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The Long Game - a takeaway from the Marion game


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So many college B-Ball dynamics have changed since I graduated in the early 90s, I wonder sometimes if my perspectives are still accurate.  While far from comprehensive, some of the big changes include:

  1. Roster fluidity stemming from the ease and high frequency of transfers
  2. Pessimistic perspective on "NBA prospects" who stay past sophomore season (and upperclassmen in general)
  3. Impact of NIL on school commitment decisions (along with AAU and shoe affiliations)
  4. Ego-inflating aspect of social media - in the "old days" players dreamed of going pro, now every player is convinced they're NBA bound

My enthusiasm and support for IU Basketball hasn't waned over the years but my expectation for IU performance has become fairly pessimistic (I think I'm a realist).  Is this the year I'll have a reason to become optimistic again? 

Before addressing the takeaway that motivated my first post in quite a while, I'd like to mention a few surface-level thoughts from the Marion exhibition.  Some D2 teams are relatively competitive and some not-so-much.  Marion is a good D2 team, but even if they belonged in the "not-so-much" category, there are elements of the game uncorrelated to the competition (open shooting, communication, cohesiveness, unselfishness, energy/effort, etc.).  I'd argue these intangible elements are of equal importance to raw talent and athleticism, and in my opinion IU's performance was entirely positive.  My thoughts:

  1. Since Jackson-Davis and Bates missed the game, we were given a good look at IU's depth.  Let's pretend for a moment these two stars aren't on the team.  On every level, the IU team on the floor looked capable of making noise in the NCAA tournament, even without TJD and Bates.
  2. Some teams have a bench and some have a SECOND UNIT (the key word is UNIT).  While the difference is tied to familiarity, repetition, buy-in, and cohesiveness, there's a prerequisite needed to transition from a bench -> to a unit.  That component is depth.  I can't remember the last time I've seen an IU team this deep.
  3. In an era of dunks and 3's the mid-range jumper is a lost art.  It's no less important though.  Schifino's mid-range game really caught my attention.  At times his handle made me a bit nervous but I'll chalk it up to nerves at this stage.
  4. IU has reeled in it's share of highly-touted big men over the years but more than a few have been busts.  Before this game, it was hard to get a sense of Reneau, given his late recruitment.  We shouldn't over-react to one game vs. a D2, but all I have to say is wow... just wow.
  5. I think I've underestimated Race Thompson's full skillset over the past few seasons.
  6. IU has the personnel in 22-23 for a potent offense, and the flexibility to focus either inside or outside based on match-ups.  This certainly hasn't been the case for a while.  IU's strength last year was defense, no logical reason to expect a relapse this year.

OK, time to address my post-header.  Over the years I've admired the "over-achieving" teams that Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota have fielded on occasion.  They proved a collection of less heralded 3-Stars could take down teams loaded with stars when the right elements are in place.  I eventually recognized the impact of experienced role players was a large reason for their success - and they weren't "over-achieving".  They were benefiting from contributions made by players who didn't come in B10 ready but developed into B10 players by their junior or senior season. 

Is that still a possibility in the transfer age?  I don't know, but if it is I saw one emerge last year (Galloway) and two more hit the radar in the Marion game.  Duncomb isn't the most fluid or graceful player but he certainly demonstrated momentum changing effort and energy.  He defended well, rebounded well, and showed a competent offensive game.  Gunn was also impressive, playing solid defense and knocking down contested 3's.  I hope both stick around if they receive low minutes this year because I think they could be valuable in the future.

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22 minutes ago, olsontex said:

Before this game, it was hard to get a sense of Reneau, given his late recruitment.  We shouldn't over-react to one game vs. a D2, but all I have to say is wow... just wow.

It can't be overlooked that Malik was playing against 3 guys from Marian that have played D1 basketball...

6'8 Taeshon Cherry who was a 4 star coming out of high school and formerly played at Arizona State and Grand Canyon U. Actually started 17 games in 3 years for ASU's Bobby Hurley...

6'11 Jackson Ames who spent 2 years at Miami of Ohio

6'10 Nolan Foster who spent 2 years at Ohio University

Edited by IUFLA
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27 minutes ago, olsontex said:

So many college B-Ball dynamics have changed since I graduated in the early 90s, I wonder sometimes if my perspectives are still accurate.  While far from comprehensive, some of the big changes include:

  1. Roster fluidity stemming from the ease and high frequency of transfers
  2. Pessimistic perspective on "NBA prospects" who stay past sophomore season (and upperclassmen in general)
  3. Impact of NIL on school commitment decisions (along with AAU and shoe affiliations)
  4. Ego-inflating aspect of social media - in the "old days" players dreamed of going pro, now every player is convinced they're NBA bound

My enthusiasm and support for IU Basketball hasn't waned over the years but my expectation for IU performance has become fairly pessimistic (I think I'm a realist).  Is this the year I'll have a reason to become optimistic again? 

Before addressing the takeaway that motivated my first post in quite a while, I'd like to mention a few surface-level thoughts from the Marion exhibition.  Some D2 teams are relatively competitive and some not-so-much.  Marion is a good D2 team, but even if they belonged in the "not-so-much" category, there are elements of the game uncorrelated to the competition (open shooting, communication, cohesiveness, unselfishness, energy/effort, etc.).  I'd argue these intangible elements are of equal importance to raw talent and athleticism, and in my opinion IU's performance was entirely positive.  My thoughts:

  1. Since Jackson-Davis and Bates missed the game, we were given a good look at IU's depth.  Let's pretend for a moment these two stars aren't on the team.  On every level, the IU team on the floor looked capable of making noise in the NCAA tournament, even without TJD and Bates.
  2. Some teams have a bench and some have a SECOND UNIT (the key word is UNIT).  While the difference is tied to familiarity, repetition, buy-in, and cohesiveness, there's a prerequisite needed to transition from a bench -> to a unit.  That component is depth.  I can't remember the last time I've seen an IU team this deep.
  3. In an era of dunks and 3's the mid-range jumper is a lost art.  It's no less important though.  Schifino's mid-range game really caught my attention.  At times his handle made me a bit nervous but I'll chalk it up to nerves at this stage.
  4. IU has reeled in it's share of highly-touted big men over the years but more than a few have been busts.  Before this game, it was hard to get a sense of Reneau, given his late recruitment.  We shouldn't over-react to one game vs. a D2, but all I have to say is wow... just wow.
  5. I think I've underestimated Race Thompson's full skillset over the past few seasons.
  6. IU has the personnel in 22-23 for a potent offense, and the flexibility to focus either inside or outside based on match-ups.  This certainly hasn't been the case for a while.  IU's strength last year was defense, no logical reason to expect a relapse this year.

OK, time to address my post-header.  Over the years I've admired the "over-achieving" teams that Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota have fielded on occasion.  They proved a collection of less heralded 3-Stars could take down teams loaded with stars when the right elements are in place.  I eventually recognized the impact of experienced role players was a large reason for their success - and they weren't "over-achieving".  They were benefiting from contributions made by players who didn't come in B10 ready but developed into B10 players by their junior or senior season. 

Is that still a possibility in the transfer age?  I don't know, but if it is I saw one emerge last year (Galloway) and two more hit the radar in the Marion game.  Duncomb isn't the most fluid or graceful player but he certainly demonstrated momentum changing effort and energy.  He defended well, rebounded well, and showed a competent offensive game.  Gunn was also impressive, playing solid defense and knocking down contested 3's.  I hope both stick around if they receive low minutes this year because I think they could be valuable in the future.

I thought the bold was obvious and very exciting to see as a fan. 

Edited by btownqb
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5 minutes ago, Drroogh said:

Reading the Topic Title, I thought this was going to be about 3 Point shooting. Have to say with the starting backcourt going 0-5, 42% isn't to shabby!

Agreed.  That's a large part of what I was alluding to about Race Thompson.  If he can become a legitimate 3P threat this year, it will really help our floor spacing... and allow our slashers to do what they do best.  As for Xavier Johnson, he hit a respectable 37% of his 3's last year but I think he's at his best attacking the basket.  Of the guards who will be in the rotation, Xavier is still arguably our best 3P shooter though.

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56 minutes ago, btownqb said:

I thought the bold was obvious and very exciting to see as a fan. 

Happy to see confirmation that I wasn't over-reaching with my statement.  It wasn't an accident I listed the impressive performance sans TJD and Bates as my first takeaway.  TJD is obviously #1 in the rotation and Bates is likely #5/#6 and no lower than #7.  When we slide everyone else down to slot these guys in, some exciting dynamics emerge.  The fact that our two 5* freshman appear ready to make immediate contributions is of course another major factor.  I don't want to write another long post so I'll cut it off at mentioning six of these dynamics (but there are more and despite my intention this post still won't end up all that short).

  1. Two colliding line-up considerations:  (1) The chemistry Schifino and Reneau bring in from HS was evident against Marion.  (2) Race Thompson was our 3rd most important contributor last year and is poised to be just as valuable in 22-23.  By all rights Race should be a starter, but if Schifino ends up starting (which I think he will) then perhaps having Race anchor the 2nd unit along side Bates and Geronimo could be a potent combination (and lead to higher utilization than if Race were the 3rd or 4th option as a starter).  Otherwise, pairing up Schifino and Reneau in the 2nd Unit could be interesting.  However, it's not my preference - I want to see TJD and Reneau on the floor together, and leads to dynamic #2...
  2. TJD is going to attract a lot of defensive attention (double teams).  If Reneau's performance is indicative facing the 3 former D1 players mentioned by IUFLA, he's going to be hard to defend 1-on-1 too.  Two big men on the floor at the same time who can't be handled without committing multiple defenders, is a mouth-watering implication.  It directly leads to dynamic #3...
  3. No slight against Miller Kopp, his outside shooting will be critical this year.  But he's not one of our 5 best players.  However, he's ideally suited to be in the starting five as the primary kick-out option.  Whether an opponent has to leave him open to stop penetration from Xavier or Schifino, or to double TJD or Reneau, Kopp is set up to feast on catch-and-shoots.
  4. To get it out of the way, my definition of a 2nd Unit isn't a full 5 player package simultaneously checking in.  It's a core of 3.5 players who consistently play as a package, supplemented by staggered starters and a few minutes from players in the 10-12 rotation slots.  At this stage, I think the Top 8 players in IU's rotation are TJD, Xavier, Race, Schefino, Bates, Reneau, Kopp, and Geronimo.  Regardless of who starts, if the team remains relatively healthy 5 players will get minutes in the 25-30 range, 3 players in the 15-21 min range, and a spark player in the 7-10 min range (he's the .5 in the 3.5 core).  A total of 9 players will get consistent minutes, which is no different than most teams.  A handful of teams have starters who are elite enough to carry the load on their own but this isn't the norm.  For a vast majority of teams the difference maker will be the strength of their 2nd Unit, especially when considering the impact of foul trouble or injuries.  I won't go so far as to say no team has a 9 player rotation as strong as IU, but I will say no other team is coming to mind.
  5. The aforementioned "spark/energy" player is the #9 player in the rotation.  The profile of my ideal spark player:  suited for position-less basketball, tough/fearless, and possesses a high motor.  I think the most likely candidate is Galloway.  Here's the thing about energy players -> the role is intended to deliver a short stretch of highly productive minutes.  The impact may be measured in tangible stats, it may be simply shifting momentum, or igniting the effort of teammates during a stretch of waning energy level.  Either way, it requires the player to go balls-to-the-wall for their entire stretch on the floor, and it's unsustainable past a certain minutes threshold.  Across 15 games in 21-22, Galloway was essentially the 6th man and averaged 21.5 MPG.  That's a workload more than double what I consider the sweet-spot for a spark player, and would likely be the root cause for anyone questioning his suitability.  I've seen stretches from Galloway that leave no doubt in my mind he's the right guy for this type of role.  It's not that I question his ability to function in a higher rotation slot, but unfortunately there are 8 guys who are likely in front of him at the moment.
  6. Finally, the rest of IU's scholarship players aren't exactly chopped liver.  We've endured plenty of seasons were "oh no... coach is sending in John Doe" has popped in our minds.  In my initial message I mentioned liking the long-term potential of Duncomb and Gunn, but I see no reason they can't make meaningful contributions this season.  I also like aspects of Leal's game and consider him in the Top 12 for 22-23, but at the moment I'm having a hard time pin-pointing his specific role for this season.  Banks didn't leave as strong of an initial impression as his class mates in the Marion game but it would be ludicrous at this stage to discount the potential of a rangy 6'8" forward to provide something in 2023.  I don't think many teams have the luxury of 4 players of this caliber and diverse skill-sets sitting at the end of their bench.

My expectations are justifiably high for the first time in a long time.

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I think what will seperate this team from the last twenty years is we finally have a complete team! As you say "oh no... coach is sending in John Doe". I remember last year when Rob, Trey and Lander were all injured and after some bone headed play coach looked down the bench for someone to put in, seeing no one he called time out! Hopefully we don't have a plethora of injuries in a specific area.

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6 minutes ago, Madison22 said:

Does HSN pay posters by the word now?

Ha, just kidding, Olsontex.  Good posts.

I know... I honestly start each post thinking, "This time is going to be different for sure!  I know I can write a post of reasonable length.".  But I fail every time.  I want to be like the other kids but I just can't do it.

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4 hours ago, olsontex said:

Agreed.  That's a large part of what I was alluding to about Race Thompson.  If he can become a legitimate 3P threat this year, it will really help our floor spacing... and allow our slashers to do what they do best.  As for Xavier Johnson, he hit a respectable 37% of his 3's last year but I think he's at his best attacking the basket.  Of the guards who will be in the rotation, Xavier is still arguably our best 3P shooter though.

If Thompson can be a legit stretch 4 with his physical nature and size…give us Mason Gillis level shooting this team I think barring injuries is the B1G favorite. Until I see consistent 3pt shooting I will still think this teams ceiling is capped…but I’m hopeful.

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I think the most important thing to a really successful season is developing chemistry between XJ and JHS. Not just both playing well, but both playing with a synergy and a togetherness. 

We have the inside game, we have options on the wing and depth, if we can get both XJ and JHS to not only play well/elite but to do it as a cohesive, dynamic backcourt tandem then IU will be really, really good. 

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1 hour ago, dgambill said:

If Thompson can be a legit stretch 4 with his physical nature and size…give us Mason Gillis level shooting this team I think barring injuries is the B1G favorite. Until I see consistent 3pt shooting I will still think this teams ceiling is capped…but I’m hopeful.

Why on God’s green earth would you ever compare one of our guys to a PUke player?😛😛

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13 hours ago, olsontex said:

I know... I honestly start each post thinking, "This time is going to be different for sure!  I know I can write a post of reasonable length.".  But I fail every time.  I want to be like the other kids but I just can't do it.

I would like to see you post more. These were VERY good contributions to the board. Keep it up sir (I assume)!

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18 hours ago, IUFLA said:

It can't be overlooked that Malik was playing against 3 guys from Marian that have played D1 basketball...

6'8 Taeshon Cherry who was a 4 star coming out of high school and formerly played at Arizona State and Grand Canyon U. Actually started 17 games in 3 years for ASU's Bobby Hurley...

6'11 Jackson Ames who spent 2 years at Miami of Ohio

6'10 Nolan Foster who spent 2 years at Ohio University

The one thing I was watching was how he handled those tall guys. Not many 6'11" people out there to play against. 

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6 minutes ago, mrflynn03 said:

The one thing I was watching was how he handled those tall guys. Not many 6'11" people out there to play against. 

Yeah, and I know they're not Dickinson or Edey, but they are experienced big men who have some skills.

Cherry was especially interesting... He was initially a 5 star that signed with USC and was supposedly "player 8” in an NCAA investigation of a Trojan assistant coach. He decommitted and went to ASU... 

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15 hours ago, BGleas said:

I think the most important thing to a really successful season is developing chemistry between XJ and JHS. Not just both playing well, but both playing with a synergy and a togetherness. 

We have the inside game, we have options on the wing and depth, if we can get both XJ and JHS to not only play well/elite but to do it as a cohesive, dynamic backcourt tandem then IU will be really, really good. 

Agree it’s one of the big keys this year. I put that right up there with us finding some 3pt shooting. We don’t have to lead the B1G…but gosh darn it we have to figure out how to make shots. Coke tourney time you are going to need that ability…see it every year.

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15 hours ago, Steubenhoosier said:

Why on God’s green earth would you ever compare one of our guys to a PUke player?😛😛

Because it’s those guys that kill us when we play. Michigan St/Purdue/Iowa always have that guy in the corner killing us.

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4 minutes ago, dgambill said:

Because it’s those guys that kill us when we play. Michigan St/Purdue/Iowa always have that guy in the corner killing us.

I'm working on a solution for that. One of my venture capital ideas is a company called Harding Services.  The secretary's name will be Tonya. Just have to come up with a fee schedule.

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23 hours ago, olsontex said:
  1. I think I've underestimated Race Thompson's full skillset over the past few seasons.

I think his shooting will be better this year but aside from that, he had the same skills last year but he was playing second fiddle to TJD. There were times, especially with TJD out, that you would see him take more of a prominent role. Race has great post moves yet he is not featured down low. He is the perfect glue guy and will do whatever is needed to win. 

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One thing that I think still remains to be seen is how well TJD and Reneau complement each other when both are on the floor of the same time. I hope I'm wrong, but based on Saturday, I'm not convinced that the two will be particularly effective playing next to one another. If I'm right, that will undercut some of our anticipated value from our frontcourt depth, as I would anticipate TJD will again see considerable playing time.

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15 hours ago, IUProfessor said:

One thing that I think still remains to be seen is how well TJD and Reneau complement each other when both are on the floor of the same time. I hope I'm wrong, but based on Saturday, I'm not convinced that the two will be particularly effective playing next to one another. If I'm right, that will undercut some of our anticipated value from our frontcourt depth, as I would anticipate TJD will again see considerable playing time.

Malik would be taking over Races position when playing with TJD and I think Malik has Race type skills. Figuring half of Maliks minutes come from subbing out for each of Race and Trayce, there will also be minutes where Race and Malik are out there together and I think that will be the more interesting combination. How do they fare vs a big 5? Does Race move down low or Malik?

Realistically, what are we talking about, 5-7 minutes playing with each? A few more minutes with neither?

There is always the chance that most of Maliks minutes are when he is subbed in for Trayce and Geronimo takes over for Race if Woody uses more of the platoon system.

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1 hour ago, Reacher said:

Malik would be taking over Races position when playing with TJD and I think Malik has Race type skills. Figuring half of Maliks minutes come from subbing out for each of Race and Trayce, there will also be minutes where Race and Malik are out there together and I think that will be the more interesting combination. How do they fare vs a big 5? Does Race move down low or Malik?

Realistically, what are we talking about, 5-7 minutes playing with each? A few more minutes with neither?

There is always the chance that most of Maliks minutes are when he is subbed in for Trayce and Geronimo takes over for Race if Woody uses more of the platoon system.

Got to think that when Race and Malik are on the floor that Malik is at the 5.  Still want Race stretching the 4.  JMO.   😊

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3 minutes ago, jv1972iu said:

Got to think that when Race and Malik are on the floor that Malik is at the 5.  Still want Race stretching the 4.  JMO.   😊

I can see it going either way. Race has more experience defensively in the post. I think Malik will take and make his share of 3s. 

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