If you’ve examined rosters up and down the Big Ten, you know most, at least the top 10 or so teams, can put together a fairly solid starting five.
What really seems to separate Indiana from the pack right now is the talent they can put on the floor beyond the first five.
If you go with the assumption IU will start Xavier Johnson, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis, that means they are bringing off the bench a former starter, two former top-30 recruits, and one of the most explosive athletes in the conference.
Big Ten Network analyst Tre Demps recently attended IU basketball practice, and it was that talent on the second team that really left an impression on the former Northwestern guard.
“I love the intrasquad competition that this team has,” Demps said of Indiana in a video posted to his Twitter account. “This team essentially has two starting fives. I think if you took the five guys that came off the bench and inserted them into the starting lineup, you’d probably get a similar result.”
Demps went on to name some of those players on the second unit who stood out.
“When you think about Trey Galloway, Tamar Bates, Jordan Geronimo, these are Big Ten starters that will probably come off the bench.”
Galloway was in fact a starter at times during each of his first two seasons. And Bates was a borderline 5-star recruit who has been named by both head coach Mike Woodson and Trayce Jackson-Davis as the team’s expected breakout player this year. Meanwhile Geronimo made waves a year ago with his prowess off the bench as a rebounder and shot-blocker, and he improved as the season wore on.
The second thing Demps highlighted was Indiana’s two highly-rated freshmen from Montverde Academy, Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau.
“When you talk about Jalen Hood-Schifino, this guy is poised, he has the aura of a veteran player,” Demps said.
Reneau is a second top-30 recruiting prospect who should see significant minutes in a reserve role.
“Malik Reneau is going to be an elite big man coming off the bench as well,” Demps continued.
Demps didn’t say who was the fifth player was on Indiana’s second unit, and it is legitimate to wonder how often IU will go beyond nine in meaningful games. The players have praised the improvement of center Logan Duncomb, and the Hoosiers have three wings — Anthony Leal, and freshmen C.J. Gunn and Kaleb Banks — competing for minutes.
While Indiana has undeniable talent, there are legitimate questions.
Can a team that went 21-14 a year ago, and just 9-11 in the Big Ten suddenly flip a switch and live up to their No. 13 national ranking and Big Ten favorite status?
Demps believes that is something IU might have to grow into over time.
“The one question that I have about this team, is the expectations,” Demps said. “When you talk about Indiana basketball historically, they’re always at the top. This team is primed to be a top-10 team, but when I watch practice, this team has a long way to go to fulfilling those expectations. I think that could actually be a positive, because they can only grow from where they are at right now.”
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