Indiana Basketball: Adjustments Hoosiers Should Make in 2013-14
The Indiana Hoosiers settle into the Thanksgiving holiday with a 6-1 record. Not a bad way to begin the season after losing four starters from last year's team.
Despite the solid start, the Hoosiers by no means have been perfect. They will need to make some adjustments before their next game—the biggest of the season up to this point—against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
Here are four changes the Hoosiers should make going forward.
Expand Noah Vonleh's Use
There's no mistaking that Noah Vonleh has been a beast down low. His 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game certainly prove the point.
This is all wonderful, except the Hoosiers haven't necessarily played tough competition this season. The defenses and big men don't compare to what they will face once the Big Ten slate starts. Will Vonleh be able to keep up this torrid pace against better defenses that feature better bigs?
Most likely not.
So, in order to combat this head coach Tom Crean has to get more creative with his freshman phenom.
Vonleh wasn't always a post player. In fact, this is the first time he's ever exclusively played on the block.
In high school, Vonleh was more of a wing. He may be big, but he can dribble and shoot like a guard. Making mid-range jump shots and driving to the hoop were his specialties. When he showed up in Bloomington, Crean changed his role.
According to Hoop-Math, 77.2 percent of Vonleh's shots are at the rim. So far it's worked for him. But, as the season goes on and coaches see more and more film, combined with the tougher opponents IU will face, Vonleh won't be able to have his way in the post like he's become accustomed to.
Vonleh's game needs to be diverse. Crean must get him in space or give him the ball on the wing or elbow. Vonleh's made 50 percent of his jump shots, per Hoop-Math, so letting him work further from the basket won't be a problem.
The biggest advantage he has over post defenders is his speed and ball-handling. Why not let him exploit bigger, slower players?
Work on Free Throws
Indiana is setting up shop at the free-throw line in 2013-14. The Hoosiers have attempted 255 free throws, a little more than 36 per game. This is a really good sign. It shows the Hoosiers are being aggressive and attacking the rim.
The problem: They are only making 26 per game.
IU is giving away far too many points at the charity stripe. Yogi Ferrell is doing his job shooting 82.1 percent, but other players need to work out the kinks.
Noah Vonleh (64.4 percent), Will Sheehey (68.4), Devin Davis (50) and Stan Robinson (50) must improve their percentages going forward.
For the Hoosiers, free throws could be the difference between a win, a loss and a berth in the NCAA tournament or an invite to the NIT.
Cut Down on Outside Shots
Head coach Tom Crean needs to tell his trigger-happy Hoosiers to shoot less from beyond the arc. Indiana is chucking 15 threes a game and only hitting 28 percent of its attempts.
This is a recipe for disaster. If the Hoosiers do this against better opponents, they will get crushed.
Clearly, losing three-point snipers Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford has taken a bigger toll than expected. The Hoosiers have gone from an elite outside shooting team to one that can't hit the broad side of a barn.
It's only been six games, but it looks like the Hoosiers don't have the mojo from the outside that they had a year ago. This season, Indiana is at its best when it attacks the rim and lets Yogi Ferrell create around the elbows and in the paint.
This is the type of offense the Hoosiers must employ going forward.
Give Luke Fischer More Minutes
Fischer and Hanner Mosquera-Perea are vying for more playing time (backing up Noah Vonleh), and even though Mosquera-Perea has improved since last season, Fischer should get more minutes going forward.
The freshman from Wisconsin is more skilled offensively, has looked great on defense and is also bigger (6'11", 230 lbs). He will be able to handle himself better against Big Ten bigs than Mosquera-Perea, who only stands at 6'8".
Fischer's potential is greater, but he needs more playing time to unlock it.
Crean has a couple options to consider. He can either make Fischer the primary backup to Vonleh or insert him into the starting lineup.
Against Evansville, Crean replaced Jeremy Hollowell, who had started the five previous games, with senior forward Jeff Howard, whose impact wasn't noticeable (2 PTS, 3 REB in 15 minutes). Crean could have Fischer start next to Vonleh and have Hollowell come off the bench.
Hollowell thrived in the role against Evansville, scoring 18 points in 17 minutes.
Either way, if Fisher gets more playing time, it will make the Hoosiers stronger in the long run.