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Tuesday, April 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

OPINION: IU men’s basketball may never be consistent, so just savor the great wins

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With every valley in life, there comes a peak. 

For example, IU men’s basketball had a historically pitiful outing Tuesday versus No. 17 University of Texas, losing 66-44, so it was bound to improve the following day. 

A 79-63 victory over Stanford University to secure third place in the Maui Invitational isn’t a remarkable height, but even a molehill is Mount Everest compared to the depths of offensive misery to which IU plummeted against Texas.

It cannot be fun playing the Hoosiers. 

Sure, they are liable to surrender a double-digit blowout every few games, but actually scoring on them seems as quick and painless as a root canal. 

IU’s defenders cling to the ball like lint on a dryer sheet. Seeing teams struggle to find open looks against the Hoosiers reminds me of trying to untangle earbuds that have been sitting in your pocket all day. 

Junior forward Race Thompson amassed four blocks and two steals to round out his 15-point performance. Thompson was the Hoosiers’ second leading scorer despite contributing less than half as many points as sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who finished the afternoon with a career-high 31. 

I’m not entirely convinced anyone can actually stop Jackson-Davis. He’s too strong and lengthy to be stuffed down low, so as long as he continues to succeed at the free-throw line his scoring total will skyrocket. 

Just imagine how many games the Hoosiers could win if Jackson-Davis didn’t have to be responsible for half of his team’s points. 

IU’s roster is chock full of fantastic players, but whatever head coach Archie Miller is trying to pass off as an offensive scheme isn’t doing his athletes any favors. 

IU’s assist-to-turnover ratio would drastically increase if its players aimed their passes somewhere other than the ceiling or one another’s ankles. By the time a skilled shooter like junior guard Rob Phinisee corrals the ball on an awkward lob, he already has arms waving in his face. 

Whether it was freshman guard Anthony Leal refusing to shoot a 3-pointer while occupying his own solar system along the baseline or freshman guard Khristian Lander sprinting full steam ahead into Jackson-Davis on a fast break, IU’s offense initially appeared woefully unprepared. 

Another glaring concern with the Hoosiers continues to be their shooting. 

Not every offensive possession should require Navy SEAL covert operation levels of stress and focus to result in a score. The Hoosiers are lucky when they finally find an open shot, and converting that into points is like trying to precariously balance a slick queen of spades atop a towering house of cards.

Fortunately, a few Hoosiers displayed promise from beyond the arc in the second half. 

IU got more creative with its passing and Phinisee was the beneficiary, draining a pair of 3-pointers. Lander also dared to test the waters from long range and would have had a truly impressive showing if more than one of his five heaves had gone through. 

By the time this contest was clearly out of Stanford’s reach, IU was actually spreading the ball with a degree of confidence and taking shots from outside the shadow of the basket, certainly a welcome sight for viewers of either fanbase. 

There’s definitely a world in which the Hoosiers’ offense gets in sync, but I worry how that would translate to actually making baskets.

A significantly shortened offseason can’t help cohesion on the court, but surely players still could have found ways to work on their jump shots. A local park, a child’s miniature Nerf hoop, a wadded-up sock and a hamper — anything. 

I can already see the breakneck pattern of ups and downs forming for IU, so I don’t want to make any broad conclusions about this group. Until the Hoosiers can unearth any semblance of consistency, we’re all hapless passengers on an emotional roller coaster at Miller’s utter lack of amusement park.

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