The Penalty Box: IU Is In Trouble

March 6, 2024 at 8:00 a.m.


The athletic department at Indiana University has a problem, and it’s a big one.
They opened themselves up for the possibility of a worst-case scenario, and it sure feels like that scenario is playing out right now in Bloomington.
The IU men’s basketball team is not very good, and there isn’t really a sense that a turnaround is possible, let alone imminent.
We must first identify the source or sources of the problem, and that’s pretty easy: the Hoosiers are not good shooters.
You don’t need to know anything about basketball to know that if your team isn’t good at shooting, they won’t be good at winning either. Basketball is really simple that way—if the other team puts that orange ball in the orange ring more than your team, you’re going to lose.
Overall, IU’s field goal percentage is not bad. They are shooting just under 48-percent, which is third in the league behind Purdue (49-percent) and Iowa (just above 48-percent).
But they are 10th in field goals made and dead last in attempts.
The Hoosiers are not only last in 3-pointers made with 140, the Big Ten leader (Purdue) has almost twice as many makes as Indiana. And the Hoosiers are not only last in makes, but no one has taken fewer than they have.
And the free throw shooting follows suit. They are fourth in attempts from the line, but they are last in free throw percentage.
So, if you were working under the premise that the Hoosiers were going to have a strong offensive game inside and were going to shoot from closer, shoot a higher percentage and score more often, that hasn’t worked out at all. For that to work in their favor, their overall percentage would need to be a lot closer to 54 or 55-percent.
Add to that the fact the Hoosiers are 13th of 14 teams in the league in committing turnovers while ranking 11th in turnovers forced, and it’s a recipe for being on the brink of playing on the first day of the conference tournament and having to win five straight games in five straight games to make the NCAA tournament.
And it’s 2024—if 3-pointers aren’t on the list of your strengths, you’re going to struggle to compete.
That’s how they got where they are, so what do they do about it?
Well, that’s the real problem.
When the Hoosiers hitched their wagon to IU legend Mike Woodson, they left themselves open to the possibility that it may not work out.
Think of it like meeting your high school flame at your 20-year reunion. He or she looks great, you both are unattached, and you start to have these thoughts of trying to recapture what you had when you were teenagers.
But it’s a foolish proposition.
What ends up happening is that you both are different than you were 20 years ago, and not only does it not work out, but it ruins the good feelings of yesteryear, and you are worse off than when you started.
That’s what’s happened to Indiana Men’s basketball.
They brought back a beloved member of the IU family; it hasn’t produced much that is positive and now people are calling for him to resign and for the athletic department to find someone new.
And the break-up will be ugly, awkward and unbecoming of someone who deserves the level of love that he’s been shown by Hoosier fans since he graduated 44 years ago.
Moving forward, anytime IU fans see Woodson or hear his name mentioned, it will at least stir up negative feelings.
In one of my multiple-subject columns when he was hired, I expressed my concern over the hiring of Woodson as the coach of the Hoosiers. It had nothing to do with whether he has the knowledge of the game or is young enough to have the drive to do what it takes to win.
The truth is Indiana is now in that no-man’s-land where they are going to have trouble getting the best recruits to choose IU and they also will be way down the list for kids who enter the transfer portal.
At a time when programs can turn their rosters over very quickly, and with it their prospects for winning and becoming attractive to recruits and transfers, Indiana is like a NASCAR Cup car that gets out of line, has lost its drafting push and is sliding back to the back of the pack.
It was foreseeable.
It is painful.
It’s going to be sad.
But there is no stopping it. There’s no backing away from the cliff. It’s as if it’s already happening.
And then it will be someone else’s problem.

The athletic department at Indiana University has a problem, and it’s a big one.
They opened themselves up for the possibility of a worst-case scenario, and it sure feels like that scenario is playing out right now in Bloomington.
The IU men’s basketball team is not very good, and there isn’t really a sense that a turnaround is possible, let alone imminent.
We must first identify the source or sources of the problem, and that’s pretty easy: the Hoosiers are not good shooters.
You don’t need to know anything about basketball to know that if your team isn’t good at shooting, they won’t be good at winning either. Basketball is really simple that way—if the other team puts that orange ball in the orange ring more than your team, you’re going to lose.
Overall, IU’s field goal percentage is not bad. They are shooting just under 48-percent, which is third in the league behind Purdue (49-percent) and Iowa (just above 48-percent).
But they are 10th in field goals made and dead last in attempts.
The Hoosiers are not only last in 3-pointers made with 140, the Big Ten leader (Purdue) has almost twice as many makes as Indiana. And the Hoosiers are not only last in makes, but no one has taken fewer than they have.
And the free throw shooting follows suit. They are fourth in attempts from the line, but they are last in free throw percentage.
So, if you were working under the premise that the Hoosiers were going to have a strong offensive game inside and were going to shoot from closer, shoot a higher percentage and score more often, that hasn’t worked out at all. For that to work in their favor, their overall percentage would need to be a lot closer to 54 or 55-percent.
Add to that the fact the Hoosiers are 13th of 14 teams in the league in committing turnovers while ranking 11th in turnovers forced, and it’s a recipe for being on the brink of playing on the first day of the conference tournament and having to win five straight games in five straight games to make the NCAA tournament.
And it’s 2024—if 3-pointers aren’t on the list of your strengths, you’re going to struggle to compete.
That’s how they got where they are, so what do they do about it?
Well, that’s the real problem.
When the Hoosiers hitched their wagon to IU legend Mike Woodson, they left themselves open to the possibility that it may not work out.
Think of it like meeting your high school flame at your 20-year reunion. He or she looks great, you both are unattached, and you start to have these thoughts of trying to recapture what you had when you were teenagers.
But it’s a foolish proposition.
What ends up happening is that you both are different than you were 20 years ago, and not only does it not work out, but it ruins the good feelings of yesteryear, and you are worse off than when you started.
That’s what’s happened to Indiana Men’s basketball.
They brought back a beloved member of the IU family; it hasn’t produced much that is positive and now people are calling for him to resign and for the athletic department to find someone new.
And the break-up will be ugly, awkward and unbecoming of someone who deserves the level of love that he’s been shown by Hoosier fans since he graduated 44 years ago.
Moving forward, anytime IU fans see Woodson or hear his name mentioned, it will at least stir up negative feelings.
In one of my multiple-subject columns when he was hired, I expressed my concern over the hiring of Woodson as the coach of the Hoosiers. It had nothing to do with whether he has the knowledge of the game or is young enough to have the drive to do what it takes to win.
The truth is Indiana is now in that no-man’s-land where they are going to have trouble getting the best recruits to choose IU and they also will be way down the list for kids who enter the transfer portal.
At a time when programs can turn their rosters over very quickly, and with it their prospects for winning and becoming attractive to recruits and transfers, Indiana is like a NASCAR Cup car that gets out of line, has lost its drafting push and is sliding back to the back of the pack.
It was foreseeable.
It is painful.
It’s going to be sad.
But there is no stopping it. There’s no backing away from the cliff. It’s as if it’s already happening.
And then it will be someone else’s problem.

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