Hoosier Guards Embracing Ball Security as Louisville Looms

The Indiana Hoosiers go back on the road this Saturday to face the Louisville Cardinals at 2PM at the KFC Yum! Center.  The game will be televised on ESPN.  In recent years Louisville has had the reputation as a ball hawking defense that causes trouble for opposing offenses.  Prior to this year Indiana’s offense has struggled mightily with turnovers.  Accordingly a matchup with the Cardinals has been a dangerous proposition for IU.  The last two matchups between the two traditional powers has borne that out.  The teams played in 2014 and 2016.  Louisville won both matchups by double digits and Indiana committed 19 and 14 turnovers, respectively.

The 2017-18 Hoosiers picked up where they left off last season.  IU committed 49 turnovers in their first 3 games of this season, or a tick above 16 per game.  Since then Indiana has seen a dramatic decrease in their ball handling miscues.  Their turnover per game average over the last six games is 9.7.  Is it a fluke or have the Hoosiers embraced Coach Archie Miller’s emphasis on ball security?  Time will tell, but the improvement cannot be attributed to inferior competition.  Indiana has played Duke, Michigan and Iowa during that six game run.

INDIANA GUARDS LEADING THE WAY 

The foundation of low turnovers is almost always going to start with a backcourt that protects the ball.  Below we’ve charted the progress of Indiana’s four primary ball handlers.  Their improvement is clear and across the board.  Especially noteworthy is the progress of Josh Newkirk.  Our eyes thought they were seeing a cleaner game from the senior point guard.  Clearly the statistics support that being the case as we look at the turnovers per game by Indiana’s guards:

 First 3Last 6
Durham0.670.50
Newkirk2.671.17
Johnson2.672.0
Green2.332.17

CLEAR YEAR OVER YEAR TEAM IMPROVEMENT 

It isn’t just the guards showing improvement.  As a team the Hoosiers have also shown a dramatic year over year improvement in turnovers per game and their accompanying national ranking:

  • 2016-17 turnovers per game:  15.2 (335th nationally)
  • 2017-18 turnovers per game:  11.9 (124th nationally)

It is well documented that Indiana lost a significant amount of production from its team last year.  Clearly, one way to overcome that would be to take better care of the ball.

LOUISVILLE TURNOVERS FORCED

At the top we mentioned that recent Louisville teams have had a reputation for an aggressive ball hawking style that creates havoc.  But does it create turnovers?  To our surprise, while good, the Cardinals haven’t been elite in the last few years, at least when it comes to forcing turnovers.  Here is a summary of Louisville’s turnovers forced per game and their accompanying national ranking:

  • 2017-18, 14.86 turnovers forced per game (130th nationally)
  • 2016-17, 13.5 turnovers forced per game (137th nationally)
  • 2015-16, 14.4 turnovers forced per game (54th nationally)

Louisville is in the midst of well documented program transition, so it isn’t clear if their downward trend is more due to that than anything else.  What is clear at least for now is that you have these two programs trending in different directions as they prepare to meet on Saturday.  It will therefore be interesting to see how the game plays out.  Will the Hoosiers be able to protect the ball in a tough road environment?  The trend says yes, but it is difficult to expect the sub-10 turnovers per game that they’ve achieved over their last six contests.

Photo credit – Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

%d bloggers like this: