WASHINGTON DC – After a regular season Big 10 championship and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament to the Sweet 16, expectations are high for the 2016-2017 Indiana Hoosiers. Despite losing Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Nick Zeisloft and Max Bielfeldt either to graduation or to the NBA, the Hoosiers still return a plethora of talent with Thomas Bryant, O.G. Anunoby, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and others including a very talented recruiting class.
But, if IU is going to reach or even exceed those lofty expectations this season, it’s going to take a lot of effort on the defensive end for that to happen. During the annual Big 10 Media Day in Washington D.C. on Thursday, head coach Tom Crean expressed that his team is working more on the defensive end in practice than offense.
“We’ve put in very few plays as in very, very – little offense in so far except for concepts,” Crean said during his media availability this morning. “We’ve been figuring out what kind of ball pressures to put in. With our length we can disrupt a lot of teams and create turnovers.”
His team does have a lot of size and length too. Crean hasn’t released what his starting lineup will be like yet, but I’d guess Josh Newkirk, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, O.G. Anunoby and Thomas Bryant will be the opening night starters. That’s a long lineup. Plus, Curtis Jones, Juwan Morgan, De’Ron Davis, Freddie McSwain, Grant Gelon and Colin Hartman (if he plays this season) are coming off the bench where the smallest one among that group is 6-4.
The second unit is even taller and longer meaning that IU can press, trap and create a ton of pressure that will not just create a ton of turnovers, but they can disrupt a lot of shots and get easy buckets in transition.
This is turn can make Indiana scary good.
If they go against a taller team, they can start Anunoby (6’8), Davis (6’10) and Bryant (6’10) as their front line and all three are long, can run the floor and shoot outside of the lane.
If you go smaller, they can start the original starting five. So, pick your poison against this team.
But, Crean knows the magic number for IU to give up is 74 points or less. Over the last two seasons, IU is 43-7 when their opponents score 74 points or less. But, when they eclipse 75 points or more, IU is 4-15 in those games.
Last year, IU was 24-3 when they kept their opponents south of 74 points. After giving up 94 points to Duke in December, they went 12 straight games in not allowing their opponents score more than 74 points. In fact, they went 15 of the next 16 games with that stat and 22 of the final 27.
In the season prior to last, 19 of IU’s 20 victories that year were holding opponents to less than 74 points.
So, as you can see, that’s the magic number for IU because they thrive when they play defense.
Eric Smith is a Senior Writer for the Indiana Sports Report covering Racing. He’s covered both IndyCar and NASCAR action since 2009 and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by both the IndyCar Series and all three divisions of NASCAR racing.
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