For all of Indiana's many high points and low points this year, there has been one constant: a lack of interior defense.
With a rotation of Christian Watford, Tom Pritchard, Derek Elston, and Bobby Capobianco in the frontcourt, the Hoosiers have had trouble all season stopping opponents' big men from scoring, getting to the foul line, or getting big offensive rebounds.
This talented yet inexperienced group is having a very tough time defending with the physicality down low, a trademark of the Big Ten.
More often than not this season, opposing centers and power forwards have scored and rebounded above their season averages when facing the Hoosiers.
As a team, Indiana is ranked in ninth place in the Big Ten, giving up an average of 34.5 rebounds per game in conference games.
While the Hoosiers are averaging 32.3 rebounds per game, good for sixth in the conference, they gave up more rebounds than the teams behind them in the rankings are averaging, specifically against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, and Purdue.
Another interesting point to note is that the second and third leading rebounders on the team are guards Verdell Jones III and Jeremiah Rivers, with 4.7 and 4.2 rebounds per game respectively.
But now on to the more telling statistics, showing the defensive deficiencies the Hoosiers have down low.
In 10 of the 13 games played so far, opposing big men have scored well over their average when facing the Hoosiers.
One example of this is junior Illinois center Mike Tisdale, who at the time of the 66-60 Hoosier loss was averaging 11.4 points per game. He scored 27 points in Bloomington on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 13-of-14 from the line.
Another example is junior Penn State forward Andrew Ott, who before facing the Hoosiers was averaging a paltry 3.5 points per game and 2.2 rebounds. He scored 13 points, a season high, on 6-of-9 shooting and 1-of-2 from the line.
Ralph Sampson III, the sophomore at Minnesota, also scored his season high against Indiana when he dropped 17 points on 3-of-5 shooting and 11-of-15 from the line in the 81-78 Hoosier victory. At the time he was averaging just 7.5 points per game, yet against our front line he managed to add 10 more points.
One thing to note is that even though the frontcourt has been a defensive liability all season, they are not the only ones to blame for the seven-game losing streak the Hoosiers are currently on.
The whole team needs to make major improvements this offseason, with their mind on running onto the court in October with the passion, fight, and defensive intensity it takes to play Big Ten basketball.
Luckily for the Hoosiers, most young centers take a few years to develop before they truly blossom on both ends of the court (i.e. Mike Tisdale, JaJuan Johnson, DeShawn Sims).
There is hope that maybe even next year, with the experience gained from this season and a strong offseason strength and fitness program, they can begin to show the potential that fans, coaches, and the players know they possess.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!