Whether you want to label it irony, coincidence or something else, Indiana’s 59-51 road loss to Northwestern in February, the second defeat in a row in what would become a string of five consecutive losses, was a fitting encapsulation of Northwestern transfer Miller Kopp’s season at Indiana. With five players suspended for the game, including starting guards Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart — losses in personnel that only compounded upon Rob Phinisee’s injury — the Hoosiers started sophomores Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal, and walk-on Nathan Childress was forced into action in the second half.
In Kopp’s return game against the school from where he transferred, he mustered just three points on 1-of-7 shooting for an offensive rating of 57, which was roughly half of the national average last season, per kenpom.com. On Pomeroy’s site, a team’s players are divided into categories based on their respective usage rating on offense: major contributors, significant contributors, role players, limited roles, nearly invisible and benchwarmers.
The only two Hoosiers who fell into the “limited roles” category, meaning players who had a usage rate between 12 and 16 percent, were Kopp and Parker Stewart, the team’s two senior wings who transferred in and earned starting roles last season. Like Pomeroy’s definition of his usage rate, Kopp’s efficiency could also be described as limited. With the national average offensive rating sitting at 102.9, Kopp’s rating finished at 96.5, the third time in four seasons he finished with an offensive rating below 100.
In Big Ten play, Kopp’s offensive rating took a nosedive to 86.9 percent, the second-worst rating on the team among its rotation players, ahead of only freshman Tamar Bates (74.8).
When Indiana coach Mike Woodson was asked late in the season about Kopp and Stewart’s status as starters, he pointed to their seniority, literally.
Asked about Kopp and Stewart yesterday. Here's what Woodson said: "They're seniors. They've been around. I respect that. That's why I start them and I play them. They haven't shot the ball extremely well here of late, but I'm going to keep riding them until they do."— Dustin Dopirak (@DustinDopirak) March 18, 2022
But for the intangibles Kopp (and Stewart) may have provided in terms of experience, Kopp was a roster addition who was billed as a shooter but who had only provided one season of proof. Maybe it’s because he might as well have come out of central casting for “Hoosiers,” and previously playing for Northwestern may have only added to that archetype, but Kopp was a 32-percent 3-point shooter in two of his first three seasons of college basketball and he consistently had a 2-point percentage in the low 40s.
Here are Kopp’s career stats, with advanced stats courtesy of kenpom.com. The shading of 2-point percentage, 3-point percentage and offensive rating are relative to the national average for the 2022 season.
While Kopp’s role — real or perceived — was tied to his shooting ability, he made a 3-pointer in 25 of Indiana’s 35 games and he only made multiple 3-pointers in five games, once going 12 consecutive games in Big Ten play without making more than one 3-pointer in a game.
While in his sophomore season he ranked in the top 10 in Big Ten play with a 39.8 3-point percentage, while also leading the conference in free throw percentage at 88.1 percent, his career 3-point percentage through three seasons at Northwestern was 35.7 percent and that’s roughly the level he shot at last season: 36.1 percent overall and 35.1 percent in Big Ten play.
While the 2020-21 rosters of Georgia and Utah show that the transfer portal can be home to multiple productive players from the same, bad teams, Indiana added the second-leading scorer from the Big Ten’s 12th-place team in 2021 and penciled him into a smaller role. For all that Kopp wasn’t in the 2022 season — he wasn’t a high-usage, high-efficiency or high-scoring player — that’s sort of who he had always been as a player, and then he was asked to fill a more limited role at Indiana.
He scored at least 15 points just 21 times in 87 games at Northwestern. He scored more than 15 points just 16 times.
He did just once in 35 games at Indiana last season, his 28-point outburst in a double-overtime, 112-110 loss at Syracuse, a game in which eight players scored at least 17 points and six scored at least 20.
Kopp falling shy of any preseason expectations arguably falls on Indiana fans and maybe some media members. If there was no one better to unseat Kopp’s role as a permanent starter, then that falls on the coaching staffs and roster-building of Woodson and Archie Miller.
Thanks to the 2020-21 season not counting against college players’ eligibility, Kopp can return to Indiana for his fifth season of college. We, collectively, know who and what Kopp is, and who and what he isn’t.
He’ll make two or three shots per game, on average, and one of them will be a 3-pointer. You’ll probably think his 3-point percentage should be higher, and his 2-point percentage probably won’t be much higher than his 3-point percentage.
Expecting anything more than that falls on the observer, not the subject, and if he’s the best player available for the role he filled last season, that falls on Indiana’s coaches.