Easy improvements for top teams

On-court fixes Indiana, Louisville and other March favorites must make

Updated: September 4, 2012, 12:31 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Basketball Prospectus
Scott DrewAP Photo/Tony GutierrezScott Drew's Baylor Bears are talented enough to make a run, but they must limit the turnovers.

Think back to a year ago. The Indiana Hoosiers entered 2011-12 coming off a disappointing 12-20 campaign, one in which Tom Crean's team fouled with a regularity that few Division I programs could match.

That was then. You may have noticed IU's outlook has brightened rather dramatically in one year's time. No, Indiana did not improve to 27-9 and make the 2012 Sweet 16 only because it stopped fouling so darn much. Cody Zeller and an offense that caught fire were certainly the largest factors in play there. But yes, the defense really did get better, in part because Crean's team really did stop fouling so darn much. In fact, last season the Hoosiers finished conference play right at the Big Ten average for opponent free throw rate.

I see IU's defensive turnaround as a teachable example for good teams everywhere. So today I want to look at five contenders that can improve their chances in 2012-13 through the simple expedient of attaining average or near-average results in the area where they've previously shown the weakest performance.

Note the emphasis on good teams. Obviously, struggling teams have very large issues to address in their own right. For example, Texas Tech's offense was, goodness knows, far worse than anything that needs "improvement" here. But this is all about teams that could plausibly make deep NCAA tournament runs this season.

With that in mind, here are the performance "must-dos" five contenders are facing as they enter the 2012-13 season:

Indiana: Better ball pressure, more takeaways
I set up this column by praising the "turnaround" that the Hoosiers have already achieved on defense. So why am I pestering Tom Crean with further advice on what needs fixing on D?


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