Perhaps the most troubling thing about the sudden, precipitous free fall that doomed Indiana midway through the first half of its 94-74 loss to Duke on Wednesday night was how familiar it all felt. As the Blue Devils basked in wide open looks from three-point range and free runs to the rim in transition, Hoosiers fans must have been having flashbacks to just last season.
Indiana was supposed to be better this year. Last season, a 20-14 record and trip to the NCAA Tournament counted as progress. The team was eventually undone by a mile-wide split between split between its offense (No. 9 in efficiency, per KenPom) and its defense (No. 214). However, there was hope for the future with Yogi Ferrell deciding to come back for his senior season and the arrival of five-star freshman big man Thomas Bryant and his 7'5 wingspan.
So far, it hasn't translated.
Indiana's defense is still miserable. It looks like the players have no idea whether they're supposed to be running zone or man. Regardless of which style they're attempting to play, the result is often the same.
Indiana's zone left Duke's three-point shooters wide open all night. The Hoosiers' perimeter defenders simply looked lost on who actually responsible for challenging shots:
Indiana's man defense is just as bad. Want two points on the Hoosiers? Just put 'em in a high ball screen. Our guy over here looked like he was trying out for Footloose while attempting to recover on Brandon Ingram:
Indiana was even screened by its own players:
Just trash all the way around. And you know what? It's a pretty big bummer.
Yes, everyone likes trying to get off their Tom Crean jokes, but this IU could be really fun to watch. There's shooters everywhere. Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. are one of the best (offensive) backcourts in the country. Bryant can finish at the rim and has a better face-up jumper than anyone anticipated.
And the ball movement!
When the Hoosiers get going, it's great theater. While everyone associates college basketball with a crawling pace and an inability to hit jumpers, Indiana can actually get up and down and rain threes. But if the defense doesn't get it together, that hyper-efficient and entertaining offense will be wasted once again.
College basketball needs this particular Indiana team to be good. Please don't blow this, Hoosiers.
Ben Simmons takes over
43 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocks on 15-of-20 shooting from the floor and 13-of-15 from the free throw line. Have a game, Ben Simmons:
Ben Simmons is the only major conference player in the last 20 seasons with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists & 5 steals in a game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 3, 2015
LSU needed this in the worst way. The Tigers actually trailed North Florida by eight at halftime because the Ospreys were shooting the lights out. There was only one problem: North Florida, which started four guards, only played two "big men," both of whom were under 6'9.
Ben Simmons is 6'10, 235 pounds and blazing fast. This was a mismatch from the start.
Look at this shot chart:
You notice everything is at the rim. Great, the man knows his limitations, but his sub-Tony Allen level shooting ability has to be a worry for NBA teams. Entering the night, Simmons was 1-of-12 from outside of five feet.
The common refrain from major college hoops commentators around Simmons is that he needs to be more selfish -- look for his own offense instead of deferring to his teammates. Well, there's one problem with that: teams are playing so far off him to deny the drive because they know he can't shoot.
Ben Simmons doesn't need to be more selfish. He needs a jumper. It's foolish to think he can build one from scratch this season, but the kid is only 19 years old. He has a long and bright future ahead of him. But somewhere down the line, yeah, he's going to have to be able to score outside of the paint.
Oh yeah, one other thing:
Pete Maravich is a legend
Someone points out to me - Ben Simmons amazing 43 points is actually less than what Pistol Pete AVERAGED at #LSU, with no 3-point line.— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) December 3, 2015
I felt like it deserved its own subhead.
Kris Dunn uncorks a triple-double
Lost in the shear absurdity of that Ben Simmons stat line: hey, the only guy we ranked ahead of him in our preseason top 100 list played pretty well, too.
Noted "Friends" superfan Kris Dunn dropped 16 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and three steals in Providence's win over Hartford. And after finishing four straight games with four fouls, he only picked one on Wednesday.
That's good news. because as talented as Ben Bentil is (and he scored 21 against Hartford), Providence goes with Dunn this year.
Roosevelt Jones gives Butler the win at the buzzer
Butler-Cincinnati is one of those games you watch in early December because you know one of these teams is going to be around late in March. The Bulldogs took this one thanks to the late game heroics of Roosevelt Jones, who has mastered the "old man game" at the tender age of 22. If only we could all be so lucky.