No Sleep Till Football

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Indiana Basketball – Where From Here?

This is a little project I’ve been working on for a little while. What I’m basically trying to do is get a weighted “X” value that shows what “star” a team would have. We typically are judging potential recruits as a 4-star player or a 5-star player, and my aim in this analysis is to try and grade a team that way. For example so far I’ve been able to do the SEC & Big 10. Kentucky grades as a 4.5-star team and they are the best team between the 2-conferences. The worst team would be Auburn who grades out as a 2.7-star team. That’s fairly rough.

The Indiana Hoosiers are having yet another rough year. They are standing at 9-20 currently with one game left in the regular season and most likely a one & done game in the Big 10 Tournament. So basically in Crean’s first year in Bloomington he was 6-25. In his 2nd season he’s most likely 9-22 for a combined 15-47 over the first two seasons. Obviously that is the worst 2-year period in Indiana history going back to the 1924-1925 season. To put it in perspective, the closest two year period in futility is still 7.5 games better than the last two seasons.

Indiana is where they are and there is really no reason to try and go back and decimate the Hoosier administration for firing Knight or hiring Mike Davis or hiring Kelvin Sampson. All of those moves were brutal and you could point to a myriad of reasons why Indiana got left in the position they are in. What I’m trying to figure is where Indiana is now, why are they are there and how do they move forward? The usual excuses for why IU is struggling are:

  1. Tom Crean inherited absolutely nothing & the program is decimated
  2. The team is very young with no experience
  3. Crean hasn’t been able to really work on the ’08 or the ’10 recruiting classes
  4. The Big 10 is going through a resurgence which makes IU look worse than they are

I’ll go through all of the examples after the table, but here is the basic template I’m working with. For the team I list the basics. The “Stars” category is what they got from Rivals unless they weren’t ranked and then I gave them just 1 star. The “%Min” category is the percentage of total minutes each team has played per position. Since there is 5 positions on a team the total per game is 40 minutes so when you add up all the % it should equal to 500%. Another way to think about it is that the %Min is typically the percentage of 40 minutes that player plays. The “X” value is the weighted value of the star based on minutes played. It’s simply X = (%Min)(Stars). The total “X” is the weighted value of a team.

Player State Elig Team Class Stars Pos %Min Ht Wt X
Verdell Jones IL So Indiana 2008 3 SG 77.2 6’5 183 2.315
Jeremiah Rivers FL rJr Indiana 2006 3 PG 72.5 6’5 214 2.176
Christian Watford AL Fr Indiana 2009 4 SF 69.4 6’9 220 2.778
Jordan Hulls IN Fr Indiana 2009 3-4 PG 60.3 6’0 172 1.808
Tom Pritchard OH So Indiana 2008 3 PF 50.6 6’9 248 1.517
Devan Dumes IN Sr Indiana 2008 3 SG 44.4 6’2 192 1.331
Derek Elston IN Fr Indiana 2009 4 PF 35.5 6’9 220 1.422
Bobby Capobianco OH Fr Indiana 2009 3 PF 28.3 6’9 238 0.850
Maurice Creek MD Fr Indiana 2009 4 SG 26.2 6’5 200 1.047
Daniel Moore IN So Indiana 2008 1 PG 16.8 5’10 172 0.168
Tijan Jobe Gambia Sr Indiana 2008 2 C 7.9 7’0 250 0.158
Bawa Muniru Ghana Fr Indiana 2009 3 C 5.3 6’11 242 0.160
Brett Finkelmeier IN rJr Indiana 2006 1 PG 2.1 6’1 190 0.022
Kory Barnett IN So Indiana 2008 1 SG 2.0 6’5 195 0.020
Steven Gambles IN rSr Indiana 2005 1 SG 1.0 6’4 230 0.010
Matt Roth IL So Indiana 2008 3 SG 0.9 6’3 192 0.028
TOTALS 09-10 3.158

Hypothesis #1 – The team is too young and not talented enough to win games.

There are 347 division one basketball teams and according to Ken Pomeroy’s weighted experience metric, the Hoosiers rank 335th in experience. The only BCS conference teams younger than Indiana currently are Kentucky (340th) and Iowa (339th). To say Indiana is young is an understatement.

But the question is does that kind of youth serve as an excuse for a program like Indiana to squalor in two back-to-back 20-loss seasons? Here is where the current AP Top-20 rank in experience out of the 347 teams:

1. Syracuse – 181st
2. Kansas – 265th
3. Kentucky – 340th
4. Duke – 82nd
5. Kansas St. – 185th
6. Ohio St. – 72nd
7. Purdue – 130th
8. New Mexico – 241st
9. Villanova – 218th
10. West Virginia – 153rd
11. Michigan St. – 202nd
12. Butler – 179th
13. Vanderbilt – 282nd
14. BYU – 205th
15. Wisconsin – 97th
16. Tennessee – 109th
17. Pittsburgh – 244th
18. Gonzaga – 307th
19. Georgetown – 292nd
20. Temple – 177th
AVERAGE = 198th (43rd percentile)

Indiana is in the bottom 3-4 percentile in experience so it’s obvious that they are incredibly young and inexperienced, but just because you are an older team doesn’t make you a good one. Ohio St. is the oldest team in the top-20 and yet 71 other D1 teams are ahead of them. I think a good rule of thumb here is that you want to have some experience on a basketball team, but you don’t want to be too experienced because it probably means you had a bunch of players with middling skill sets to begin with. Kentucky has 2 lottery picks in the 2010 NBA draft in John Wall & DeMarcus Cousins. Those guys don’t do much for UK’s experience ranking, but they have a lot to do with Kentucky being 28-2 this season and ranked #3 in the nation.

Even if you break it down by conference you still see about the same. If you have an older talented team you are always going to be near the top (i.e. Duke, Maryland, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Purdue, Tennessee, Mississippi St., Arizona St., California, Marquette & Notre Dame), but having a very youthful team doesn’t mean you aren’t one of the best teams in the nation (i.e., Florida St., Michigan St., Kansas, Oklahoma St, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Washington, Pittsburgh & Georgetown).

Indiana gets a pass on youth because for the most part the teams who can win being youthful have had track records of success recently. This is really the only way you can have a youthful team and still be considered championship quality. You have to be able to turn over championship quality talent with championship quality recruits like 5-star kids or high 4-star kids. Teams like Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina & Duke are able to do this on an annual basis. Indiana would like to get back to being the kind of program that gets back to doing this on an annual basis.

As far as experience is concerned, it’s one thing to be inexperienced like Kansas is (ranked 265th), but it’s all together different being ranked as low as Indiana is. Kentucky is most certainly the exception to this rule and I don’t think UK will win a national championship so it could very well be a moot point, but there is every reason to think Indiana should be 9-20 with one of the most inexperienced rosters in division one basketball.

The talent equation is similar, but a little more murky to interpret. This is why I wanted to do the weight “X” values above and come out with a weighted star grade for each team. If you do that for every Big 10 team you get the following (note I’ve added Kentucky to both to give you an idea of what the most talented team in the nation looks like this compared to the Big 10):

(Kentucky: 4.522)
1. Michigan St. 3.906

2. Ohio St. 3.665
3. Wisconsin 3.492
4. Michigan 3.428
5. Purdue 3.366
6. Minnesota 3.293
7. Illinois 3.291
8. Indiana 3.158
9. Iowa 2.916
10. Northwestern 2.857
11. Penn St. 2.819

With the whole roster taken into consideration Indiana is pretty rough. They are the 8th most talented team in the Big 10. I don’t think you can ask too much from them. Even if you adjust these rankings to those who take up more than 50% of the total minutes you get the following:

(Kentucky 4.848)
1. Ohio St. 4.053

2. Michigan St. 3.977
3. Purdue 3.660
4. Wisconsin 3.641
5. Michigan 3.517
6. Illinois 3.446
7. Minnesota 3.375
8. Indiana 3.210
9. Iowa 3.000
9. Northwestern 3.000
11. Penn St. 2.833

Kentucky obviously shows you can get past youth with incredible talent, but there is no denying that this Indiana team is critically devoid of talent. It’s a double edged sword for the Hoosiers. The problem with weighting talent (and also the best part) is that it’s a metric based on who’s playing. A team full of 5-star recruits that has none of them on the court really can’t be considered a 5-star type of team.

In Indiana’s case they got hurt pretty bad when 4-star SG Maurice Creek went down with injury right before the Big 10 season got under way. Despite being a true freshman, Creek had established himself as Indiana’s best player by a wide margin. However, Creek has missed the last 17 games for Indiana and his contribution to the weighted average only gets smaller and smaller as Indiana plays more and more games.

Another problem with Indiana is that Derek Elston (a 4-star PF) didn’t get as many minutes as he’s getting lately. From watching every Indiana game this season, it certainly seems like Elston could easily be a 15/10 guy if given the minutes. The problem has been minutes. HC Tom Crean has said Elston hasn’t been getting minutes because of poor defensive play, but Elston has been getting in more minutes lately which helps the weighted average because Elston contributes 4-star minutes as compared to 3-star minutes when guys like Tom Pritchard & Bobby Capobianco are playing.

With all that said, it makes sense that Indiana is struggling the way it has. If you look at the weighed average, this Indiana team is a 3.1-3.2 star team and that’s too low for a program of Indiana’s caliber. Kentucky in contrast is a 4.5-4.8 star squad which is almost running at optimal talent levels.

The only significant problem I have with Indiana’s talent is that they were beaten by Iowa twice, and they weren’t close games. Iowa beat Indiana in Assembly Hall by 15 points. Then Iowa welcomed the Hoosiers into Iowa City and beat them by 16 points. For a team with less talent and less experience, these are a couple of games that Indiana probably should have won. Iowa fans won’t like to hear it, but if Iowa could win the two games, Indiana probably should have won the two games.

That would have put Indiana at 11-18 right now and 5-12 in the Big 10. A final home game against Northwestern could have put Indiana at 12-18 and 6-12 in Big 10 play which is a far cry from last year’s 6-25 season with a 1-17 record in Big 10 play. That is the kind of improvement we needed to see from the Hoosiers this season. We didn’t and that’s disappointing.

Conclusion #1: It’s true, IU is too young and not talented enough to win games.

There is simply no way around it. The experience element speaks for itself as only 11 teams in division 1 have less experience than the Hoosiers. The talent aspect isn’t as clear cut as the experience, but Indiana still has less talent than other teams in the Big 10 and significantly less talent then teams nationally competing for national & conference championships.

Indiana also has been hammered quite a bit by the injury bug. They lost their best player before conference play even began. They lost their biggest outside shooting threat (Matt Roth) after only 2 games. Derek Elston also doesn’t get much weighted value because of fewer minutes played. Those are big things not to overlook.

Indiana had 3 losses early on by a combined 12 points. Does Matt Roth make up for those losses? I think it’s entirely possible that he could have atoned for those losses. Indiana has had 3 Big 10 losses by a combined 11 points. Does Matt Roth & Maurice Creek atone for those losses? I think this too is entirely possible.

When you think about those 6 close losses and the two Iowa losses, it’s not entirely out of the question to say that if things broke the right way for this Indiana squad, they could be looking at a record of 17-12. You can’t just make those losses go away, but I think Indiana is just as close to that potential 17-12 record as they are to their current 9-20 record.

I realize I’m not counting the 3 close wins for Indiana. I was just looking at this from the most optimistic standpoint I could.

Hypothesis #2: Tom Crean inherited a decimated program so what do you expect?

This is a real problem and I don’t think you can argue out of it. Here the list of the 2007-2008 Hoosiers and what their % of minutes were and their class:

Eric Gordon/FR – 83.1%
DJ White/SR – 82.8%
Jamarcus Ellis/JR – 73.3%
Armon Bassett/SO – 68.3%
Jordan Crawford/FR – 56.8%
Lance Stemler/SR – 50.9%
DeAndre Thomas/JR – 24.7%
Mike White/SR – 21.6%
Kyle Taber/JR – 18.5%

This was Kelvin Sampson’s last team. Before Dan Dakich took over this team was 22-4 and ranked #12 in the nation. Gordon & White were playing like POY candidates. The Hoosiers were going to lose Gordon & White no matter what. They were also going to lose Stemler & Mike White, but Sampson had Devin Ebanks & Terrell Holloway lined up ready to take their places. It would have been difficult to replace guys like Eric Gordon & DJ White, but when Sampson got the can, Dakich cleaned house and Crean cleaned some more, the 08-09 Hoosiers had the following breakdown in minutes:

Tom Pritchard/FR – 72.2%
Nick Williams/FR – 66.1%
Verdell Jones/FR – 64.2%
Kyle Tabler/SR (walk-on) – 60.7%
Devan Dumas/JR (JC transfer) – 60.5%
Matt Roth/FR – 52.3%
Malik Story/FR – 44.6%
Daniel Moore/FR (walk-on) – 42.8%
Brett Finkelmeier/SO (walk-on) – 12.6%

That’s 6 freshman, 3 walk-ons and a JUCO transfer. Nick Williams & Malik Story transferred out to Mississippi & Nevada respectively. This season Roth got hurt so in essence you lose 3 players from your starting 7 from last year and 4 because Taber graduated.

In reality it’s even worse as you can tell by this season’s totals that Crean doesn’t really think that Pritchard or Dumes should be getting any real minutes in the Big 10. Basically last season Crean had Verdell Jones & Matt Roth as pieces to his eventual future puzzle. He lost Roth to injury this year essentially giving him Verdell Jones and a bunch more freshman.

I wanted to bring this aspect of the Indiana program up because I’ve heard a lot of people criticize Indiana by comparing them to the situation at Kentucky. They figure that since Kentucky is just as young and basically starting 3 freshman that why can’t Indiana not be better than 9-20?

Kentucky is different in that they didn’t have a walk-on (Taber) ONLY on the team when Calipari was heading to Lexington. They had Patrick Patterson, Ramon Harris & Perry Stevenson. They also could have had Jodie Meeks back. Plus it was pretty obvious that wherever Calipari was going so were John Wall & DeMarcus Cousins. When all of that settled out a guy like Eric Bledsoe joined the team and you have a team pretty much made up of 5-star players.

The situations are completely different.

Conclusion #2: There is no questioning this team was decimated when Crean took the reigns.

I don’t know what other conclusion you could possibly come to. Indiana basically lost every player they had outside of Kyle Taber. When Sampson left all the recruits left. Eric Gordon & DJ White were on their way out and Dakich/Crean took care of the rest of the bad apples.

Hypothesis #3: Crean didn’t have time for the 2008 & 2010 recruiting classes.

Crean admits as much. He readily says that the 2010 class was neglected out of necessity to bring in a class for 2009. Indiana 2009 class is widely considered to be in the top-10 range so you can’t fault Crean for trying to restock the cupboard. This is entirely true. Grabbing Maurice Creek, Derek Elston, Christian Watford & Jordan Hulls were major players. Bobby Capobianco was actually a Kelvin Sampson recruit, but Capo stuck it out anyway and I’m glad he did. Elston, Creek & Watford were all 4 star recruits. Hulls might as well have been.

Does it completely stink that Crean ended up missing out on players like Kyrie Irving, Josh Selby and Jelan Kendrick? Absolutely, but he didn’t really have time with any of those players. He definitely upgrades Indiana’s athleticism with Will Sheehey & Victor Oladipo in the 2010 class while he also upgrades the talent in 2011 with 4-star recruit Austin Etherington.

Obviously the 2011 class would be a lot better if Crean could pull some instate kids like Cody Zeller, Marquis Teague, Branden Dawson and Jeremiah Davis. If I’m Crean I try to pull every single one of them in and let the scholarship numbers work themselves out.

Conclusion #3: Crean hasn’t had a ton of time with recruits.

The more I think about this the more you start to understand that recruiting these days is something the coaches get into when the kids are freshman & sophomores. Frankly, it’s difficult to think Crean has had enough time for anyone really. The thing with Crean is if you want to give him a 4-year window into getting a head start with recruits then the class he’s really been able to develop relationships with for an extended period of time will be the 2012 & 2013 classes.

The problem with a lot of Indiana people is that the state is so loaded in 2011 that it’ll be somewhat of a disappointment if Crean doesn’t land a couple of big named recruits from inside of Indiana. However, if he doesn’t I’m not sure it’s the end of the world. It will certainly seem like it, but I’m not sure it will.

Where Does Indiana Go From Here?

I complain about Indiana as much as the next guy, but in reality what can you say other than IU fans need to be a bit patient. Crean did about as much as he could with that 2009 class and you have to think he really hit the jackpot with practically 4 4-star players in Creek, Hulls, Watford & Elston. The best part is that those kids are probably all 4-year players. I think Roth getting hurt is a blessing in disguise as you get an incredible outside shooter with another year of eligibility.

It’s always really easy to say it’s too early to tell, but in reality I think this is what is facing Crean. People are upset about the way IU has played lately because it doesn’t look like improvement, but when Creek went down the season was OVER! There is no questioning that.

I’m not as sold on Crean “being the right guy at the right time” but I think a real barometer of what he does will be the 2011 & 2012 recruiting classes. He needs to get 1 or 2 Indiana kids in 2011 to go along with Carlino & Etherington.

I thought doing this sort of analysis would lead me to a different conclusion, but in reality patience is the word of the day.

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March 5, 2010 - Posted by | Basketball, Indiana

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for the break down. This is what I have been telling people this season, but not I have some data to back it up.

    Big Timber

    Comment by Anonymous | March 9, 2010 | Reply


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