In one stream of consciousness, IU coach Mike Woodson found himself perhaps in the same place as most of the Indiana fan base.
Already looking ahead to next season, but still hopelessly wondering what’s possible over the next month.
Stuck in a mire, somewhere between dueling clichés: there’s always next year, but hey, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
“We’re gonna have to add some pieces, but the season’s not over with. We still have seven more games,” Woodson said Saturday evening in West Lafayette following his team’s 79-59 blowout loss to Purdue.
The seven more regular season games Indiana has, four at home, three on the road, are all winnable. You’d like to think that anyway.
Only two of the seven remaining opponents are inside the KenPom top-50, and both of those squads (Wisconsin, Michigan State) are coming to Bloomington, and currently dealing with their own issues. A once impressive Wisconsin has suddenly lost four in a row, and Michigan State has been an enigma all season.
It’s not over!
But some “pieces” would sure help. Because IU is ranked worse by KenPom than all of their remaining opponents, predicted by that outlet to lose all of those games, and the Hoosiers haven’t won more than four games in a row all season.
Oh, and no roster additions are coming through that door until the offseason.
Indiana needs to add “pieces” to assemble a roster that looks a lot more like the Purdue squad that pummeled them twice — complete, complementary and coherent.
“They have grown together,” Woodson said of Purdue.
There’s another c-word Woodson likely won’t be able to attain simply by playing the adding pieces game.
His team has not grown together, as he reminds everyone often.
“We have a young team that’s still trying to figure each other out,” Woodson said, 24 games into the season.
There is truth in Woodson’s often repeated refrain. IU ranks 220th in Division I experience, and 264th in year-over-year minutes continuity. That’s part of the problem with the “pieces” game.
Perhaps via the portal Indiana can gain experience and achieve a better constructed roster, but that won’t necessarily deliver results — even if you get the players you target. Young or old, adding pieces every year means you’re in a constant state of still trying to figure each other out.
Look at the teams that “won the portal” a year ago. West Virginia was ranked as having the second-best portal haul according to 247Sports. They are 8-15. TCU was third, they have lost four of seven and are sputtering into March. Villanova was fourth, they are just 13-11. St. John’s was sixth, they’re 14-10. Arkansas was seventh, they’re 12-11.
No, simply adding “pieces” won’t be the panacea.
The conundrums continued.
“Not having X (Xavier Johnson), that hurts,” Woodson said.
Of course that’s fair. Every team struggles when they lose a starting guard, and IU has a serious lack of guard depth. Did I mention the portal is no panacea?
Indiana expects to get Johnson back in a couple weeks. Perhaps that helps?
The Hoosiers will likely only have around four games left when/if he returns as FOX commentator Gus Johnson hinted on Saturday. Where will they even be at that point? Young and trying to figure things out is one guess.
And how much of an impact can Johnson make at that point? He has struggled to find consistency during two other returns from injury this season, to put it mildly. That’s understandable to an extent. But to be fair, he’s struggled to find consistency throughout his career. And in case you forgot, he too was once one of those pieces.
Woodson is bouncing around between incongruent ideas because it is difficult to see a lot of obvious answers at the moment. But finally, the third-year IU coach seemed to land on a thought almost everyone can agree with.
“Anything can happen,” Woodson said.
Maybe things will get better.
Maybe they won’t.
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