Tom Crean has wrestled with the question for most of the winter.
What can Indiana do to draw more fouls?
“I wish I had an answer for you,” Crean said on his weekly radio show. “I spend the majority of my waking hours trying to figure that out inside of the film.”
On the sideline during games, the IU coach has appeared exasperated at times with the lack of foul calls. Now in the final month of regular season play, Crean is still struggling to understand why whistles are blown during some sequences and not others.
“Maybe this puts me in the minority, I don’t know,” Crean said, “but I truly don’t understand from game to game sometimes what a foul is and what a foul isn’t when it comes to impeding the progress of the dribbler, or when it comes to putting a forearm on somebody when they drive the ball, when it comes to putting two hands on the back on a post-up. I don’t understand all that. I guess because it seems to change from time to time.”
With bigs like Thomas Bryant, De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan, Crean called it mind-boggling that his team can’t seem to draw fouls more regularly.
He points to Cody Zeller’s impact in helping IU lead the Big Ten in free throw attempts during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Between those two seasons, IU averaged 24.4 attempts per game. The Hoosiers aren’t far from that mark this season, averaging 21.4 free throw attempts per contest.
But they’ve also watched their opponents attempt more free throws in seven of the 11 conference games to date. Of late, the number of shots taken and the shooting percentages between IU and its opponents have been relatively close, give or take. With free throws, that hasn’t always been the case.
During Sunday’s loss in Madison, Wisconsin attempted 31 free throws, while IU took 12 shots at the line.
“We’ve just got to continue to look for it and figure out ways,” Crean said. “Getting downhill with great speed — James (Blackmon Jr.) was getting better at that — it’s not the strength it was for last year’s team, but it’s better than what we’re getting rewarded for right now.”
Crean has at least one bold idea for getting more whistles.
“We might get to a point where we go 1-4 low, put everybody down on the baseline,” Crean said. “We might just get to a point where we put everybody over on the side and play one-on-one on the side. People might get bored with it, but we might get more free throws.”