Tom Crean has learned from the losses this season, and is using those lessons well.
In the four losses the Indiana Hoosiers have had, they have learned a different important lesson from each of those games.
At 25-4, the Hoosiers are searching for one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Their conference record of 13-3 puts them on top of the Big Ten Conference.
However, each of those four losses have come against unranked opponents. They have all been close games, however, losing by a combined 13 points over the four games.
Let's take a look at the biggest lesson learned from each loss by the Hoosiers this year.
The Bulldogs had no problem driving to the basket.
Protect the Paint
The battle at Bankers Life Fieldhouse did not end the way the Hoosiers wanted it to. Despite three players for the Butler Bulldogs fouling out, the Hoosiers still lost in overtime 88-86.
The biggest problem was allowing the Bulldogs to score inside. They were able to take advantage of the Hoosiers' defense, making plays in the paint.
The Hoosiers allowed an unacceptable 42 points in the paint in this game. Instead of forcing the opponent to settle for jump shots like they had done all year, the Bulldogs were able to score almost half of their points inside.
The defense has adjusted since then, and done a much better job protecting the paint. Both Cody Zeller and Christian Watford have done a much better job of that.
The bench did not play well at all against Wisconsin.
Get Points off of the Bench
The loss against the Wisconsin Badgers was the first loss for the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall in almost a year. They struggled against the Badgers almost the entire game, losing 64-59.
The Hoosiers were only able to score 59 points in the game. This is the lowest point total for the Hoosiers this year.
The bench play was even worse.
The entire bench combined to score a grand total of two points. Two. That's it.
Will Sheehey struggled in particular, going 0-of-4 from the field. The Hoosiers' sixth man, who averages nearly 10 points per game, wasn't able to score in the game.
Since this game, the Hoosiers' bench has been showing some real signs of improvement. The return of Derek Elston has been a big lift. As he has begun to get more involved in the rotation, he has also been scoring progressively more.
The bench is continuing to improve, and hopefully they won't have another game like this all year.
The Hoosiers let it slip away against the Fighting Illini.
Don't Sleep on a Big Lead
The most disappointing loss this season was against the Illinois Fighting Illini. After being up 12 points at halftime and keeping that lead for a while in the second half, the Illini came back to win 74-72.
What was even more frustrating was that the Illini won with 0.9 seconds left because they had a player wide open underneath the basket.
The lesson learned from this game was that no lead is safe, especially in conference play. The Hoosiers seemed to take it easy near the end of the game and just got sloppy with the ball. They turned the ball over 14 times, including one on the final possession.
Tom Crean will remind the team of this game anytime they are up big against an opponent. It's a good learning experience for the team, but that's about it.
Rebounds are so important for any team to win.
Crash the Boards
The Minnesota Golden Gophers found a way to beat the Hoosiers quite comfortably.
The Hoosiers may have kept trying to come back, but the game was over for quite some time, losing 77-73. They were down six with a few seconds to go, but made a three-pointer near the end.
Rebounding was such a big part of the loss. The Hoosiers were out-rebounded 38-25, the worst difference in rebounds for the team all year. They were also unable to box out on defense, allowing an awful 17 offensive rebounds.
Trevor Mbakwe dominated the glass, grabbing six offensive and 12 total rebounds. The Hoosiers failed to box out often, and Mbakwe made the most of those opportunities.
If the Hoosiers ever have another game rebounding like this one, there is no way that they will be able to win. Expect Coach Crean to emphasize boxing out for the rest of the season.