Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Deep Thoughts – Should IU Get Defensively Simple?

Here’s a thought, as snow buries Bloomington and, perhaps, the rest of Indiana’s fading postseason basketball prospects:

Is it time for the Hoosiers to go defensively simple?

By that we mean pick one defense -- man, zone, something -- and stick with it the rest of the season. No changing game to game or during games. Nothing complex. Do one thing and do it relentlessly right, like Mariano Rivera’s cut fastball.

We say this recognizing we are not now, nor will we ever be, a paid basketball coach. Although, if someone wants to take a shot on us at, say, a million dollars a year, we would accept.

Heck, we’d take half a million dollars.

But we digress.

As we analyze IU’s basketball season gone wrong (which means we get to thinking, and that can be a dangerous thing), the No. 1 glaring weakness is defense. The Hoosiers (9-8 with a six-game losing streak) make too many mistakes, especially since Big Ten play began. There are lots of reasons for this, the No. 1 being the quality of the opponents. Teams spend a lot of time sharpening their offenses and attacking opponents’ weaknesses. They know what to exploit and, certainly in the case of Ohio State, have the athletes to do it.

Against such intensity, the Hoosiers have to be dialed in every second. As soon as they hesitate or forget or just mess up, they pay.

Nobody pays as much as they do against three-pointers.

In Big Ten play teams shoot 51.4 percent from three-point range against Indiana. That is not a typo. Penn State and Minnesota stink on three-pointers and they lit up the Hoosiers. You could put the Seven Dwarfs out there (okay, to stay within the rules, the Five Dwarfs) and probably do a better job. And here’s the deal -- IU has been working on its defense for three months to put up that kind of number. THREE MONTHS! Maybe the Hoosiers should stop working on it. Seriously, could it be any worse?

Perhaps the best solution is to go to a man defense, keep it simple in terms of help and switches, and don’t change no matter what. That could keep the confusion and breakdowns to a minimum.

In theory, anyway.

Yes, we know, we might not know what we’re talking about. Imagine that, a sports writer not knowing what he’s talking about. Or, IU might not have the talent to make that work against every team, but does it matter anymore. Just work on a few things -- like moving your feet to keep the guy in front of you -- and get really good at it.

Here’s one thing we absolutely know -- what’s happening now ain’t working.


Today’s big Hoosier mystery -- did Derek Elston intentionally trip Northwestern’s Alex Marcotullio during Sunday’s 93-81 loss? Should he be punished for it?

TV replays suggest maybe he did. Officials called him for an intentional foul. Crean said during his coach’s radio show, when asked about it by a caller, that he had reviewed the tape. Elston said it was not intentional. Crean said he believed him. He also said Elston’s foul was nothing like the intentional foul committed by Devan Dumas against Michigan State in 2009 that resulted in a suspension. Elston will not be punished for it.

“I brought it up to him,” Crean said. “He stayed with the same thing. He said he didn’t do it intentionally. I know exactly what it looks like. I told him the same thing. When I looked at it, the referee had a good view of it. I didn’t argue it.

“In comparison to (Dumes’ foul), I don’t think there is a comparison because there’s no question that was intentional. I wasn’t surprised by it. In this situation, it would be highly out of character for Derek to be dishonest or do something of that nature in a negative way…

“I discussed it with him. The last thing I’m going to do is break down a trust by accusing a player of something that he says he didn’t do on purpose. I’m not trying to put my head in the sand. That’s the way it is.”


Okay, what’s up with Tom Dienhart, the Rivals.com guy who seems to be getting every assistant coaching hire in America in advance.

This time he’s saying that Jerry Montgomery, a 31-year-old defensive line coach from Wyoming, is coming to Indiana as its new defensive ends coach.

Who’s Montgomery?

He’s coached at Wyoming for two years. Before that he coached the defensive line at Northern Iowa for three years. Before that he spent three years as a defensive tackle in the Arena Football League. Before that he was a three-year starter at Iowa.

Yes, that’s a lot of threes in his bio. And consider that new coach Kevin Wilson has three more offensive assistant coaches to hire, including a new offensive coordinator. Does the Number Three have some kind of deep symbolic meaning that could portend future IU football success?

Perhaps, but that’s too deep for us. We’re too busy getting ready to help Crean with his practice drills.


  1. IU is still a relatively young inexperienced team that suffered a major setback when a JC transfer was stopped by an unexpected NCAA ruling just before the season started.

    Why do so many question TC's ability to coach and not mention this. I'm don't think post season was a possibility without a defensive presence in the middle!

  2. I don't think they should get simple...I think that the five guys on the court should play hard. When my 12 year old points out that three guys are hustling back on defense and the other two are jogging back...that's a problem. Crean does not have a fire under these guys. Sit them if they don't play hard. Do you think that Coach K, Stevens, Izzo, Larranaga etc. allow ONE player to get back lazily? Do you remember the tirades Knight would have when someone didn't try hard? Time to make his players accountable. You can't just recruit...you have to motivate. Playing time is the way to do it.

  3. I think they should work on their free throw shooting. One of two is not going to get it or 0 of two is not either. It seemed to me that everytime IU shot and missed one of the free throws, Northwestern hit a three pointer. I'm sure I am wrong about that, but it was frustrating also to see Watford sitting out at the three point line all first half and some of second half when he should have been under the basket causing fouls on Northwestern!!

  4. Hoosier in the ATLJanuary 12, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    I have to agree with Pete, sports writer or not, the defense needs to be simplified. For whatever reason, the team is not executing the game plan effectively. They seem lost at times. I don't expect a tournament appearance or even an NIT bid, but I did expect at least one win or two against opponents like Northern Iowa, Colorado, Penn St, Minnesota, and Northwestern. These were winnable games.

    While we're on the subject of change, let's also mix in some wrinkles with that dribble/drive offense. I think TC has been a little slow at countering how teams are defending the on the ball screens. This has given Hulls problems with handling traps and others are having difficulties getting into the lane when teams simply switch the screen. Let's slip some screens, pick and roll, screen away from the ball, or something when they can't get penetration off the on the ball screens.

    Just my two cents...