesn’t seem to be the greatest at teaching/coaching defense.

  • IUMIKE1

    Aaron Craft…..perfect example.

    Man of man how I hated that little rosy cheeked turd every single one of his eight seasons there. lol

  • sarge

    Crean’s Indiana teams are always good statistically at the free throw line. Do they hit all of them? No. But they are always one of the best teams at the stripe

  • Young Hoosier

    It is nothing against Troy. But unless he knew he could make some spectacular play… effort wasnt really there plus he was put in a position to fail last year anyways having to play the 4. And don’t just assume that Aaron Craft wasn’t an excellent athlete just because he’s a “small white kid.” He’s obviously a great athlete. He may not have an amazing vertical but he has quickness. Someone like Jordy Hulls isn’t a great athlete. Jordy understood offense and defense but didn’t have the athleticism to necessarily pull it off at a high level. And Troy does lack the defensive IQ. But with more effort it’d be less of an issue. Because he’s at least always be trying.

  • Young Hoosier

    I’d say have them take classes between 10 and 3. Eat as a team. Practice at 5. Eat. Study. Heck maybe eat again. Then sleep. That’s of course where a curfew comes in. Gotta be in your dorm at a certain time. Probably 10 or 11. Go play video games. Go make vines. Go watch ESPN. Have fun… just in your dorm.

  • And One

    TB is the antidote, not an anecdote. S’okay Fran, I know what you meant.

  • sam

    Im glad ITH said in the headline of the post. From someone who knows n saw practice up close. Go #IUBB!!!!!

  • Bill Graham

    Well Troy’s replacement just committed to MSU….

  • SilentBob

    There are a lot of reasons why starting school early K-12 is a bad idea for the whole of students. A lot of which can’t be ascribed to early morning physical training by fully grown men. In fact there are a lot of benefits to working out before school/ work as long as it’s not being done on an empty stomach.

  • SilentBob

    If it is related at all to the off the court problems, I have personally found team punishment to be much more effective than individual punishment as it helps instil a certain amount of responsibility to others.

  • fourputtsforsnowman

    Someone posted to a thread about a month ago that YOGI was our worst defensive player statistically…off the charts poor (again statistically). No one has said that yogi can’t play defense, and its obvious that he can, albeit sporadically. He just hasn’t far too often. Sure Troy needs to improve, obviously RJ and JBJ do too. But I think the key to a successful year is Yogi leading this team by example at both ends of the court. I think that should be his personal challenge to himself and for himself.

  • Young Hoosier

    Does that surprise you? Lol

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    I saw that but was their any doubt he was headed to MSU.

  • straight no chaser

    The offense equivalent of “Bend your knees, get in the way” would be “Put the sphere in the dang hoop”, which is quite easy, right?

  • straight no chaser

    You saved an old jazz man some typing. Would rather work the piano!

  • straight no chaser

    Saved me even more typing!

  • HoosierStuckInKY

    If there’s time to sleep, there’s time to party. I didn’t need science, my college experience proved that!

  • straight no chaser

    We knew offense is going to get better. What I’m waiting for is evidence that we are thinking holistically about the game, and that defense is treated as an organic part of what we do. The very discourse that begins to distinguish between levels of difficulty in teaching one thing over another is the wrong one. I do not know in what context Franschilla made his statement about defense being easier to teach than offense, but as a standalone statement (regardless of its author), it makes absolutely no sense. How about we just tell our players that they are not complete players until they are able to master their game at both ends of the court, and we leave it to them and their coaches to decide if this or that is easier or more difficult to teach or learn.

    I know it’s still early, but I haven’t seen evidence of good defense, yet. Far from it. I hope our solutions will not be to throw players under the bus for playing “poor defense” because we’ve already decided that defense is more about player individual effort and initiative than intentional teaching and coaching.

  • Ole Man

    Got any stats on that?

  • curtis south

    If you can shoot or drive or make back to the back baskets then hey your good! Positioning and staying in front of players on defense is another story! JBJ I am sure could attest to this!

    Defense is built not granted!

  • sarge

    Last year’s team hit 71.9%, 13-14 hit 73.0%, 12-13 74.3%, 11-12 76.3%, 10-11 72.6% in the last 5 seasons. They haven’t been worse than 86th out of 351 division 1 teams and as good as #12 in the nation. Everyone knows Indiana teams can shoot the rock.

  • Young Hoosier

    Why are people going crazy about him saying defense is easier to teach than offense? It is just the truth! It isn’t a big deal. It makes no sense to be getting your pitchforks and torches.

  • TomJameson

    Good find Sarge, thanks for looking that up. I had the feeling that (overall) IU teams have been hitting their free throws, but was too lazy to look it up myself! LOL

  • TomJameson

    I really didn’t want to get involved in this discussion, but I just had to jump in here.

    First of all — You realize that almost every single statement you made can also be said that as a “stand-alone statement” it doesn’t make sense. LOL Press does it all the time. Take a statement by itself and twist it around. As an example — “treat defense as an organic part of what we do”. What!?!?!? Hahahaha

    And another — the fact is, no matter what anybody “rationalizes”, it really is easier to teach defense than offense. YES!!! there is still teaching involved, nobody said ALL it takes is focus, intensity, effort, and desire. It takes a lot more, but STILL it is easier than teaching offense. You can teach somebody everything they need to know about playing good defense, but the key ingredient is effort!

    Again, The court awareness, communication, foot work, and help defense … all the other tools can be taught. but it takes effort to actually be any good at it. That’s like having a great car, but no gas in the tank. LOL

    Finally — as far as you not seeing any evidence of good defense yet, and “far from it” … come on, lets be real here. Have you seen any practices??? Have you seen anything at all of the players & coaches interactions??? That is the most preposterous statement I’ve read for quite a while. LOL

    Young Hoosier is right, lets put down those pitchforks and torches. Plenty of time to torch the defense when the games start. THAT’S when we all will see what is going on.

  • TomJameson

    Hahahaha … I can tell you’ve never played basketball, at least not offensively! LOL

  • straight no chaser

    I don’t have time for an elaborate response to a personal insult (the “pitchforks” and “torches”). I will just say that the pitchforks and torches are only in your paranoid head. Your long speech has nothing to do with what I said. There is no need to gang up on me by teaming up with a troll.

  • straight no chaser

    You may have played basketball, which I doubt. But you certainly don’t have a sense of humor.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    ESPN is claiming the 2016 recruiting class is the best that Tom Izzo has had since he became the head coach in 1995. Wow what a tremendous basketball program MSU has. I still love my IU Hoosiers.

  • TomJameson

    I have a fantastic sense of humor … all kinds, especially sarcasm! With that in mind let me say that I can hardly wait to see your next post, because they are so worthwhile to read.

  • TomJameson

    Wasn’t ganging up on you kid, and it doesn’t look like I’m the paranoid one.