IU’s lack of a playmaker hurts in late clock situations

  • 01/13/2017 1:48 pm in

Seventeen games into the season, Indiana has the nation’s eighth best offense in the country according to KenPom.com. If the Hoosiers can stay in the top 10, it would be the fifth time in sixth seasons the program finishes with a top ten offense nationally.

It’s been well established that much of Indiana’s struggles of late can be attributed to defense. The Hoosiers have yet to hold a Big Ten opponent under 1.14 points per possession in four conference games. Last season, Indiana held opponents under a point per possession in nine of its first ten conference games.

Digging back into the offense, there are a few obvious areas where the Hoosiers need to show improvement as the season rolls along. One is turnovers, where Indiana ranks 311th nationally and last in conference games in turnover percentage. The other is finishing more 2s without being blocked. Through four league games, Indiana is having 15.8 percent of its 2-point attempts blocked, which ranks 13th in the conference.

One other theme that has developed, perhaps unsurprisingly when looking at the personnel lost from last season, is Indiana’s lack of success in late clock situations. With the help of Synergy Spots, which defines these possessions as having fewer than four seconds left on the shot or game clock, it’s clear that Indiana has regressed significantly from last season.

That probably shouldn’t come as a surprised when you consider that Indiana lost its two best late clock players from last season in Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams. Here’s a look, via Synergy, at how Indiana performed in late clock situations last year as both a team and individually (players with 15 or more possessions in these situations last season are included):

Williams and Ferrell were both elite in this regard a season ago during IU’s run to the Big Ten title. In late clock situations, both could create and knock down shots to bail the Hoosiers out of broken possessions.

Much of the offseason discussion around this team centered on replacing Ferrell and how effectively the Hoosiers would be able to do so. Wins over Kansas and North Carolina were certainly encouraging, but those performances currently look like more than the exception than the rule.

Against Kansas, the Hoosiers scored 103 points and won on the strength of strong 3-point shooting (15-of-31). And against North Carolina, Indiana won because of its defense. The Hoosiers held the Tar Heels to less than a point per possession. That’s still the only major conference opponent that Indiana has held to under a point per trip.

Despite the defensive struggles, Indiana has been in nearly every game it has lost to this point. Five of its six losses have come by seven points or less. The Hoosiers lost the Fort Wayne, Butler, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Maryland games by a combined 22 points.

We know Indiana’s turnovers have been costly, but struggling to score in late clock situations has also been an issue. In seven such possessions against Maryland, Indiana scored just one time. In six against Butler, Indiana scored just once. Overall, Indiana has only scored (or drawn a foul) in 14 of 45 late clock possessions in its six losses.

This is where the loss of Ferrell and Williams, coupled with Indiana’s lack of a point guard, is causing problems. Here’s a look, via Synergy, at how Indiana has performed in late clock situations as both a team and individually so far this season (players with 10 or more possessions in these situations this season are included):

When possessions break down and Indiana needs someone to go to for a bucket, it simply doesn’t have a clear option.

As well as Blackmon Jr. has played in some key spots, he hasn’t been great in late clock situations. Bryant’s efficiency in these situations is way down from where he finished last season. Some of that can probably also be attributed to the loss of Ferrell and Williams, who were good at finding him late in possessions for easy scores.

Not included in the chart above are Josh Newkirk, OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, who have combined to score seven points in 21 late clock possessions. Morgan has five of the points.

So what’s the answer to improving these numbers?

There might not be one. Sure, Indiana could have games coming up where it makes the one or two plays needed to pull out close games. A couple of them against Butler and Maryland and wins in those games would make the season look completely different at this point. But more than halfway into the season, Indiana’s reality is that it doesn’t have the late clock playmakers it had a season ago. And in close games, it’s been tough to overcome.

Filed to:

  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    Edit: Whoops, deleting original post. The OP already mentioned Oladipo. My mistake.

  • Outoftheloop

    And Nick! Every team that IU played last season knew that you could never fudge off of Nick,or Yogi would find him, and the L was coming! So there were big gaps on the floor for Yogi and Troy! Max was also excellent in late clock situations, both around the lane and deep! That is 4 big losses to our lineup! DeRon definitely has game; so do Curtis and Devonte, but they are not game winners right now (except for Curtis against KS)!

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    I keep saying the game is different… Plays,coaching and type of players… the yearning for the past has to stop.. great analysis of IUs playmaking situation A.B.

  • Speed

    Good point….Crean did a good job last year and I doubt if he forgot how to coach in the offseason. Unfortunately not having the personnel to fill the point guard and go to areas have proved to be the difference and may well dictate how this season progresses.

  • inLinE6

    Uhh yeah, when he doesn’t turn over or airball, he looks like an option.

  • In a different era of basketball, he was.

  • I cover most every game in person and the games I don’t, I’m working during the game, so wouldn’t be possible, unfortunately.

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    Alex, understand completely your comments about motion offense, while I think a coach could put together a team that runs a motion offense and be successful, it is something whose time has come and gone. That would force a coach to recruit lesser known players and put together a team, ala Butler. What do you think about help side defense? In previous years IU was able to play great defense and hide a given player’s defensive liabilities. Steve Alford was not a great defensive player, Damon Bailey, Ted Kitchel, even Calbert Chaney was not a great defensive player, yet these IU stars played on some of the most successful teams in IU history. I personally think James Blackmon’s defensive liabilities would be minimized if IU played more help side defense and he would not have to be taken out of games at the end for defensive purposes. Am I off base here?

  • iugradmark

    I think the headline should be Crean’s lack of a playmaker…Other teams win close games without a Yogi level player. Wisconsin does it with passing in their swing offense. Virginia does it with defense. Since we have poor defense and the half court weave we rely on the superman offense at the end of the game or shot clock. Remember how bad we looked when VJ was at the point…same thing. It is Crean’s desire to run this offense regardless of talent level.

  • Arch Puddington

    All coaches at this level help their players get better. Bo Ryan did it year after year (Frank Kaminsky’s story is every bit as compelling as Victor Oladipo’s). Jay Wright does it year after year. Heck, even Bill Self, who is known for his high profile recruits does it. Frank Mason was the 76th ranked player in his class, and not even a PG. As a freshman he was a reserve SG who averaged 5.5 points, 2.1 assist, and shot 33% from the three point line. This year is he is averaging 20.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 55% from the three point line. I can continue if you’d like….

  • 47250HoosierFan

    It’s time to sit newkirk as get jones and green going, if noting more looking ahead to next year! In no way is Bryant ready for the nba, he will get pushed around!

  • Jamal shall inherit

    Why wouldn’t you call Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig playmakers?

  • Missing Moye

    He’s shooting 48% from the floor and 40% from 3. Those aren’t exactly terrible numbers. His turnover numbers are a bit high on the year, but I think some of that is due to being a freshman and not getting enough minutes to get comfortable on the court. He played 11 solid minutes against Maryland without a TO.

  • vicbert caladipo

    I honestly think IU misses Troy more than Yogi. You always hear Yogi, but also throw in Collin and Max. You need solid role players to go with the athletes and Troy might be the best athlete Crean ever recruited.

  • Yep, was just going to mention Max as well. Talk about a steadying factor–that kid’s experience was golden.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Max was the man and a name that isn’t mentioned enough in our success

  • vicbert caladipo

    Upvote for you Mark.

  • Okay, you’re stalking me. NO WAY we just responded to the same exact comment from 19 hours ago at the same exact time.

  • Downvote for you stalking me.


  • vicbert caladipo

    I am a serial stalker, plus I agree with you 98% of the time

  • Yeah, we do agree a lot, so I suppose that alters the odds a bit.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Can you still down vote? I know they wanted to experiment with that on facebook but knew rioting would ensue. Don’t make me riot!!

  • But yeah, more to the point, Max was a really, really good player for us last year. Probably a lot like CH would be giving us this year if he could play. Dammit.

  • I was just kidding. I’d never downvote you.

    On a technical note, if downvotes don’t work, then why’s there a little arrow thingie? Just to tease us? ’cause there are some people I’d downvote if I could.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Max did a little of everything. He was coached for 4 years by a very good coach. He could shoot rebound and defend with a 2 inch vertical. He used his bulk to his advantage something I wish TB would do. I say hire Max and have him work with TB on shot fakes, pivoting and using his body. I can remember a few bogus traveling violations on Max where replay showed he never left his pivot foot. He had great footwork and positioning.

  • vicbert caladipo

    I’d downvote IU Lore all day but I just tried it on you(guneia pig) and it just makes the arrow red but doesn’t do it. I think it’s a good thing. The world doesn’t need anymore cyber b ullies

  • Agreed all around. And maybe having Max to practice against helped TB’s development last year. Maybe we could put together an ITH fund to pay Max some money to tutor TB. Would that be legal?

  • Nothin’ but the upvotes, baby!

  • vicbert caladipo

    Max would do it for free. A lot here were skeptical when we signed Max, but even though he was averaging about 6 a game with UM, I saw his value to a team all the way back to his sophmore season. I am 100% sure working with and against him helped TB last year.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Glad you feel that way cuz I gave you another. Where’s forever so I can throw him a few?

  • Hard to accept that last year’s team had some glue pieces that made everything work in a way that this year’s team doesn’t seem to have. Max, NZ, CH — all of them were gutsy and relatively experienced players who contributed in a number of ways. We simply don’t have anyone like that this season.

  • Oh, he’s somewhere in here speaking truth to power.

  • vicbert caladipo

    I made bold but stupid comments at the beginning of the season. You remember me saying this was the best team since 76. I was blinded by the pure athleticism and SIZE of this team and didn’t take into account every team needs those role players that make up for their lack of athleticism by brains, heart, and desire.

  • iugradmark

    I don’t think they would be able to consistently start from 30 feet from the basket and rely on their dribbling and step back jumper skills to breakdown the defense to score at the end of a shot clock or end of the game. They are effective within their system where all of the players are moving screening and putting pressure on the defense. They get teams in foul trouble with their style of play. Our weave and pound the ball offense sometimes gets a good look but often puts a lot of pressure for someone to play hero ball at the end of the clock and we just don’t have kids that can do that without Yogi.

  • Ole Man

    I would probably agree with you. Troy took a lot of heat from “wannabe” analysts last year which was unjustified.

  • Well, you weren’t alone… Incidentally, I forgot McRoberts in this discussion–he’s one of those role players who plays his heart out. Unfortunately, he lacks the ability to score that NZ, CH, and MB possessed.

  • Ole Man

    Bryant will flourish in the NBA. Better coaching. More time to work on his game.
    A clear role.

  • Ole Man

    Good coaching and good fundamentals never go out of style.
    So I don’t see it as a “yearning for the past.”
    It is a desire for a better future.

  • Rob

    The University of Evansville Purple Aces run the motion coached by Marty Simmons who learned it from his former coaches Bob Knight and Jim Crews

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt


  • Mike Kelley

    Where is Jay Edwards when we need him!

  • 3AM Burrito

    I would agree on the lack of playmakers, I think as much of an issue is a lack of finishers. I took for granted all those tough finishes Troy and Yogi made look routine. TB, OG, Juwan, Newkirk, Blackmon, Johnson – many times plays are made for them and they have a paint shot only to get swatted or just miss. So I think stronger finishing is a big issue too.

  • 3AM Burrito

    I think Newkirk still has a role but agree on Jones/Green getting more minutes. Newkirk is just not a threat from 3 and that hurts the offensive spacing and flow, Jones/Green you have to account for from 3.

  • 3AM Burrito

    if those two criteria eliminate someone from playing i don’t think IU could field five players.

  • Tygotti

    Agreed, that this team lacks playmakers but how many games were lost due to silly late game turnovers? How about executing when it counts and at worst not turning it over. At least you could get an offensive rebound or get fouled. JBJ needs help in late game defensive sets. He is a liability on defense when it matters.

  • Steve wallsmaddee77

    PG is the most important player on the team, and we don’t have one on this team and did not recruit one. NOT A GOOD OMEN MOVING FORWARD!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Fifer39

    There’s a lot of talk about what we’re missing this year – leadership, a PG, a post presence – but the biggest miss for me is just experience. We’re good, but we’re young and it’s rare that talent can make up for that over a long season. RJ is our most reliable performer this year – and the most experienced.