Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hoosier Answer Man Ready for IU Questions

Howdy and welcome to the latest edition of Hoosier Answer Man, that’s HAM to you. You’ve got questions and we have answers -- and NONE of them have anything to do with Manti Te’o, Lance Armstrong and the girlfriend who didn't exist.

As you can imagine, questions are everywhere in the wake of the stunning loss to Wisconsin.

So let’s get started.

Q: You said in your last post to bet the house IU would beat Wisconsin. We made the bet. How are you going to make that right?

Hoosier Answer Man: I don’t know what you’re talking about. Next question.

Q: What’s up with the Hoosiers in the second half? They basically stunk the last 20 minutes against Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

HAM: The easy answer would be to say that opposing teams are making better halftime adjustments. That’s probably partially true.

Take the Wisconsin game. Badgers coach Bo Ryan was so worried about IU’s three-point shooting, that in the first half he basically had just one guy defending Cody Zeller in the post. Guess what? Zeller went nuts with 18 points. So Ryan double and even triple teamed him in the second half. Zeller was 1-for-7 in the final 20 minutes and totaled just five points.

IU’s counter was to hurt the Badgers from the perimeter, but its outside shooting never got going. That allowed Wisconsin to clog the lane even more.

Another factor could be fatigue. The Hoosiers play very, very hard, and even for the fittest players, it takes its toll. Depth is a problem because of injuries to forward Derek Elston and guards Maurice Creek and Austin Etherington, and the nine-game suspensions to freshman forwards Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin for recruiting issues.

Crean played basically a seven-man rotation against Wisconsin. He’d like to add three more, but they have to be ready and productive.

IU does a great job of pre-game preparation, and that's evident in the first half. But unless the second-half issues are corrected (better focus and energy, fewer turnovers, more consistent shooting), championship aspirations won't end well.

Q: The bench was supposed to be a strength. It’s all but disappeared the last two games. What gives?

HAM: That's a big problem. On Tuesday, the bench totaled two points to Wisconsin’s 16.

Will Sheehey, Remy Abell, Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Mosquera-Perea combined to go 1-for-8 from the field with three assists and three turnovers. And their defense was just so-so.

That’s not nearly good enough.

The bench, which feasted on non-conference patsies, also scored just three points against Minnesota.

That must be corrected ASAP.

Q: Can Indiana dictate pace to avoid half-court drudgery?

HAM: The Hoosiers want to run on offense, attack on defense. Making shots is crucial to that.

Against Wisconsin, IU couldn’t run (just three fast-break points) and couldn’t shoot (37.0 percent overall), especially in the second half (just 26.9 percent). Much of that was due to the Badgers’ rock-solid defense, some the Hoosiers were just missing and some the pressure of the moment.

Let’s face it. It’s easier to hit a shot when you’re up by, say, 30, as IU so often was during non-conference play, than if you’re down by three.

Indiana tried full-court pressure to speed up the game, but Wisconsin handled it. That can work, but the Hoosiers have to be better at it. It would help if Elston and Jurkin and, perhaps, Creek can contribute minutes to provide the starters some much-needed rest. For Elston and Creek, that depends on their health. for Jurkin, it depends on if he's ready for Big Ten action. Right now, it seems, he's not.

On Sunday IU will again face a team that slows the pace in Northwestern, which stunned Illinois in Champaign Thursday night. The Wildcats are EXTREMELY PATIENT on offense. They love backdoor cuts and if the Hoosiers aren’t really dialed in defensively on Sunday, they will get burned early and often.

Q: Why should we believe anything you say after your "bet-the-house" post on Wisconsin?

HAM: We have to do a better job of screening these questions.

Q: Can the Hoosiers win big with a freshman point guard?

HAM: Yogi Ferrell often looked like a freshman against Wisconsin with his 2-for-8 shooting and just one assist in 34 minutes. But then, Wisconsin has a way of making every point guard, regardless of the experience, do that.

Ferrell is IU’s first true point guard in a least a decade. He has all the tools, but he’s got to get the experience, which means he's going to make mistakes. Crean gives him room to make those mistakes and provides the minutes Ferrell needs to develop. Ferrell played 34 minutes against Wisconsin. He played 37 against Minnesota.

That’s a lot, especially given how hard the Hoosiers play, but as former Purdue coach Gene Keady once said, “I don’t think 18- and-19 year olds can get tired.”

Oh. One other thing. Trey Burke handled the load last year for Michigan as a freshman, and all the Wolverines did was share the Big Ten title.

Youth, it seems, is no longer wasted on the young.

Q: Jordan Hulls was a superstar in non-conference action, but has fallen off in Big Ten games with Iowa and Wisconsin. What gives?

HAM: There’s no way to put this gently. Hulls is not a dominant athlete. Big Ten teams will exploit his defensive liabilities. Whoever he is guarding will attack the rim, which is basically what Butler’s Alex Barlow did in the Bulldogs’ upset win last month in Indianapolis. It’s basically what Big Ten teams did most of last season.

IU can offset this with great team defense. Of course, Hulls can also maximize his impact with strong shooting, sharp passing and strong decision making, something that disappeared against Wisconsin.

Here’s the bottom line -- if Hulls can’t make shots, if he can’t be solid with the ball, the Hoosiers are in big trouble.

Q: What’s up with Will Sheehey? He’s done nothing the last couple of games.

HAM: Sheehey is 0-for-7 from the field in his last two games for zero points. And the game before that, he had eight points on 2-for-6 shooting. That’s not what you want from a guy who, just two weeks ago, was averaging 12.4 points and a favorite to win Big Ten sixth man of the year.

His line against Wisconsin -- no points, three rebounds, two fouls, one assist, two turnovers in 17 minutes -- caused Crean to say, “Will has got to get more involved. Will is an active, engaged player. Will is the last guy we need when the shot is not going to not be at the same place that he needs to be defensively. He's got to be way better than that.”

Sheehey, by the way, is not exactly Mr. Friendly with the media, which as Bob Knight found out, adds unnecessary drama and stress.

And, yes, the media has noticed.

But that’s a sideshow topic for a bottom-line point, which is this can still be a special Hoosier season. The Big Ten is brutally tough, and a 13-5 record might win the championship. And all these tough games will provide excellent preparation for the NCAA tourney. IU can have a championship season.

There’s no question about that.


  1. Crean is getting press for his national recruiting but he misses out for the most part in getting the best out of Indiana. Look who Michigan and Michigan State got from the state and what impact they have made already?
    Watch where Purdue will be at the end of season with Indiana players

  2. You forgot the most important question...... After getting beat by Bo Ryan 9 straight times, why hasn't Crean developed a game plan against them? We have twice the talent they have,it shouldn't have been a game. Everything you described above was a combination of inferior coaching and zero senior leadership on our part.

  3. Indiana's biggest problem, I hate to say, is Tom Crean. He recruits and he cheerleads, but he doesn't coach. He wins games when IU's athleticism cannot be matched, but loses games to teams with superior coaching. Five on the perimeter and a subsequent 1-on-1 may help recruit and beat lesser talent, but not Big Ten teams with similar talent.

  4. IU versus Wisconsin: Once again, Bo Ryan proved he is a better coach than Tom Crean.

  5. The other posters pretty much have it right. I am very disappointed in Crean for not having a plan in place to counter teams who are capable of pressuring the Hoosier guards. Butler and Wisconsin played smart basketball against IU - - the kind of ball IU needs to play if they plan on being a serious contender to win the conference and/or the national championship. I felt IU was overrated at the beginning of the year, and after Tuesday I would say they are vastly overrated, especially with its now apparent thin bench.