After Indiana’s season-opening win against Western Illinois, Archie Miller simply said, “We have a lot of different guys that can help this team. It’s going to be strength by numbers.” Due to injuries and a favorable schedule, Miller has used the first month to try various lineups, trying to find the right group of five for the right situation. To this point, Miller has used 93 different player combinations and 16 players, out of which 11 have played at least 50 minutes this season. Which lineups have done well so far? Using play-by-play data, let’s find out.
What Has Worked?
Indiana’s best lineup as far as raw plus/minus is the same unit that has started all seven games to this point. Guards Armaan Franklin and Al Durham, wing Justin Smith, and forwards Trayce Jackson-Davis and Joey Brunk are +35 in the team-high 50 minutes they’ve played together. They’ve played 30 minutes together than the next-highest unit; Miller clearly is comfortable in his starting five.
IU’s best lineup on a per-minute basis is Rob Phinisee, Durham, Jerome Hunter, Smith, and Jackson-Davis. That group only played together in IU’s 11-point win over Portland State. Once Phinisee returns, this lineup should see more playing time. On the surface, the combination of Durham’s shooting, Phinisee’s defense, and the overall athleticism of the five should lead to even more prosperity.
Not only is Joey Brunk part of Indiana’s most-used lineup, he is also the Hoosiers’ most efficient player on the court. Some of IU’s most productive lineups this season have included Brunk and Race Thompson on the court simultaneously, along with either Hunter or Smith at the wing position. This combination should appeal to IU’s staff in those minutes where Jackson-Davis needs a rest.
Changing of the Guards
Entering this season, Indiana fans anticipated having three backcourt members getting a majority of the playing time: Al Durham, Rob Phinisee, and Devonte Green. They represent three of the top four returning scorers from IU’s team last season.
However, mostly due to injuries, the trio of Durham, Phinisee, and Green have played together for just five seconds this season (against Princeton). In fact, only 39.9% of the time have even two of the three seen the court simultaneously. Still, Indiana has outscored opponents by 92 points with at least two of Green, Durham, and Phinisee on the floor. Expect at least two of the three to be play at all times once Phinisee returns from his injury.
Hoosier Small Ball
So, with two out of five available spots taken by guards, how should Miller fill out the rest of the lineup?
Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends on the personnel. The Hoosiers have struggled with Thompson or De’Ron Davis as the only post presence (no Brunk or Jackson-Davis). Since that setup hasn’t worked to this point, it’s hard to imagine things will improve with more physical opponents upcoming.
To this point, Miller has not played many small lineups. It makes sense; after all, Miller has harped on playing “inside out”, and the Hoosiers have had the size advantage over their opponents thus far. Still, keep an eye out for this “small ball” group: Franklin, Green, Damezi Anderson, Smith, and Jackson-Davis.
Green has more freedom to operate with the younger Franklin and Anderson around him, and Green can still find two capable scorers when defended. These five have meshed well this season and could play more if Durham, Brunk, or Hunter get into foul trouble or need a breather.
Bigger and More Athletic
Another unit that has gelled is the combination of Green, Durham, Hunter, Smith, and Brunk. Those five sparked a big run in IU’s double-digit win over Louisiana Tech. It’s hard to call this unit “small”, but with one post presence, perhaps Miller can use this group when he needs some speed, athleticism, and three-point shooting.
Of the number of bigger lineups that Miller has utilized, look for the group of Durham, Anderson, Smith, Jackson-Davis, and Brunk to impact the game against Florida State. In Miller’s offensive system, Jackson-Davis and Brunk often occupy different areas of the floor, which makes them function well together. This lineup’s size and three-point shooting could make a difference vs. the Seminoles.
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