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Two things we’re watching for in the IU-Marian exhibition game

For the first time in around seven months, game day at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall is here.

Indiana men’s basketball hosts Marian Saturday at 3 p.m. in the first of two exhibition games for the Hoosiers. The game will air on BTN+, which requires a subscription. The IU radio network will carry the game like always.

It’s important to exercise restraint when watching exhibition games. It’s a preseason game. It’s highly unlikely that any specific thing you see from Indiana on Saturday will signify anything about the long-term outlook for the team.

Nonetheless, the Hoosiers are back. And here are a couple things I’ll be watching for.

Lineup combinations

With Trayce Jackson-Davis questionable (along with Tamar Bates), there’s a real chance IU will play without its preseason All-American Saturday.

In its game notes, Indiana listed its projected starting lineup as Jackson-Davis, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Xavier Johnson, Miller Kopp, and Race Thompson. That clearly doesn’t account for a potential Jackson-Davis absence.

But, truthfully, the starting lineup isn’t that big of a deal. They get the pregame introductions, but after that, it’s just one of many lineups IU will use. In games that count, I find the “crunch-time five” more important — which players will be on the floor to close out the game?

Since this game is unlikely to be close at the end, we won’t really see who’s in that group. But I’ll be watching the various lineup combinations head coach Mike Woodson rolls out. Which groups get the most run? Which are the most effective? Which could use a little work? Who are some key players in each combination?

Woodson didn’t reveal much of IU’s plans for that in a Zoom call with media on Friday.

“I don’t know how many minutes guys will play. I’ve got to get a rotation in play before we open up (the regular season),” Woodson said. “I’ll be using these two games to look at different combinations and just see where we are.”

Will the Marian game provide concrete, end-of-discussion answers to the lineup questions? Of course not. But I think those are some reasonable takeaways to start forming from the exhibition games.

Freshmen debuts

Hood-Schifino, Malik Reneau, Kaleb Banks, and CJ Gunn played at Hoosier Hysteria, but that was a six-minute scrimmage when they’d already practiced that day. So it would be an understatement to say we have not yet seen much of Indiana’s touted freshman class. This will be the first real opportunity to do so.

As I said before, don’t get carried away with what you see from them Saturday. It may not reflect their real playing time as the regular season gets going, and it will certainly not indicate their potential come Big Ten play. An exhibition game is a different game environment.

But, still, it’s the first time they’ll play in any sort of college basketball game environment. For many, it will be their first looks at these four players. Plenty has been written and discussed about what they could bring to the table, but on Saturday, we can start to see that with our own eyes.

And beyond the basics of how those players look — channeling back to the first point — it will be interesting to see how they fit with some of the veterans within certain lineups.

Watch: IU basketball coach Mike Woodson gives team update, previews first exhibition

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