BOZICH | Will Indiana make/miss NCAA Tournament after Michigan m - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Will Indiana make/miss NCAA Tournament after Michigan malaise?

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Despite wins against Kansas and North Carolina, Tom Crean's Indiana team is no lock for the NCAA Tournament. Despite wins against Kansas and North Carolina, Tom Crean's Indiana team is no lock for the NCAA Tournament.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — After the Indiana University basketball team followed its puzzling losses to Fort Wayne and Nebraska by losing a home game to Wisconsin and a road game to Maryland, this was the question percolating around the Hoosiers:

Will Indiana make the NCAA Tournament?

After Tom Crean’s team delivered a colossal no-show while losing to Michigan, 90-60, Thursday night, the question was reworked to this:

Do the Hoosiers deserve to make the 68-team field, even with victories against Kansas and North Carolina included in their 14-7 (4-4 in the Big Ten) record?

Not if they continue to play defense with the kind of shrugs that would make Kevin Wilson blush — and you know what they said about Wilson’s defense until the departed football coach fixed it with a new coordinator before last season.

A Michigan team that labored to score 46 against South Carolina, 53 against Texas and 66 against Illinois (five days ago), hung 50 on the Hoosiers in the first half and 40 more in the second half. 

Eleven three-pointers. Six layups. One dunk. One 40-minute dumpster fire of a performance that Crean punctuated with a post-game press conference of less than 3 1/2 minutes.

"It was definitely a lack of aggressiveness and there's no excuse for it," Crean said.

No excuse and no escaping what a malaise and blue effort it was.

If you’re a fan of traditional statistics, the Wolverines made better than 63 percent of their field-goal attempts, 11 of 20 three-point shots and 17 second-chance points.

If you’re a fan a basketball analytics, the Wolverines averaged better than 1.5 points per possession and scored two of every three times they had the basketball.

If you’re a fan of grit, you had to wonder if Indiana had any.

There are multiple statistics you can select that indicate how aggressively a team played. Here are two that work:

Offensive rebounds.

Free throw attempts.

Here are how many offensive rebounds and free throw attempts that Crean’s five-player starting lineup delivered against the Wolverines (who are typically among the softest Big Ten teams):



Throw the ball away 16 times while only applying enough defensive pressure to force a half-dozen Michigan turnovers and you can cue the rout.

Lose a game by two or three possessions and you can ask if the Hoosiers are compromised by the absence of the injured OG Anunoby and Collin Hartman.

Lose a game after two or three possessions are played (and fall behind by 19 points after less than a dozen minutes) and Indiana isn't lacking two small forwards, it’s lacking a commitment to guard somebody.

After the game, even Crean admitted his team had little aggressiveness on defense.

That’s been an issue with this Indiana team since November. So have turnovers. A three-game winning streak against Rutgers, Penn State and Michigan State did not eliminate the questions. It only paused them.

Michigan obviously looked at the same scouting clips other teams have seen.

Attack Indiana’s guards off the dribble. They won’t stop you from getting to the rim. They won’t keep you out of the lane. They won’t chase you off the three-point line.

They won’t do much to make you uncomfortable. Nobody will confuse their defense to the defense that Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls or even Verdell Jones played.

Butler made 10 of 21 threes against Indiana.

Nebraska made 9 of 18.

Louisville made 8 of 19.

Wisconsin 10 of 20.

Michigan 11 of 20.

Happens once? Hot night.

Happens twice? Shooters get on those crazy rolls.

Happens five times? The word is out. Nobody's home around the defensive perimeter at Indiana. (Final tab in those five defeats: 48 for 98, nearly 49 percent from the three-point line.)

How poor was the performance against Michigan?

Before the game, Indiana ranked No. 30 in Ken Pomeroy’s power rankings, even though they were 114th in defensive efficiency.

After the game, Indiana slid to No. 38 overall and 153 in defensive efficiency, last in the Big Ten.

Looking at Pomeroy’s data, IU’s defensive efficiency numbers are the second-worst in Crean’s nine seasons (only 2015 was worse, not his first three teams, which lacked experienced talent and missed the NCAA Tournament).

Now, Indiana faces road games with Northwestern (Sunday), Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue and Ohio State.

Those teams will see the Butler, Louisville and Michigan videos and think this: Attack the rim. Get comfortable on the three-point line. Feast on Indiana turnovers. Have a great time on offense.

Whether Indiana does anything about that will determine if this team makes the NCAA Tournament.

A season ago, Crean’s team no-showed like this on defense against Duke and then won 12 straight. 

This team is only guaranteed 11 more games — 10 in the Big Ten regular-season and one in the conference tournament. 

Their opportunity to play beyond that will be determined by whether Crean and his players can find and sustain another fix.

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