Coming into the Maui Invitational, the Indiana Hoosiers had high expectations and rightly so coming in off of three large wins at home at Assembly Hall, but things didn't go as many had expected.
The Hoosiers had what was thought to be a favorable matchup against Wake Forest, but that didn't turn out so well as they dropped a tough battle to the Demon Deacons. That put them in the losers bracket putting them against a young St. John's team who the Hoosiers took care of. That placed them in the fifth place game against a good UNLV Runnin' Rebels team that took it to the Hoosiers and Indiana ended the tournament as the sixth place team.
They say you learn a lot about your team early in the season, and it is safe to say the Hoosiers did learn a lot, granted it was maybe not the way they wanted to figure things out.
"These are the types of things you learn from," coach Tom Crean said. "They bank them. They put them together. And it all goes back to how much you want to continue to improve your individual aspects, take responsibility for what you have to get better at and work that much more diligently to make your teammates better."
If there were a few things to point to that sparked the struggles for the Hoosiers, you have to start with turnovers, free throws and their defense as a whole. But, if there is one positive thing to take from this whole experience, it's that it is still November and there is plenty to learn.
"Well, we're six games in, okay, it's the end of November," Crean said. "They've got a lot of improving to do, and I think the confidence will come from the improvement."
The turnovers aren't a new trend with this Hoosiers team as they have been a bit careless with the basketball in their games prior to Maui. Once they got to the island and started playing against quality opponents, things changed a bit and they became a bit more glaring.
Turning the ball over obviously isn't something you want to do, but that segways perfectly into their defense which hasn't been stellar either. In all three games the Hoosiers played, their opponents capitalized off of those turnovers with points and that proved to be a back breaker for this Indiana team.
In addition to those points off of turnovers, the defense down low has been and was another issue once again. Thomas Bryant is just a freshman and they are relying on Bryant to be the rim protector that the Hoosiers have needed, but with him being just a freshman, there is a lot to learn.
"We're playing with three freshmen on the front line," Crean said. "We don't have the front line that we were projected to have. We don't have the front line that we thought we were going to have, so we've got to get that down. They've got to deal with the different coverages that are there and all that different type of stuff."
As for the free throw shooting, that seems like such a simple thing for such a good shooting team like Indiana, but for some reason it has been an issue and quite a costly one with the Hoosiers being in such close contests.
"The free throw shooting was an aberration right now," Crean said. "It's got to get better. It's got to get better. We have guys that are high-level, career free-throw shooters missing free throws during the game. We're not even talking necessarily about the end-of-the-game-type free throws that we had the other day."
When it all comes down to it, Indiana is still loaded with talent and it is so early in the season that there is no doubt that they can recover from their 1-2 trip to Maui.
"This is a test, the eight teams walking out of here, no matter what, in three days are getting tested," Crean said. "Even if the champion tonight blows through it, whoever the champion is, they're still getting tested because you're playing three games in three days against very high level competition."
It may not have been the trip to Maui that the Hoosiers wanted nor expected, but it is still so early and those same expectations that were there at the beginning of the year should have no reason to be adjusted.
They are still loaded with talent and are led by senior point guard Yogi Ferrell, who is a leader for this team that wants and expects the best from this team. Along with Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr., they still have the pieces to compete in the Big Ten.
Now, the Hoosiers will have a few days off before they head back to Bloomington where they will welcome in Alcorn State to Assembly Hall. Following that game, they hit the road as apart of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge that will put them up against Duke at Cameron Indoor.