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Friday, December 16, 2011
Hoosiers improved offense fuels revival

By Evan Kaplan


AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Christian Watford and the Hoosiers celebrate their upset win over against Kentucky last weekend.
Christian Watford's buzzer-beating, game-winning three-pointer to upset the Kentucky Wildcats last weekend may have shocked the college basketball world, but it was hardly a surprise for coach Tom Crean and his Indiana Hoosiers. Watford and his teammates have been making those shots all season long.

On the heels of their dramatic win over Kentucky last Saturday, the Hoosiers are 9-0 and off to their best start since the 1989-90 season, when they started 10-0. Through Indiana’s first nine games this season, the team’s biggest improvement has come on the offensive end.

One of the keys to their success this season is the Hoosiers’ impressive three-point shooting. Indiana’s field goal percentage from beyond the arc has increased from 35 percent last season (165th in Division I) to 46 percent, which ranks second nationally behind Creighton.

Largely due to its improvement from three-point range, Indiana has been outstanding on catch-and-shoot plays this season. The Hoosiers are shooting 76 percent and averaging 1.26 points per play in their catch-and-shoot offense, both first in the Big Ten.

Indiana has shot at least 50 percent on catch-and-shoot plays in four games this season. Its best performance was in the season-opening win over the Stony Brook Seawolves, when the Hoosiers shot an impressive 11-of-16, including 7-of-11 from three-point range.

Playing at a faster pace has allowed Indiana to excel from three-point range not only in the half court, but in transition as well. The Hoosiers have upped their pace from 66 possessions per 40 minutes last season to 71 this year, second in the Big Ten.

The Hoosiers this season have already made 11 threes in transition and are on pace to make 37, compared to just 20 for all of 2010-11. Indiana is shooting 50 percent from three-point range in transition, ranking second among current ESPN/USA Today Top 25 teams.

The Hoosiers have played just two Power Six conference teams in their first nine games, but have been outstanding in transition during those games. In two games versus the North Carolina State Wolfpack and Kentucky, Indiana shot 67 percent in transition and was 5-for-8 on transition three-pointers.

The unquestioned offensive leader for Indiana this season has been freshman Cody Zeller. He not only leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks, but has been a key component of Indiana’s strong transition offense. Zeller has made all nine of his field goals in transition, and he ranks sixth in the nation at 1.91 points per play.

Although it has only been nine games, Indiana’s fast start has given Hoosier fans cause for optimism. The schedule will only get tougher, starting with a matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish tomorrow.

The Irish are off to a 7-4 start this season, but have struggled in their three games against Power Six conference teams. Notre Dame is 0-3 in those games and has allowed its opponents to shoot 51 percent from three-point range.

The Fighting Irish are also allowing 1.5 points per play on the catch-and-shoot in their three Power Six conference losses, which could be a recipe for disaster against an Indiana team that is excelling from long distance this season.