What to watch for: Mississippi Valley State

  • 11/26/2016 5:07 pm in

Following a disappointing 71-68 overtime loss on Tuesday night at Fort Wayne, Indiana returns to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Sunday for a matchup with Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils are 0-7 this season.

It will be the first of four games in eight days for Indiana. The game will be broadcast at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN3 (streaming) with Jordan Bernfield and Homer Drew on the call.

In lieu of our traditional game preview, here’s a look at three things to watch for on Sunday:

· How will Indiana bounce back? It’s a foregone conclusion that Indiana will beat Mississippi Valley State, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to watch for when the Hoosiers take the floor.

First, will OG Anunoby be ready to play? His presence, or lack thereof, was a factor in Indiana’s loss on Tuesday at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Anunoby was scoreless in 13 minutes in the loss. Tom Crean said postgame that the sophomore forward was sick. Indiana is going to need Anunoby at full strength in Wednesday’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge game against North Carolina.

Indiana also needs to execute much better offensively as it prepares for the Tar Heels. The Hoosiers scored just .93 points per possession against Fort Wayne. Shots weren’t falling from the perimeter and Indiana’s ball movement was stagnant for most of the game. While the shooting may be off in certain games, the ball movement and execution needs to become a constant.

And finally, will Indiana do a better job at stopping at dribble penetration? Fort Wayne drove the ball into the lane frequently on Tuesday, which is something Indiana needs to clean up in a hurry with North Carolina looming later in the week.

· On floor leadership and communication: While I noted in Wednesday’s podcast that improved communication against an opponent like Mississippi Valley State shouldn’t be studied too closely, Indiana still needs to exhibit some type of progress.

Crean was straight forward with his comments in the postgame of the Fort Wayne about the leadership and communication and he vowed to fix the issues.

As uncomfortable as it might be for certain guys on the roster to shoulder some of these responsibilities, Crean is correct when he said that the leadership needs to be primarily player driven. It hasn’t been to this point, but it also wasn’t early last season when Indiana was beaten twice in Maui and drubbed at Duke.

· Pace and tempo: One of the disappointing numbers coming out of Tuesday’s loss was the fact that Indiana only had 65 possessions against Fort Wayne, which is 13 fewer than the Hoosiers had in their win over Kansas.

Both games went to overtime, but the Mastodons controlled the tempo, which was a major reason for the win. The Hoosiers are going to be able to control the pace against Mississippi Valley State, a completely overmatched opponent. But Indiana needs to run efficiently.

Three of IU’s guards – Robert Johnson, James Blackmon Jr. and Josh Newkirk – combined for 11 of the team’s 15 turnovers against Fort Wayne. And none of the three did a particularly good job forcing turnovers to create offense nor were they able to help the Hoosiers create any offensive advantages in transition.

Indiana shouldn’t have any issue getting as many possessions as it wants on Sunday, but the Hoosiers need to limit their careless mistakes, move the ball quickly and play one-on-one late in the shot clock far less frequently.

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  • Speed

    Unfortunately not much of a test here. Perhaps we can concentrate on taking care of the rock and playing a little D. So far the offensive skill of Blackmon has masked his lack of defense. Remember last year’s team got a lot better without JB. Let us hope it can get better with him this year.

  • Fifer39

    Well if TC is going to put it down to leadership and effort, I would expect him to send another message with the starting 5 today. I’ve personally had enough of the positionless/committee approach or whatever it is. I think we’ve got to give JN time to settle into the PG role – he looks to me to be our best option there. RJ and OG (if heathy) are the only other guaranteed starters for me along with TB IF we’re actually going to use him like a post player and feed him the darn ball. I’d like to see DG and CJ get plenty more minutes too.

    I’d also like to see us manage the tempo better and that doesn’t mean always trying to force the pace. Focus on the fundamentals, work the ball through the paint and create the open shots rather than just letting fly in transition. There’s a time to play fast and positionless but you’ve got to earn the right first.

  • Ole Man

    RJ is a much better option than JN.
    Much smoother, team operates better, more proficient scorer, better intangibles.
    JN needs more time; a lot more time.

  • pcantidote

    I tend to agree but without JN’s late threes we wouldn’t even have made it to OT last week.

  • BL4IU

    Yeah, I’d like to see RJ/JBJ/JM/TB with a healthy OG. Give that unit some more time to gel. However, as I mentioned in the premium forum, if that backcourt doesn’t work, thankfully we have several other options to consider including DG and Cujo. Frankly, if we have to go that route, I’m playing the PG that doesn’t turn it over because they can all score.

  • Sandra Wilson

    Great game for using the BENCH to teach a lesson on defense and needless turnovers…..Stupid turnover, you sit—Man drives past you, you sit—–Don’t slide over to help, you sit—–Don’t hustle to recover, you sit…..I’m not saying leave them there, just make a point with time on the BENCH…..It won’t happen, but it should.

  • Fifer39

    Don’t disagree with your view of RJ but a JN/RJ 1/2 looks better to me than RJ and anyone else at the 2 at the moment. JN certainly needs more time but if not now, when? He’s only a 2 year player and looks the only true PG we’ve got. I’m not sure sharing that responsibility like we have is the way forward, imo.

  • SCHoosier

    Agree but RJ seems to fall alseep at time when the ball is in his hands.

  • Ole Man

    Personally, I’d give JN the time at the expense of JBJ right now and bring JBJ off the bench for instant offense.
    I know that seems sacrilege.
    However, it gives IU a better D unit and probably a better “team”.
    I simply haven’t been impressed thus far with JBJ’s “team” play.
    I have been impressed with his rebounding and except for the last game his shooting.

  • Koko

    Hey TC give DD more minutes….a lot more minutes….you’ll be happy you did come B1G time.

  • Fifer39

    I’d really like to see what that looked like.

  • Fifer39

    Agree, DDs development needs to be a priority through the rest of the non-con.

  • Lance76

    Agree—-Is that RMK just posting as Sandra Wilson?

  • Arch Puddington

    Last year’s team got better “after” JBJ, not “without” JBJ. That is a big difference. The team that we are putting on the court now is largely the same as the one that was playing good defense at the end of last year. Our four best defenders — RJ, JM, OG, and TB — are all getting more minutes than they were a year ago. We lost Yogi, but picked up JN, which is a fairly even trade defensively, and lost NZ but got JBJ back. That, too, is pretty much a wash. And Troy Williams’s minutes have been taken up by OG, which is at least on paper a big step up.

    Bottom line: If our defense stinks (it does), it just can’t be laid at JBJ’s feet. It wasn’t JBJ who gave up 30 to Frank Mason or 18 points and 12 rebounds to Bryson Scott and 15 points and 11 rebounds to John Konchar. Seen in that light, JBJ isn’t even the biggest problem on our defense. It is a group problem, and involves not only multiple players getting routinely beaten off the dribble, but lousy weak side defensive help and a general inability to stay connected.

    There will be no defeating the “JBJ can’t defend” meme, but the reality is NO ONE is defending very well right now. I’ll take JBJ’s 20+ points and 7 rebounds any day, and hope the coaches get the team as a whole back in form.

  • Missing Moye

    I couldn’t agree more with this. For this team to be at its best, JBJ should have a Zeisloft-like role. Off the bench as a spot up shooter. JBJ has a little more athleticism than Nick did which helps his rebounding. But he isn’t a better ball handler than Nick, and is an even worse passer and defender.

    Remember all of those times Zeisloft was initiating the offense and breaking down his man in late shot clock situations? Exactly.

  • Missing Moye

    Semantics. Last year’s team was better without JBJ on the floor. We can all argue until we’re blue in the face as to why, but it was the reality nonetheless.

    You think TB is one of our four best defenders? I usually agree with your comments, but I think you are WAY off base with that assessment.

  • Arch Puddington

    It’s not semantics; I just gave straightforward data that goes along with my position. I’m not saying it’s definitive, but there is more to this debate than haggling over word choice.

    As for TB, he’s one of only two guys on the roster even capable of defending a true center. Unless you are arguing that DD is better than TB, then TB is one of our best defenders by default. And since he was a part of the defensive unit that was playing well at the end of last year, it’s not exactly a stretch to say so. He is not a defender on par with, say, Anthony Davis, but in the context of the team we have, he’s as good as we have at what he does.

  • Missing Moye

    You never said he was one of the four best post defenders or one of the top four players that could guard a true center. I suppose I would have to reluctantly agree with that considering the confines of our roster. But he is not one of the best four defenders on this team with regard to overall ability to defend. He struggles mightily in weak side defense and pick and roll, and he is at best average in straight up post defense.

    Correlation, causation – this team played better last year without JBJ on the floor. You can hypothesize all you like about why that was, or how this team would have been better had he not been hurt, etc. But you there is not “good data” that goes along with your position – such data does not exist.

  • iugradmark

    At least some of the problem is the schemes on defense that we are trying. Coach is convinced that our bigs should take big hedges even way out and we are not very good at that. Cody was a special athlete that could do this pretty well but before Cody when we tried that with Pritch and after Cody we haven’t been so good at that. Same goes for pressuring hard with our guards. We are getting beat off the dribble by almost everyone that we try this with and our help schemes are not that good yet. CH was helpful and I think we miss him.

    I was hoping that we had turned the corner with Coach last year and that we would build on our progress but it does feel like a step backwards this year. We have enough athletes on this team that we shouldn’t be this poor on defense. When everyone looks bad, I think it is partially on the schemes and coaching. I am hoping that we can get it straightened out but as I said Coach has a stubborn streak in him on certain things and this is one area that has not been that great during his years at the program. We were pretty much a laughing stock on D last year before we turned it around. During the early ESPN games last year I would cringe at watching how the announcers couldn’t figure out anything that we were trying. It is fixable as we saw last year and can be again but we shouldn’t have to see this every year. We have enough veterans on the team that we shouldn’t be this bad now.

  • Speed

    A valid point. So frustrating to see poor defense when in reality it is effort that leads to playing good defense. Perhaps we can chalk this one up to underestimating their opponent??!!

  • Arch Puddington

    1. Yes, I can hypothesize. That’s what we do here.
    2. You are taking just as strong a stance on the matter as I am. Give me something to support the argument that JBJ’s absence was the reason for our improvement last year and I’ll be glad to listen. In the meantime, I will give you data that I have given multiple times, including some in this thread:

    — The turnaround in last year’s season came during the Notre Dame game, during which we held one of the most explosive offenses in the country to 32 points in the second half. Blackmon played 29 minutes in that game, had 8 rebounds, and helped hold Notre Dame’s backcourt to a total of 16 points on 7-26 shooting.

    — It’s worth pointing out that we were already 5 games in to what became an 11 game winning streak when Blackmon went down, and our defense was already playing better.

    — The “it was Blackmon’s fault” argument is based primarily on the notion that better defenders got more minutes after he left. Well, those defenders — especially JM and OG — are getting even more minutes this year than last, and our defense stinks.

    — The three players who have caused us the most problems this year are Frank Mason, Bryson Scott, and John Konchar. None were guarded by JBJ. That was mostly true in our bad early season losses last year as well. Wake Forest’s leading scorers were both interior guys (Thomas and Motoglu). Brandon Ingram was the big problem against Duke. JBJ probably does deserve a good bit of the blame for our struggles against UNLV, but that was one game out of the 13 he played.

    This year, like last year, our problems start with poor defense at the point of attack — lots of reaching and leaning rather than good footwork and positioning — and extend through poor communication and help defense. He is part of it, but so is just about everybody else.

  • Arch Puddington

    Hopefully! Even allowing for that, I have a hard time explaining what happened. They were quicker, more athletic, and shot better. Heck, they nearly out-rebounded us. After what we saw against Kansas, I would not have thought that even a major let down would leave us looking so flat.

    Sports are strange that way, though. The best team doesn’t always win, and it is always baffling when an underdog beats a (supposedly) top team.

  • Ole Man

    Not at the expense of TB….tell ya why.
    Remember last year when TB suddenly began to come alive in conference play?
    Same growth is happening for him this year.
    Play DD and TB together with OG.

  • Koko

    Oh I didn’t mean at the expense of TB.
    Couldn’t agree more on playing DD and TB
    together with OG. That’s a potent trio.

  • Fifer39

    Not quibbling with your view on TB but genuine question – why is that growth needing to happen again? I was expecting him to be more impactful from the start this year – and I agree, I’m leaving him in and he’ll get there – but he definitely seems to have taken a few steps back. I guess might be just the need for competitive playing time but I would expect more evidence of off season improvement.

  • Missing Moye

    “1. Yes, I can hypothesize. That’s what we do here.”

    — Certainly, but I don’t call my hypotheses “good data.”

    “Give me something to support the argument that JBJ’s absence was the
    reason for our improvement last year and I’ll be glad to listen.”

    — Results? Reality? He left the line up, we got better. It was proved by results, statistics, and the eye test. I’m not sure what more you really need.

    “– The turnaround in last year’s season came during the Notre Dame
    game, during which we held one of the most explosive offenses in the
    country to 32 points in the second half. Blackmon played 29 minutes in
    that game, had 8 rebounds, and helped hold Notre Dame’s backcourt to a
    total of 16 points on 7-26 shooting.”

    — Ok, so here’s a fun one. Everyone points to Notre Dame as the turnaround game. I’ll dispute that in a bit. But for now, let’s look at the ND game. They scored 32 points in the 2nd half, as you pointed out. However, 28 of those points were scored in the first 12:58 of that half. At the 7:02 mark, JBJ checked out of the game for the first time in the 2nd half, and Indiana proceeded to hold Notre Dame to 4 points over the final 7:02 of the game. JBJ went out, defense locked in, they pulled out the win. Ryan reflected in The Minute After “I was critical of Crean for not yanking Blackmon, Jr.
    for some defensive miscues in the second half, but I spoke a little
    soon. The sophomore saw limited run down the stretch as Indiana’s
    defense pulled it out.”

    So what happened after that big Notre Dame turnaround? The following game, Kennesaw State (ranked 333rd in offensive proficiency at the time) scored 1.08 ppp, their season best at that point. Blackmon was still out there, and the defense was still substandard, after the Notre Dame game.

    Blackmon was hurt after that game and didn’t play again. The next 7 opponents (all B1G opponents, not mid majors) scored less than 1 ppp against IU. For me, the turnaround began with the Rutgers game after JBJ was injured. That’s when the defense truly got better (well, minus the 7 minutes of the ND game when JBJ was benched).

    ” It’s worth pointing out that we were already 5 games in to what became
    an 11 game winning streak when Blackmon went down, and our defense was
    already playing better.”

    — You forgot to mention that 4 of those 5 opponents were Morehead State, McNeese State, IPFW, and Kennesaw State. Hardly a winning streak that most power conference teams couldn’t accomplish. And as I’ve pointed out, our defense wasn’t already playing better with him on the floor.

    — I’ll agree with most of the rest of your assessments about individual scorers (Duke withstanding, as their starting backcourt did score 39 on us). And you are spot on with regard to this year’s issues (footwork, positioning, help defense). I would add specifically to our lack of help defense is the lack of rim protection – we just aren’t blocking or altering that many shots. What few we do , we don’t rotate well on the backside and then give up offensive rebounds.

    I am not saying JBJ is the sole reason our defense struggles this year – far from it. He actually looks better this year. Last year I thought not only was he bad, but he made everyone on the team worse around him. I truly believe (time for conjecture on my part) that CTC played a lot of those elaborate zones and switching defenses in an effort to protect and hide JBJ on the defensive end. This year, JBJ doesn’t look good on defense, but I’m not sure he’s so out of position that it’s causing the rest of our defense to break down.

  • vicbert caladipo

    That took 10 minutes to read. Rock on Arch!!!!!

  • What’s up with JBJ’s knee?!?

  • vicbert caladipo

    This team is in serious trouble come Wednesday.

  • Vernon Aldrich

    I appreciate the detail Missing M. I think you summed it up with “results, statistics and the eye test”; We are a better team without JBJ on the floor. All the talk in this forum won’t change the reality.

  • vicbert caladipo

    He’s dressed and not limping. If this was a BK team I’d say he’s being benched. CTC would never do that. Would he?? Injuries have always been a huge mystery under CTC. Logical thought is he’s being saved for Wednesday. It’s not going to matter. Too many flaws on this team. TB and OG look good. CTC better figure out which guards to play. RJ,,,,,,trapped at mid court…..throws ball in the stands. Some of these turnovers should not be happening.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Great point and agreed. RJ and JBJ only with the three big men you mentioned. IU should have this lineup 65 to 75% of the game time.

  • Agreed. Solid first 10 minutes followed by completely sloppy second 10 minutes. Yes, MVS picked up the defensive intensity, switch the man, but still. Good movement on offense gave way, and defense dropped off.

    I want to see a strong second half or my worry about the UNC game is going to switch to dread.

    About JBJ, I suppose if he tweaked anything at all, then it makes sense to give him time to rest it.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Man I love these guys and it didn’t hurt listening to the 3 minute halftime commercial about family, but many of these players frustrate the hell out of me. It’s chicken and egg syndrome. Is it the coach or the players? I’m sure we’ll wake up and win by over 30, but the mistakes I see are awful/

  • Everything else aside, this is definitely a different team with OG on the floor.

  • Fifer39

    Worrying eh? AB tweeted that he did warm up though so hopefully just precautionary.

  • That’s good. And yeah, really worried. About UNC.

  • I lean to it being the players losing focus. Seems like the game plan was good, and the players got away from it, started passing sloppily, taking early shots, letting up a little on the defensive effort. Right now it’s back up 24, but on a bunch of threes–I’d rather see the lead increase with some inside scoring.

    One positive: they’re finishing stronger inside. Fewer layups, more dunks.

  • There’s plenty of data to show that the rest of the team was just as poor as JBJ defensively before he was hurt. Go back and watch the Duke game, for example–everyone played poor defense in that game, including Yogi. And so, since the team defense is what improved so strongly last year, it’s reasonable to assume that JBJ would have improved as well.

  • Fifer39

    Not sure that’s the way it looks tonight.

  • I hope they watch film between now and then and realize that this wasn’t a terribly well-played game.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Making low level players look like stars. The real stars will be here Wednesday. Should be interesting.

  • Ole Man

    Totally agree, but CTC won’t play his lineups that way; never has. He’s the mad tinkerer. Unfortunately.

  • Ole Man

    He’s gone back-to-back with double doubles, so I’m not sure that’s stepping back. He’s not fouling nearly as much.
    A lot of what you may be seeing is that he is working with a new lineup. Just like them, he is having to adjust.
    In my opinion, peoples’ expectations for him are causing them to overlook the situation both for him and the team.

  • IdahoHoosier

    In the limited games I’ve been able to watch so far (2) I was not terribly impressed with JBJ’s rebounding. I saw a lot of ball-watching where teammates blocked out and JBJ jumped in to grab the board, at the expense of blocking out his own man. Other times as he ball-watched his man ran around him for the rebound or a put-back. I think IU really needs everyone, especially JBJ, to think about “team rebounding” and “team defense”.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Love this post and love the thinking behind it. Granted my coaching experience only goes up to middle school level, but I’ve used this philosophy and it works. Kids learn being called to the bench is not a punishment but a time for teaching. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work with older players.

  • Ole Man

    Good observation.