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Hoosiers in Canada: Ottowaaaaaah Observations

If Indiana plays a basketball game in Canada and loses, with no television or radio broadcast ... did it actually happen?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Before we delve into the Hoosiers Canada trip, I do want to point out that I TRIED TO WARN Y'ALL.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>And as a courtesy heads-up: they’re gonna lose one or two of these games. There’s good competition up there. <a href="">#iubb</a></p>&mdash; Kick Sewly (@KickSewly) <a href="">August 7, 2014</a></blockquote>

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That said, here's what is important about going on an international trip as a collegiate basketball team:

  • Ten extra days of practice other non-globetrotting schools don't get.
  • An opportunity to get game experience against a team that isn't composed of your own teammates.
  • A chance to develop chemistry on and off the court as the entire roster takes in a foreign country for the first time, together.
  • Staying healthy.
  • Getting better.

Here's what isn't important about going on an international trip:

  • The results of the games played.
IU's 40 point victory over Laval University has the same amount of meaning as IU's eight point loss to Ottawa this afternoon: neither result will be factoring into the Hoosiers' postseason résumé and both gave IU the opportunity to play together. In an earlier discussion on Ben's primer, I commented that I wouldn't care if the Hoosiers got beat by Canada's worst high school team on this trip, because the results are irrelevant, and I stand by that. It's the experience of these games, win or lose, that will (hopefully) pay dividends when the games actually count.

A dividend, I'll note, that is worth about a two-win improvement over the previous season. That said, IU changed up a lot more variables in the program outside the foreign trip, so you'd hope that two-win improvement comes on top of a multi-win improvement from the other changes. I don't know about you, but a 19-13 season isn't something I'd really look forward to, though that would have moved Indiana squarely into the bubble discussion last season; and I mean the NCAA Tournament bubble, not the NIT bubble.

The other problem is that we can't see these games for ourselves. They're not on TV, they're not on the radio; hell, the box scores they provide to the reporters aren't even completely right. Unless you're following the usual crowd of excellent IU reporters who are actually on the scene, you'd have no way of knowing there was even basketball being played. That said:

Kick's Observations of Other People's Observations:

  • Don't get too excited / upset about either point totals, as the games are divided into twelve-minute quarters with a 24 second shot clock. This will, of course, inflate the possession numbers and lead to some pretty high scoring totals. Everyone wants to point to the high scoring as a sign of great offense and no defense, but the point-scoring environment is so much more different than the drunken knife fights of the Big Ten season, comparing the two isn't going to yield anything reliable.
  • This roster should be able to score in more diverse ways. Whereas last year's much-maligned offense boiled down to a whole of dribbling before either Yogi bailed us out or someone else bricked a jumper / turned it over. The limited highlights available have shown me a team with a lot more confidence in themselves and others, and when guys start to know and trust one another, that will improve the ball movement, which will beget crisper offensive sets, which usually leads to more points. A team that lacked shooters last season now has them in spades, and while questions remain about the sufficiency of the post game, the new talent in the backcourt combined with the growth on the wings may allow the Hoosiers to not have to lean on the post to put points up.
  • Troy Williams is huge. Not only is he more physically imposing after apparently spending the entire offseason in the weight room, but myself and others believe that a lot of this year's success will likely be tied to his improvement. If he can harness his world-class athleticism, play under control, and hit a midrange jumper, he'll be in line for a ridiculous year. Through two games in Canada, Troy has made 21 of 29 shots and has pulled down several offensive rebounds. That kind of offensive efficiency to complement IU's vast array of shooters would win a lot of games, if he can replicate something close to it against Big Ten competition.
  • Stanford Robinson is gonna shoot righty now, I guess. Reporters at the game tweeted that The Tree uncorked a handful of right-handed jumpers, including a made three-pointer. It's good to see Stan working on his jumper, which was a liability for an otherwise incredibly talented scorer last season.
  • Indiana fans are hella passionate. It's frustrating, at times, to read the #iubb tag, particularly when things aren't going well. Today was, certainly, one of those days, as IU fans across the world weighed in on a variety of loss-related topics, such as: what this means for Crean's future, how Troy Williams being excited about his excellent individual performance in a preseason loss reflects a culture problem with the program, and a fair share of fans who are, straight-up, writing off this iteration of the Indiana Hoosiers as a failure, after two preseason games in Canada. You can say a lot about IU fans, but many stayed glued to Twitter on a Sunday afternoon as their only means of knowing how today's game went, and with passion comes a #HotSprotsTake or two.
IU takes on Carleton College tomorrow, the school that quasi-famously defeated Wisconsin and had Syracuse on the ropes last season. Regardless of the result, Indiana will have 48 more competitive minutes to get familiar and confident with one another, as they build towards bigger and better goals. Wins are, obviously, more fun, but staying healthy and staying focused on getting better are the most important goals for the remainder of the trip.