CENTRAL ARKANSAS (4-6) at INDIANA (9-2) — GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
- Tip time: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: BTN (Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris)
- Series: First Meeting
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate links)
Common Opponent: Louisville defeated the Bears 86-41.
JUWAN MORGAN ENHANCING HIS NBA RESUME
When it comes to year over year improvement, Juwan Morgan set the bar pretty high.
Shon Morris of BTN said this back in October at the Big Ten media day regarding the IU senior forward —
“Juwan Morgan, probably the most improved player – not just in the conference, but among the most improved players in the country a year ago, from his sophomore to junior seasons. And he was able to show his versatility.”
With the kind of strides that the Waynesville, Missouri native made from his sophomore to junior season, it would have been reasonable to expect that at best his senior year numbers might mirror that breakout junior campaign.
Some may have even expected some statistical regression with the arrival of Romeo Langford. We’ll come back to that.
But the status quo wasn’t going to cut it for Morgan. He has grander visions.
As you surely know, the 6-foot-8 Hoosier co-captain took advantage of the NBA draft process that allows players with additional college eligibility to obtain feedback from NBA scouts and executives.
The primary feedback that Morgan received during that process was that he needed to show more of a perimeter game, including ball handling and three-point shooting.
Consider Louisville head coach Chris Mack convinced. Mack said this in his press availability the day before Indiana faced the Cardinals.
“I can’t believe how talented Juwan Morgan is. In asking our staff where he was projected in the NBA draft, you know, middle second round. I don’t get it. People are insane. He has unbelievable feel. He’s like Draymond Green to me. Only he’s a little bit taller. Great passer. Can shoot it, can post. Plays a tough mismatch position. If he’s not a first round pick I understand why some of these guys get fired at the next level.”
Was that coach-speak the day before a big game? Perhaps. But after Saturday’s career best performance by Morgan against Butler, Mack’s observations seem quite prescient.
Morgan’s stat-stuffing day against the Bulldogs got us thinking about how his final season is stacking up statistically versus last year’s 2nd team All-Big Ten campaign.
He needed Saturday’s outlier performance to pull up his 2018-19 numbers like several similar performances did last year to make this a truly apples to apples comparison. Now that we have it, let’s take a look at how this year’s Morgan is comparing to last year’s Morgan, and what it means for the NBA.
Obviously the thing that jumps off the page is the way the senior co-captain is shooting the ball. If knocking down perimeter shots was his ticket to the NBA, he has surely opened some eyes. But overall from the field, Morgan’s percentage is off the chart for a player of his size. It isn’t as though he uses a dominant size advantage to score over smaller opponents. Morgan earns every bucket.
While nothing comes easy for Morgan, teams have been reluctant to double team him, which has surely helped his efficiency. This is where we come back to Langford. With IU’s freshman sensation so uniquely talented and deadly off the dribble, thus far the opposition hasn’t been willing to overemphasize Morgan.
The other thing that stands out for Morgan is the increase in assists. Several observers have noted his improved passing ability, and the early statistics are bearing that out. This is also another nice attribute for the NBA.
Of course the comparisons aren’t all positive, with Morgan declining in free throw percentage, turnovers and steals. Morgan was seven for seven from the line against Butler, and referenced in the post-game adjustments he has made leading to that performance. His percentage going forward at the line will be interesting to watch.
Perhaps most concerning is the increase in turnovers. It is difficult to point to one thing that is contributing to this. Morgan has been whistled for a few offensive fouls, and is handling the ball more away from the bucket. Those are surely factors. He’s had two games with four turnovers and two more with three. As critical as Morgan is to the game plan, he is going to have a turnover or two every game. He just needs to avoid anything beyond that going forward.
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