What Went Wrong in Indiana's Monumental NCAA Tournament Loss to Syracuse?

By Eric Smith

It was a monumental letdown for the Indiana Hoosiers. Their season ended late Thursday night in a collapse that will rank up there with the best of them in all of sports. How on earth does a team with so much talent lose to a much lesser Syracuse Orange team in the Sweet 16?

Many will try and explain that it was Syracuse’s zone that gave Indiana havoc. That’s partly true because they did play a zone but it was Indiana that made it cause them trouble. It had nothing to do with Syracuse.

The Hoosiers just flat out missed open shot after open shot. They decided to hold the ball or dribble with no purpose on the top of the key instead of moving it around quickly hitting everyone and forcing the defense to shift. Chalk nearly all 18 turnovers as the result of not moving the ball around until the shot clock was running out.

Syracuse scored 13 points off of those 18 turnovers. After looking back at the game 13 of the 18 turnovers were unforced errors where Indiana players just flat out threw it to the guys in the Orange jerseys. Take those unforced errors out and factor in Indiana only shot 62-percent from the line and which resulted in nine missed free throws and they’d win just off those two mistakes alone.

Indiana was among the best free throw shooting teams in the country. If they’d shot near their season average they’d have six points back on the scoreboard. Take the 13 unforced errors out and eight points off Syracuse’s scoreboard due to that and you have an ugly Indiana 57-53 victory. That’s without Indiana even scoring on those possession where they had unforced errors.

What on earth did head coach Tom Crean have his players work on since Sunday? He said at halftime to CBS that it took his team most of the half to figure out how to play against Syracuse’s zone.


Isn’t that what you’re supposed to work on in the days leading up to the game? How was there no game plan on how to beat the zone? It’s not like it was the first time this coaching staff or players have seen a zone.

Indiana shot 53-percent during the regular season against the 2-3 zone. They shot 33-percent on Thursday night with 20-percent from behind the arc. Don’t give Syracuse credit on that either it was an IU issue.

With all of that being said what was coach Crean doing this past week? It’s not like it was a huge super secret Syracuse was going to play a 2-3 zone. They literally run one defense. That’s it.

To beat the zone defense, you flash a guy in the high post and move the ball around quickly. Syracuse can’t defend every area of the floor. There’s open holes or pockets they won’t extend to. To use a phrase from football you just throw the ball to the open areas. Instead, Indiana chose to play in the areas Syracuse was standing in. Why on earth would you do that?

That lack of intelligence on Indiana’s team to not know how to beat a zone shows there was no preparation what so ever.

Guards salivate at the mouth when they face an opponent that plays a 2-3 zone. It sets up wide open threes. The Hoosiers had three guys rank in the top 100 nationally for three point percentage and ranked third nationally as a team.

Indiana’s backcourt was outscored 38-2 Thursday night.

Only Sophomore guard Remy Abell was able to score a basket as he hit and layup in the first half. Jordan Hulls was an embarrassing 0-for-6 and freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell was 0-for-2 with four crucial turnovers.

Great effort boys. Way to show up when it matters.

Championship teams have guys that pick up the slack when their teammates are struggling. Indiana has the deepest/most talented bench in the nation to go along with two All-American’s I didn’t mention and Christian Watford.

Cody Zeller was about as soft as they come by in going 3-for-11, Watford was a dismal 4-for-11 and Will Sheehey off the bench was 3-for-9. Victor Oladipo was the only guy showing effort out there.

This was by far Indiana’s worst performance of the season and Syracuse could only beat them by 11.

Indiana just flat out choked and it’s time to hit the panic button on coach Crean.

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