The Hoosiers finished up their conference schedule with a 10-3 record. What have we learned? What is there left to figure out? Is there an existence for Coach Crean at IU after this year, or have the first 13 games been just another brick in the wall? Here's my stream of consciousness.
Collin Hartman will be pretty good. Many were thinking it and many more were willing to say it out loud. Will Hartman ever have a role on this team? After an ACL tear at the end of last season, most people were completely willing to stick a fork in Collin Hartman and nominate him as the next transfer candidate. Instead, he's come back a better player than last year and has most excited to see what he'll look like as a junior and senior. That transformation is mainly because his game is not based on athleticism. You see guys like Mo Creek suffer major injuries and never recover. But then others like Hartman come back and are better than before. That's because losing that athleticism doesn't affect how he plays the game. I hate to compare him to Robbie Hummel because 6'8" white guys aren't all the same, but the way Hummel battled back from injuries reminds me of what Collin is doing.
The Non-Conference Schedule needs to get better, but it's best where it matters. In the comments section of an earlier article, Nothsa did a pretty solid job of taking down the argument that our schedule is good enough with all kinds of math and stuff. But I remain unconvinced that if this year played out exactly like last year did, we'd be in the same situation. Last season's best non-conference win was a neutral site win over #95 Washington. This year's has 3 wins against teams twice as good as Washington if not better. If it comes down to scheduling, the Hoosiers have the chips. Last year's back end bubble teams like NC State had one or zero wins against top 100 opponents. The Hoosiers non-conference season has been a "success" in that sense.
Stan Robinson is teetering on obsolete. The sophomore's play so far has been erratic and turnover prone. In fact, he's turning the ball over on 3% more of his possessions than last year. You can see that Crean struggles to trust him with a large amount of time when there are so many more options that can take care of the ball. This isn't 2013, the bodies are there to bench you if you can't protect the rock.
Post Louisville changes should be encouraging. Since getting drubbed by Louisville on the boards, the Hoosiers have had three straight games of out-rebounding their opponent. 2 of which were games where rebounding was an opponent's strength. Georgetown is 12th in the nation at offensive rebounding and Butler (having fallen since then) sat in the 30s before their showdown with the Hoosiers. Neither team came closer than 10% of their season average against the Hoosiers. Indiana is figuring out that rebounding is as much about effort as it is size.
Our defensive issues are more about the perimeter than the post. The Hoosiers have let guard after guard slip into the arc only to hit a slipping post player as Indiana's post options leave position to help. I actually felt the Hoosiers have done an admirable job in their post defense recently. Tons of scoring still occurs in the paint, but I blame that on the fact that we're playing 3 on 2 once a guard lets his man penetrate.
Hanner continues to improve, but it's going to improve more like the price of oil rather than Coca-Cola. Up and down, up and down. Never get too high on Hanner and definitely don't get too low on him. Just like the laws of physics, as Hanner continues to work things out for every Louisvile there will likely be an equal and opposite Georgetown. Luckily the Big Ten is relatively devoid of intimidating post players this year. Heck even Frank Kaminsky, got pushed around by Josh Smith. Don't weigh too much into it.
The conference season is going to be very fun. Finally, I think I've learned that this squad is much better than last years and roughly equivalent to 2012. That team went 11-7 in what is admittedly a stronger conference than this year. But they did it by defending home court and grabbing a token win or two on the road. That team was a strong offense with a suspect defense and despite the hole in the post, this year's iteration is capable of doing something similar. If they can survive the first half of their schedule with a ~.500 record, then the back half should be very inviting. According to Pomeroy the Hoosiers are dogs in 8 of their next 12 and then favorites in their final 6. Of those 8 losses, 4 are expected to be two possessions or less. Just remember, If everything goes wrong, Tom Crean loses his job. If everything goes right, it's because the Big Ten sucks.
So, what are your shower thoughts on this team? Do they have what it takes? I'm not certain I have been less certain about a team 13 games into the season than this one. 7-11 in conference wouldn't shock me. Neither would 12-6 and another Sweet Sixteen run. It all depends on shoring up that perimeter defense and not getting too casual with the ball.