After another successful regular season, as a five seed, Indiana looked primed to make a deep run in March. The offense was stellar, averaging 83 points per game along with a field goal percentage of 50 and a 3-point percentage of 41.6. Those numbers are good enough to go the distance; however, there were other big factors that lead to the downfall in the tournament.
The Team Lacked Depth
Only a few players, Yogi Ferrel, James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant, and Troy Williams, carried the team. They all averaged more than 10 points per game and did the majority of the scoring while the rest of the bench lacked assistance in total points. Only two other players averaged about 8 points (Max Bielfeldt and Robert Johnson) and the other nine players only averaged 20.7 of the 83 points. That is brutal in a tense tournament and the team needs more scoring to come off the bench. It can’t rely on only a few players to help lead the team to a title. Rather, there has to be more consistent assistance from the role players. Villanova, the March Madness Champions, had stellar sharing tactics, which evened the scoring level within the roster. In comparison, only five of Villanova’s twelve players averaged less than 6 points — a strong difference to Indiana’s eight players with an average of less than 6 points. Looking into the heart of the bench, five of the eight players averaged less than a point per game. Indiana simply needs to improve its skill on the bench for next season, especially after loosing Yogi Ferrel and James Blackmon Jr.
Rebounding Skills Were Lacking
In order to remain competitive, the team’s skill at grabbing boards is essential. This one tactic can change the entire outcome of a game. Unfortunately, this skill was lacking in Indiana’s game – a fact that led to their defeat, especially in the tournament. They finished their regular season averaging 36.8 rebounds per game, which finished 119th in the nation, well below their desired totals. Transitioning into the tournament wasn’t much different. In each of their tournament games, they scored only 30 rebounds vs. Chattanooga, 30 rebounds vs. Kentucky, and just 32 rebounds vs. North Carolina, and the only game they outrebounded their opponents was that against Chattanooga. Player height is crucial here, and Coach Crean needs to bring more of that into Bloomington for next season.
We can still expect Indiana to be a strong competitor next year, but certain key improvements need to be made before it can be a serious contender… for now.