That’s A Wrap: Team defense

  • 05/11/2017 10:42 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2016-2017 Indiana Hoosiers. Today, we conclude the series with a look at the team defense. (Previously: Devonte Green, De’Ron Davis, Grant GelonCurtis Jones, Juwan Morgan, Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, Freddie McSwainJosh Newkirk, Tim Priller, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, Zach McRoberts, Team offense)

Final stats (34 games): 73.3 ppg, 42.9 FG%, 48.7 eFG%, 33.7 3PFG%, 15.7 TO%, 36.8% FTR.

Indiana won the 2015-16 Big Ten regular season crown because of an elite offense and an adequate defense.

The Hoosiers regressed to the bottom half of the league in 2016-17 and missed the NCAA tournament because of a turnover problem on offense and an inept defense.

In the preseason, Indiana’s defense was expected to be a strength. On paper, Indiana looked primed to roll out a defensive unit with plenty of versatility.

OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan were going to be Swiss Army knives with their ability to guard multiple positions. Thomas Bryant, with another summer in the weight room, looked like a player with potential to improve as a rim protector. And freshman De’Ron Davis arrived as the all-time leading shot blocker in Colorado high school history.

The perimeter had several question marks entering the season, but returned a reliable defender in Robert Johnson. Josh Newkirk was coming off an injury, but was viewed as a plus-athlete with strength and quickness and the potential to blossom defensively.

The pieces were in place to take another leap forward from the Big Ten championship team that produced the nation’s 59th best defensive efficiency, according to

But with the exception of an early season performance when it held eventual national champion North Carolina to just .93 points per possession, Indiana was a massive disappointment on defense last season.

Indiana’s Achilles’ heel offensively was an inability to take care of the ball.

And the problem was compounded defensively as the Hoosiers were also unable to force turnovers. Indiana finished the season 325th in the country in defensive turnover percentage (15.7). In Big Ten games, Indiana was 13th in the league in defensive turnover percentage.

In 18 league games, Indiana was outscored in the points off of turnovers statistic by 87 points, a staggering number:

In addition to the turnover issue, Indiana struggled to keep teams off of the foul line in Big Ten games.

Hoosier opponents in Big Ten play posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 45.6 percent, the highest in the league. No other team in the league had an opponent free throw rate percentage above 37.5.

The frustration from Tom Crean on the free throw discrepancy was apparent throughout the season, but came to a head following a Feb. 21 overtime loss at Iowa when the Hawkeyes took 47 free throws to just 19 for Indiana.

“I’m not going to answer any questions, if anybody has them, on the free throws,” Crean said. “I had no idea until I got back in here and saw the stat sheet. Don’t waste your time asking because the last thing I want to do is put myself in any situation for any fallback or any pushback. Not doing that.”

In addition to not being able to force turnovers or keep opponents off the foul line, Indiana also struggled to defend in the paint and beyond the 3-point arc in conference play.

The Hoosiers finished tenth in the league in both 2-point and 3-point field goal defense, according to KenPom. The shot chart below, via Krossover Insights, shows the Hoosiers were poor at the defending in the paint and also from the corners:

Bottom Line: As much as Crean will be remembered for building strong offensive teams and dragging the program out of the dregs of college hoops, his ultimate undoing was an inability to build a consistent defense. In nine seasons, Indiana finished in the top 50 of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency statistic just twice. The 2016-17 campaign was derailed because of IU’s turnover problems on offense, a porous defense and injuries. As the program shifts into a new era under Archie Miller, early indications (and Miller’s track record from Dayton) suggest that building a defensive identity will be a high priority. That will be a welcome change to fans who grew tired of the program’s indifference to defense over the past decade.

Quotable: “They’re going to try. I think the hardest thing to do is to instill that defense is important. It didn’t happen overnight at Dayton – it took years, and it took winning games. I don’t think people are going to look out and immediately say, ‘Wow, they’re awesome on defense.’ But we’re going to never deviate from what’s important in this program.” – Miller to Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports on IU’s defense moving forward.

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  • IU Andy

    Let’s hope this kind of defense is a wrap forever.

  • John D Murphy

    Alex. Thanks for laying it cold and not soft-peddling it in deference to the memory of TC. As always, great job.

  • John D Murphy

    The free throws especially shed light on how consistently out-of-position last year’s team was. No proper help rotations, reaching because your feet aren’t where they are supposed to be. And TC’s reaction is just embarrassing. His inability to self-reflect was his downfall.

  • BannerOrBust

    You could have left this segment blank and that would have summed up the teams defense. However, i’m looking forward to a new era in IU basketball. I’m confident that Archie will make this team better defensively.

  • Arch Puddington


    Good one! Just our version of “Bigfoot” or “Nessie”, a colorful bit of local mythology that is unsupported by science. Fun to talk about, though.

  • Ole Man

    I was sure when I saw the title that when I opened the article it would be nothing but a blank page.

  • David Macer

    Defensive positioning certainly can be taught. Defensive intensity has to be inside the player. You gotta want that ball back without allowing a shot or basket.

  • iugradmark

    With all the access to statistics, game film, practice time, and budget for hiring assistants, I can only assume that Crean would not admit that this was a problem or thought he could overcome these issues with an elite offense. It turned out to be the definition of insanity.

    When you look at the problems across Crean’s time at Indiana, you just have to scratch your head. These things were correctable but for whatever reason, he did not want to build attention to these areas into his “culture”. I am glad ITH uses statistics and charts to validate their narrative. Fans were frustrated by how it looked but the statistics really show why we were mediocre. Poor defense, high turnover differentials, free-throw differentials were evident game after game and for many of our past seasons. Not really hard to see why we struggled. I am ready to get back to focusing on solid fundamentals.

  • Zora Clevenger

    David, agreed. But my impression was that intensity was never really the root problem of Crean’s defensive failure. The kids were willing, they just didn’t have a workable scheme. You didn’t really see kids standing around, not making an effort; you just saw them out of position looking bewildered. Let’s hope they learn positioning like you suggest.

  • iubase

    installing a consistent defensive strategy and then getting the players to buy in to it is important. Underscore consistency….the more important factor is getting the players excited about executing this. The Celtics showed they can be good on defensive (and they have a good system and players) when motivated at home and also quite bad on the road against Washington…thus, Archie helps with a consistent system (worst part of CTC’s tenure was switching defensive schemes in the middle of a possession); but, it is also on the players to want it – because I think it takes more will and energy to play good D then O. ..if they are motivated to play good D we will be better next yr for it

  • Mark Bando

    Archies Dayton team allowed 66 points per game last year compared to our 73 points per game. Yes, it was against weaker teams, but it was also with 3 star players playing for him.

  • iugradmark
  • VOXAC30

    But when you play fast defense…. Lol

  • Larry Brown

    Did you really have to put that photo in there? LOL. That was tough to watch. And I still don’t understand why OG was not put on him during that late first half explosion

  • TomJameson

    Yeah man, I just don’t agree with that. They played a pretty decent defense at times, so they were being taught. I just don’t think they wanted to play at that intensity all the time. It’s just way “sexier” to be hoisting a lot of points, defense is just too much like work.

    Even the team said (at times) that they just didn’t do what the coaching staff asked.

    There’s a lot of blame to go around, but the kids get their share as well.

  • IUBizmark

    Sure. But on any other team you ride the pine if you don’t give effort on D. Not under Crean though. Just one more way his philosophies didn’t translate to real life. He was more concerned with being able to sub out a guy who just hit three shots in a row.

  • TomJameson

    Yeah, that’s a perception problem, I think. Before JBJ’s last injury, Crean was starting to bench him fairly regularly for, like you said, no effort on D. That’s also when the defense started getting better. I also think that he didn’t always sub out a guy because he hit three shots. I believe he was working with a timing thing. Play for a certain time, then sit for a rest. I don’t agree with that either, but I really don’t think he pulled a player because he hit three shots in a row.

    The problem is, it’s tough to bench the whole team. Although I believe RMK did that once, I don’t remember anybody else doing so. In retrospect, maybe that’s what Crean should have done instead of holding up those dang signs! Hahaha

  • weitrhino

    Couldn’t defend in the paint. Couldn’t keep opponents off the foul line. Couldn’t defend the perimeter. Well, that’s just about everything.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Ole Man, you just made my day. I’ve been laughing for a half hour over this.

  • Dunkin’ Depot

    I think people on this board would say ” wow, they’re awesome on defense”…

  • Ole Man

    Glad I could do something right for a change! LOL!