BLOOMINGTON — Indiana has to be better than this.
It just does.
The mind-boggling turnovers have to stop.
They just do.
Can you say turnovers?
Yes, coach Tom Crean was VERY unhappy about IU’s defense in the wake of Wednesday night’s Nebraska loss, which happens when you score 83 points at home and still lose by four, but as shaky as the defense was (and a lot of that was due to the Cornhuskers’ impressive play), it would have been good enough if the Hoosiers had played to their strengths and not their weaknesses.
Specifically, you don’t need a center and a forward pushing the ball up on fast breaks against a good team at crucial moments. That’s why you have guards.
What worked against, say, Delaware State, won’t work against Nebraska or Louisville or anybody else IU plays the rest of the season.
Of course, in a lot of ways, it didn’t work against the Delaware States of the world, either, but that misses the point, which is Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby should stop trying to lead fast breaks.
Or, as coach Tom Crean puts it, make the simple play and simple pass.
Yes, Indiana coaches like to have their players versatile enough to handle multiple roles, which is fine. That means big guys doing guard drills and guards doing big man drills, but in the end, you have to be true to your nature.
So in games, guards should be guards, and post players should be post players. Otherwise you get …
The Hoosiers spent the non-conference season owning the Big Ten title for worst assist-to-turnover team, and that was while playing eight of the worst teams in America — a scheduling approach that needs to stop. It almost certainly was a factor in losses to Nebraska and Butler.
Now that conference play has arrived, the turnover problem could get even worse, which puts Indiana's title prospects at risk
And regardless of the sky-is-falling fan grumbling that has resurfaced (no one has forgotten losses to Fort Wayne and Butler), there is title potential. IU has good players, experience and depth. Yes, there is youth to deal with, but it’s quality youth.
Anyway, the Hoosiers average 16 turnovers to their opponents’ 12, which is no way to win a championship, let alone a big game, especially a big game against this kind of opponent. Guards such as James Blackmon (who has more turnovers than assists), Robert Johnson (who only has five more assists than turnovers) and Josh Newkirk (a team-leading 29 turnovers) need to up their games.
Louisville, coming off a Wednesday night loss at No. 12 Virginia, will attack with ferocious defense. There will be lots of contact, and officials won’t call all of it, which means the Hoosiers must be poised, decisive and strong with the ball.
The Cardinals have plenty of length and athleticism. They are led by guards Quentin Snider (11.6 points) and Donovan Mitchell (11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds), and forwards Deng Adel (10.2 points), Jaylen Johnson (9.4 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Mangok Mathiang (6.8 rebounds).
They also have a Hall of Fame coach in Rick Pitino, who has won two national championships and more than 700 games.
Despite an impressive win over Kentucky, the Cardinals have vulnerability. They are not a great perimeter shooting team (32.4 percent), and Virginia made them a lousy one, at 14.3 percent. You can burn their defensive pressure if you are solid, aware and aggressive.
Baylor and Virginia reduced Louisville’s offense to rubble, Baylor because of its length and athleticism, Virginia because of coach Tony Bennett’s stifling system.
If IU limits the turnovers and Louisville’s transition opportunities, it can win the game and restore calm to the forever feisty Hoosier Nation.
Crean embraces that challenge. He took plenty of heat from last season’s poor start and guided a turnaround that led to a second Big Ten title in four years and a third Sweet Sixteen appearance in five years. He knows venom is part of every passionate fan base, and few can match Hoosiers in heat.
“I’m real comfortable when you hit adversity,” he says. “We’ll figure out how to overcome it.”
Figuring starts with this:
Stop the turnovers.
This column is the commentary of the writer and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Pete DiPrimio at email@example.com
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