Indiana 19-20 Season Preview

Well huh.

KenPom Preseason Ranking

I have to admit, when a team loses its best two players and doesn't return a ton of freshmen minutes, I don't immediately think a 20-rank jump is in order. Sometimes it happens because of some stark underperformance that presumably will regress back toward the mean, but there are not a lot of candidates for that, either. Really, with only a couple possible exceptions, the Hoosiers last year were Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan, and not much else. Now, that tandem is as talented as any in the Big Ten, and normally would be a great core around which to deploy capable role players.

But both Morgan and Langford struggled with their outside shooting last year (21% and 32% from 3, respectively, in Big Ten play), and the only legitimate outside threats on the team were Devonte Green (39%) and Aljami Durham (36%). Indeed, this was the worst outside shooting team in the Big Ten, and it wasn't close (27.5% in Big Ten play). This led to a lot of "pack it in" defenses that dared IU to take outside shots while they focused efforts on denying attempts in the paint.

Hi-Lo is hard when the High isn't a threat to score. 

OK, De'Ron Davis is a center, maybe that's a little unfair, even by today's 3-happy standards. OK, what about wing Justin Smith?

The defense doesn't care that Smith flashed out to the 3-point line for a wide-open shot, nor does Smith make it regret that decision. Finally, you had players like Zach McRoberts and Evan Fitzner who missed virtually everything they attempted from range, and teams knew they had no ability to score whatsoever. They became invisible.

When there's only one legitimate outside threat on the floor at a time, an offense needs to find other means by which to get the defense moving. But much of the time, Indiana's offense looked like a talent show, with one guy trying to perform in front of an audience of his teammates:

Not only does this flex-heavy offense not move all that much, but when there were screens last season, they weren't particularly good.

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So, you have lack of shooters, lack of movement, lack of screening, and what you're left with is a lot of 1-on-1 and YOLOing. I know it's a popular refrain to point to Langford and accuse him of such—and yes, he had his share of moments—but truthfully a lot of Hoosiers got in on the act:

That said, it's not all bad news. The team welcomes Butler transfer Joey Brunk, a 6-11 force inside the paint that shot over 60 percent on his 2s last season. Brunk also excels at getting to the free throw line, though his defense and rebounding are probably not where you want them to be. In a lot of ways, it's hard not to see him as somewhat duplicative of Davis. Both tall, both not exactly rim protectors, both covert a high percentage on 2s but do not look to shoot from the outside. They can get to the line, but are not someone you want to see there with the game in the balance.

Depth is nice, of course, and "getting Davis/Brunk into foul trouble" becomes a useless strategy when IU can simply insert the other's clone. But as marginal gains go, "backup center" (Brunk may start, of course, but I expect a close division of minutes) usually is not the jet fuel you're looking for.

There's also Jerome Hunter, a 4-star recruit in the 2018 class that missed all of last season to an injury. Fully healthy this year, it's of course possible Indiana has star on its hands. He might also be a year or two off from reaching his potential. But I think it would be a little much to place so much improvement expectation on his shoulders, given how little we know about his likely production.

Finally, we have Trayce Jackson-Davis, a top 25ish recruit in the class of 2019. He probably fits in at the 4 with his 6-9 frame. Also "versaitility" is used in his scouting report, it's probably worth noting that he attempted all of three 3-pointers in his final AAU season. Of course, these are kids that improve quickly, but I am guessing the vast majority of his contributions will not come from distance.

Thus, the majority of the impact additions are coming in the frontcourt (Hunter's role is TBD). That's all well and good, but what Indiana really needs are shooters to draw defenses out of the paint and creating spacing for off-ball action.

Where are all those kids shooting all day at their barndoor hoops?