Some great games yesterday and today in NCAA action. I caught the Big Ten matchup between Indiana and Minnesota. Indiana has lost a bunch of games in a row, and they sit at the bottom of the standings but I don't think the numbers tell the whole story. If you watch the Hoosiers play, you see a team that is playing above their potential. We all know that Tom Crean inherited some significant challenges when he came into the job there, but with the way his team competes, especially on the defensive end, you couldn't tell that they are on an 8-game losing streak with only 5 wins all season. They maybe last in the conference, but they don't play like it.

I can always tell when a team is well-coached, well-prepared, and motivated just by watching the way they play defense. Offense is mostly about skill and talent, but your teams defense is a reflection of the character of the team. Are they hard-working? Do they work together as a team? Is each player accountable? That's why I think despite their record, the Hoosiers are playing solid basketball. Here are a few sequences from the second half,

In my opinion, when you have a team that is challenged talent-wise, as the Hoosiers are when more than half the team left after last year, you must play hard defense. Your defense has to lead to your offense. Especially good M2M team defense, it has to be practiced, it's not developed naturally.

Just wanted to highlight a couple of pictures. This first one is just great 1v1 man defense by the Hoosiers. When players know that good individual defense is rewarded with playing time, that reinforces the good habits,

We all teach it, but how many teams do you actually see use it? When the offensive player picks up his dribble, the ball is "dead." That is the most opportune time to crowd the player chest-to-chest and everyone else is in deny. This is not a natural motion, it must be practiced, drilled, and ingrained. All 5 players have to work together,


You look at all the losses by Indiana. Lose by 3 to Minnesota, 6 to Michigan. A few blowouts over 80, but for the most part, the Hoosiers have been competitive. Here are some "numbers" for all the stats people to consider:

• Indiana has outrebounded its first five Big Ten opponents (except Minn 30-29)

• IU ranks dead last in three-point shooting percentage, making just 29.3 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc. Through to Jan. 17, Indiana had made just 20 three-pointers in five outings.

Tom Crean has the Hoosiers playing hard. Will they finish last in the conference? Probably, but as time goes on, they can only get better. And it all starts with their defense.

If you're looking for to boost the competitiveness of your team in practices, take a look at Tom Crean's DVD on Competitive Practice Drills. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.