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Indiana men’s basketball roundtable: Nonconference debrief

Going through what we saw from Indiana’s performance in the nonconference slate

NCAA Basketball: Kennesaw State at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana’s nonconference slate is over.

The Hoosiers avoided any disaster losses in the buy games, sometimes by extremely thin margins, but wins are wins. On the other hand, they let games against UConn, Kansas and Auburn slip away. No signature losses but no statement wins either.

Let’s assess all of that:


Who was the Hoosiers’ MVP in the nonconference?

LCN: This one is a bit more out there than those below but hear me out: Trey Galloway. Indiana has had approximately one semi-reliable scorer in the backcourt now that Xavier Johnson is out and it’s been Galloway. He’s had to score almost every point in the backcourt and Indiana lacks a truly disastrous loss thanks to that and his ability to fill in as a facilitator.

Miles: Malik Reneau! I felt Reneau showed promise last year but worried about his transition into the starting lineup. The sophomore’s proving me (and many others) wrong as Indiana’s most consistent player. With a game on the line I want the ball in Malik’s hands.

Colin: Kel’el Ware. It’s hard to imagine preseason when he was still somewhat flying under the radar after a so-so year at Oregon, because he’s fully established himself as one of the most dominant bigs in the conference by now. Not only did this help Indiana win games, but it smoothed the transition away from being a Trayce Jackson-Davis centered team after four years of his presence in the middle.

Did anyone surprise you, one way or another?

LCN: Malik Reneau looks light years better than he did as a freshman and is still growing as a player. He’s gotten stronger to score in the post, gotten better at avoiding foul trouble and there’s still just so much room to grow. Knew he’d be reliable but the ceiling there looks very high. And he’s just a sophomore.

Miles: Gabe Cupps looks more comfortable out there than I expected. Coach Woodson has not been shy to mention that the freshman starting and seeing nearly 25 minutes a night was not planned but I don’t think it’s going all that poorly. He’ll grow as a scorer with time and this early experience should pay off in the coming years. The increase in Anthony Leal minutes has been a pleasant surprise as well.

Colin: I didn’t necessarily predict Anthony Walker to be as stabilizing of a presence on the court as he has been for Indiana this year. He was sort of billed as a replacement for Jordan Geronimo, so I was maybe expecting spot minutes as an interior defender and rebounder, but Walker brings a lot more to the table. His ability to simplify the game and get to the bucket have bailed Indiana out of a lot of stalled possessions and scoring droughts.

Which game would you like to do over again?

LCN: Kansas. Without a doubt. It’s Bill Self, that win would’ve aged like a fine wine and Indiana came extremely close to it but the lack of bench production and key plays down the stretch sealed the Hoosiers’ fate. I’d like Indiana’s chances in a do-over.

Miles: I’m with Luke and would love a do-over versus Kansas. I don’t think replicating Indiana’s production versus the Jayhawks would be too difficult and winning big games in Assembly Hall should be a non-negotiable for this program. If given the chance to make amends on that... we’ve gotta take it.

Colin: I don’t think Indiana is 30 points worse than Auburn, so I’d like another shot at them fully healthy. Really any of the three losses would make good rematches, in my opinion, with the way this Indiana team has been improving as the season goes on. Mgbako is now up to eight straight games of scoring 10 or more points, it would be cool to see Indiana take on UConn again with him developed as a scoring threat and people understanding their roles a little better.

Which game impressed you the most?

LCN: Maryland. Regardless of its record that’s a league opponent that Indiana thoroughly outclassed for forty minutes despite having many of the same issues when it comes to lineups and outside shooting. Indiana never lost control, the slip at the end didn’t really matter.

Miles: Going with the only time I’ve watched Indiana in-person this year: at Michigan. A typical Big Ten weeknight rock fight, I was impressed by the Hoosiers proving they could win a close game. Woody subbing Mgbako in for those free throws down the stretch clearly boosted the freshman’s confidence; he’s been great over the last month.

Colin: Either Big Ten win would be tempting, but I think there’s a good chance both Maryland and Michigan struggle this year so I’m gonna get a little funky here and say the Kennesaw State game. Even with a more experienced roster last year, the Hoosiers couldn’t put away Kennesaw State like they did this year, and, like I wrote after that one, it was a battle. Seeing Indiana take some adversity and still regain control of a game is not something I’m used to seeing of late. Though they also fought very hard in the Kansas game.

What needs to improve in Big Ten play?

LCN: Indiana will be fine defending the paint. Kel’el Ware gives dudes something to think about, just keep the perimeter locked down and don’t let teams beat you with open shots. That won’t happen knowing how the Big Ten likes to play, but teams like Iowa can and will capitalize on those chances.

Miles:

Colin: Perimeter defense would seem to be the most obvious point, but this is the Big Ten at the end of the day. With the conference seeming to have a down year, I think Indiana will be fine if they can just reel in the 3-point defense a little bit and establish more of an identity as a team. With all the new pieces on the roster this year, there have been moments on both ends of the floor where it didn’t appear as though everyone knew what they needed to be doing. Tighten that up, lean on this team’s strengths, and defend a little better from 3 and I think we’ll be happy by the end of the year.

You can add one player from the past to Indiana’s current roster, who is it?

LCN: A versatile scoring guard. Frankly, another year of Jalen Hood-Schifino would be swell. Jordan Hulls would be the reliable 3-point shooter Indiana needs right now, so probably one of those two.

Miles: Devonte Green. Long live the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Colin: Gotta go with a guard here who can shoot from outside, so any of Yogi Ferrell, Rob Johnson, or even somebody like Nick Zeisloft would be a huge boost to this team. I think the least disruptive would be to add Rob Johnson or Devonte Green into the shooting guard slot to continue letting Xavier Johnson and Gabe Cupps run the team.