Fran-Graphs, Indiana

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[Photo credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings]

There was a possession with about two minutes left in the first half that served as a microcosm for the entire game: Iowa forced a missed jump shot by Will Sheehey but didn't block out the shooter, leading to an offensive rebound and another shot... and another... and another... and another... and another... and another. All told, Indiana had seven offensive rebounds during the single 55 second possession before Cody Zeller mercifully ended it by drawing a foul on Melsahn Basabe. Just glancing at the box score, you might assume Iowa won this game: they shot 34-54 on field goals and 8-15 on threes for a 63% FG percentage and an amazing 70% effective field goal percentage, far surpassing Indiana's numbers (55% and 58%, respectively) . Matt Gatens had 20 points on 9-13 shooting and Josh Oglesby had the game of his young career, going 6-8 from three on his way to 24 points. And yet Iowa lost by 14 and probably should have lost by more. How is this possible? Two words: offensive rebounds.

Indiana absolutely dominated Iowa on the glass, grabbing 18 of their 30 offensive rebound possibilities for an unreal offensive rebounding percentage of 60% (by comparison, Pittsburgh, the best team in the country at offensive rebound percentage, grabs 43% of their offensive rebound chances on average). That led to Indiana taking 13 more shots than Iowa, which, along with their 10 extra free throws, allowed the Hoosiers to win comfortably while shooting a lower percentage than the Hawks. And the shocking thing is that none of Indiana's offensive rebounds came from their 6'11" wunderkind center Zeller; five came from Victor Oladipo, four from Christian Watford and three from Tom Pritchard. The general rule is that the defensive side has the advantage when the shot goes up, being nearer the basket and all, but Indiana flipped that on its head for this game, and their extra chances at the basket were a major reason for their victory.

What caused this rebounding discrepancy? Part of the problem was that Iowa just got out-hustled on the boards, but another reason is that their defenders were constantly switching and racing out of position on the perimeter, leaving no one back to protect the rim. This connects to the other key reason Iowa lost the game: bad defense, specifically bad pick and roll defense. Iowa's coaches must have made the decision to try to trap the ball handler on the pick and roll. The idea here is to bottle up the man with the ball before he can get to the lane, hopefully forcing a turnover or at least a reset of the offense:

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Iowa's traps were too weak, however, and Indiana's guards managed to cut through them or go around them with ease. Once the guard sliced through the double team at the top of the key, he frequently found himself alone in the middle of the defense with basically a two-on-one at the rim:

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This kind of hard hedging on the pick and roll seemed to be mainly a second-half phenomenon (perhaps because Indiana figured out what was going on in the second half and exploited it again and again), but the general principle of switching and trapping on the perimeter seemed to create a good deal of chaos within Iowa's defense throughout the game. You could see the general idea Iowa's defense was going for: pressure Indiana on the outside, prevent open looks from three and maybe force some turnovers. The problem was that Iowa's defenders weren't quick enough of foot to stay in front of driving guards nor were they strong enough to prevent Indiana players from breaking through their double teams (credit also goes to Tom Crean for setting up the pick and roll very high (sometimes 30 feet from the basket -- giving his point guards maximum room to maneuver around or through the trap). Once the pressure was broken, the remaining defenders were left in impossible two-on-three and two-on-one scenarios. Also, Iowa's big men were usually 25 feet from the basket after the failed trap and in no position to rebound if a shot went up. If you want to know why Iowa's defense seems so porous on any given play and why our defensive rebounding was so poor, look for an attempt at pressure that back-fired and you'll usually find the culprit.

It's easy to say "Why use pressure at all if you can't do it well?", which is... well, that's a good point. But to play devil's advocate, the Iowa coaching staff has tried other approaches, it's just that nothing seems to work very well. Against Nebraska, Iowa went with mostly zone looks, to poor effect. In other games, they have tried going under on pick and rolls, only to have guards light them up from deep. They've tried switching the pick and roll, only to find themselves with point guards matched up against Zach McCabe or Basabe. Their best efforts have come when they basically allow open threes and those shots just don't happen to fall for the other team (e.g. the Wisconsin and Minnesota games). Whatever you want to say about those other approaches, however, Iowa's approach in this game surpassed them all in terms of defensive craptasticness. In a 75-possession game, Iowa gave up 103 points for a crispy-hot offensive efficiency of 1.37 points per possession for the Hoosiers. Normally Iowa's own offensive efficiency of 1.20 points/possession would be outstanding and enough to win almost any game, but Indiana's production was so off-the-charts good that it made some of Iowa's previous defensive debacles look like exemplars of restraint: consider that Creighton put up 1.20 points/possession against Iowa and Michigan State put up 1.25, and both of those were pretty pathetic defensive performances by the Hawkeyes. This game, though, is Iowa's platonic ideal of bad defense. Let's hope they never approach it again.

Stray Observations

  • Iowa went with a new starting line-up of White, McCabe, Gatens, Cartwright and Marble, and that line-up did seem to work fairly well, on offense at least. On defense, the results were not so good. Eric May only played five minutes, and his defensive effort was missed. May's offense is pretty non-existent, but he is much better at perimeter defense than Cartwright or McCabe.
  • Cartwright got the start, which was strange given his lackluster performance against Nebraska. He had another uneven game, with eight assists but six turnovers, including two obvious travels.
  • The big story, though, is that Melsahn Basabe was sent to the bench. He seemed to respond well, playing with energy in his 13 minutes. Iowa could have used his rebounding, though.
  • Cody Zeller went 11-12 for 26 points on twelve of the easiest shots a basketball player will ever take: he had eight dunks and two layups. That one jump shot we made him take was pretty hard, though! This marks the second straight game where the Hawks have allowed a player to shoot 90% or greater on field goals while attempting 10+ shots. That's not a good streak to start, needless to say.
  • Gabe Olaseni sighting! The freshman came in late during the second half and played some decent defense, I thought. Certainly no worse than Devon Archie, who embarrassingly allowed a pass to go directly over his head to Zeller for a dunk.
  • Both coaches were wearing tennis shoes for the Coaches vs. Cancer weekend. Tom Crean also seemed to be wearing his league bowling uniform, which seemed to defeat the whole point of wearing formal clothing alongside informal clothing and thus creating an eye-catching contrast.
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