What exactly is a deflection?

Indiana provided coach Tom Crean with a lot of statistical ammunition to praise his team’s defense on Sunday night. The Hoosiers forced a Butler team that typically takes outstanding care of the basketball into 21 turnovers. They held the Bulldogs to 38.2 percent shooting and 27.8 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, and adjusted well enough on explosive Butler guard Chrishawn Hopkins to hold him to just one field goal in the second half.

But the first statistic that Crean mentioned when he entered the Assembly Hall press room Sunday night were his team’s deflections, which are his measure of defensive activity. He said the Hoosiers had 74, which he said were the most any team he’s even been a part of — as a head coach or an assistant — had recorded.

But there’s no way to check that, of course, because deflections aren’t a standardized statistic and don’t appear in a box score. Crean has often used the term to discuss his team’s defensive activity, but was finally asked to define it last night.

“It’s not a rebound,” Crean said. “For us, it’s a charge. A shot-clock violation. It’s a tip. I tip it, you grab it, deflection for me, deflection for you. If it’s a blocked shot, if it’s a steal, if it’s a loose ball, but if it’s just not a rebound. If the ball’s loose off the board — now if it bounces off to midcourt, that’s another story — but if it’s loose off the board, that’s just a loose ball rebound, that’s a 50-50 ball.”

Crean did not go on to explain his entire definition to the point where one might be able to accurately chart deflections by watching game tape, but it does allow for certain deductions.

The deflection statistic is used by many coaches, not just Crean and not just those that are part of the coaching trees he belongs to. (Dustin’s note: Both coaches I covered at James Madison used them as well). Because the statistic is not standardized — no one charts who leads the Big Ten or Division I in the category — deflections are whatever a coach wants them to be, and obviously by Crean’s explanation, players are not required to literally deflect the ball to be credited with a deflection, though literal deflections certainly count.

In some cases, deflections are handed out with the same sort of logic as some football coaches give out helmet stickers. Just as everyone might get a helmet sticker for a win, some coaches give out deflections to all five defenders on the floor in case of a 35-second violation.

The point of the deflection statistic is not for a coach to measure his team against others, but more so to measure it against itself, and also as a metric for defensive activity, which helps coaches determine who should be on the floor and when. Because the definition somewhat fluid and malleable for coaching purposes, that also allows coaches to construct it so it fits their personal preferences for what they want on defense.

UPDATE, 7:53 p.m.: Crean was asked about deflections by a fan on his radio show on Monday night. Crean said that if a player gets even a finger tip on the basketball on defense, that’s a deflection. It doesn’t matter if the offense keeps the ball or not. Even if a pass is tipped and ends up in the opponent’s hands, it’s still a deflection.  It’s also a deflection, of course, if the ball is knocked out of bounds and stays with the opponent.




  1. Yeah, let’s pound our collective chest loudly and proclaim Tan Cream as coach of the year already as if we haven’t seen this before: remember the Pittsburgh game in Madison Square Garden? One flower does not make a garland. Crean has not been completely awful in this game — is that a reason to celebrate? Without Hulls and Zeller this team would have been a solid 3-3 and Sheehey and Oladipo drowned by a tsunami of trademarked VJ3 turnovers! So far Crean gets a C- from me.

  2. But…we have Hulls and Zeller because Crean recruited them. Take away any team’s arguably two best players, and how good are they going to be? Your argument gets an F from actual Hoosier fans.

  3. Butler started 14-9 last year. They ended 14-1. We started 7-0 last year. We’re 6-0 now. What’s the big deal? Good win, very competitive game, but don’t build Tom Crean a statue yet because it’s premature: we’ve been here before!

  4. Crying seems to be under the ridiculous impression that there is someone somewhere who has even the least interest in what he thinks. How droll.

  5. Man, a couple people say Crean did a nice job and you guys absolutely lose your minds insisting he’s terrible. I’ve never seen a single post on this blog praising him as anything more than a pretty good basketball coach. Why does that freak you out so much? Were you passed over for the job? Might be a good time to switch to decaf.

  6. $50 says “break” is that loser who cried non-stop Crean “couldn’t recruit.”

    He was too gutless to ever show up under that name anymore after we landed all the players we did so he shows up under fake names to stomp his feet and whine because he’s desperate for attention.

  7. hey crying. are you nuts? this man can coach. what did he do to you? i would bet anything he can out coach you! find something else to complain about. he did take a team to the final four.

  8. I am not sure how or who got the fire started, but they or it deserves a big THANK YOU ! I sure like the scrappy attitude I just saw in the last game. If they can block out, rebound, and take care of the ball this team will be going places.

  9. What is a deflection? I can’t deny herring impaired’s answer gave me a good chuckle….very, very clever.

  10. Gmab your a moron! What does “without zeller and hulls” even mean? I’ve seen some moronic post on here but that could be the worst one ever. If Phil Jackson did’nt have Pip and MJ they would be 500! Are you an IU fan? You give CTC a c? Explain why he gets a c? No nevermind don’t. Please don’t!

  11. Crying out loud!! Thats gotta gotta be Say It Loud from indystar.com who constantly trashes IU. Saying crap like IU is bottom feeders where they have always been. Also that we keep bringing championships won over 25 years ago etc… Well at least we have won championships in the past and will again in near future. When, just when has his beloved PUke ever won a thing. Oh yeah, they have A final four appearance. WOW!! Just shut up and go away -for crying out loud. lol

  12. “Gimme a break” I can deal with Hoosier fans. I can’t stand Tom Crean groupies.

    Then go pick another team to root for, ya don’t like the coach, ya don’t like us die hard fans, go elsewhere, Purdue maybe

  13. Laffy, I won’t touch that bet. A couple of these boys are pissed off at the improvement this team is displaying on the court. I do not care if the credit is Crean’s or the talent he has recruited. It is his program and they do not like where the lines are connecting.

  14. Many of you are on a personal ego trip here… but, whatever makes you feel good, folks! Meanwhile here’s a more readable version of what “Gimme a break” wanted to say, yesterday…

    Indiana could be really good this year – really good.

    Tip of the hat.

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