Indiana Basketball: Ways to Fix Hoosiers for Title Run in 2013
Two years ago if you would have told me Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean needed to make some critical changes to a 15-2 team in January, most Hoosier fans would have been happy to be in that situation. Reality is though, coach Crean needs to do some gut-wrenching soul-searching for this team that has two underachieving losses.
The Hoosiers were labeled to be back in the preseason with earning the No. 1 ranking. They had a very talented freshman class, mixed with preseason national player of the year in Cody Zeller to go along with many other guys returning from a 27-win season in 2011-12.
There's no reason Indiana shouldn't be 17-0 right now heading into their conference game at Northwestern on Sunday. Many will just take the easy way out and say Butler and Wisconsin were good, scrappy teams.
That's not the reason why IU lost those two games.
It goes to the "it's not you, it's me" syndrome. Those losses had nothing to do with the opponent rather than what Indiana did wrong on their own to lose them. Indiana has better players than anyone in the country in every position, including the bench. They're just underachieving—and from someone that's been around basketball and studied it religiously as long as I have—I broke it down to what needs fixed.
If the Hoosiers can do these simple fixes, they will undoubtedly win the national championship in Atlanta in April and build the legacy they should have. If they don't correct these issues they may not make it out of the opening weekend of the tournament, and will cause a huge letdown on what should have been a special season.
Without further ado these are the changes IU needs to make.
1. Tom Crean Needs to Do a Better Job Coaching
It starts at the top with the Hoosiers. Tom Crean is just flat out being out-coached. I know this will be unpopular with Hoosier nation but if you don't see it you're just naive.
In the Butler game I thought coach Crean should have made the adjustment to go to a 2-3 zone on out-of-bounds plays. Butler was doing too much screening and Indiana wasn't doing enough to defend them. The Bulldogs scored on over half their out-of-bounds plays on something so simple.
Coach Crean also failed to do any adjustments in that game to benefit the Hoosiers. You look at just a single adjustment and Indiana wins.
Fast forward to the Minnesota game on Saturday. The Hoosiers play their best first half of the season. That is how this team should play every game. Then, he allows his team to get too complacent in the second half and again didn't adjust to the game.
Minnesota started full court pressing and trapping IU. The Hoosiers never once adjusted to it. I thought Crean should have used his timeouts and calmed his team down while teaching them how to deal with a below-average press. It's not rocket science.
Instead, he allowed them to try and figure it out on their own and they nearly got beat. That second half is on Crean.
Finally, the Wisconsin game. Where do I begin?
For starters, the press he tried to use was to speed Wisconsin up and force them to go out of their element. You can tell he put that press in on Monday. The players had no idea how to read the guy they're trapping and guard the opposite side of the press.
Then, when Wisconsin wasn't willing to take the ball at the hoop and his guys were confused on where to be and who to guard, he should have made the adjustment to get out of the press and try something new.
Instead, he stuck with the press all game wearing down his team, and that leads me to my next point.
When you have to rely on your starters for a bulk of your minutes because the bench isn't doing their job, use your timeouts to give them breaks. With less than 10 minutes to go in the second half, Indiana had four timeouts left. Why not use a few with the benefit of TV timeouts to give his players a break and make more adjustments.
Instead, he stayed in a press where no one knew what they were doing. Look what the result was.
A simple adjustment with as bad as Indiana played and they would have won. Again, two adjustments in the two losses and Indiana is undefeated still. It starts up top with Crean.
He's failing this team.
2. Jordan Hulls Needs to Be a Better on Ball Defender
Jordan Hulls has become a huge asset to a big liability. He's not giving the effort on the defensive end to guard one anyone. He was the sole reason why Wisconsin hit their fluke shots. There's no excuse for guys like Sam Dekker or Frank Kaminsky to hit shots.
The only reason they did was due to Hulls not saying in front of a horrible guard in Ben Brust and allowing Brust to penetrate and kick to open guys. If you can't stay in front of a slow guard like Brust what are you doing on the court?
Then the Butler game. He was beat by a walkon named Alex Barlow. A walk on. This is a former Indiana Mr. Basketball getting beat by a walk on. How does that happen?
They keep him on the court for his offense, but when his shots aren't falling he's the biggest liability on the team. Look at last night. He was only 2 for 8 from the field and 0 for 1 behind the arc. Part of that problem is on Crean for not setting any screens for him to get open. The other part is effort.
This is the Hulls Indiana fans are used to. As a senior he needs to step it up, but he's not doing it. If he can't get better defending ball handlers Indiana won't go very far.
3. Lack of Leadership
Every great team has definitive leader. He's their go to guy when times are getting rough. Indiana has yet to establish that guy.
Cody Zeller isn't the boisterous guy to get on his teammates and hold them accountable for their dismal play. He also doesn't get enough touches.
Usually, the leader is a guard who wants the ball in his hands and will defend the other team's best player. He's the guy that stands up to his team and says enough is enough. I'm scoring and shutting them down and we're coming out of here with the win.
With Crean's inability to adapt to a game and Hulls' lack of effort on the defensive end Indiana still could have won without a leader. Cue Victor Oladipo, Yogi Ferrell, Christian Watford or Will Sheehey. You guys there?
No one wanted to be that guy. They all had opportunities to say, "give me the rock and I'll show you how it's done. Climb on my back lets go." They haven't had that guy in years.
In the NCAA Tournament they're going to need that guy. Look at the past champions. Kentucky had four of those guys, Connecticut had Kemba Walker, Duke had Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer, North Carolina had Tyler Hansbrough, Kansas had Mario Chalmers, Florida had three guys.
Those are just the last seven national champions.
Let me ask Hoosier nation a simple question. Who's Indiana's definitive leader that is that guy to lead you through a tough physical game to be a champion? Who's that voice yelling at guys and taking over when needed?
My point exactly. They need to develop a leader so they can salvage a title run. If not, they won't make it to the Final Four. Great teams develop leaders. IU has none right now.
4. More Production off the Bench
Indiana has the deepest and best bench in the country. Their stats may not say that, but that's all due to them not playing to their ability.
The Hoosiers have a quality starting lineup coming off the pine. Remy Abell, Will Sheehey, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Perea and either Peter Jurkin or Derek Elston is a very valuable lineup. Then, add in Maurice Creek when he comes back and all seven of those guys can win the Big Ten title.
Everyone wants to know why Indiana isn't blowing teams out like they should or why they're struggling lately. It's due to these guys.
Against Minnesota, the bench scored three total points. They were a combined 0-8 shooting. The points came from the free throw line where they were a combined 3-6. Abell, Perea and Hollowell had one point each while Sheehey, who should be averaging 12-15 points per game, was shut out. The starters scored 85 of the team's 88 points.
Then against Wisconsin, when it was time for one of them to step up and fill the scoring void that the starters couldn't do, no one stepped up. All four had their chance and no one wanted to take it. The bench combined for just two points in the role to step up and take over the game. They shot again a combined 1-8.
When the backcourt is a combined 7-23, it's time for Abell, Sheehey and Hollowell to come in and provide the scoring punch. Abell was 0-2, Sheehey 0-4, Hollowell 1-1. Way to step up, guys.
What's even more disturbing is a high prolific scorer like Sheehey hasn't attempted a single free throw in the last two games. He was left with a goose egg in the scoring column for the second straight game and was a huge contributing factor why Indiana lost.
They lost by five to Wisconsin. Sheehey and Abell should combine for at least 20 points every game. That would have given Indiana a 15-point win. It's the little things that win. This is a major issue and needs corrected as soon as possible.
5. Freshman Class Needs to Grow Up
This was supposed to be the movement. That was the term deemed for this freshman class. They were supposed to be the 2000s version of the Fab Five. Unfortunately, due to scholarship issues, one of the five had to transfer.
But, the foursome was the most talented four incoming freshmen in the country.
Now, in Big Ten play only one of them can even find the court and even he isn't producing. This is the type of class that gets a coach fired. Don't believe me? Ask Mike Davis how the Bracey Wright class worked for him.
Wasn't that group supposed to be what we expect this group to be?
Fault coach Crean first for not developing these guys. Hanner Perea was a huge scorer with big time athleticism and could jump out of the gym. He was supposed to be the motor that flirted with double-doubles every game. He even had NBA scouts looking at him in high school.
Jeremy Hollowell was supposed to be the scoring piece of the class. He again was being looked at by NBA scouts. He is a huge shooting guard with endless range and a knack at getting the ball in the bucket. He should be averaging near 20 points per game by his Junior year. I watched him put 41 points on the board in an AAU game last summer.
Peter Jurkin was the big man with raw talent. He's a seven-footer that was supposed to get minutes when Zeller needed a break. He wasn't going to be looked upon for much scoring early, but rather disrupt the other teams offense and be a rebounding machine.
Then there's Yogi Ferrell. He was supposed to be the quarterback and leader of this team. He was going to be the four year point guard and a rock star. Again, was a phenominal shooter and penetrator.
With all that being said, why is Ferrell the only one playing? Why have these guys not developed into a college game? Is it development? Is it a maturity issue? What is it?
Perea the last two games where he should have thrived is a combined 0 for 1 with one point and three rebounds in just 11 minutes. That's not the kind of player he is. Why is that all he's contributing?
Hollowell, plays timid and scared. That's not his personality. He has combined for two points on 1 for 3 shooting the last two games. A big time scorer and he only scored two points when they relied on him. Great effort there.
Then, Jurkin can't even find the court as he hasn't played much all year and Yogi is too inconsistent to be a leader.
Last night was a time when Ferrell was supposed to shine. Wisconsin had no talent and little chance of defending him. Instead of taking over he goes 2 for 8 from the field. Why does he look like Isiah Thomas sometimes and Daniel Moore at others?
This class needs to get it figured out by the end of the year. This team was built on leaning on them for help. Without them they're not better than they were last year.