The Inside the Hall Mailbag: December 15

  • 12/15/2015 11:06 am in

The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall), via email, submitted on our premium forum and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.

Maedhros on the premium forum writes: Can you explain what benefit at all Indiana receives from playing the dregs of college basketball?

Guarantee games, as they’re called, have become a staple of college basketball. The benefit for Indiana is it fills dates on the home schedule and doesn’t require a return trip to the opponent’s arena in a future season. The athletic department needs a certain amount of home dates each year and those who put together the schedule must fill the dates. To my knowledge, Jayd Grossman and Tom Crean are primarily responsible for scheduling while Fred Glass also has some involvement. So to answer your question, the benefit is that IU fills non-conference dates on its schedule.

The bigger question is: Are there too many cream puffs on IU’s schedule? Probably so. The KenPom 300+ teams really bring the number down. IU’s overall non-conference strength of schedule took a major hit because of the Maui losses and now the Hoosiers aren’t going to have much of a resume in the non-conference. The problem, however, is that most quality opponents are going to want a return date to set up a series. The schools who are usually willing to play the guarantee games are just there for the check. – Alex Bozich

CampHoosier on the premium forum writes: At this point in the season, what are the factors that you have seen that will lead to a successful start to the Big Ten schedule? Conversely, what are the things you think are just not up to par and will hurt the team going forward?

There are several, starting with the fact that the Big Ten isn’t as good as many thought it would be, so the opportunity for Indiana to win a lot of games in conference is definitely there. IU’s Big Ten schedule is very favorable. They play Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois twice. Two of their single play road games are Penn State and Rutgers, both of which are winnable. It’s probably not a stretch to say that IU will be favored in five of its nine conference road games, which doesn’t happen often.

It’s also worth noting that IU is pretty damn good offensively. This is a top four offense in the country right now despite a major turnover problem through the first 11 games. Yes, the Hoosiers played poorly in Maui and at Duke, which left an awful taste in the mouth of fans. That was completely justified. But the season isn’t over and I don’t expect IU to just roll over and give up. There’s still plenty to work on, of course, starting with the aforementioned turnovers and the defense.

As for what isn’t up to par: Right now there’s no evidence that IU can be a solid team away from Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have played four games outside of Bloomington and are 1-3, with the lone win coming over St. John’s. The next big test is Saturday in Indianapolis against Notre Dame, which is a crucial game for the resume and to also build some confidence going into the start of conference play. – Alex Bozich

Joe pop on the premium forum writes: How does IU’s “cupcake” schedule stack up with other Big ten/big conference teams? Do we really play an easier schedule or is this an overreaction by fans?

Here are the current non-conference strength of schedules and records for Big Ten teams as of today, according to KenPom:


The league as a whole isn’t exactly setting the world on fire and well, neither is IU. As mentioned earlier, the Maui loss to Wake Forest really hurt because it immediately put IU in a game with St. John’s rather than Vanderbilt. What’s done is done, though, and the Big Ten schedule will have enough “marquee” games to where the Hoosiers will be able to get into the tournament comfortably if they win enough of them. – Alex Bozich

GregorySpera on the premium forum writes: Several posters on the forum have suggested that WE are part of what’s wrong with Indiana basketball. Do you think that the general attitude or disposition of Hoosier fans in any way hurts the program?

Are there fans who take things too far? Absolutely. But that’s true everywhere, not just with IU fans. It’s the nature of the world we live in with social media and communities like this one. There are always going to be trolls who make outlandish comments to try to draw attention to themselves or to bring others down. But overall, I believe people being able to make their voices heard is a good thing.

Ultimately, IU fans care about the program and want it to be successful. They’ve been more than patient. Given that this is year eight of Crean’s tenure, fans are justified in being critical and upset that expectations aren’t being met. When it crosses the line, I believe, is making things personal towards a player or a coach.

This is big time college basketball and in Bloomington, IU basketball is the show. It’s going to be analyzed, covered and dissected as such. It’s why a site like this even exists. To circle back on your original question: I would say IU fans are incredibly passionate about the program and the product and when standards aren’t being met, they’re going to be vocal. And to me, that’s completely fine when it’s done in a respectful manner. – Alex Bozich

Brett Shepley writes via email: I wondered your thoughts on the overall outlook of IU’s offense. It seems that about 90 percent of the time we are just running a motion-freelance offense where the players are supposed to create scoring opportunities. Conversely, I don’t see a whole lot of set offensive plays. Do you think Coach Crean wants the players to use their speed and shooting ability to create on their own rather than allowing offensive sets to provide scoring chances? Thanks for your time.

While it’s true that IU’s offense does have a lot of freedom and flexibility based on concepts and feel, the playbook is also expansive. If you talk to analysts, former players and those who know Crean best, they’ll tell you as much.

Overall, it’s hard to find many faults with IU’s offense right now. The Hoosiers are ranked fourth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, second in effective field goal percentage, seventh in 3-point shooting and third in 2-point shooting. Those are elite numbers. The turnover percentage (284th nationally), as we frequently mention, is too high. And IU needs to do a better job drawing fouls and getting to the foul line.

I think the freedom and flexibility is great when you have the pieces that IU currently has. Two years ago, it wasn’t as successful because the personnel didn’t fit the scheme very well. Last season and this one so far, it works well because IU can space the floor and score in a variety of ways. – Alex Bozich

Filed to:

  • John D Murphy

    Because in only 1 year under TC did IU have enough wins to not be a marginal / bubble NCAA team. Every other year, if you trade 3 wins against cupcakes for 2-3 losses against good teams, IU is on the outside looking in. We’re not just an average team…we’re an average program year in and year out.

  • John D Murphy

    I would never boo a player. But a coach is a professional. We’ll have to disagree on this one.

  • John D Murphy

    I don’t disagree. But the team and players are going bear the load for a coach on the hotseat. They read twitter and message boards. I’ll just quote “Stop blaming fans. Most fans realize we have an average coach and are upset and frustrated. ” Now that guy sounds smart.

  • Breakfast at Bruce’s

    I’m glad you bring this up, because I think there is a big difference between booing on the court and critiquing/criticizing on forums like this one. A well thought out comment is much more nuanced and targeted than a boo, and it is part of a conversation; it evolves. A boo is a tantrum. There is something qualitatively different about shaming a coach in front of his players at game time. Also, players can choose not to be on the message boards and forums. In fact, I doubt that players have time to waste on ITH. And mind you, I’m not a fan of twitter shaming either. A nasty tweet comes close to a boo.

  • VAHoosier

    Wake beat us with rebounding (they had nearly as many offensive boards as we had defensive boards). And we allowed them to shoot over 50% from the field. We scored 78 points, even though we had an off-shooting night. Our offense was not the problem.

    UNLV is a tougher argument, because we had 21 TO’s (which is the one area where this offense struggles terribly, as all CTC’s offenses do). But we shot 46% FG and 55% 3-pt FG. And we had 17 assists on 24 FG’s (pretty damn good). TO’s killed us, and our 9 missed FT’s. BTW, UNLV is ranked 30 in adjusted defense (just ahead of Virginia)–so far this year, they have been quite good defensively.

    Look, I don’t enjoy watching this offense any more than you. Most of the time, I think it is an abomination. But I won’t ignore all of the numbers which say that this team is good at scoring the ball and terrible at defense.

  • PBzeer

    What exactly have we accomplished with the “prime recruits” we have had? Two Sweet Sixteens, one overachieving, one underachieving, and a first round loss. We do have one B1G regular season title, but have yet to win more than one game in the B1G tourney. And I’m still waiting to see a better team in Mar, than what I see in Dec. Rather mediocre results for a guy getting a Top Ten salary. Oh, and the first bracketology over at CBS Sports doesn’t even have us in the tourney.

    You may be satisfied with mediocrity, many of us aren’t.

  • IUBizmark

    Well, I tend to think garbage time contributes to a lot of the lower scoring for IU. And I do believe in the Kenpom metric that ranks IU’s offense as elite.

  • marcusgresham

    There are some conferences that just really don’t seem to produce any quality teams, and those should be avoided. The SWAC and the MEAC both come to mind (and please, everyone, don’t take that as a racist comment that I singled out those two conferences–they just rarely have strong basketball programs.)
    On the other hand, there are usually pretty decent teams in conferences like the Summit, Horizon, or MAC that would still be “guarantee” games without being 300+ teams.

  • marcusgresham

    There is history there, as the game has been played in Louisville before.
    It also gives those of us down here a chance to see IU pretty close to home.

  • marcusgresham

    Freedom Hall is still standing and UK usually plays a game there. Hell, they have their own floor for games there.

  • Young Hoosier

    Yes. I know they used to play there. But now it is about recruiting. There isn’t anything in Louisville. IU and UK don’t recruit it. There really is almost nothing there anyways. We do need to start recruiting some of the studs coming out of Chicago.

  • Bankshot

    Tom, don’t sabe me! their offense may be #4 by some formula but when you play no defense you get more offensive possesions which leeds to more scoring. Their pre-season ranking was 13, now it’s about 50. Obviously you don’t put much credence into the common sense eye-test!

  • Ole Man

    I agree with you that the team is good at scoring the ball. Where I disagree is that it is an “elite” offense.
    Take your own “arguments” — TOs are a part of an offense and if IU continues to commit them at a high rate, as you noted with UNVL, then it will lose more than it wins against quality opponents. And where their D is now is not where it was when we played them, so that point has to be thrown out.

    Wake Forest game: you admit yourself that the offense wasn’t elite — “we had an off shooting night”. A great offensive team finds a way through those valleys. Too often in Crean’s 8 years, IU has been shut down in the second half and reduced to a dribble/throw up a prayer offense.

    IU can score the ball. But wins and loses are predicated by the opponent–even an average D team has demonstrated that it can stop or even shut down this offense.

  • Ole Man

    IU scores a lot of points–whoopee! IU loses to teams that play even average D.

    Watch IU when it HAS TO score–the eyes do not lie.

  • Gregory Spera

    I don’t know. I still like the way I worded it better. Your question seems quite leading, in that you seem to state your hypothesis (the broad generalization that Hoosier fans have “constant and sometimes vitriol negativity about the team) as if it were a given fact, and state your own conclusion, that it “hurting the team moral and/or possibly affect recruiting” in the question itself. Hardly an unbiased query. In any case, Alex doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem.

  • TomJameson

    First of all I have no problem with Alex answering your question. That presumption is really foolish on your part. That, coupled on your “sour grapes” comment shows you to be a “poor winner” (assuming you “won” anything at all). If I had any respect for you at all, I’ve lost it all with your egocentric response.

    I still stand by what I said concerning the constant and sometimes vitriol negativity. A fact in that all one has to do to prove it is to actually read this forum, or just focus on your comments.

    Either way, I won’t be commenting on any of your posts or replies anymore because I just don’t like you, or your lean toward IU basketball.

  • VAHoosier

    I didn’t say we were “elite” (whatever
    that means). But by objective measure, this team is very good
    offensively. And virtually every other basketball-watching person on earth acknowledges that.

    We played UNLV 5 games ago. I can’t understand why we should conclude they are a different team now and therefore we have to “throw out” that game as a meaningful example.

    Great offensive teams get through “off-shooting” nights by having at lease mediocre defense and rebounding, both of which were atrocious against Wake. Which is the point I and many others are making.

    Again, I’ve not seen any evidence that an “average” defensive team can shut IU down. Just hasn’t happened this year. As I stated earlier:
    there is marginal room for improvement on offense (mainly TO’s and
    FT’s), but we are pretty close to our ceiling and one of the best
    offensive teams in the country.

    Are they pretty? No, not for a purist like me. I don’t enjoy watching this offense, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.

  • TomJameson

    Hmmm, not really sure what your response has to do with my question. Are you suggesting that it doesn’t really matter if our recruiting drops in quality? If so, wouldn’t you be one of the first to roast whoever the coach may be, for not doing well in that area?

    And if his salary was cut in half, would that satisfy you or anybody with the way the season is going right now?

  • Gregory Spera

    Sorry you feel that way. I have no problem with you, or anyone else with views that happen to be contrary to my own. Did not mean to hurt your feelings with the “sourgrapes” hashtag, but you did refer to my question as “weak.” While I can understand why you might prefer to no longer parley with any of my posts, I must warn you that I will continue to feel free to comment on yours. Good luck.

  • onehoosier

    I’ve loved the quote, I think ChronicHoosier made on
    twitter. “At Indiana, expectations are
    measured in Banners”. But, I believe
    my best role as a fan is to support the team and the coach when they win or
    lose. We should NEVER boo our own player
    and coach. What has separated Indiana in
    the past has been powerful fan support.
    If a coaching change happens, I believe that should be happen respectfully,
    behind closed doors at the end of a season.

  • Breakfast at Bruce’s

    I’m not a big fan of your pro-Crean fundamentalism, but I commend you on not being a passionless chameleon!

  • TomJameson

    I know it appears that I am, but I am not necessarily pro-Crean. I just don’t like constant negativity. To me, some of it just borders on hate.

    No matter who the coach is, I want to support him. Believe me, I understand the problems IU is facing now, my head is not firmly planted in … errr …. the sand (lol) But I think a change of that magnitude should be orderly and with respect.
    Passionless I am not. But I do try to moderate what I say on media like this because it’s too easy to misunderstand somebody. But, alas, even I go overboard in some responses. I guess I have to think thrice before I hit send, because twice doesn’t always do the trick. Hahaha

  • TomJameson

    Exactly! I won’t deny that a coaching change may be needed, but I think we should let the season play out before we start handing our current coach his walking papers. To change, just to change, will be a tremendous mistake, IMO.

    I pray that we win Saturday! LOL

  • Gregory Spera

    “But I think a change of that magnitude should be orderly and with respect.”

    Everyone should agree with that.

  • Ole Man

    This offense, in the past, has been shut down at critical moments.
    I see nothing that has changed to say that it will miraculously not shut down in critical moments again.
    In fact, we have already seen indications of that this year.
    And sorry, UNLV and Wake Forest, when we played them, at best were average Ds.

  • VAHoosier

    Agree to disagree.

    But I think we can agree they are not very fun to watch (in spite of what Brennan says on ESPN).

  • Lobills

    Firing someone is never going to be orderly nor have an element of respect to it…whatever that means. This is big business and TC (and every other big time program coach for that matter) has been around long enough to know what business they’ve decided to be involved in.

  • Ole Man


    Still confused that you haven’t seen them stopped time and again in critical situations.

  • VAHoosier

    Sure, I’ve seen that. But it is unrealistic to expect they will always score at will. Every team is stopped. We just happen to be stopped much less frequently than most other teams in the country.

  • TomJameson

    Orderly and with respect … Pretty self explanatory I would think.

    The respect comes for what CTC has done for this program in the first 5 years. No program in NCAA history started with less returning minutes than the first CTC team. That includes the Evansville Aces who lost almost their entire team in a fateful, and horrible, plane crash. CTC built the team the right way, with honesty and honoring the student part of “student athlete”.

    Orderly just means in a controlled way by having a clear vision of who you want, where to get him, and how to get him. Just putting some quality thought into the “who” of it will go a long way to making the correct decision.

    IF a change is coming, is should be orderly and with respect to CTC, who has done a lot of good things to pull IU from the dark side.

  • Ole Man

    Agree that IU can score and score in bunches; better than most teams in the nation.
    Disagree in that IU gets stopped too often at the end of games; and often for most of the second half with really good defenses.

  • PBzeer

    What I’m saying, not suggesting, is the current coaching staff hasn’t accomplished much with the “prime recruits” they have gotten. We’ve got more “prime recruits” than any other team in the state, and one could make the case we’re only the 5th best team in the state.

    I’m a lot more worried about what they do with who they have, then always waiting for the next “prime recruit”. Two seasons ago, it was no shooters. We get shooters, and then it’s no big man. Now we have the shooters, we have the big man, and unless we figure out how to win outside of AH, we probably miss the tourney.

    So, no, I’m not really worried about any effect on Crean’s recruiting by what gets said on this forum.