Minnesota exposed Indiana as a flawed team

Leave a comment

BLOOMINGTON, IN – Indiana fans are going to want to chalk up the Hoosier’s 77-74 loss to Minnesota, who was previously winless in Big Ten play, to having an off day.

They wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Indiana did have an off day. Coming off of a game at Penn State where they shot 16-24 from beyond the arc, the Hoosier’s pedestrian 4-18 performance provides a stark contrast.

But frankly, any team is going to win when they shoot 16-24 from three. The fact Penn State was able to make the Hoosiers work down the stretch is fairly amazing. And it also should have provided Hoosier fans with the forewarning they needed that this is a team that would be vulnerable on nights when the shots don’t drop. As they say, you live by the three, you die by the three.

“The easiest thing to do in the world is to be sky-high when you’re making shots,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said after the game. “The hardest thing to understand is how committed you need to be to the game of defense and rebounding when you’re not.”

“We lost this game on the defensive end. The shooting obviously wasn’t good, but we lost this game on the defensive end.”

Therein lies the problem for Indiana.

The Hoosiers have plenty of offensive firepower in their lineup. Cody Zeller has proven to be the kind of program-changing recruit that the Indiana faithful had hoped he would be when he picked the Hoosiers over Butler and North Carolina. He’s a terrific low-post scorer and arguably the best big man in the country when it comes to running the floor from offense to defense.

And he’s not alone. Christian Watford is the perfect four to compliment Zeller, a perimeter oriented scorer that can spread the floor and give the big fella room to operate. Jordy Hulls is an underrated offensive option and a lights-out shooter. Verdell Jones, Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo provide athleticism and aggressiveness on the wing while Matt Roth has proven capable of getting hot on the perimeter.

But for all of that offensive talent, Indiana lacks the kind of toughness that will allow them to survive when they are struggling to score.

As Tom Crean put it a dozen times during his post game press conference, the Hoosiers didn’t have an edge.

“We weren’t playing on edge the way that we have,” he said. “That may sound like a buzz word, but those are real. They practice hard and they prepare and all those things, but you’ve gotta have an edge.”

But the issue is more than just playing with an “edge”.

The issue is that Indiana is an inherently flawed basketball team, and the issues all lie on the defensive end of the floor.

For starters, this is not a group that is going to lock down the way that title contenders have to. For all of the ability that Hulls has offensively, he’s not a very good defender. He’s not all that big, he’s not all that quick and he’s not all that strong, especially when it comes to fighting through screens. But he’s also far and away the best point guard that Crean has at his disposal, which means that the Hoosiers, to be at their most effective offensively, need him on the floor.

Hulls isn’t alone in his struggles on that end of the floor. Far too often, Indiana simply fails to execute defensively as a team.

“It starts with our lack of awareness defensively,” Crean said. “Communication, weak side, ball side, challenging shots, block outs. The awareness never got where it needed to be until the end of the game. I said it to them all week, its a step they gotta take.”

“Teams that take the next step totally get that defense is what comes first in every situation. Defense creates the offense, defense creates more opportunities, defense creates the fast break. The best teams gain confidence from their defense, not the other way around.”

The other thing this group is missing is a bruiser in the paint. If Watford doesn’t deserve to be called soft, than he is dangerously close to the ledge. For all that Zeller gives the Hoosiers when he is on the floor, he’s a freshman that still needs a good 15-20 pounds of muscle added to his frame. Older, stronger post players are going to be able to push him around.

That was evident down the stretch against Minnesota, and its what cost Indiana the game. The Gophers had 16 offensive rebounds on the game, but nine of them came in the final 6:41. The reason Indiana wasn’t able to come back wasn’t because Minnesota continued to get good looks from the field; they didn’t.

The Gophers shot 50% from the field in the first half, hit 6-13 from beyond the arc and get whatever shot they wanted offensively. In the second half, that wasn’t true. Minnesota got a couple of good looks early in the half, but Indiana’s defense unquestionably tightened up down the stretch.

The problem was that after forcing the Gophers into a tough shot, they couldn’t finish the possession. Minnesota got second and third shots, and they capitalized on those opportunities. Simply put: Indiana’s struggles on the defensive glass hindered their ability to string together stops.

“Its deflating to give up that many offensive rebounds,” Zeller said.

The good news for Indiana fans is that this is still an inexperienced team. They aren’t necessarily young in this day and age of college basketball, but this is really the first time that any of the kids in this program have experienced success at the collegiate level. Think about it: prior to this season, the Hoosiers had been irrelevant on a national scale since Crean took over. The mindset of the 19 and 20 year olds on the roster will, eventually, become one that assumes they will be able to win simply by stepping foot onto the court. That gets magnified when every single Hoosier fan had all but assumed that this group was destined for the Final Four.

At some point, complacency is bound to set in. Winning — and understanding that continued success comes with consistent effort — is a skill, and its one that comes with a learning curve.

“Its different for all of them. We don’t have a lot of guys that come form winning back grounds,” Crean said. “So when you start to win, and things change around you, your mindset can’t change. They gotta learn and they gotta grow through that. You know this is new to them. As coaches, we’ve won before. We’ve been ranked. We’ve gone on the road and won. We’ve been to the Final Four. They haven’t.”

“When you’re going through that, the No. 1 thing is to stay committed to that improvement and never lose that edge.”

We can debate all day and night what, in particular, that “edge” is.

But what is indisputable is that the Hoosiers have major question marks that need to be answered.

When the Hoosiers are hitting their shots, they can hang with and beat anyone in the country, especially if that game is getting played in Assembly Hall. But if they don’t learn how to defend and they don’t get more physical under the basket, than this won’t be the only time that the Hoosiers end up on the wrong end of the score against a team they should be.

Even in Assembly Hall.

UNLV to host NBA scouting combine

Dave Rice
AP Photo
Leave a comment

UNLV is the latest to join in the trend of hosting their own NBA scouting combine, following in the footsteps of Kentucky and LSU.

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told NBCSports.com. The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

The Runnin’ Rebels once again have a stockpile of pro talent on their roster. Stephen Zimmermann is projected as a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, while the likes of Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw, Dwayne Morgan Jr. and Derrick Jones are talented enough that they will get plenty of attention from NBA scouts during the upcoming season.

Kentucky hosted their scouting combine over the weekend, with as many as 70 NBA scouts reportedly in attendance. LSU is holding their combine this week.

ESPN.com was the first to report the news.

Ivy League Preview: Can Columbia, Yale or Princeton earn title?

Maodo Lo, Orlando Sanchez
AP Photo
Leave a comment

Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ivy League.

The Ivy League is the most underrated conference in the country, particularly at the top of the standings. In recent years, Harvard has been the best team in the conference, winning a pair of NCAA tournament games in the last three years, but the league itself has been much more competitive than anyone has given it credit for.

This year, Tommy Amaker’s club is headed for rebuilding mode. Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi have both graduated, while star point guard Siyani Chambers tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. That leaves a team that struggled at times with depth without their top three players from a season ago. Amaker has stockpiled some talent — juniors Zena Edosomwan and Corbin Miller, freshman Tommy McCarthy, sophomores Chris Egi and Andre Chatfield — but there will be a lot of new faces in new roles with new responsibilities this season.

That leaves the Ivy wide open this season, and three teams appear primed to knock the Crimson out of the top spot.

The easy pick would be Yale. The Bulldogs missed out on the Ivy regular season title in utterly heartbreaking fashion last season — seriously, Yale fans, DO NOT click this link — and then fell to Harvard in a one-game playoff for the right to play in the NCAA tournament. The Elis lose three of their top five scorers from last season, but they return Justin Sears, the best player in the conference. The key may end up being the development of Makai Mason, who the staff expects to develop into one of the best point guards in the conference this season.

Yale certainly will be a major factor in the race, but the favorite on paper is Columbia. The Lions are led by German point guard Maodo Lo, who may be the best guard in all of mid-major basketball. Coming off of a year where he averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 boards and 2.3 assists, Lo will get help in the form of 6-foot-7 Alex Rosenberg. Rosenberg missed all of the 2014-15 season with an injury, but he averaged 16.0 points in 2013-14. If he returns playing anywhere near that level, the Lions are going to be very dangerous.

Princeton should also end up in the league title race as well. The Tigers have pulled in three terrific recruiting classes in a row, and with a young core built around juniors Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook and sophomore Amir Bell, Mitch Henderson has a bright future in front of him. Their freshman Devin Cannady should be the best newcomer in the league, but if they don’t get tougher on the defensive end, they could be looking at a third-place finish.

The two sleepers to keep an eye on are Brown and Penn. Penn has the talent — they underachieved the last few years — and a coach in Steve Donahue that dominated the Ivy League for three seasons when he was still at Cornell. Brown is led by Cedric Kuakumensah, who might be the best big man in the conference this side of Sears.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Columbia. Maodo Lo is the best guard in the league hands down, and with Alex Rosenberg back they have the best 1-2 punch in the league. The key is just how good Rosenberg will be after taking a year off.”
  • Sleeper: “Penn. They have plenty of talent and it will be interesting to see if they can put it all together after underachieving for the last couple of years. There’s a big drop from the top four to the bottom four unless Steve Donahue can get Penn back into it.”
  • Star to watch: “Lo and [Yale’s] Justin Sears will be the Player of the Year. Lo’s great, not a pure point guard but he can flat out play. But I’d go with Sears. He is going to be the best offensive and defensive player in the league.”



Sears is the most dominant front court presence in the Ivy League and has been for quite some time. That’s important for Yale, as the Bulldogs are built around physical play and rebounding the ball. His numbers actually dipped a bit as a junior, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, but that had as much to do with opponents focusing on Sears as anything else.


  • Maodo Lo, Columbia: The German-born lead guard has already scored more than 1,000 points and will, barring injury, become Columbia’s all-time leader in three-pointers made. It’s impossible to ignore his performance in international play for Germany this summer.
  • Spencer Weisz, Princeton: A rising junior, Weisz was Princeton’s best player last season. At 6-foot-4, Weisz is a do-it-all guard that was amongst the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season.
  • Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown: At 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, the native of Togo averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 boards, 2.5 blocks and shot 34.7 percent from three.
  • Alex Rosenberg, Columbia: Rosenberg was arguably Columbia’s best player prior to missing the 2014-15 season. He’s a typical Ivy League big: High basketball IQ that’s skilled with size and range.



1. Columbia
2. Yale
3. Princeton
4. Harvard
5. Brown
6. Penn
7. Dartmouth
8. Cornell