Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Crean is frustrating fans. His young team is struggling to find quality wins, and they are going to have to pull off some monumental upsets in the Big Ten to make the NCAA Tournament this season.
Despite everything Tom Crean has done for the IU basketball program, he still has his flaws. Namely, his in-game coaching.
The Hoosiers have played just three quality opponents this season: UConn, at Syracuse, and Notre Dame. They also lost all three games. IU started the season just on the outside of the Top 25, but have steadily dropped over the weeks. Most complete polls have the Hoosiers around the 70’s nationally.
The biggest problem facing IU is turnovers.
The team is currently averaging 15.2 turnovers per game. That number puts the Hoosiers at 315th in the country. They are turning the ball over on 17.5-percent of their possessions. IU’s assist to turnover ratio right now is a pathetic 0.77, also in the bottom 300 in the country.
For a team like IU, it is unacceptable to be coughing up the ball with such regularity. Its a trend that will continue well into the Big Ten season if changes are not made soon. If the Hoosiers turnover ratio was better, it would be more palatable but its not even close.
The past two games have been especially damning for this team. Against the inferior talent of Nicholls State and Kennesaw State, the Hoosiers turned the ball over 40 times. Read that number again.
In two games, against bad teams. Less than half of those turnovers were the result of steals. That’s at least 20 self-inflicted wounds by IU.
Crean continually talks about cutting down turnovers in every press conference, but were not seeing any results on the court.
“We’re trying to get our style of play down,” Crean said. “We have to be able to develop consistency and decision-making. … We’ve got a bunch of guys that want to do it right. They just don’t get it yet.”
The youth of this team should dictate the tempo. IU would be better off running a half court set as opposed to the running and gunning Crean has favored the past two years.
Turnovers were a problem last year, but the overall efficiency of the offense made up for the Hoosiers propensity to give up the ball. Crean has failed to realize that this team isn’t nearly as talented or experienced as last years.
Will Sheehey has always had a bit of a problem with turnovers, and the current system isn’t helping. He had just one turnover per game last season, and is at two per this year. “But he’s playing more minutes” you say. Not really, he averaged 22 last year and is getting 26 minutes per game this season. Four extra minutes should lead to one more turnover per game. Couple that with a lack of improvement across the board and little leadership and Sheehey isn’t really helping the team win games right now.
Yogi Ferrell is a victim of the problem. His assists haven’t improved from last year, and his turnovers have gotten worse. His scoring is up, but that was going to happen regardless (because of Ferrell’s work ethic). Assists and turnovers are a product of teammates and scheme right now.
Crean does a lot of things very well. He, and his staff, are excellent at recruiting players and developing talent (see: Oladipo, Victor). But Crean’s in-game coaching leaves a lot to be desired. His set plays out of a timeout often fail to produce points and game plans in big games are underwhelming.
Take Syracuse for example. Last season, the Hoosiers just needed to follow the same plan as Louisville, a center in the high post and then pass out of it. Good thing IU had a great center in Cody Zeller, but they simply didn’t run that offense. Crean stuck with the high tempo, and it cost them a trip to the Final Four.
The point is that this team cannot run Crean’s preferred offense. Crean even seems to understand this fact, but doesn’t make adjustments adjust.
“You’ve got limited time and you’re trying to not wear them down and they are young guys, and you’ve got a million things you’re thinking about,” Crean said recently. “But the bottom line is we just have to get better at certain things every day and not get ahead of ourselves. We never get ahead of ourselves game wise, but we are asking them to learn a lot.”
So why not dumb down the offense? Why continue with the intricate back door cuts and fast tempo pace? Its maddening to see Crean talk about one thing and then see the exact opposite on the court. Hopefully it won’t take a losing streak in conference for the coaches to make big adjustments.
This team has a lot of work to do before they face Illinois in the Big Ten season opener on December 31st.
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