Frontcourt consistency and well-rounded guards: Looking ahead at IU basketball

Ashwin Prabhakar, Staff Writer

Early on in the season, Indiana has shown glimpses of its floor and ceiling as a team in this year’s unorthodox basketball season. The Hoosiers’ recent trip to the Maui Invitational in Asheville saw them dominate both Stanford and Providence but lose an ugly one to Texas. In Asheville, Indiana made clear what their keys to success will be moving forward. If they can fire on all cylinders, the team has a great opportunity to make the NCAA tournament for the first time under coach Archie Miller.

Frontcourt Consistency

Coming into the season, the hype surrounding this IU team was centered around preseason All-Big Ten forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. He proved his worth in a dominant 31-point performance against Stanford, but had relatively quiet games against Texas and Providence. In the Providence win, Race Thompson made up for an inefficient performance from Jackson-Davis as he posted 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Against Texas, however, both players were a combined 6-17 from the field and had no response to the athleticism and length of their opponents. Moreover, Texas dominated the frontcourt on the boards, out-rebounding the Hoosiers 48-29. Adding senior Joey Brunk back from injury will certainly help the Hoosiers in that regard moving forward. 

As the season progresses, Indiana’s bigs will need to show up consistently if they want any success in a Big Ten that features the likes of Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn.

Freshman Production  

Miller has looked to his freshman to provide a spark off the bench in the early season games. Indiana brought in a solid freshman class this year, featuring 5-star recruit Khristian Lander and 4-star recruit Trey Galloway, along with Bloomington South graduate and 2020 Mr. Basketball Anthony Leal. 

Galloway has seen the most playing time of the bunch and has shown his defensive toughness and high-level ability to finish inside. Lander has yet to live up to the high billing yet, but most definitely has the talent and confidence to get there. Leal has yet to see any shots fall, but played 18 solid minutes in the win against Stanford. 

If Leal and Lander can settle in on the offensive end, they should establish themselves as integral pieces of Miller’s rotation by the time Big Ten play rolls around.

Well-Rounded Guard Play

Indiana started guards Armaan Franklin, Rob Phinisee, and Aljami Durham in its first three games and saw mixed results. In the win over Providence, veterans Phinisee and Durham ran the show efficiently, combining for 30 points on 71.4% shooting. 

Against Texas, their efficiency plummeted as they were completely outplayed by the talented Longhorn guards. Also in that game, Durham, the team’s second leading scorer suffered an ankle injury.

Galloway filled Durham’s starting role against Stanford while Franklin played all 40 minutes and scored 13 points. Franklin was especially impressive on defense, holding projected lottery-pick Ziaire Williams to 4 points and 1-10 from the field.

If Franklin can provide such staunch defense on a nightly basis, and Phinisee and Durham can knock down shots consistently, the Hoosiers will have one of the most formidable guard rotations in the Big Ten.

Indiana’s next test will come on Wednesday when when they take on #20 Florida State in Tallahassee as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.