While I have been engrossed in the football season, it's been easy to lose sight of IU's opening exhibition game on Wednesday night against Grace College. The regular season does not begin until IU hosts Howard on November 13, but it's time to begin digging in and discussing IU's prospects for improvement after the worst season in school history. I'll begin by reprising the 2008-09 performance of IU's returning players, borrowed heavily from my season in review series from the spring.
Verdell Jones III, 6-5 sophomore. Jones played in 28 of IU's 31 games and averaged 29 minutes per game and 11 points per game. He started 25 games, and while some of his teammates were hitting the wall, Jones seemed to come into his own near the end of the season. Early in the season, Jones was involved in one of the scariest moments I can remember: during IU's win over Cornell (IU's lone win over a NCAA Tournament team, for what it's worth) Jones ran into a legal screen set by a Cornell player and was knocked unconscious and carried off the court on a stretcher. Jones missed the next three games and didn't start the next two, but beginning with the Lipscomb game, Jones was in the starting lineup for good. Jones shot around 44 percent from the field and 32 percent from the line, stats that were consistent overall and in conference games only. Jones, forced into the starting point guard position, was barely in the black for the season, with 3.6 assists per game and 3.5 turnovers per game. In Big Ten play, he had 4.3 assists per game and 3.9 turnovers.
- As I noted above, Jones finished strong. He scored a career high 23 against Wisconsin in the season finale and matched in in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Penn State, shooting over 63 percent from the field in each game and 100 percent from three point range.
- Thanks mostly to 10-13 shooting from the line, Jones scored 18 points in his collegiate debut against Northwestern State.
- The aforementioned head injury.
- In a home loss to Northwestern, IU's first such loss in 40 years, Jones scored 6 points on 3-7 from the field and turned the ball over seven times.
The future: as with all of IU's returning players, it is difficult to say what the future holds. While he was a late recruit, he was far from a desperation recruit. Although Illinois did not offer this Champaign native, Minnesota wanted him badly and believed they had him in the bag until his press conference. It's not clear that his future is at point guard, but his resilience, including playing his best games near the end of the season, seems to be a good sign.
Devan Dumes, 6-2 senior. Dumes entered the season as IU's only guard with any Division I experience (Dumes played for a season at Eastern Michigan before transferring to Vincennes JC).. Dumes wasn't a model of efficiency--he shot only 37 percent from the field, although he was a respectable 35 percent from behind the line--but he led IU in scoring with 12.7 points per game. The highlights:
- Dumes had a remarkable game in IU's only Big Ten win of the season, against Iowa. He scored 27 points on 8-9 shooting.
- He scored 26 points on 16 shots in IU's close loss at Northwestern.
- Dumes improved his shooting during the Big Ten season. In conference games only, Dumes shot 41 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the arc, good enough for first in the Big Ten in conference games.
- Dumes's temper got the best of him, infamously, in games against Northwestern and Michigan State. A couple of elbows thrown in the latter game earned him a two game suspension.
- Dumes returned with limited success, and then injured his ankle in the home finale against Michigan State and missed the two final games of the season.
- In his first three games following the suspension, Dumes shot 4-20 from the field.
As with all of the returning Hoosiers, it's not at all clear what Dumes's role will be this season. Given the composition of the roster, IU seems likely to employ a guard-heavy lineup, so there should be ample opportunities for Dumes to get some minutes. On the other hand, much depends on how ready freshmen Maurice Creek and Jordan Hulls are.
Most significantly, Dumes remains IU's most experienced player and will be the only senior receiving significant playing time. He has to get his temper under control and provide a solid example for the new guys. As the numbers above indicate, Dumes is one of the best three point shooters in the conference, but his poor shooting percentage inside the arc drags down his efficiency. Hopefully, more maturity and more support will help that.
Matt Roth, 6-3 sophomore. Roth, the leading three point shooter in Illinois high school history, started only 7 games, but averaged a respectable 21 minutes per game. He averaged 6.7 points per game and broke the double digit barrier only eight times.
Whatever Roth does for the rest of his career, he produced one of the most memorable moments of the 2008-09 season: his 29 point barrage in the home loss to Ohio State, almost entirely a result of 9-11 three point shooting. Overall, Roth shot 37.3 percent from three point range. His shooting was fairly consistent across the season: Roth's three point percentage in Big Ten games only was 38.1, good enough for 4th in the conference. Roth is basically a spot-up shooter who sometimes struggled to get open. His ballhandling numbers, at .5 assists per game and .6 turnovers per game, make clear that he isn't a point guard, but he also didn't do as much damage as many Hoosiers. The most disappointing statistic on Roth resume is his overall shooting percentage of 37.9, 40.7 in Big Ten play. This means that Roth's shooting percentage from inside the arc is barely better than from outside the arc. Obviously, this could be related to shot selection, strength, maturity, you name it, but obviously will have to improve if Roth is going to be more than a role player on future, more talented IU teams. Also, while Roth shot 80 percent from the line, he had only 25 free throw attempts all season. To be fair, 17 of those attempts came in the final 12 games of the season, so for whatever reason, Roth became more effective at getting to the line.
The highlights, in addition to the Ohio State game:
- Roth shot 4-9 from behind the arc against IUPUI in his second college game.
- He was one of the few bright spots in the blowout loss at Wake Forest, scoring 12 points on 4-5 from three.
- In one of IU's more excruciating losses, the road game against Northwestern, Roth shot 4-7 from three point range in only 15 minutes of play.
As for the lowlights, it's hard to pick on a shooter like Roth. Shooters have good days and bad days. Still, the performance that stands out in this regard is his 1-6 three point shooting in the loss to Lipscomb. A better performance on that day might have prevented one of the most embarassing losses in IU history.
Roth strikes me as a player who can be very dangerous on a team with a couple of elite players. Consider 2001-2002. IU's opponents that year had a difficult job, because very few teams had a player good enough to guard Jared Jefferies one-on-one, but double teaming him opened up lots of three point opportunities for Kyle Hornsby, Dane Fife, and Tom Coverdale. Lots of players can hit wide open three pointers, and a very gifted shooter like Roth could do well in that situation.
Daniel Moore, 5-10 sophomore. I'm not going to recap the 2008-09 seasons of IU's multitude of walk-ons. Still, Moore received more playing time than any other walk-on by far, and more than scholarship player Tijan Jobe. Moore was an Indiana All-Star as a high school senior and he entertained low Division I offers (he was headed to Boston University for a basketball scholarship before deciding to walk on at IU). So he isn't a "typical" walk-on. Still, Moore was forced into action far earlier than would have been expected and on a team with little college experience.
Moore's game log shows that as Verdell Jones improved, Moore's playing time waned. Moore started 11 games, but one one during Big Ten play. He averaged 17 minutes per game overall but only 10 per game in Big Ten play. After playing more than 20 minutes in 10 of IU's non-conference games, he did so only twice in Big Ten play. Still, Moore played early because he was the most prepared to play point guard. Other than Verdell Jones (3.6/3.5), he was the only Hoosier to end up in the black on his assist/turnover ratio (2.5/2.1). Unfortunately, Moore brought little to the table as a scorer, and rarely took any shot that wasn't a layup. On average, Moore took 2 shots per game. He shot a respectable 36 percent from behind the arc but only 60 percent from the line. As with so many Hoosiers, it's tough to criticize Moore for any of these "failings." He was forced into a tough situation and was a very reliable player, particularly early in the season when Tom Crean had no one else to rely upon. Moore's career stats will be fairly unusual. He's unlikely to ever again play as much as he did as a freshman. Still, he was a steady hand when needed, and hopefully he will have the chance to contribute on some teams that are better than 6-25.
- Moore scored a season-best 10 points and added 5 assists in IU's Maui win over Chaminade.
- While he scored only 1 point, he had 5 assists and only one turnover in a decently competitive home game against Ohio State.
As inexperienced as IU's 2008-09 team was, IU lost some solid contributors from that team.
Nick Williams scored 8.9 points per game, but scored more than 15 only twice and never broke the 20 point barrier. His 45.6 shooting percentage was fairly good for a guard, but his 21 percent three point shooting calls into question his ultimate ability to be a versatile scoring guard. Also, like all Hoosiers, he turned the ball over too much: 2.2 times per game, which would be okay for a point guard but is more than one might hope for a guard who averages fewer than 1 assist per game. Williams transferred to Mississippi.
Malik Story started 3 games and averaged 5.7 points per game on 37.6 percent shooting. He transferred to Nevada.
Returning frontcourt players tomorrow.