Indiana lost at Michigan State Sunday, and the murmurs about Tom Crean being overmatched started again. Most of the time, I dismiss those grumblings as being from fans who watch and react with passion to what they see and understand about basketball, which often is not much.
I saw some Tweets about second half adjustments, adjustments that appear to be lacking — so I dug back a couple of years to see how Indiana fares during the first five minutes of the second half as compared to the rest of the game.
Many Indiana fans recall Bob Knight saying the first five minutes of the second half is the most important stretch of the game. They infer that a lack of success during that period equates to Tom Crean being outschemed by his counterparts.
Some rudimentary research that suggested Indiana has indeed had some trouble this season in the first five minutes of the second half. Then I dug into the 2014 and 2015 Big Ten seasons — 49 games should provide an accurate snapshot. The non-conference and postseason games were eliminated from the sample because the opposition is different from year to year, as is the focus of the players.
If one’s going to make a case that Crean’s halftime adjustments cause issues leading to Hoosier losses, two questions need to be answered: Does Indiana fail to compete during that period — are the first five minutes of the second half a reliable indicator of the game’s outcome?
The answers are imperfect, but not entirely unimportant:
Indiana’s record overall in the Big Ten during these three seasons is 26-23, but the record after totaling points scored in the first five minutes of the first half is 16-28-5. When Indiana wins it’s often despite what happens during this period.
The Hoosiers are 10-3 this season and have outscored opponents by an aggregate 17 points during the first five minutes of the game. Indiana has been outscored by a total of three in the first five minutes of the second half. Even with the same players on the court(that’s at least likely for both sides), Indiana is almost two points worse in the first five minutes of the second half that the first five of the first half.
Indiana has not outscored any of their last six opponents in first five of half two (IU tied both Minnesota and Michigan) in 2016 while winning three and losing three games. In that same five-minute chunk, IU outscored opponents in six of their first seven games of the 2016 Big Ten season (all wins).
Interestingly, during the final six games of the last three seasons, Indiana has only outscored their opponents in in that span three times (versus Northwestern in 2014, and Minnesota and Rutgers in 2015). It can be surmised from the previous two bullet points that Crean is out-schemed more often as the season progresses.
Those four points beg the question — how relevant are the first five minutes of the second half? As it turns out, they are pretty damn relevant.
Minus two losses in 2014, Indiana has lost the first five minutes of the second half in every single game they’ve gone on to lose at the buzzer.
In conference games over the past three seasons, when Indiana wins the first five minutes of the second half, the Hoosiers are 14-2. When Indiana loses that period of the game, they are 9-20. During the four games Indiana has tied its opponent, the have won three and lost one.
This season, when Indiana wins or ties the first five minutes of the first half, the Hoosiers are an immaculate 8-0. When that doesn’t happen, they are 2-3.
There is a third question, and that is whether Crean’s schemes are responsible for Indiana failing during that crucial five minutes. Can it be the players, several of whom have been around for a majority (if not all) of the games during this truncated period? Only people in the locker room understand whether it’s players or strategy to blame for the proportionate failures of the Hoosiers to effectively compete during a window when the coach should be able to have a profound effect.
None of this definitively shows anything about Crean or the Hoosiers, but it does validate the suspicion that Indiana has difficulty during the five minutes immediately following halftime adjustments.
Kent Sterling hosts a sports-talk show on CBS Sports 1430 weekdays from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and covers all Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.