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IU basketball: What we learned about the team and each player after 3 games in 3 days in Asheville

Did you catch your breath yet?

We went from an IU basketball virtual blackout for nearly nine months to a three day crash course.

Now lying down stuffed after that ill-advised third trip to the Thanksgiving buffet, it is time to digest what we saw in Asheville.

Preseason prognostications are fun, but dissecting the real thing is much more insightful.  And from the team’s performance on both ends of the floor to the players, we now know plenty about these 2020-21 Hoosiers.

Let’s take a look.

Offense:  Which games do you want to talk about Texas, or Stanford and Providence?  They really could not have been more different.  Texas currently has the No. 4 defense according to KenPom, and we’ll be surprised if they do not remain near the top nationally all year.  The Longhorns covered ground at an elite level and are bought in right now.

Overall Indiana stands at No. 28 nationally in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency.  It is still a bit too early for those numbers to mean a lot, but that is an improvement for IU, and lines up with the eye test.  The Hoosiers have much better spacing, which is allowing their post players more room to operate.

Indiana has a respectable turnover rate of 16.1 percent and have assists on 62 percent of their made baskets which to this point is a more than 10 percentage point year-over-year improvement.

The Hoosiers are only shooting 29.3 percent from three-point range so far and are just No. 239 in tempo.  Both figures will need to improve.

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Defense:  Indiana has made adjustments from prior seasons early on, and so far so good.  Likely because they have a smaller, more versatile lineup, the Hoosiers are switching more screens both on and off the ball.  That is allowing IU to not have to work as hard, while leaving them in better positions.

The Hoosiers are also playing more aggressive defensively, with players off the ball at times extending beyond the pack-line.  That has led to a big early jump in forced turnover percentage, from 17.8 last year (No. 237) to 21.1 (No. 99) so far this season.  Indiana will never be elite at forcing turnovers due to the pack-line, but these are forced turnover levels that can lead to a better overall defensive product and better transition going the other way.

So far the Hoosiers are No. 13 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency.  The team seems bought in and is making things very difficult inside the three-point line with a 15.3 block percentage.  These are all numbers that bode well for IU in the Big Ten if they can sustain it.  With a good defense, Indiana should be able to stay close in most of their games.

Trayce Jackson-Davis:  While he struggled early with offensive efficiency, the Hoosier big man is doing just fine.  Averaging 21.5 points and 7 rebounds, Jackson-Davis is now up to 50.8 percent from the field on the season.  He’ll need to be a bit more active on the glass and as a shot blocker while staying out of foul trouble.

Race Thompson:  The redshirt junior is having a breakout campaign.  If his early stat line (11.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2 bpg) holds or improves, Thompson could work himself into the All-Big Ten conversation at some level.  So far he has been the perfect compliment to Jackson-Davis, and Thompson brings much needed toughness to the starting lineup.

Armaan Franklin:  Franklin is taking on the early role of the guy that does a little bit of everything on both ends.  A key to playing small is guards that rebound, and Franklin is averaging 5.5 per contest.  The sophomore has been stout defensively, and is shooting a respectable if not great 42.9 percent overall from the field.  The big question — can Franklin get the three-point shot going well above his current 20 percent?

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Al Durham, Jr.:  Obviously Durham’s ankle became the big question on everyone’s mind, but his appearance in uniform shooting the ball before the Stanford game indicates this is not a long term concern.  As he has done each year at IU, Durham is making across the board strides, shooting 48 percent overall, and 40 percent from three while averaging 4.7 rebounds and 3 assists per contest.  Durham is IU’s most aggressive attacker off the bounce and in transition, and he finishes.

Rob Phinisee:  Healthy Rob Phinisee is going to have to learn how to play without fouling.  The junior point guard is so locked in on the defensive end that he may be trying to do too much, although he has also been the victim of a few suspect whistles.  His first half removal from the Texas game with two fouls changed the course of that contest as IU missed his elite on the ball defense on Matt Coleman.  Phinisee’s early shooting numbers are very encouraging (52.4 overall, 66.7 from three).  While neither is bad, we’d like to see both his assist and turnover rates improve.

Trey Galloway:  The lowest rated 2020 recruit is making the biggest early impact.  With Durham down, Galloway earned his first start against Stanford and he is averaging more than 21 minutes per contest.  The in-state product is just 1-of-6 from three-point range early on, but he has made better than 53 percent of his two-point attempts.  More important than shooting percentages, Galloway is a reliable, aggressive defender, makes smart decisions offensively, and helps push the tempo.

Jerome Hunter:  There is no way around it, it has been a slow start for Hunter.  The redshirt sophomore has looked lost at times defensively, he isn’t rebounding at a high rate, and Hunter is shooting just 41 percent overall from the field.  Teams are running him off the three-point line, and Hunter hasn’t looked comfortable attacking off the bounce.  With 4 points and 4 rebounds with no turnovers against Stanford, Hunter showed signs of snapping out of the early funk.

Khristian Lander:  The young fella isn’t reluctant when he sees the floor.  And that is a good thing.  Lander has been aggressively looking for scoring opportunities, and his quickness has been impactful on both ends.  He is obviously going to need to knock down more shots (16.7 percent overall, 15.4 percent from three), but the projection has always been for Lander to improve over the course of his freshman year — and that still seems the likely path.

Jordan Geronimo:  Geronimo has been just as advertised, with wow factor moments — as well as some head scratchers.   You can see the hallmarks of a future elite defender and rebounder, and it was good to see Geronimo knock down a three-pointer.  But an early turnover percentage of 40 tells you that patience will be the operative word while Geronimo contributes situationally.

Anthony Leal:  The Durham injury allowed for 18 minutes of action for Leal against Stanford.  He is showing some good vision with a 20 percent assist rate.  But Leal passed up a couple wide open looks, something he can’t do if he wants to continue to see the floor.  Leal needs to be a guy that confidently shoots it from deep, as his perimeter shot appears to be his best chance to become a productive high major player down the road.  So far he is 0-for-3 from behind the arc, but it is obviously still very early.

Joey Brunk:  Obviously, we learned nothing beyond the fact that Brunk has a sore back that the program is being careful with.  To this point it doesn’t seem like anything serious.  IU’s next opponent, Florida State, has the tallest team in the country according to KenPom.  Wouldn’t be a bad team for Brunk’s first appearance of the 2020-21 season.

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