Three things: Indiana Men’s Basketball beats Little Rock

Even without Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana managed to avoid collapse on a sleepy Wednesday night by defeating the Little Rock Trojans 87-68 at Assembly Hall. It wasn’t always pretty, but Indiana is now 5-0 in what will likely be a quadrant one win before Thanksgiving.

For a fanbase that just suffered multiple losses in 2018 against teams ranked worse than 130th in KenPom, tonight wasn’t the most comfortable Hoosier win. At certain times in the second half, Indiana’s single-digit lead resembled some of the lowest lows of the previous two regimes.

Instead, the Hoosiers finished with a convincing 23-14 run in the final ten minutes to close the game and keep a perfect record in what has been the most exciting season for Indiana fans in years. With a day off between games, there’s a lot to be thankful for with this Indiana roster.

Here are three things;

There’s no denying that tonight wasn’t Indiana’s most impressive win of the season. While I personally was never concerned, there were shades of earth-shattering home upset at a few points during the game that would have derailed arguments that Indiana deserved a higher rank in the AP poll (I’m looking straight at you, Creighton).

On the other hand, Indiana was without Trayce Jackson-Davis tonight. No matter who the opponent is, replacing 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game will be an uphill battle. Add in the fact that Indiana’s next best post player is a freshman and you have all the makings of a major disappointment at home.

It’s worth noting that even after losing at home to KenPom’s 153rd seed in eastern Washington, Tom Crean’s 2014-15 roster ended with ten seeds in the NCAA tournament. In other words, a loss wouldn’t have meant the literal end of the season.

For further context, it’s the night before Thanksgiving. A sane portion of the student body got drunk with high school friends and plotted a line of attack against their cousins ​​for a second helping of filling at dinner tomorrow. Focusing on a home game against an Ohio Valley Conference midfield team was probably a challenge.

At the end of the day, I’ll pick up every 19-point win on the eve of a holiday and probably have correspondingly lower expectations when the Hoosiers get back on the field the day after the holiday. With the number of unbeaten teams in the country dwindling every day, I’m happy to see “unremarkable” victories every day of the week.

Ideally, you don’t need to see too many of the guys at the back of the bench unless it’s nearing the end of an overwhelming win when there’s nothing left to prove. Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t an ideal night for Indiana.

In addition to Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was absent purely as a precaution, Indiana had to be without Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway from the start tonight. And then Malik Reneau and Race Thompson were out for parts of today’s game with injuries.

For the first time this season, we saw Kaleb Banks and Logan Duncomb get the first half minutes, along with a host of other benchers like CJ Gunn, Tamar Bates and Jordan Geronimo. A look into the future of Indiana basketball.

It’s hardly fair to call Malik Reneau a bencher, having already contributed to the Hoosiers this year, but he really showed his worth as a starting center tonight in the absence of Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Reneau opened the game with eight of Indiana’s first 12 points, assisting on a dunk by Race Thompson who made it 8-2 for Hoosiers early on. There’s no real substitute for a player of Jackson-Davis’ caliber, but that’s about as close as you can hope.

Reneau’s early dominance was reminiscent of so many of Jackson-Davis’ best and most important plays as Hoosier, when the rest of the offense struggled to get things going despite solid defense.

In these situations, Indiana has relied on TJD for the past three years to remain competitive against elite opponents. Now they have Malik Reneau.

Again, Indiana is undefeated in Thanksgiving and likely underestimated at #11 in the AP poll. As Indiana fans, we should be thankful for that.

Entering Indiana tonight at number eight in the KenPom rankings and ninth in Bart Torvik’s rankings, he proved convincingly that the Associated Press had missed the mark by keeping the Hoosiers outside of their top ten rankings.

Even after tonight’s “overwhelming” win, Indiana sits 10th on both computer rankings and is a week away from a matchup with the top team in the AP polls at Assembly Hall.

Indiana’s success tonight was no accident either. Ranked the 118th best player in his class, CJ Gunn was the lowest rated player to leave high school to check into the game for Indiana today. He would have been the second-best player in Indiana’s 2017 class, behind only Justin Smith.

It’s no secret at this point that Mike Woodson has been able to attract the attention of elite high school players from across the country who wouldn’t have given the Hoosiers a second look a few years ago. Equally important, however, was his ability to keep top-ranked players in the roster regardless of playing time.

Duncomb, Banks and Geronimo, who finished 73rd, 87th and 105th in their classes respectively, scored a combined 16 points off the bench today, with Reneau, Jackson-Davis and Thompson limited by injuries. That’s three players who are classified as four-star composite recruits and remain on the roster despite no clear path to regulation time.

This team has the combination of star power, depth and coaching that feels more promising than any team in recent memory. Criticizing the areas that are far from perfect at this point in the season feels like Thanksgiving, a holiday meant to get drunk and ridicule the Detroit Lions.