Indiana’s Relying On Yogi Ferrell Too Much

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 17th, 2016

While it has been a sensational season for Yogi Ferrell (16.8 PPG, 5.7 APG), Indiana may need to find ways to beat teams without its point guard playing so prominent a role in the offense. In recent weeks opposing teams have been forcing Ferrell’s supporting cast to beat them by taking the senior guard out of the equation. Look no further than the Hoosiers’ last two games against Iowa and Michigan State, where Ferrell struggled mightily, shooting 2-of-12 from the field against the Hawkeyes and 3-of-10 against the Spartans. This may not necessarily represent a slump, but it could be a nice recipe for success for future opponents: limit Ferrell’s perimeter shots and force him to use his teammates in the half-court. Barring a monumental collapse during the last few weeks, the Hoosiers will be in the #4-#6 seed range in the NCAA Tournament. But their success once they get there will depend on how they answer two critical questions:

Opposing defenses will take Yogi Ferrell's three-point shot out of his game over the next few weeks.

Opposing defenses may try to take Yogi Ferrell’s three-point shot out of his game over the next few weeks. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

  • Can Ferrell continue to get to the free throw line? Against Iowa, a younger Ferrell would have doubled down on perimeter shooting when his long-range game was rendered ineffective (he shot 2-of-9 from beyond the arc). A more experienced Ferrell, however, showed tremendous maturity in attacking the paint to earn and nail all eight of his free throws. Rarely does he pick up his dribble off ball screens when he doesn’t have sufficient space to fire away from the perimeter, but his defenders will continue to shadow him closely until one of his teammates can consistently make a mid-range jumper. Indiana’s big men don’t have the best mid-range game or great ability to make the extra pass; as a result, most pick-and-roll sets involving Ferrell include Troy Williams or Thomas Bryant. Bryant is a true big man and has excellent footwork in the paint, but he isn’t comfortable driving to the basket. Williams, on the other hand, is nifty with his moves around the basket, but help defense dares him to shoot a jumper. Given that the bulk of Williams’ points come from dunks, tip-ins or layups, this scenario isn’t especially advantageous for Indiana. As a result of this and the other weaknesses of teammates, Ferrell has limited options off of screens and will often have no choice but to dribble around aimlessly and search for his own open look. At some point, his teammates’ lack of shot-making ability stymies the Indiana offense.

  • Is the Hoosiers’ rejuvenated defense a fallacy? Without James Blackmon in the lineup (out for the season with a knee injury), Tom Crean’s team has significantly improved its defensive efficiency to where it ranks fourth in the conference. However, Indiana’s conference schedule has been relatively soft to this point, and that stouter defense hasn’t held up well against the league’s best teams. Despite the huge win in Bloomington over Iowa, the Hoosiers still gave up 78 points and allowed 1.22 points per possession. Jared Uthoff (24 points) and Peter Jok (12 points) got their share, as usual, but allowing Adam Woodbury to snag nine offensive rebounds (and 15 total) is unacceptable. Once Bryant left the game with two fouls, Woodbury and Uthoff feasted on the offensive glass. The freshman’s inexperience has made him vulnerable to silly fouls all season, and his absence as a rim-protector really disables the Hoosiers’ defense. Williams can help fill the corresonding gap on the defensive glass, but he is at his best when leaking out to pick up buckets in transition. Communication against the pick-and-roll has also been miserable recently. Michigan State’s Matt Costello looked like an All-American (22 points, 11 rebounds) on Sunday when none of Indiana’s big men could switch through screens on defense to cover him. He and Denzel Valentine ran the set to perfection, as Bryant and Williams lingered with Valentine for far too long off of ball screens. Indiana’s help defense on the back side was also way too slow to pick up Costello, who drove the lane for several easy baskets as a result. At one point, the Spartans tallied three straight wide open layups off the baseline because Costello was left alone at the top of the key and the Hoosiers found themselves outnumbered 2-1 in the paint. The Spartans finished the game with 88 points and a whopping 1.28 points per possession. Its defense needs to be much better than it has been in the last two contests because Indiana simply can’t expect to outscore every team in March.
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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