Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On IU Transition Defense, Sheehey Setting Hair Style Tone

So should the Indiana Hoosiers be worried about the defense entering the last eight games of Big Ten play?

Is Will Sheehey's new hair style -- or lack of it (we don't have a new photo that reflects it) -- about to take over the roster?

Are you kidding?

First things, first.

Iowa is a decent offensive team, but it reminds nobody of, say, Ohio State or Michigan State or, yes, IU.

Against the Hoosiers, the Hawkeyes were a scoring juggernaut. They shot 63.0 percent from the field, 79.2 percent in the second half, and totaled 89 points. It was 13 more points than they had scored in any previous Big Ten game.

Why the success?

The short answer is IU defense. The longer answer is IU transition defense. The Hawkeyes ran at will and with arrogance. They attacked and attacked without hesitation, in part because they like to do it, in part because the Hoosiers couldn’t stop it.

The only reason Iowa lost was because its defense was terrible, which reflects a season-long problem, and because of the Hoosiers’ offensive excellence. They love to run and they have multiple weapons to take advantage of it when they do run.

IU goes on the road this week to Michigan and Purdue. Bet the house those teams will run at the Hoosiers at every opportunity. Wisconsin didn’t do it because that’s not the Badgers’ style. They thrive on grind-it-out, possession-by-possession play, especially at home.

Most teams prefer a faster pace. They will attacked IU’s vulnerability until it shows it can stop it or until opponents break the 100-point barrier.

So how can the Hoosiers stop opponents’ fast-break basketball?

One way would be a lineup change.

Coaches treat questions on lineup changes and player minutes with the enthusiasm of discussing their use of Viagra. Tom Crean was not excited to discuss his reasons for not playing Jordan Hulls much in the second half against Iowa.

During the post-game press conference, Crean was asked about that playing time. Specifically he was asked about tweets, referring to the BTN broadcast, that suggested Hulls didn’t play because he was hurt.

Here’s how it went:

Q: Is Hulls okay, Tom?

Crean: What kind of question is that?

Q: There were a couple of tweets that said on the Big Ten broadcast they said he was hurt and that’s why you held him out.

Crean: No. Come on. He’s fine. He’s fine. It wasn’t his best day. He’ll be fine.”

QUICK NOTE: When Crean answers a question with, “Come on,” it usually means he doesn’t like the question.

Later, Crean repeated that Hulls wasn’t having his best game and the matchups favored playing others. In fact, it mostly centered on defense. Hawkeyes were repeatedly blowing by him, not because he wasn’t trying, but because he lacks the lateral quickness to stop penetration. This is nothing new. Good Big Ten guards, and basically every conference team has at least one really good guard, will exploit that.

That means Wednesday at Michigan, figure that whoever Hulls is guarding will attack the basket. Either Hulls will stop it, or he’ll be back on the bench. You might see Verdell Jones, Sheehey and Victor Oladipo playing a lot together. Matt Roth, who WAS sick, should get more than the four minutes he played against Iowa.

Sheehey, by the way, got his first start of the season. He had 10 points and four rebounds, and played solid defense. Crean was asked if Sheehey will start in the future.

“I’m not sure. It’s what worked (Sunday). I feel like we have seven starters, so I’m not married to anything. So much of it right now is based on matchups, personnel, combinations, and things of that nature.”

Crean also was asked about the fact IU won by 14 points with Iowa shooting 79 percent in the second half.

“I’ll worry about that later,” he said. “I’m glad we got the win.”

As far as IU scoring 100 points for the first time in a Big Ten game under Crean, the coach wasn’t impressed.

“It’s nice for the fans and for the team. It meant we moved the ball. I’m excited about the 20 offensive rebounds and the 20 assists.”

That leads to the final point -– what’s up with Sheehey’s hair? He buzzed it off about an hour before Sunday’s tipoff. He surprised players and coaches by doing it. The look was so shocking, assistant coach Tim Buckley warned Crean about it before Crean’s final pre-game talk so the coach could concentrate on his message and not Sheehey’s appearance.

The reason, apparently, was to keep the sweat out of his eyes.

Does this mean other Hoosiers will follow Sheehey’s lead?

Not a chance.

1 comment:

  1. Hulls is a double edged sword. While he can be a poor defender he is a very good offensive player and runs the offense well creating a match problem for the opposing team.