It seems like it may be difficult to keep expectations in check with this year’s Indiana team. We’ll know more by next Friday, but tonight’s 52-point victory nearly doubled the 29-point win Kenpom projected, so it’s safe to say they’re outperforming even objective expectations at this point.
After a bit of a slower start over the first five minutes, when Hoosiers allowed the Wildcats to go on an 10-2 run to erase Indiana’s opening seven point lead, Mike Woodson pulled most of the starters and got the spark he needed to put the game out of reach. After eight minutes in the second half, he was able to pull Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson for the rest of the game.
Tonight’s game was never going to be a close one, but there was a lot to get excited about from Indiana’s performance tonight. It wasn’t perfect by any means and that’s why it’s so comforting that Indiana managed to win so easily. It wasn’t even five years ago that they were losing to Fort Wayne in Assembly Hall.
Here’s Three Things:
At the first timeout, when he needed energy, Woodson went with Trey Galloway, Jordan Geronimo, Malik Reneau, and Tamar Bates off the bench with Xavier Johnson remaining in from the starting group. If last year is any indication, this could be the nine we see the most throughout the year.
Looking at the overall minutes distribution from last year, only seven players got more than fifteen minutes per game, with Phinisee and Galloway coming off the bench the most for Miller Kopp and Parker Stewart. Tamar Bates and Jordan Geronimo were the next two players off the bench, with 14.5 and 12.6 minutes respectively, including some key minutes in conference games when the starters were in foul trouble.
Considering the talent infusion and progression of the existing roster, it would not surprise me if we see all nine of the players from these first two rotations play between 15-20 minutes a game. Reneau and Geronimo are each versatile enough to guard the 3-5 spots while Bates and Galloway have the ability to drive and create offense (and maybe shoot?) from anywhere on the floor.
Everything about this game should be taken with a grain of salt considering the level of competition. That said, Indiana did just about everything you could ask of it on the defensive side of the ball tonight.
After that brief run that the Wildcats had to make it 14-12 Indiana with 14:45 remaining in the first half, the Hoosiers clamped down on defense. Bethune-Cookman didn’t score again until the 6:36 mark in the half, by which point Indiana had opened up a 291-4 lead.
For a team whose biggest concerns are on the offensive side of the ball, it’s great to see the defense remain elite and provide the energy that Indiana needed to pull away tonight. 101 point performances on offense are hard to come by, but this kind of defensive performance has become the backbone of Mike Woodson’s teams at Indiana, and it’s only improving the further we get from the days of the packline.
As I predicted, Indiana got to empty the bench tonight with walk ons like Nathan Childress finding the stat sheet with an assist. No matter how much these guys play for the rest of the year, one thing is clear: this Indiana team is deeper than it’s been in years.
Four players had double digit scoring nights, and the point guard duo of Hood-Schifino and Johnson combined for 15 points and 14 assists. Trayce led the way with 21 points, but the Hoosiers managed to dominate tonight without any dominant performances from the individual stars on this team.
Along with the defense, this is the best reason to be excited about this Indiana team. Johnson and Hood-Schifino will have better shooting nights than they had tonight. And yet we learned that Geronimo, Reneau, and Galloway are capable of stepping up and hitting shots from deep when needed.
Not to mention Miller Kopp’s continued consistency from deep, which minimizes the need for all of this depth in the first place.
Mike Woodson is going to have options this year. Teams are going to have a really tough time finding ways to guard Race and Trayce, as they always have, so throwing a guy like Reneau in the mix can really be a back breaker for opponents in close games.
The same goes for whichever of the two point point guards gets matched up with the opposing team’s starting shooting guard. And imagine an average Big Ten backup guarding Tamar Bates when he’s playing at his best.
For the first time in a while, Indiana has a team that can beat teams in a number of ways.