Indiana takes on the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats Thursday night in Assembly Hall in what will be the first glimpse at the #13 Hoosiers for those of us who cannot afford Big Ten Plus. Unfortunately, the NIL rules were not around for me to cash in on my club lacrosse, so I am among the masses who have missed both exhibition games and Monday’s season opener.
The Wildcats also opened their season Monday night with a road game in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes handled them easily, winning by a score of 89-56, which is about what Kenpom expects Thursday’s matchup to look like.
Entering the game, Bethune-Cookman comes in as the 309th ranked team in Kenpom, while Indiana currently sits at nine. If all goes according to plan, the Hoosiers should find minutes for everyone on the bench, as they did on Monday.
Computer rankings aside, let’s take a deeper look at what Indiana will be seeing Thursday night.
In its matchup with Iowa, Bethune-Cookman relied most heavily on five core players, most of whom have been playing college basketball. Guards Kevin Davis and Marcus Garrett are both seniors, as is starting center Dylan Robertson, while the third guard in the rotation, Kevin Davis, is a junior.
The only other player who saw more than 20 minutes in the game was Zion Harmon, who transferred to Bethune-Cookman after a stint at Western Kentucky his first year in college. Despite being a four-star recruit, Harmon didn’t play for Western Kentucky and has freshman eligibility for the Wildcats.
Harmon, Garrett, and Robertson all scored in the double digits for the Wildcats in their matchup with Iowa, finishing with 15, 13, and 11 respectively. Harmon was the only player on the roster to make multiple threes, as the team shot just 5 of 16 from deep combined.
The other player who stands out on the roster is freshman Lukas Gudavicius, a 6’10” guard from Lithuania. He grabbed six boards, scored five points, and recorded a steal in 17 minutes against Iowa.
Fun fact, Marcus Garrett, the Wildcats’s senior guard is the grandson of Indiana legend Bill Garrett, who was the first black player to play for Indiana University in 1947. He was the only black player in the Big Ten for his entire four year at Indiana and became the first black player to start for any team in the conference. When the Boston Celtics selected him in 1950, he became the first black player to be drafted to the NBA.
Bill’s son, Bill Jr. is also an assistant coach for Bethune-Cookman, making this the second time this season Indiana has brought in an opponent with significant connections to the program for a game. In case you missed it, Damon Bailey was in the building last week for Indiana’s exhibition game against Saint Francis.
Every game can’t be Indiana versus Kentucky, especially when the tournament committee seems so focused on the 20 win mark on Selection Sunday. It’s cool that Mike Woodson is finding ways to make these games meaningful for fans and former members of the program and generally fits with the way he is keeping Indiana’s historic past relevant into the future.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, this should be another opportunity for the guys on the bench to show something early on in the season. Woodson is likely to shorten the bench in Indiana’s third game against Xavier, so it could be a bit before some of these guys see minutes again.
Miller Kopp did what he needed to do to keep his spot in the starting lineup Monday, knocking down both of his three point attempts. Still, it stands to reason that somebody could shoot their way into starting minutes if he can’t replicate these performances in the long haul.
Tamar Bates was the only bench player to take more than one three-point attempt Monday, hitting one of his three. Malik Reneau, Jordan Geronimo, and C.J. Gunn attempted just one a piece, and none of that trio saw one go down.
Considering the way Race Thompson even seems to have the green light from deep this year, I think any of those three players could make a case for more regular minutes if they start to take and make some threes, so it’ll be interesting to see how many they attempt on Thursday.