Indiana’s Defense is Both Effective and Improved

When you hold a Big Ten opponent to under 50 points, it’s eye opening.  When you do it twice over the course of eight games it makes you think there might be something going on.  Perhaps a transformation is underway?  During Big Ten play the eye test has told us that Indiana is playing more aggressive and effective defense.  But these biased eyes have been known to see things that don’t exist.  So we wondered, after holding Rutgers to 43 points on Monday night, is it possible to demonstrate that the Hoosiers have in fact become a better defensive unit?  Here’s what we came up with:

OPPONENTS POINTS PER GAME

First we looked at the points per game average of each of Indiana’s Big Ten opponents during 2018 and compared that to their output against IU:

It is beyond clear that the Hoosiers are having an impact on their opponent’s typical offensive production.  In 4 of the 11 Big Ten games played in 2018 Indiana has held their opponents to ten or more points below their average, and in 9 of 11 they’ve held their opponents below their average.

AP Photo / Darron Cummings

KENPOM ADJUSTED DEFENSE EFFICIENCY

First, because it isn’t necessarily intuitive, here is how KenPom defines adjusted defensive efficiency:

AdjD – Adjusted defensive efficiency – An estimate of the defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) a team would have against the average D-I offense.

While perhaps not dramatic, the improvement here is clear.  Basically, IU is giving up 2 less points per every 100 possessions, and you can see what impact that has on their national rankings.

AP Photo / R. Brent Smith

COMPARISON TO 2016-17

Finally, let’s take a look at how Indiana compares to last year’s team across some of the more traditional defensive statistics:

As you can see, the results are mixed here.  The blocked shots are really a push, and when you consider roster composition, it is actually somewhat surprising that this year’s team is keeping up.

As we all know, that field goal percentage defense took a hit early on against the likes of Indiana State, Seton Hall, Duke and Fort Wayne.  If you look at IU’s field goal percentage defense since Fort Wayne they are at .426, which would be an improvement over last year.  Sure, that’s cherry picking the data, but we all know that this defensive improvement has very much been a work in progress as the season has progressed.

We all know that defending the 3-point shot has been a big problem for the Hoosiers this year.  But since Fort Wayne, it really hasn’t.  IU’s 3-point FG defense since that Mastodon massacre is a respectable .335.  That would be good enough for 109th nationally which is a significant improvement.  The Hoosiers have been in the 300s (out of 347 teams) in 3-point defense all year.

There are two stats here that aren’t getting a lot of attention but apparently should.  IU is committing more than two less fouls per game and it is forcing more than two more turnovers per game.  Each of those on their own is enough to make the difference between winning and losing in tight league games.

Michael Hickey for the Indianapolis Star

SOMETHING ELSE – TURNOVERS COMMITTED

Although not a defensive stat, since we were into the numbers we just had to peek at how the Hoosiers have improved year over year in turnovers committed.  No surprise here.

We think most would agree that the 2017-18 Hoosiers have less depth and overall talent than last year’s roster.  But as we’ve illustrated throughout this analysis, the Hoosiers are making up for it in a variety of ways with what Archie Miller would refer to as “winning plays”.

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Main photo – Michael Marot/Brown County Democrat

 

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