It's no secret that in the most important metric of them all, wins and losses, the 2010-11 season was a disappointment. It was unsurprising that Tom Crean's square-one rebuilding job resulted in a horrific, 6-25/1-17 season, and frustrating but understandable, particularly in light of Maurice Creek's injury, that the 2009-10 Hoosiers improved only to 10-21/4-14. What was more frustrating was that despite a couple more wins overall and a more competitive team overall, IU took a step back in Big Ten play, finishing 12-20/3-15.
Despite the setback in conference record, however, I thought it was worthwhile to take a compare-and-contrast look at IU's tempo free stats and other metrics and how they have improved, or not, during Crean's tenure. One important note: other than the overall Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings, luck, and the experience ranking, all stats are for Big Ten play only. This doesn't make for a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but it does eliminate some noise created by varying quality of the non-conference schedule and the inevitable stat-padding that comes with playing sub-300 competition.
|OR % (DEFENSE)||29.3||35.6||31.7|
|FT RATE (OFFENSE)||35.3||39.8||31.0|
|FT RATE (DEFENSE)||39.4||40.5||52.2|
|BIG TEN WINS||1||4||3|
|POM BIG TEN RANK||5||4||1|
All stats, other than the Sagarin ratings, of course, come from Kenpom.com, the most useful and user-friendly college basketball site on the Web. If you aren't familar with tempo-free stats, the Pomeroy website has plenty of useful glossaries. In any event, here are a few thoughts based on these numbers:
IU has ranged from green to absurdly green for the entire Crean era. There are roughly 345 Division I teams, so IU's experience in the first two years of the Crean era was at the very bottom of college basketball. Last year, the number was better, but at #288, IU still was in the bottom 20 percent of college basketball and ahead of only one other Big Ten team. That team was Michigan, which made it to the NCAA Tournament, so I don't mean to use this as an excuse to insulate anyone from criticism, but even last year IU was a very inexperienced team.
The offense made significant strides in 2010-11. Anyone who watched the Hoosiers knew that, of course, but IU's Big Ten offensive efficiency numbers, while only 9th in the conference, were above the national average. This happened despite no major progress in effective field goal percentage, but was in large part because IU's offensive turnover numbers, among the very worst in the nation in Crean's first two years, were in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.
The defense has been stagnant. While not nearly as bad as in the horrid 2008-09 season, IU's defensive efficiency in conference play was slightly worse in year 3 than in year 2. Effective field goal percentage has been stagnant during the first three years of the Crean era. Further, in a couple of key areas, defensive turnover percentage and FTA/FGA (i.e., how often does IU send its opponents to the line), the numbers have gotten worse every year.
- Rebounding has been a mixed bag. Last year was IU's worst year of the Crean era on the offensive boards, and was middle-of-the-pack in defensive rebounding.
Both Pomeroy and Sagarin thought IU was much better last year. Both Pom and Sag thought that the 2008-09 Hoosiers and 2009-10 Hoosiers were among the worst teams in major college basketball, below the median of Division I. While the 2010-11 Hoosiers did not improve much in terms of their record, Sagarin ranked IU on the edge of the top 100 and Pomeroy had IU comfortably in the top 100. It's little consolation, but it's interesting, to say the least. Unquestionably, part of the reason for this is that the Big Ten has been increasingly good, moving from 5 to 4 to 1 in conference Pomeroy rating over the last three years.
- IU's luck factor has gotten increasingly worse. Pomeroy's luck factor, for those who aren't familiar, is basically a comparison of IU's predicted record based on various metrics compared to its actual record. Pomeroy calls it "luck" for lack of a better term. Sometimes it is a matter of bad bounces, but other times it may be based on the simple failure to finish winnable games. The latter certainly seemed like IU's problem last season.
- IU was significantly more competitive in year three. As noted, in Crean's first two seasons, IU's average Big Ten game was a 12 point loss. In 2010-11, it was a 7.6 point loss. That's disappointing in any event, and based on the 10/20/30 numbers above, IU was truly "in" only half of its 18 conference games. On the other hand, the number of blowouts (defined as a 20 point loss) was cut in half.
Again, I don't want any of this to sound like rationalizing or excuse-making. Ultimately, wins and losses are the most important metric. Nevertheless, IU improved significantly on the offensive end last year. While much postseason talk from me and others has centered on what Cody Zeller can do for the offense, but the most obvious opportunity for improvement for IU is on the defensive end.
Part 2 of this post, which will follow next week some time, will center on Crean's Marquette teams.