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Indiana University

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vs. Nicholls State
When: 7 p.m. today
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM; 102.9 FM

Basic concepts eluding young Indiana squad

Indiana is working hard to stay within itself, coach Tom Crean said Thursday.

By that, he means this team isn’t ready to go in-depth with game planning yet, regardless of the opponent. The Hoosiers (8-3) still have too much to learn about themselves.

“The most important thing in any situation is the concept part of it, and we’ve got to continue to refine the concepts,” Crean said. “You get good enough at your concepts, and then you can game plan – and we’re not good enough at our concepts yet.

“It’s not second nature yet.”

It needs to become second nature quickly for an IU team that has eight underclassmen averaging more than eight minutes and just one upperclassman starter in senior forward Will Sheehey.

That’s why games against teams such as Nicholls State could be valuable, despite the team not being perceived as a quality opponent.

The Colonels (3-5) have won three of their last four but are one of the worst teams in the Division I statistically.

Analyst Ken Pomeroy, one of the first to implement tempo-free statistics in basketball analysis, has Nicholls State as 326th out of 351 teams in overall efficiency.

Today’s 7 p.m. game should be a cakewalk for IU, but it should also be valuable for a team that is short on experience and on a steep learning curve.

“The biggest thing is just establishing more and more what our style of play is and where we want to take it to,” Crean said. “Learning from the most recent game of Notre Dame, learning from some of the past five games or so, the pluses and the minuses of those games, and then just locking into our improvement.”

The Hoosiers can afford to do that against Nicholls State and Kennesaw State, which comes to Bloomington on Sunday with an even worse statistical background than the Colonels. The Owls (3-9) are 338th in Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings.

After a 79-72 loss to Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday, IU has focused on getting back to the basics within the offense. Too often against the Irish, Crean said, IU was stagnant and got lost in the moment.

“We’ve got to keep playing every game the same way,” he said. “Every game is different, but you’ve got to go with the same mindset of attack, and I thought we let our guard down a little bit.”

That resulted in a missed opportunity for the Hoosiers, whose best nonconference win has come against Washington on Nov. 21.

The chance for an NCAA tournament résumé builder before the Big Ten schedule is gone, but the opportunity to tune up for the conference schedule remains as the Hoosiers define who they are.

“It’s nothing that’s extravagant. It’s not about adding 50 new, wild plays. It’s simple basketball: let’s get it inside, let’s get it reversed, let’s get it driven – you know, the old analogy of swing, swing, drive it. That’s what you have to have,” Crean said. “There’s some proven things that we’ve proven we can win with if we can do that. It’s my job to make sure we do that.”