Yesterday I noted in passing that Indiana sure does send opponents to the line a lot. After hitting “post” I received some queries from readers who asked, in effect, that I define “a lot.”
Fair enough. If you’ve been reading along for a while you know I like to talk about socially-determined behaviors like fouling — and, to a somewhat lesser extent, rebounding — in terms of how a team measures up in relation to their conference. In Indiana’s case, the Big Ten is traditionally a low-foul league. This season the league-wide number for opponent FTA/FGA is 0.33, and once again that’s the lowest such number among the six major conferences.
Alas the 2011 Hoosiers (opponent FTA/FGA 0.55 in conference play) are doing everything in their power to change that tradition. IU ranks No. 1 out of 73 major-conference teams in their ability to commit fouls that their league rivals do not.
So many whistles
Highest Hack Factors, 2011
Major-conference games only, thru March 1
HF: Opp. FTA/FGA, standard deviations above conference mean
When I see a team fouling this often, one question I like to answer for my own curiosity is how much better would their defense be if they simply fouled at a normal rate?
Opp eFG% DR% Opp TO% Opp PPP
Michigan 53.9 70.5 17.6 1.09
Indiana 52.8 68.7 17.5 1.13
Congratulations to the Wolverines, who are being deployed in a “Why can’t you be more like Michigan?” context for the first time in a very long while. The Hoosiers have the better FG defense, and they force almost exactly the same number of turnovers as does John Beilein’s team. But thanks to a small superiority in defensive rebounding and a huge disparity in fouling (UM opp. FTA/FGA: 0.30), the Wolverines have a defense that’s better by a modest but significant margin. And when you’re being outscored on every possession by 0.10 points, as Indiana is, something that may or may not improve your overall performance by 0.04 points or so per trip is probably worth a shot.
I realize the Hoosiers aren’t going to be inspired to perform Rudy-level feats merely by Tom Crean giving a pep talk entitled “Our Defense Can Be as Good as Michigan’s!” But the fact of that matter is that’s a realistic and perhaps even easily attainable goal. If IU did have a D that good, they’d have more wins and the level of grumbling in Bloomington would be somewhat less grumbly.