Indiana has won three Big Ten conference games in a row — so of course it feels like they are playing better basketball. But sometimes winning close games can mask lingering problems, giving fans a false sense of hope. So we wondered, is there tangible evidence of statistical improvement over the last 3 games? Take a look. Statistical improvements are in bold:
So basically, Indiana has improved in every area except field goal percentage and blocked shots. Guess who leads the team in field goal percentage and blocks per game?
THE THREE GAME STREAK BEGAN WITH THE DE’RON DAVIS INJURY
We know what you’re thinking. We’ve heard the grumblings. Let us be clear, we DO NOT think this is an “addition by subtraction” situation. Yes Davis had been struggling right before the injury. There’s no denying that. But if Indiana is better without Davis then that fact doesn’t reflect poorly on Davis — it speaks volumes about how the remaining players have responded to adversity.
De’Ron Davis didn’t prevent Indiana’s guards from playing aggressive defense. De’Ron Davis didn’t prevent his teammates from getting more aggressive on the boards. OK, so the free throw improvement might be largely because of Davis’ absence — but otherwise for us this is more about a group of guys that have stepped up their energy and developed a sense of pride for the “Indiana” across their chests.
COMPARING THE NORTHWESTERN | FORT WAYNE | INDIANA STATE GAMES
Another interesting way to think about the Northwestern performance is in the context of the pre-conference dumpster fires against Indiana State and Fort Wayne. Before we look at how IU compares in those games, let’s check in on the Sycamores and Mastodons:
- Indiana State: 8-10, KenPom #153
- Fort Wayne: 13-8, KenPom #172
Shocking right? Or is it? We said at the time that neither of these teams were NCAA tournament bound. Indiana State has lost to the likes of Elon, Moorehead State, Drake and North Texas. Fort Wayne has lost to teams like South Dakota, Oral Roberts and Akron.
- Northwestern: 11-8, KenPom #78
There are very few people that would argue that Northwestern is worse than Indiana State and Fort Wayne. So with that, let’s take a comparitive look at selected Indiana statistics from those three games:
Admittedly, these stats are hand picked. There were plenty of other stats from these games that really didn’t stand out. But if Indiana had defended the perimeter and protected the ball in those early games the way it did on Sunday, we suspect the outcome would have been dramatically different, Scott Brothers or not.
THE INDIANA IS IMPROVING NARRATIVE IS ABOUT TO GET TESTED
For all the positives emerging from the last three games, things can change quickly in conference play. Indiana has just the kind of next six games to puke all over the good vibes emanating from Bloomington. Sure, Maryland and Illinois are eminently winnable, but we’d be surprised if those games had a point spread of more than three either way.
And the other four games? Well, defense and ball security might not be enough. Indiana is going to have to take the next step in its mid-season evolution. In the memorable words of the recently passed Keith Jackson in his call of the 1989 IU-Michigan game — “Shoot the damn thing!”. Jackson was lip reading Bob Knight’s urging of Jay Edwards to shoot the final shot.
If Jackson were still with us to call the Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State games he’d be looking at Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk, Collin Hartman and Devonte Green and he just might say the same thing, only this time it would be with regard to their accuracy. These guys are all good shooters. If Indiana wants to get through these next six at .500 or better, they’d better show it.
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Photo – Darron Cummings/AP