My Two Cents: If I Was Coaching This Team With Devonte Green On it ...
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Role reversal is a big part of being an analyst, and it's an easy thing to do with big-time college basketball.
So, if I was coaching Indiana ...
On Thursday night, after the big win against Iowa where senior guard Devonte Green went wild with 27 points, I would have left Assembly Hall with a smile on my face. I would have tipped the support staff on the way out, and jumped in the back seat of my Escalade while my driver got me home. I'm never driving myself after a game; always too distracted, win or lose.
I'd watch a few highlights of the Iowa game on my laptop in the car, get home, kiss the sleeping kids on the forehead and chat with the wife for a few minutes. Then I'd tell her good night and start watching Michigan tape. That's a coaches life, even in fiction.
I'm engaged now, because Devonte Green is engaged. There is newfound hope to a season gone awry after the big win against Iowa. There are seven games left in a regular season that's slipping away from me, and Green at his best is the only guy on my roster who can light up the scoreboard when I need it.
And I need it — NOW! I don't feel like my job is on the line after three lackluster seasons, but I sure feel like my NCAA Tournament bid for this year is.
I need Good Devonte, for all of the last seven regular season games.
So I dive into Michigan tape. Priority No. 1 against them on Sunday is going to be getting Devonte Green hot from the second he walks out on the floor. I know our stuff, our sets, our actions, like the back of my hand. So I watch Michigan, one game, then a second, and then a couple of more, and I sketch out the five best things we can do to make THEM react to US.
Devonte Green is at his best as an open-look, spot-up shooter. I need to get him those open looks — early.
I have the plan, and the five things we can do to get him those open shots when he comes in. I draw it up, sleep for a few hours, and head back to work. We practice it all on Friday, among other things, walk through it again on Saturday, and talk about it on Sunday.
Come game time, we're ready. Devonte is going to go off again, and we're going to find a way to win on the road, something we haven't done very well.
The stage is set. That's planning and preparation. All that awaits is execution.
And now, back to reality
OK, so now it's 1 p.m. Sunday and it's Indiana-Michigan in front of a national television audience. I'm back in my media chair a few rows up in Crisler Arena, and Archie Miller is coaching again, looking stylish in front of the Indiana bench in that plaid sport coat that I need to get.
Indiana plays through the first TV timeout just fine. Al Durham has hit a couple of 3-pointers early and IU actually leads 12-11. Archie and I — two great minds — are thinking alike. Green checks in after the timeout, just four-plus minutes into the game.
In my head, I've played out the scenario above over and over since Thursday night. And now, here we are, ready to watch it play out. To save its season, Indiana needs to get Green off to a good start. Get him good looks, good shots — good MAKES! We've got the actions set, we know how Michigan's defense will react, so let's go do it.
And what happens?
First possession, nothing for Green. Second possession? Nothing either. Third, fourth, or fifth? Nope. On Indiana's eight possessions between the two TV timeouts, Green doesn't get even one look at a shot. (Side point. Indiana's other four players go 0-for-5 on the first five possessions, Michigan scores six straight points and Indiana never leads again.)
Not once does Green even get a shot attempt!
What raises the frustration level
And that, my friends, is what frustrated me the most about this Indiana basketball team right now. All those other numbers, they're just byproducts of a poor execution, or poor planning. The 89-65 final score, another road debacle? Part of it. Hell, even the 1-for-7 shooting line for Green the rest of the way? Byproduct too, in my book.
And here's why. Great shooters need to be fed. They are much like premier running backs in football. You've got to design good stuff for them, give them the ball. That's Green. If Indiana is going to make the NCAA Tournament, they need Green to be an efficient double-figure scorer each night, especially on the road.
How does this happen? Is it coaching? Is it the players? The sets? How do you completely ignore the one guy who could be the difference-maker?
As we've talked about before, you never know what goes on behind closed doors with Indiana's practices. Even though I thought about this with getting Green off to a hot start, who's to say the coaches worked in any sort of attack to get Green involved early? It certainly didn't look it, since there was no effort to get him freed up. None.
That's also Indiana's offense, which oftentimes has no rhyme or reason to it. And if you don't make an effort to get Green going, then we all know what's going to happen to Devonte. He's going to try to find his own stuff, and that never works. His one basket all night — a 3-pointer — came on a set play after a timeout. The rest of the misses were all forced. That's Bad Devonte, but isn't that also on the coaches for not drawing up stuff to get him going?
I wanted to ask Miller about it during his brief seven-minute postgame press conference, but the microphone never got to me. The other questions were about defense and rebounding and effort. Devonte Green's name was not mentioned once. I wanted Miller to, you know, ELABORATE, on whether setting up stuff for Green was an option, but it didn't happen.
Green was not made available after the game, so I guess we'll never know now.
That's an opportunity lost at Ann Arbor. The next chance is Wednesday night, in the 9 p.m. ET late show at The Barn in Minnesota. Indiana, which is now 1-7 on the road in the Big Ten, 6-8 in league play and 16-9 overall, is probably on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament right now.
They'll need a road win to likely seal that invitation to the Big Dance. To do that, they'll need offense. They can win at Minnesota. Hell, Iowa just did this weekend, and we saw all of Iowa's problems in Indiana's win over the Hawkeyes on Thursday.
Maybe get Green going? It's not rocket science, right?
We can dream about it. But can they make it a reality?
Or is this season simply sliding down the rabbit hole?
Related Indiana basketball stories
- GAME STORY: Michigan takes down Indiana in Ann Arbor. CLICK HERE
- TOM BREW COLUMN: Start of a big final run for Devonte Green? CLICK HERE
- TWITTER: Follow Tom Brew on Twitter @tombrewsports
- FACEBOOK: Follow our Indiana page at Facebook.com/SportsIllustratedIndiana
- Indiana 89, Iowa 77: Green's 27 leads Hoosiers past No. 21 Iowa. CLICK HERE
- TOM BREW COLUMN: Accountability a key component of leadership. CLICK HERE