Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Then and Now


The Hoosiers got a win on the road at Northwestern Saturday night. I haven't written much about it, because I'm not completely sure what to say. I suppose a quick look at the numbers is in order, if for no other reason than to say that, even more than the second Wisconsin game, the two teams' defenses just didn't bother about this game. A look at kenpom's Indiana game stats numbers (sorted by defensive efficiency) shows that it was the worst defensive game Indiana has played all year. However, it was also Northwestern's second worst. On offense, nearly all of Indiana players were stellar. Bassett was excellent, while taking on a go-to guy share of possessions (26%). Jordan Crawford was sublime. Seriously, look at his +/-. I'll wait. DJ White was his normal self despite playing with the flu. Eric Gordon was his normal self, and Kyle Taber had another do no evil game on that end. I'm not going to talk about who played poorly on offense, and I'm not going to talk about anyone's bad +/- numbers, because I don't care. Given the situation with Coach cum Verizon Guy Sampson, I told the Girl that the Hoosiers were likely to go up there and lose. That they managed to pull out a victory, regardless of anything else, was excellent for the team. And for that, Indiana fans should be happy.

Random side note, I was confused a couple of times in the second half about whether IU was running a man or a zone. I even started to holler about why we were going back to the man when it wasn't working (not that the zone really was). Turns out that Dakich had decided to junk it up by running a triangle-and-two. I didn't recognize it at all, and I need to go back to look at it. Dakich claims that defense was key to getting back in the game when IU was down 7 or 9 in the second half.


Tonight the Hoosiers host a dangerous, if struggling, Ohio State team. I did a preview based on whole season stats before the game in Columbus, and I think we can still apply most of that. Last time around, the Hoosiers pulled out a victory by forcing Ohio State to keep the ball outside the arc with an active 2-3 zone, leading the Buckeyes to jack up 27 3's, hitting only 7 of them. More than half of the Buckeye field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and it just didn't work for them. It's unsurprising that it didn't work, too, since we pointed out in our preview that Ohio State is best at hitting 2's and worst at not so good at hitting 3's. FWIW, Indiana's excellent free throw defense came through for them again, as OSU hit only half of their eight freebies.

On the other end, Indiana managed to get 4 more shots than the buckeyes by turning it over on only 125 of thier possessions. That, and they overcame a stout Buckeye D in hitting more than half of their 2-pointers. Also, they hit every one of the few free throws the Buckeyes gave up.

But that was last time, and I'm supposed to be talking about now. Nevertheless, I think Indiana's defensive game plan last time was sound, given that Ohio State is first in the conference in 2-point FG% and next to last in 3-point FG% (only Michigan is worse). If Indiana can force contested 3's with an active zone again, they could win. However, I have this odd feeling that the program's turmoil almost has to cause a "friction loss" at some point, and it will be interesting to see if the Hoosiers can focus and take care of business at home tonight. On offense, Indiana might as well stick with its strengths and try to make 2's, because OSU has the best defense in the conference, and they are #1 in both 2-point and 3-point FG% D. That may not happen, though, because OSU's opponents attempt 42% of their shots from outside the arc in conference games, more than against any other team. 'T'will be interesting, without question.

Finally, my player to watch tonight is Jamarcus Ellis. It looked to me like he was not completely with the team emotionally or mentally in Evanston on Saturday. Sure, he picked up a silly technical, but it was more that he seemed disinterested in listening to Dakich in huddles and on the sidelines. Much of that is understandable given the situation, but Indiana needs his defense, rebounding, and distribution to be good.

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