The holidays are largely behind us. There is no Hoosier bowl game to anticipate. IU basketball has been off for a week.
Feeling a little withdrawal?
We have just the cure, as we go behind the numbers to examine some of the more interesting advanced statistical outliers through 13 games for the Hoosiers.
While we wet your appetite, there is hope on the horizon. The No. 23 Hoosiers return to action on Thursday at home against Illinois.
All statistics are via KenPom.com unless otherwise noted.
EFFICIENT ON BOTH ENDS
You can’t be an elite team without the ability to be effective on both ends of the floor.
While we wouldn’t characterize this edition of the Hoosiers as “elite,” the numbers suggest that they are respectable on both offense and defense, which should make IU competitive against most teams around the country.
According to KenPom, IU is 19th nationally in adjusted defense, giving up 92.5 points per 100 possessions, and 35th on offense, scoring 111.1 points per 100 possessions.
These numbers are adjusted for strength of schedule, so there is some indication here as to how things will translate to conference play. But that’s where it gets interesting. No less than six other Big Ten teams are top 50 in both adjusted offense and defense right now, and 8 of the final 18 games are against those teams.
POINT DISTRIBUTION — IS IT SUSTAINABLE?
Indiana is 16th nationally as it relates to two-point baskets as a percentage of total point production. More telling, the Hoosiers are 306th when it comes to three-point baskets in that context.
With elite scorers at the rim like Juwan Morgan, Romeo Langford, and others, what IU is doing right now makes sense. You play to your strengths, and IU is making better than 60% of their two-point shots, good for 2nd in the country.
But Hoosiers fans know that there is a way to limit two point attempts. It’s called the pack-line defense. There are other ways too, including a zone, doubling the post, and a multitude of other options. Guess what? The Big Ten has good coaches. If we see it, they surely will too.
There will be games that are won or lost by IU’s ability to hit three-pointers. It is a sneaky stat, but IU is hitting 37% from behind the arc, good for 66th nationally. Their ability to do that on a larger scale, against better teams, in tougher environments is likely to be tested.
MORGAN IS A MAN
It would be unfair to share the more impressive team numbers without highlighting the guy who is doing a lot of the heavy lifting.
If it seems like Juwan Morgan never misses a shot, consider these numbers:
- At 74.4%, Morgan has the 6th best effective field goal percentage in the country,
- At 75.8%, Morgan is converting on the 7th highest percentage of two-point shots in the country. On the season he has made an amazing 75 of 99 two-point shots.
Also, Morgan hasn’t missed a two-point attempt since the Louisville game, and he was 6 of 8 on two-pointers in that one.
THE NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE GIVETH AND TAKETH
With just 20 months on the job, this still isn’t entirely Archie Miller’s schedule. However, with several quality opponents on the early slate, the changes are apparent. But there is still work to do.
In the interim, an interesting dichotomy has emerged.
The Hoosiers have played seven games against teams that are currently ranked in the KenPom top 60, compiling a respectable 5-2 record in those games.
Unfortunately, all six of IU’s remaining games have come against teams ranked No. 231 or worse according to KenPom.
These sub-par opponents really dilute IU’s overall strength of schedule, which comes in at 135th. While the cupcakes could become a bit of a drag in March, the Big Ten will help. Rutgers is the worst team in the league, and they are No. 111. Accordingly, every remaining game will help the cause here, including nine games against teams currently in the top 25.
FREE THROWS A CAUSE FOR CONCERN IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
Yes, we all know that the Hoosiers struggle at the stripe. IU is shooting it at 63.5% thus far on the season. That ranks 315th nationally. Put us in the camp of not believing that coaches can meaningfully fix this. These are young men that have been playing the game their entire lives, and free throws are more mental than anything else.
With Indiana doing a decent job of getting to the line (103rd nationally), expect their success or failure at the stripe to be a continuing theme the rest of the way.
But the real eye opener here is what IU’s opponents have shot at the line so far.
Through 13 games, Indiana’s opponents have hit just 59.9% of their opportunities at the stripe. That is the 4th “best” number in the country, but is really just a measure of good fortune for IU.
Games like Penn State (42%) and Louisville (64%) were in large part won because of the opposing team’s futility knocking down freebies.
It is reasonable to question how we’d feel about this team right now if opponents were shooting the ball better at the line.
WHERE ARE THE OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS?
Early on in the season, Indiana was struggling with its transition defense. It was a common topic in the post-game media room.
While the Hoosiers have seemingly patched that up, has it come with a cost?
Indiana is currently 259th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Weighted against minutes played, IU is the 42nd tallest team in the country. They should be better on the offensive glass.
Is there a hustle issue here, or has Miller made a conscious decision to emphasize getting back over getting second chances? Truth be told, there are probably elements of both.
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