Without a true center, IU has to get creative on the defensive end.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea plays big because of his vertical and large wingspan, but he’s still just 6-foot-9.
Behind him, the Hoosiers are thin in the frontcourt. A pair of freshmen, Emmitt Holt at 6-foot-7 and Jeremiah April at 6-foot-11, are still a ways off from being viable post threats.
Should IU play man-to-man or a zone defense?
Against Lamar (1-3), the Hoosiers (4-0) won 85-72, but it was an unimpressive performance on defense. Lamar is a bad offensive team, coming into the game ranked No. 346 out of 351 teams in the country on offense by Ken Pomeroy.
IU played both a 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense. They switched schemes based on the personnel and had mixed results. Lamar had a pretty decent offensive game, shooting 50 percent from the field.
Here’s the thing: IU has some guards who are great perimeter defenders. Junior Yogi Ferrell is phenomenal. Sophomore Stan Robinson has quick hands and feet. And freshman Rob Johnson is a bulldog that can pester opposing point guards the entirety of the 94-foot court.
On the other hand, it has some guys on defense that it needs to hide. It’s been a small sample size, but it doesn’t look like junior guard Nick Zeisloft or freshman guard James Blackmon have the lateral quickness to be average perimeter defenders.
Blackmon is the best pure scorer I’ve seen during my four years watching IU basketball, so his deficiencies on defense aren’t enough to warrant not playing him because he’s so valuable on offense, but that still leaves the Hoosiers with a hole on defense.
The unknown factor is sophomore forward Troy Williams. Williams has the physical attributes to do basically anything he wants to on the court. But that’s never been the problem for him.
It’s putting that technique together to become a solid, fundamental basketball player, much like Ferrell has become. If Williams can put together his physical attributes with some better technique and court awareness (and a consistent jump shot), he’s an NBA player.
But he’s far from that right now. So whether or not Williams can harness his huge wingspan and athleticism into being a great defensive player will determine what IU will play on defense.
If we fast-forward a month or two, I envision this team being primarily a man-to-man team. The perimeter defenders are just too good to have them play in a zone.
Plus, there’s always something IU Coach Tom Crean can implement on defense: full-court pressure.
I’m not talking about implementing a chaos-level along the lines of a VCU, but utilizing his team’s natural talents.
IU could get three-to-four extra turnovers if they applied some full-court pressure. Plus, the Hoosiers play a guard-heavy lineup, so they’ll have several ball handlers that could convert turnovers into instant offense.
Crean has said he hasn’t put in his full-court pressure, and that’s understandable. This team has several fresh faces and a lot of attention needs to be focused on offensive and defensive schemes.
But in the future, when the coaching staff is confident in the team’s fundamentals on both ends, they should focus on putting in some full-court pressure.
With this team, I believe its best defensive strategy is primarily an aggressive man-to-man scheme with a hint of full-court pressure.
Lord knows the offense is clicking. And if the defense becomes a force, IU could do some serious damage this season.