Indiana Daily Student

Hoosiers end non-conference play against New Orleans

Head Coach Tom Crean claps as IU scores another basket during the game against Mississippi Valley State on Friday at Assembly Hall.
Head Coach Tom Crean claps as IU scores another basket during the game against Mississippi Valley State on Friday at Assembly Hall.

Just one cupcake remains on the Big Ten’s easiest schedule.

IU’s strength of schedule ranks No. 312 nationally, according to kenpom.com. That's the worst of any Big Ten team.

Games against traditional powers like Louisville, Pittsburgh and Butler have been offset by visits from some of the country’s worst teams.

The Hoosiers are young, with no seniors on the roster. They rely heavily on freshmen and sophomores.

The kids have to learn. IU Coach Tom Crean is doing his best to teach them against overmatched squads.

That comes from preparing for every opponent the same way, Crean said.

“If we’re growing up, I wouldn’t use the term ‘no excuses,’ but as we grow up, if we prepare, it won’t look any different,” Crean said. “The team may be different, the game plan may be different, but how we prepare won’t be any different.”

New Orleans is one of those overmatched teams. The Privateers are 3-4 this season, but that record is flattering. Wins against Pensacola Christian College (Division II) and Crowley’s Ridge (National Christian College Athletic Association) will do that.

IU, which enters Monday ranked more than 250 spots higher than New Orleans on kenpom.com, shouldn’t have any trouble getting another win. The difficulty lies in finding valuable teaching points in another blowout.

Crean doesn’t like the word ‘experiment,’ but Monday may be his last chance to do so. After New Orleans, IU will play Georgetown in New York City on Dec. 27. Then comes Big Ten season.

The question asks itself – where will IU put its focus in what should be another runaway win?

The Hoosiers have placed heavy emphasis on rebounding, but that’s improved in recent weeks. They entered the season concentrated on taking care of the ball, but turnover numbers have plummeted this season. They needed to shoot better – that’s improved, too.

Put simply, Crean should be able to put his focus wherever he pleases in his last all-but-guaranteed win this season.

Maybe it’s freshman guard James Blackmon, Jr., who played his worst game in an IU uniform – just 2-for-12 from the field – against Butler. Maybe it’s continued focus on rebounding, which Crean has repeatedly called an important factor in his team’s success.

Whatever their concentration, the Hoosiers should have no trouble coming away with a win. IU holds the statistical advantage in nearly every category Monday night.

New Orleans scores 71.4 points per game, more than 15 fewer than IU. It allows more points, rebounds at a slower rate, shoots worse from the field and commits more turnovers.

The Privateers have yet to use the same starting lineup more than once this season. In seven games, 10 different players have started games.

Sophomore forward Christavious Gill, who has started four games, has been New Orleans’ most consistent performer. He leads the team with 12.3 points per game and has scored in single digits just once this season.

IU will get a break from the physical inside presences it has faced over the last three weeks. Just two New Orleans players 6-foot-7 or taller play more than five minutes per game, and neither rebound at a high rate.

Crean said early in the season that he could clearly see who his team’s veterans and rookies were by their on-court performance. Against New Orleans, it’s about narrowing that gap.

Having a team that wants to learn helps that process, he said.

“They want to get better,” Crean said. “These guys really want to improve, so I have no doubt that they will. They’ll pick it up.”

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