Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Inside Truth – IU Needs To Muscle Up For Big Ten

Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes you don’t want to hear it, didn’t ask for it, don’t need it.

Still, some people will tell you. Maybe they’re jerks, or insensitive or social misfits. Maybe they just can’t help themselves.

A person is overweight and somebody will let them know it. When you get over the implications –- why did they say it, what was the purpose, do they have foot-in-mouth disease –- the fact remains that person is overweight. And that person has to deal with that truth and either try to change it or accept it.

So we offer South Carolina State coach Tim Carter. He’s won nearly 200 college games, so while he is no threat to Bob Knight’s career victory record, neither is he clueless about the game. He’s been an assistant coach at Northwestern, Oklahoma State and Florida State. He’s coached at five different schools that have made postseason play.

Carter was talking about Indiana. His team had just been crushed. He was not pleased. Maybe he was ticked and needed to vent or lash out. Or, perhaps, he was just telling his version of the truth. Perception can be a fickle thing. Anyway, here is what he said:

“One thing we thought coming into the game was that their post players were not typical Big Ten post players, low-post offensive guys. I spent four years in the Big Ten. We thought they might not be as good on the low block as what most Big Ten teams are on the low block. I don’t think we tried to exploit that because they’re much bigger and stronger than we are. We just a little lucky, I think.”

Basically, he’s saying IU’s inside game isn’t up to Big Ten standards. Carter doesn’t see Derek Elston, Tom Pritchard and Bobby Capobianco in the same manner as Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Illinois’ Mike Davis.

And he would be right.

The Hoosiers’ inside game was supposed to be anchored by 7-foot Guy-Marc Michel, the only true center on the roster. But the NCAA has ruled him ineligible; that he is, in essence, a pro player.

This hurts IU prospects, and the pain will be especially obvious against Big Ten teams.

So coach Tom Crean has improvised. Elston has become, in essence, a center, and he’s shown signs of being an inside force (although he has outside ability). He’s averaged 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in his last two games.

Granted, SIU-Edwardsville and South Carolina State will never be confused with Ohio State and Michigan State, but let’s not quibble over details.

Capobianco and Pritchard have been less effective. Capobianco averages 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds for the season, 3.5 and 1.0 in his last two games. Pritchard is at 1.9 and 4.4 for the season, 2.5 and 3.5 in the last two games.

That’s a lot of numbers that basically means they aren’t producing much. They don’t have to because IU gets plenty from the other positions.

We aren’t including 6-9 Christian Watford in this inside discussion because he’s basically a perimeter player. He averages 18.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Here’s the deal. IU can thrive with this frontcourt production against this non-conference competition. Maybe it will be enough in the final two games of the Las Vegas Classic, starting with Wednesday night’s semifinal contest against Northern Iowa, and ending Thursday with either New Mexico or Colorado.

Everything changes once the Big Ten season arrives, starting Monday against Penn State. The Hoosiers are going to have to hold their own in the paint. If not, they’d better shoot 50 percent from the field and average less than 10 turnovers. Otherwise they’ll get hammered.

Maybe Crean can use Carter’s comments as a motivator to elevate the inside play. It certainly couldn’t hurt. Indiana is going to need an effective inside game, both for this season and for future ones. The sooner that happens, the sooner the Hoosiers get back to their championship-winning, NCAA tourney-thriving ways.

The truth, you see, doesn't have to hurt.

1 comment:

  1. Well, well. Does it really take an opponent's coach to point out the obvious? One reason that I can't get excited about IU basketball this year is that the team has several glaring weaknesses, including poor post play. I can only hope that the Hoosiers play smarter and tougher underneath the basket if they hope to have any meaningful success against conference foes.