Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: What did IU men’s basketball get back, what did it lose and should I be concerned?

Armaan Franklin takes a breath before going to the line for a pair of free throws Jan. 14 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Franklin is transferring to the University of Virginia next season.
Armaan Franklin takes a breath before going to the line for a pair of free throws Jan. 14 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Franklin is transferring to the University of Virginia next season.

If you’re an IU men’s basketball fan, the last month has probably left you with a handful of questions. The Indiana Daily Student is here to answer the only one that matters — are the Hoosiers going to be any good next year? 

Before we examine the statistical underbelly of the program, it’s important you know a few crucial pieces of information. 

Junior forward Race Thompson, freshman guard Khristian Lander and freshman forward Jordan Geronimo have all withdrawn from the transfer portal and will be returning to Bloomington, where they will join standout sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who has forgone the NBA draft. 

Meanwhile, senior guard Al Durham will spend his fifth season at Providence College, and sophomore guard Armaan Franklin will take his talents to the University of Virginia. Senior center Joey Brunk also announced his plans to transfer Tuesday morning, though he spent the year sidelined by a back injury and therefore doesn’t affect our calculus. 

It’s hard to appreciate what you have without understanding what you’ve lost — or in this case, what you almost lost — so let’s crunch some numbers to find out how big a sigh of relief IU faithfuls should be heaving, or perhaps pin a number on the yikes factor. 

The big downside: it’s hard to win basketball games without, you know, baskets

For a frightening couple of weeks, just shy of half of IU’s scoring from last season was hanging precariously in the transfer portal, including nearly 60% of its successful 3-point attempts. While the return of Thompson, Lander and Geronimo salvages a healthy portion of those points, the absence of Durham and Franklin could seriously hurt the Hoosiers at the perimeter.

If not for Durham and Franklin’s accuracy from beyond the arc, I’m fairly certain IU’s opponents could have merely stood in the paint every defensive possession and the energy they would have conserved might have outweighed the risk of any other Hoosier making a shot 12 feet or more from the hoop. 

On one hand, waving 47% of your long-range shooting goodbye is pretty devastating. On the other hand,  IU already made the fewest 3-pointers of any Big Ten squad by a considerable margin at a meager 4 per game, so you could argue we’re basically burning ash there.

After all, short range technically still counts as range, right?

The big upside: you simply must understand how good Jackson-Davis is 

It would have been pretty bad if all five Hoosiers in the portal left for apparently greener pastures. The quintet contributed roughly 50% of not only IU’s scoring but also its rebounds, effectively leaving the Hoosiers’ ability to control the glass half empty or half full, depending on how optimistic you are.

While dropping around half of your production in every major measurable category is rather daunting, the argument could be made that it wouldn’t be that much worse than losing Jackson-Davis alone.

How did Jackson-Davis compare to his five on-court teammates in the portal? 

Well, if you picked any two of them at random and combined their season totals for points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, the likelihood of that number being equal to or greater than Jackson-Davis’ season total is 48%. 

If you remove steals and assists from the equation to adjust for Jackson-Davis’ position as a low post player, that probability dips to 20%. You have to sum Durham’s scoring with Franklin’s or Thompson’s to match Jackson-Davis’ output, and the same goes for rebounds when you add Thompson’s boards to Franklin’s or Durham’s.

Compare Trayce Jackson-Davis with

Player combo PTS REB AST STL BLK
Trayce Jackson-Davis 516 243 39 20 38

The verdict: IU can go places, but it may be riding the struggle bus for a while

If it weren’t clear enough, things could be way worse than they are for the Hoosiers. 

I hesitate to say IU would have been doomed had all five potential transfers left along with Jackson Davis, but it would have taken a particularly skilled carpenter and several robust Phillips flat-heads to unscrew the Hoosiers. 

It will be no small feat replacing Durham and Franklin’s sharpshooting. Although junior guard Rob Phinisee, sophomore forward Jerome Hunter and freshman guards Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway have all proven themselves capable of knocking down 3-pointers, as a whole they netted fewer points than Jackson-Davis himself last season. 

That being said, Archie Miller’s offense spread the floor like frozen butter across untoasted bread, so perhaps Woodson’s scheme will make IU’s shot chart look less like a giant thumb tack under the basket. 

Jackson-Davis coming back is an extremely pleasant surprise and could easily be the centerpiece on a team that goes deep into the NCAA Tournament. OK, maybe not that deep, but any postseason basketball outside the NIT sounds lovely.

Ultimately, we can only take these statistics to mean so much. Numbers don’t lie, but humans love using numbers to lie to one another, including themselves. 

Not that IU fans would ever lie to themselves or anything.

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