While the college basketball world was wondering Monday what sent Indiana coach Tom Crean into a pointing, chiding, hold-me-back temper tantrum aimed at Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer, I have a guess.
Meyer must have said, “Nice substitution pattern,” after the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines for the undisputed Big Ten title on Saturday.
OK, I’m kidding. Meyer, who was part of the sink-the-ship Kelvin Sampson regime, never would have said such a thing. But that might have been on the lips of plenty of fans in the Hoosier Nation, and it certainly was a point stated by CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb, who criticized Crean for his substitutions in the first half that helped Michigan run off a 12-0 streak and threaten to break open the game.
In bowing down to coaching genius, we all should realize that even Bill Walsh or John Wooden or Phil Jackson made mistakes. It’s not sacrilegious to point at areas that can be improved upon, especially with a national title at stake.
Ultimately, of course, King Crean is going to make the final call, but I agree with Gottlieb that a closer look is warranted.
It became somewhat less of a dire issue when the ball lipped the cup just before the buzzer to allow Indiana to escape with a 72-71 victory. Then again, it’s playoff time, and it wouldn’t appear that Indiana can keep giving opponents extended beat-up-on-our-substitutes moments in the first halves of games.
During much of the regular season, it made sense that Crean was trying all kinds of combinations to find a few that would click in the heat of NCAA Tournament battle. What he found, unfortunately if you are a huge proponent of depth, is that he wasn’t going to get a lot of help off the bench.
When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, that’s OK.
Some fans most likely are hoping that Crean thinks it is OK as well.
Let’s face it, a tired Cody Zeller is way better than anybody off the bench (one disclaimer here, I really count Will Sheehey as a sixth starter).
Crean didn’t build his program from the bottom of the sea by not knowing his X’s from his O’s. On Sunday, Zeller played 36 minutes in comparison to his season average of 29. Way to go, Tom.
Victor Oladipo played 33, while his season average is 28. Christian Watford went 29, when he averages 27.
With all the television timeouts and beer commercials, players get more of a chance to catch their breath in the tournament. Keep the stars on the court as much as possible.
When you look at Indiana’s rotation, there are a few givens. Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell needs to be on the court as many minutes as he can stand.
When Ferrell, and his ability to penetrate and run the break, goes to the bench, Indiana’s offense struggles.
So here’s the deal for NCAA Tournament play: If Ferrell is off the court, keep four other starters, one being guard Jordan Hulls, on the floor. That way Remy Abell can blend into the game during his eight minutes of play.
Next, allow Zeller to average 36 minutes a game after the cream puffs are dispatched from the tournament. There really isn’t anyone else in the country who can do all the things he does for Indiana, so don’t expect someone to come off the bench and adequately fill that void. This, of course, changes if Zeller, or Ferrell for that matter, falls into foul trouble.
Oladipo and Watford most likely need more of a rest the way they play, so that 33- to 35-minute mark looks good for them.
It appears that the Hoosiers and Crean are trending toward those numbers quite nicely.
The problem, as noticed by Gottlieb and others, seems to be blending the subs into the lineup to fill the few minutes that are left over.
Instead of giving the stars a break one-at-a-time as much as possible, there seems to be this urge to cattle call the replacements. It creates an awkward feel and often sends momentum to the opponent, as it did on Sunday against Michigan.
If you fit into the “We won, so everything is perfect” camp, then you probably will laugh at such a notion.
Then again, those points in the first half matter, too, and it could be argued that Indiana wouldn’t have needed that huge final minute rally if the subs had been spaced a bit differently.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.