Indiana is set to welcome Army to Assembly Hall this Sunday.
Coming off of a weird, too-close-for-comfort season opening win over Florida Gulf Coast, there’s a lot that fans wanna see out of this group. Namely a better grasp of Woodson’s defensive system and more offensive output.
Army is... not that good. The Black Knights are in year one of a building program led by former Butler assistant Kevin Kuwik. They’re coming off of two losses, one to Marist and another to Stonehill.
Stonehill is a Northeastern Conference school that comes in at No. 343 in KenPom. Army checks in at No. 339. They are, by some distance, Indiana’s lowest ranked opponent of the entire season.
If things go as planned there’s gonna be time to give the bench guys some run. Here’s three things to watch.
The Second Unit
I’d expect Indiana to roll out the same starting five they have been on Sunday. If they’re overwhelming Army with that talent, it opens an opportunity for the bench to see extended minutes.
If anything was missed from that FGCU game, I’d say it was Woodson leaving that lineup on the floor despite the miscues. Which was a smarter move than you’d think it was at the time.
Indiana had the ability to put a lineup on the floor to lock in and win the game and Woodson knew that. The second unit spent so much time on the floor because, frankly, it needs those minutes to be able to Figure It Out.
Their play was full of teachable moments that’ll come up in film review. Would rather have that happen early on than go through the season without that.
All that being said, it’d be ideal for Indiana if its bench shows something against the Black Knights. Some defensive progress from Kaleb Banks as he gets up to speed, veteran plays from Anthony Walker or a big night on offense from C.J. Gunn would do wonders for their confidence moving forward.
Additional progress from Mgbako
Mgbako didn’t exactly set the stat sheet on fire against Florida Gulf Coast, finishing with 4 points, three rebounds and one assist in 18 minutes of play.
With the Eagles playing a younger lineup centered around shooting 3-pointers, it was interesting to see how Mgbako would fit into the picture. He’s a bit tall for a three at 6-8, so he could see more time at the four as the season goes on.
I’m of the belief that Indiana’s current starting lineup is meant to maximize the talent present in the frontcourt. Mgbako, Malik Reneau and Kel’el Ware give Indiana two five-stars and a four-star all on the court at the same time.
The upside Mgbako brings is obvious, he’s an elite shot-maker who can put the ball in the hoop off the catch and the dribble. That gives Indiana an ace in play design that the Hoosiers haven’t had in a while, let along under Mike Woodson.
It’s probably fair to chalk that first game up to the first action of the season against a weird matchup for him. That gives Indiana an ace in play design that the Hoosiers haven’t had in a while, let along under Mike Woodson.
It’s probably fair to chalk that up to first game nerves, a weird matchup and an offense still trying to figure itself out. When Mgbako was on the floor, he always provided high-motor play and didn’t take any minutes off.
It’ll be interesting to see what he’s able to do at the three with the starters or maybe at power forward in other lineups. If one of Reneau or Ware is facing a double team down low they have a kick-out option from the arc or, if the space is there, a cutter to the rim.
The Half Court Offense
Indiana mostly thrived on pushing the ball down the court and scoring on the break during its two exhibitions. Which makes sense, UIndy and Marian don’t exactly have the type of dudes who can keep up with it.
That wasn’t necessarily the case with Florida Gulf Coast, a mostly smaller lineup that had enough speed to keep up with Indiana. When it ran the break, the execution wasn’t always there.
Indiana’s going to need to improve in the half court this year, something they haven’t had to worry about much for the past few years with Trayce Jackson-Davis lurking down low. Reneau is the closest thing they have to a go-to guy in the post while Ware has potential in the pick and roll.
Would love to see more sets that get Mgbako open from the perimeter, we saw a few in the exhibition matchups but it wasn’t present against Florida Gulf Coast. With an experienced point guard like Xavier Johnson, Indiana should feel more confident in its ability to operate in the half court.