Indiana Basketball: What's Causing Will Sheehey's Struggles in 2013-14?

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Indiana Basketball: What's Causing Will Sheehey's Struggles in 2013-14?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Coming into this season, expectations were sky high for Indiana senior Will Sheehey. Last year's Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year moved into the starting lineup, and it was obvious to assume his offensive numbers would make a big leap. 

That has not been the case. 

So far, Sheehey is struggling. He is scoring 9.7 points per game, just 0.2 more than in 2012-13. He's playing almost four more minutes per game than last season and getting more scoring opportunities.

So, what's the problem? Why is Sheehey not thriving offensively in his new role?

There are three reasons why the energetic forward doesn't seem to be himself: shot selection, the ascension of Yogi Ferrell and increased defensive responsibilities.

 

Shot Selection 

Sheehey is shooting 45.9 percent from the floor—the lowest of his career. If Sheehey wants to improve he has to take better shots, mainly, less three-pointers.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Sheehey needs to cut down on outside shots.

If you had to pick a song to describe Sheehey's outside shooting, Foreigner's "Cold as Ice" would fit the bill.

Sheehey's only made 20.8 percent (yes, you read that right) of his attempts from beyond the arc. This is surprising after he showed an improved three-point prowess, shooting 63.6 percent from three at this past summer's World University Games. 

According to Hoop Math, 32.4 percent of Sheehey's shots have been from beyond the arc and only 24.3 percent are mid-range jumpers, his bread and butter. So in short, he needs to stop shooting from distance and stick to where he excels. He's at his best when he's aggressively driving to the rim and shooting from 10-15 feet away from the basket. 

 

Ascension of Yogi Ferrell

In one season, the sophomore point guard has transformed from Indiana's fourth- or fifth-scoring option to its go-to player. After averaging 7.6 points per game as a freshman, Ferrell's per-game output has skyrocketed to 17.

He's been much more effective than anyone thought he would be and thus the offense is running through him. With Ferrell carrying the load, plus the solid offensive play of Noah Vonleh, the Hoosiers haven't had to rely on Sheehey.

Despite this, IU will need him to produce more than he has in order to be competitive in the Big Ten.

 

Increased Defensive Responsibilities  

Sheehey's defensive workload has increased from his previous three seasons.

At times, the Hoosiers depend on him to be this year's version of Victor Oladipo, taking on the opposing team's best wing player (for example, Syracuse's C.J. Fair).

Rich Barnes/Getty Images
Sheehey defends Syracuse's C.J. Fair

Sheehey is used to coming off the bench, only having to worry about putting up points. Now, head coach Tom Crean is asking him to play lockdown defense, while sacrificing nothing on the offensive end. This obviously is taxing on the senior.

Very few players can be extremely effective on both ends of the floor. Sheehey has done a nice job on defense, but it is affecting his offense.

The change in officiating hasn't been too kind to him. This year, the zebras are calling a foul on virtually every hand check and when a defender puts his hands on the back of an offensive player who is posting up.

Sheehey's committed the second most fouls on the team, which shouldn't be a surprise considering the new rules and the fact that he's guarding high-caliber players. Foul trouble has forced him to the bench, which takes a toll on his scoring. 

As the season goes on, Sheehey will adjust to the officiating and learn how to handle his new role, but at the same time Crean should consider giving him some breaks on the defensive end if he wants Sheehey's offensive game to flourish. 

 

 

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