Easy improvements for top teams
On-court fixes Indiana, Louisville and other March favorites must make
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?
To read how five March Madness contenders can quickly improve, you must be an ESPN Insider.
Insider CBB content
• Greenberg/Telep: Kansas Jayhawks
• Greenberg/Finkelstein: Marquette
• Gasaway/Rankin: Indiana Hoosiers
• Gasaway/Rankin: Michigan Wolverines
• Gasaway/Rankin: Ohio State Buckeyes
• Greenberg/Finkelstein: Memphis Tigers
• Gasaway/Rankin: Florida Gators
• Greenberg/Telep: Kentucky Wildcats
• Gasaway/Finkelstein: Louisville Cardinals
• Gasaway/Finkelstein: Syracuse Orange
• Greenberg/Biancardi: NC State Wolfpack
• Biancardi/Gasaway: Duke Blue Devils
• Biancardi/Gasaway: North Carolina Tar Heels
• Biancardi/Gasaway: Arizona Wildcats
• Greenberg/Telep: UCLA Bruins
• Gasaway: Breakout second-year coaches
• Lunardi: Could Louisville repeat as champs?
• Greenberg: UVA tops list of surprise teams
• Fraschilla: How returning stars can improve
• Gasaway: Top title challengers to Kentucky
• Lunardi: Who will earn No. 1 seeds in 2014?
• Telep: Latest on No. 13 junior Theo Pinson
• Rankin: What Wiggins means for Kansas
• Biancardi: KU to prep Wiggins for NBA success
• Telep: Updated look at top recruits
• Roundtable: Most impressive on AAU circuit?
• Ford: NBA draft lottery preview
• Ford: Winners from the NBA draft combine
• Fraschilla: Burke the draft's top point guard?
• Ford: Measurements concern some GMs
• Ford: Why Wiggins would go No. 1 in 2013
Jay Bilas Blog
Jay's take on latest from around the nation
Analysis from Fraschilla, Greenberg and Lunardi
Get news and rumblings before anyone
Hollinger's College PER
College basketball's top players
Get wagering advice for every game