“The Hoosier Sound” is here for its weekly episode with Nithin Krishnan and Jevan McCoskey. If you want to catch the live stream, check out our YouTube page for each episode.
It might be the middle of the summer, but there is plenty of IUFB and IUBB to discuss. Four highly-touted players committed to the Hoosiers’ football program, vaulting IU to 20th in 247Sports’ 2022 rankings. Is this type of success sustainable in Bloomington? Also, a number of key players made stay or go decisions for the NBA Draft, and the guys rank the Big Ten basketball programs first to 14th. Where does Indiana stand in mid-July?
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One Reply to “IUFB Recruiting Is on Fire and Big Ten MBB Power Rankings [THS: 207]”
Rather than looking exclusively at which team’s talent is better in the aggregate, someone who is forecasting needs to also look at how that talent may fit together within the structure of the game. This is where your predictions may suffer.
IU’s talent is proven, either in statistics at high-major D1 schools (Pitt for Parker/Johnson, NW for Kopp, IU for TJD), or in games against high-major competition (Durr, Geronimo) or in ranking by a major service (Lander, Leal, Galloway, Bates).
But how is the team construction, the fit between players?
In the modern game, you see the need for a low post player who can also rim protect and clean the glass. IU has a difference-maker in TJD to start and Durr behind him.
You need a point guard who can run the break and break down half-court defense either with individual speed/quickness, or with the ability to use ball screens. IU has a difference-maker in Johnson to start (19th in the NCAA in assist/game last season) and a 5-star prospect in Lander behind him.
You need guys who can hit a 3pt shot, drive the basket on close outs, be a secondary playmaker, defend in space on defense and rebound their position. IU has SIX of them, in Bates, Stewart, Leal, Galloway, Geronimo, and Kopp, to play positions 2-4. All of them are 6’4″ or taller. Several are good passers. Several are good secondary playmakers. All have either shot 40% from 3 at some point last season, or have a FT% that indicates future success in distance shooting.
So that’s how you construct a team to play modern “pace and space” basketball. The transfer portal gave IU the opportunity to build an “old’ team in 2 months, rather than 3 years. The significance of that opportunity has been mentioned in passing, but not considered in prognostication.
The evidence that Coach Woodson is likely a top-level college coach has also been mentioned in passing, but not considered in prognostication.
These two faults in perception have created a betting opportunity on IUBB.
How many other B1G teams are constructed in that same way?
I think that it’s only Illinois.
Illinois is the team that looks most like IU in it’s construction. They have Kofi to dominate the low post on offense and be a rim protector on defense. They have Curbelo to break down defense and dish the ball as a true PG. They have shooters around those two to space the floor in Frazier, Williams, and Grandison (and maybe Hawkins). So they have the big, the PG and floor spacers. Coach Underwood’s problem is that they don’t have Ayo to draw a double-team and put the defense into rotation this season. Kofi will draw a double, but can he pass out of it to the open man? If they can, they’re the best competition for IU this upcoming season.
Michigan has the difference-maker big in Dickinson and, of all the mid-major transfer PGs in the B1G, Michigan’s Jones has the best chance of succeeding, though his 3pt shot is a set shot from the 1950s. The fallacy about Michigan is that the freshmen will start and play significant minutes for this team. Outside of Houstan, they won’t. Diabate isn’t yet better than Johns. Collins is behind Jones. Bufkin is behind Brooks. (Barnes and Tschetter don’t make the 2-deep.). Dickinson is the only difference-maker on this team and the floor spacing is questionable. Michigan was top 5 last year with seniors Livers, Smith, and Brown and an NBA-ready Wagner. That team isn’t playing for Michigan this year. This year’s team is Dickinson at C, Johns at PF, Houstan at SF, Brooks at SG, and Jones at PG. They should be good, but clearly below IU and Illinois.
Purdue has everybody back plus 2 PF freshmen, so everybody says “Amen” to Purdue this season. But this team shot 31% from 3 in conference last season, and that hasn’t changed either. Williams is their best offensive player and rebounder, but can’t rim protect on defense, so where are Edey’s minutes? On the bench. Hunter is their only PG (a mediocre 2 assists/game) and is lousy from 3. Ivey is their starter at the 2. He drives like Ayo, but is lousy from 3. Caleb Furst is going to start at the 4, but is lousy from 3. Only at SF can Coach Painter start 3pt shooting (either Stefanovic, Kaufman-Renn, or Newman). Otherwise, he has to use his 3pt shooters as rotation players behind the starters. 4 of Purdue’s starting 5 (Hunter, Ivey, Furst, and Williams) are lousy at 3pt shooting and are going to rely on scoring from inside the arc. That’s not modern basketball. That’s Purdue basketball from the 1980’s.
Michigan State also has a mid-major PG transferring into the B1G, Tyson Walker from NE. He can shoot (35% from 3) and dish assists (5A/game), but he weighs 162 lbs. In the B1G?Their best hope at center is Marcus Bingham, but this is his 4th year, so success there is not likely. Their returning floor spacers (Brown and Hauser) don’t play good defense. Of their 3 freshmen, only Max Christie is likely to help this season as a floor spacer and secondary playmaker. The other two (Akins and Brooks) are likely a year away. What part of “This isn’t likely to work” do we need to repeat for this season?
Maryland has a mid-major transfer coming in as it’s PG, even though Fatts is really an undersized (165 lbs) combo guard. Good luck there. Wahab is a quality big who will be good for Maryland in the post. Where’s the 3pt shooting? It’s Donta Scott and Jairus Hamilton. Reese will be a good PF for the Terps, but shoots 24% from 3. Cornish is a year away. That’s it. So meh on the PG, yes on the big, not nearly enough on the floor spacing and they lost their best defender in Morsell. Maryland is a top 40 team, not a top 20 team.
Ohio State’s fate rests on a PG who transferred from noted basketball power Penn State. Wheeler plays good “D”, but that’s it. That is also Rob Phinisee’s game. How has that worked out? Let’s look at OSU in the low post. Liddell won’t play there anymore. He needs wing experience to transition to the NBA, so OSU is going to be the 3rd team to try Joey Brunk in the post, even though it didn’t work for IU or Butler. Otherwise, Coach Holtmann is back to Zed Key and Kyle Young at center, who try hard, but are too small to rim protect (which led to OSU’s #82 adjD ranking on KenPom last year.
Floor spacing? Basically a switch from a solid senior in Washington to a freshman 4-star in Branham. 4-stars break out as sophomores (like Liddell did last year) but not as freshmen. The only other shooters OSU has are Ahrens and Towns, who can’t play D or rebound. So the PG is meh, there’s still no Big, the outside shooting is likely only okay if you let the defense be even worse than last year. OSU has 7 “3nD” wings (Sueing, Ahrens, Towns, Liddell, Young, Key, Brown) who either can’t shoot the 3, or can’t play the D. So no difference-maker at PG…or at C…or on the wing. Oops.
Rutgers lost their starting PG in Young and are replacing him with a true freshman ranked #183 in his class. The team’s trajectory positively correlated with Myles Johnson’s defensive improvement, but will continue that trend (downward) now that he’s with UCLA. Baker, Harper, and Omoruyi are not difference-makers for Rutgers.
After that, it’s just bad. Wisconsin doesn’t have Bo Ryan anymore. Iowa doesn’t have Garza anymore. NW is little-changed. Nebraska is just bad and no longer terrible. PSU is almost terrible but doesn’t care. Minnesota is the new terrible.
For several of these B1G teams, their positive projection isn’t based on team construction, but on the coach’s reputation (Izzo, Howard, Holtmann, and Painter).
Coaches don’t play the game.
Mid-major PGs don’t generally transition well to high-major schools. These facts will become obvious to those who haven’t paid attention to roster construction this off-season.