Credit - IU Athletics

Is Indiana’s Offense Failing Romeo Langford? We Reluctantly Examine.

When high school phenoms in Indiana average more than 35 points a game and captivate their home state, well, people tend to get a tad enthusiastic.

For some, the expectation was that Romeo Langford would arrive on campus at Indiana and be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  I don’t know about tall buildings, but it is pretty exhilarating to see what he can do with a single bound.

When we profiled Langford going into the season, we warned against unrealistic expectations, saying this in the context of how his freshman season scoring average at IU might compare to his high school career —

The more apt recent comparison would be the electrifying freshman season of Eric Gordon.  The former Hoosier star averaged 20.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists while earning first team all-Big Ten honors.

Gordon was the first Hoosier freshman to average 20 points a game.  Can Langford get there?  That would not be surprising.

You didn’t have to be a basketball guru to know this.  You didn’t have to follow Langford’s every move at New Albany or on the AAU circuit either.  You could have just watched one of his high school games last year.

Langford entered a game last December against Floyd Central averaging nearly 40 a contest.  Against the Highlanders that night, Langford was held to 15.  Floyd Central had a good coach, good players, a good home crowd, and a team that was committed to executing a zone defense strategy.

Floyd Central pulled it off that night despite only having one player on that team that is likely to end up playing Division One college basketball.  It was no fluke either.  The Highlanders pulled it off again in the sectional final, holding Langford to 17.

Every player that Romeo Langford is going up against now was the best player on their high school team.  They are bigger, stronger and faster, collectively than anything Langford saw in high school — by a wide margin.  They are better coached, and better prepared to face a gifted talent like Langford, and execute a game plan that emphasizes stopping him.

The same holds true for every player on Langford’s Indiana team.  He is surrounded by a much more capable group of teammates, and thus the burden placed on him to produce is obviously much lower.

So how is Langford doing so far at Indiana?  At five games into the season, it seems ridiculous to discuss, and simply crazy to draw any conclusions, really.

But people are.  Langford’s friend and videographer Frank Ward created a bit of a social media fury and was quite the topic of conversation in the press room after a flurry of Tweets on Tuesday night during IU’s 78-64 win over UT Arlington.

There were other Tweets as well.  You might think, just let it be — and we get that.  But that account is followed by the likes of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Matthew Hurt, and other IU recruiting targets.  Right or wrong, the guy has a little influence in that generation.

We are not looking to pick a fight here.  Ward’s “Frankie Vision” videos are first rate.  We told him as much a couple weeks ago, and even plugged a couple of his videos into this article.  And we can certainly relate to his pursuit of a passion.  It’s a cool story as told by the Indy Star if you haven’t already read it.

But from an IU specific perspective, the arguments seem misguided at best.

Langford has attempted 22 more shots than anyone else on the team, including 2nd team All-Big Ten performer Juwan Morgan.  The offense is running through the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the most part.  There is no debating that Langford has been given the green light — and encouraged to create off the dribble.  Anyone with an ounce of familiarity with the game can see that — and see that when he does it, Langford is clearly on another level.

With Morgan shooting more than 70% from the field and Langford at 51.6%, the debate about who the offense is underserving seems backwards.  But again, it is way to early to any draw conclusions like that.

Nationally speaking, Langford is right there in conversation as well.

At 18.2 points per game, he is the fifth leading freshman scorer in the country on a power five team (behind RJ Barrett, 24.0, Zion Williamson, 22.3, Luguentz Dort, 20.5, and Darius Garland, 19.8).  He was also the fifth rated recruit in the country in his class.

In large part Langford has been his own worst enemy.  He is shooting 20% from 3-point range and 65.6% from the foul line.  If those numbers were a more respectable 35% from 3-point range and 75% from the foul line, Langford would pass Dort and Garland and would be averaging 21.2 a game.

That isn’t a knock on the kid.  He knows he needs to be better.  He’s probably working on it as I type, and as you read.

To be fair, Ward’s commentary seems more directed at Archie Miller’s “offense.”  So far this season, IU has seen teams that run multiple variations of zone defenses, a more traditional man-to-man, full court pressing defenses, and aggressive half court denial defenses.

So which Miller offense is it that we are taking issue here?  With Indiana coming in at 24th nationally in KenPom adjusted offense, it doesn’t seem all bad.

Indiana is 3rd nationally in field goal percentage, 31st in assists, and 34th in scoring offense.  And this is all with a team that can’t shoot 3-pointers (188th) or free throws (277th) and turns it over too much (263rd).  Somehow it all comes together.

The Indiana offense hasn’t been perfect, but it has clearly been effective, it is clearly featuring Langford, and he is clearly producing at a level that is on par with his rankings.

He’s right there where any reasonable person would have expected him to be.  And he has been an absolute joy to watch, on and off the court.  For now, that’s all that is worth writing.  Any other take is working from an agenda or ulterior motive — and we aren’t going to speculate what that might be.

No, for now, we are just going to enjoy the show.  We’ll tell the story of how it all worked out, or didn’t, in March.

And then again in June, when Langford’s name is called as a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

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