So what did Xavier really expose Saturday night?

It’s nearly 24 hours since the Hoosiers were embarrassed by Xavier, 80-65, in the championship of the Chicago Invitational Tournament last night. I hope all of you have had the chance to let the loss digest.

Sitting here discussing the game with my roommates, I told them I was going to blog on what IU did poorly in the contest and what the Hoosiers need to work on for the stiffer tests that loom ahead. “Are you writing a novel?” one asked.

If anything, Saturday night’s dismal performance proves how correct Kelvin Sampson is when he says time and again this team is young, inexperienced, and has a long way to go. Oh, how he was right on that one. Outside of D.J. White’s 16 points and 10 rebounds (it’s about time, anyone?), they did absolutely nothing well against the Musketeers.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Hoosiers couldn’t defend a middle school B team. They’re relying way too much on their potent offensive attack (pass the ball to Eric Gordon), and when No. 23 is not on from behind the arc, they’re out of answers. What Chattanooga exposed in the opener, dropping 50 on IU in the first half, the Musketeers took to a completely different level. Every single time the Hoosiers needed a stop in the second half, Xavier found a way to score, oftentimes easily. They got position, they passed well, and they fought much, much harder for rebounds. Individually, there’s a great deal of work that needs to be done.

  • Did DeAndre Thomas remind anyone else of Marco Killingsworth last night? In that after a missed a shot, instead of hustling back on defense, he decides to swipe at the ball and get a stupid foul call against him? Nothing eats at me more than mental mistakes like these.
  • I appreciate Lance Stemler’s hustle. I do. But he flops too much, and is too slow defensively on many occasions. The Musketeers took full advantage of that. Also, if anyone can remember the last time Lance hit an open-three pointer, let me know. I went as far back as the Reagan administration but couldn’t come up with one.
  • True or False: Jordan Crawford came to Indiana to play for Mike Davis. After last night’s performance (where he looked more like an And-1 All-Star than a college basketball player) I really don’t know. He oftentimes plays out of control on the offensive end, forcing up terrible shots early into the shot clock. The difference is, against teams like UNC-Wilmington, he makes those shots. Against a real defense like Xavier, he doesn’t. Crawford went 3-13 Saturday night. He’ll need to work on getting better looks as the season progresses, and I’m sure Sampson will be harping this to him in practice.
  • The Hoosiers could have really used A.J. Ratliff last night. True, you never know how Ratliff’s going to play, but a good outside shooter and a great defender like Ratliff could have made a big difference over the course of the game. Not only would he have been a major help defensively, he also would have taken some of the scoring load off Gordon.
  • Gordon’s going to have those kind of nights once in a while. Believe it or not, the 18-year old wunderkid is human, and he’s not going to drop 30 on 11-15 shooting every night. This is when the role players must step up. D.J. White, who’s far from a role player, did exactly that and had his best game of the season. But no one else did. Crawford missed 10 shots, Thomas couldn’t buy a lay-up, and Jamarcus Ellis had an off night (despite a team-high 11 rebounds).

Alright, it was just one game. But Saturday night exposed the Hoosiers’ weaknesses unlike any other game this season. Needless to say, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Among them, they can’t play defense in transition at all, can’t win a game when Gordon isn’t lights out and lastly, they have a lot of growing up to do. This is a young team, remind you, and there is a long way to go.

One of my roommates made a very good point: In February and March, when games really start to matter, Xavier is probably going to be the same team they are now. They’re experienced, and probably aren’t going to improve all that much. Indiana, on the other hand, has a very high ceiling. The talent level on this team is staggering, and it’s going to take games like this for them to realize what they need to work on.

All of a sudden, Tuesday’s match-up against Georgia Tech gets very, very interesting.

What do all of you think? What are Indiana’s biggest flaws you saw Saturday night? Which player/players need to step it up in particular for this tough stretch ahead? And also, if you were Kelvin Sampson, what would you work on during Monday’s practice?

16 comments

  1. We are what we are. We only have 1 big ten big and 1 big ten point unless Gordon plays point. Thats what we are. Sampson just has to get everyone else to play a role and nothing else. We can win with this line up everyone just has to do there job. If your #1 scoring option gets in foul trouble you will be in trouble no matter who you are. Match ups are a problem if they have a quick point or several bigs. No team has everything covered. What you do well has to cover up your weaknesses. Hopefully by the end of the season they will.

  2. Perhaps maybe they should work on a zone defense, because their man to man defense has been pretty horrid all year. If they continue to run the man to man D, then they definitely need to tighten it up A LOT and be able to rotate once in a while.

    Lance Stemler needs to learn to block out.. and pretty much everyone else.

    Running some sort of offense rather than standing around the perimeter, dribbling around with no purpose would be nice too. Their offensive sequences just were ugly for much of that game. You said it right with the “And 1” sort of play by Crawford.. but he hasn’t been the only one to do that.

    A final thing to do would be some sort of press to cause early defensive pressure. They’re a quick team, so if they can run an effective press then that could result in some easy buckets for IU.

  3. Zak , Based on your astute observations maybe we should just cancel the season . Take a deep breath pal , it was one game , no more , no less . Yes there are area’s of concern . The current starting five has two starters from last year , there will be continuity and communication issues as we are experiencing on defense . Do you recall the early part of last season ? We came a long way from November to the loss to UCLA . I am confident in the coaching staffs ability to mold and shape this team . Hopefully you can come to this realization .

  4. Bill,
    I agree with you that this is a young team and it was only one game. But I didn’t think Xavier would have exposed so many of the Hoosiers’ weaknesses. Maybe Georgia Tech, Southern Illinois or Kentucky, but not a mediocre Xavier team that lost to Miami of Ohio. You are also right in saying that the coaching staff in place has the ability to mold this team into a winner in March.

    Thanks for your input,
    Zak

  5. Zak , I think that you may want to revise the word you used describing Xavier as the weeks pass . They are a few notches above “mediocre”. They are a very well coached team with senior leadership and are relatively deep . Anyway , we will move on to the next game . Good luck Hoosiers !

  6. Zak

    I too would like for you to acknowledge that Xavier isnt just some run of the muck team, they have 2 sr. guards, one a Burger boy and the other a 5 year senior who knows how to play D with his size. I think your swipe at Bill for pointing this out shows that you dont believe Xavier is THAT team.

    You must have forgotten it was this same Xavier team that took OSU to the wire in the tournament last year, actually thye should have won the game but that is another story.

    I just hope just as this Xavier team lost to Miami OH, that we can come back and adjust to what needs to be done. My concern or concerns are many too but the sky is falling attitude your putting off is just way to pre-mature, this young team will LISTEN a little bit more instead of relying on the AND 1 approach.

    Thanks AJS

  7. The way Ga Tech is playing, especially with three key players out of the rotation, Indiana should not be too worried. Tech is playing with a committee at PG, and the committee is missing a key member. Add to that, two of the top three big guys are also out.

    Tech may be a good team after the holiday break, especially if Dickey is allowed to return, but they are not there now.

  8. I was at both the Illinois State and Xavier games. Indiana was exposed defensively and killed on the offensive boards in both games. I had hoped that the first game was merely the result of taking a team a little to lightly. The Xavier game proved these are true flaws that need a lot of attention.

    Can anyone tell me why Mike White is not getting a single minute of playing time? It seems like his experience would have been useful off the bench in both games.

  9. The play was disapointing but more disappointing was the trash talk by Elis and thomas. Thomas should be at the end of the bench.

  10. Mike White is getting the red-shirt this year, so he wont play at all, and I am not sure why. I guess we will need him next year, but this years team is not a very good rebounding team, and rebounding is one of the few things White does well. Other than that, this team really needs to give the ball to DJ more. When Gordon is having a bad game, he needs to shoot more than 9 times. Hell, he should shoot 15 times a game, and if he gets better at passing out of the double team that will all just open up the offense way more. And lets not even discuss defense, this team has one good on the ball defender, and thats Gordon. Everyone else is bad on defense. Ratliff will help out, if only on the defensive side of the ball

  11. From watching the games thus far in the season, I could see this game coming. I believe that Sampson knows what is and isn’t going well with the new players and I’ve noticed improvements on some fronts in their play. The problems they had this weekend were largely due to shooting woes, in my opinion. They shot poorly in both games, which could be attributed to the venue and inexperience. The most important things I see that we need to focus on are communicating on defense, crashing the boards, and getting DJ more looks on the offensive end. It is apparent that many of the newcomers are not yet comfortable playing defense in Sampson’s system. AJ’s return could be huge in that respect. The communication problems we’re having are causing our rebounders (DJ in particular) to compensate defensively out on the perimeter. Lastly, we’re relying too much on our guards when we have an All-American candidate in DJ. He hasn’t even been our number two option offensively thus far. He has proven that he can create shots and make plays. We need to use him. I also think that Armon and Gordon are our best players at creating opportunities for their teammates. If we can get Crawford and Ellis to look to pass more often, we’ll improve greatly.

  12. Young and raw. Maybe tired after so many games. Typical poor road shooting game—elite teams find a way to overcome that.
    Guards and Ellis put up 50 shots. If they would have given half of those to DJ and the inside guys, we would have won.
    Where are the back door cuts and passes in the lane????

  13. AP Top 25
    1. North Carolina (28) 5-0 1,736
    2. UCLA (25) 6-0 1,727
    3. Memphis (18) 5-0 1,689
    4. Kansas 5-0 1,577
    5. Georgetown (1) 3-0 1,536
    6. Washington State 6-0 1,360
    7. Duke 6-0 1,353
    8. Texas 5-0 1,240
    9. Texas A&M 6-0 1,163
    10. Michigan State 4-1 1,015
    11. Tennessee 5-1 973
    12. Louisville 4-1 964
    13. Marquette 4-1 950
    14. Pittsburgh 5-0 871
    15. Indiana 4-1 766
    16. Butler 6-0 742
    17. Oregon 5-1 511
    18. Clemson 5-0 495
    19. Gonzaga 5-1 454
    20. Wisconsin 5-0 234
    21. Brigham Young 5-1 225
    22. USC 5-1 217
    23. Xavier 4-1 199
    24. North Carolina State 4-1 173
    25. Kansas State 5-1 163
    Others Recieving Votes
    Villanova 162, Vanderbilt 109, Syracuse 90, Arizona 85, Southern Illinois 80, Miami (FL) 68, Arkansas 64, Virginia 62, Seton Hall 54, Ohio State 53, Saint Mary’s 50, Connecticut 34, George Mason 34, Stanford 27, Boston College 18, Missouri 18, West Virginia 17, Florida 12, New Orleans 9, Baylor 5, Illinois 4, Kentucky 4, Miami (OH) 3, Ohio 2, New Mexico 1, George Washington 1, Texas Tech 1.
    Dropped From Rankings
    Southern Illinois 19, Villanova 20, Syracuse 21, Virginia 23, Florida 25.

    ESPN/USA Today Poll
    1. UCLA (12) 6-0 749
    2. North Carolina (13) 5-0 745
    3. Memphis (5) 5-0 719
    4. Kansas (1) 5-0 688
    5. Georgetown 3-0 654
    6. Washington State 6-0 591
    7. Duke 6-0 562
    8. Texas 5-0 502
    9. Texas A&M 6-0 498
    10. Louisville 4-1 423
    11. Pittsburgh 5-0 417
    12. Tennessee 5-1 403
    13. Michigan State 4-1 396
    14. Marquette 4-1 352
    15. Indiana 4-1 324
    16. Butler 6-0 300
    17. Oregon 5-1 233
    18. Clemson 5-0 232
    19. Gonzaga 5-1 206
    20. Wisconsin 5-0 160
    21. Villanova 4-1 114
    22. Southern Illinois 3-1 109
    23. Brigham Young 5-1 88
    24. USC 5-1 69
    25. Xavier 4-1 65
    Others Recieving Votes
    North Carolina State 56, Kansas State 50, Syracuse 50, Saint Mary’s 39, Virginia 36, Arizona 34, Vanderbilt 33, Miami (FL) 28, Arkansas 22, Ohio State 21, Connecticut 17, Stanford 16, Oklahoma 13, Illinois 11, Florida State 10, Miami (OH) 10, Holy Cross 7, Florida 6, Missouri 6, California 4, New Mexico 3, Seton Hall 2, Baylor 2.
    Dropped From Rankings
    Kansas State 20, Syracuse 21, Florida 24.

  14. How did IU drop so many spots after a loss to a good team? Louisville loses to BYU and drops four spots while IU loses to Xavier and we drop seven spots? That doesn’t make sense. I don’t like Michigan State, but how do they drop 2 spots after losing to the top-ranked team in the country?

  15. Joel, BYU is a solid top 25 team… Actually ranked higher than Xavier, who I believe was unranked prior to the new poll. Also, any time you suffer a loss, you will usually drop a few spots, especially if there are still undefeated teams out there.

    15 sounds about right to me for now.

  16. I realize Xavier is primarily the same team that took Ohio State to the brink last year and has a great young coach in Sean Miller. But Indiana, with the weapons they have, is the eight-ranked team in the nation and shouldn’t have lost by 15 points on a neutral court.

    But like many of you have said, it’s only one game and they’ll have a chance to bounce back Tuesday against Georgia Tech at Assembly.

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