IU Basketball 2020-21: Offensive Improvement

Do you ever find yourself longing for the simpler times when your biggest worries were why IU had multi-minute stretches of stagnant offense? Pre-Coronavirus – that was something that was pretty heavy on Hoosier fans’ minds.

And for good reason. There were multiple stretches this season when the Hoosier offense was abysmal. The base offense the Hoosiers ran was blocker-mover motion, which is essentially an offense where your big men each have their own side of the floor and set screens for guards and post-up on that side. That’s an elementary explanation of it, as it can certainly get more intricate than that, but that’s the basic gist.

It may have seemed like a great offense for the Hoosiers to experience with, as they had two skilled bigs that started all season (Brunk & TJD). But the truth of that matter is that it essentially just clogged things up and it was more of a failure than a success.

So where – and how – can the Hoosiers improve their offense for the 2020-21 season?

Post Ups

Trayce Jackson-Davis is easily Indiana’s best returning player, and it’s not close. But you might be surprised to see the numbers for TJD when it came to post ups last season.

TJD was just 31/81 from the floor in post up situations for 38.3%. That’s not great, by any means.

So do I just want TJD to get better at scoring out of his post ups? Sure – that would be nice, but he’ll likely be commanding double teams, as he’ll be the focal point of the offense. I’d much rather see IU use post ups as part of their sets where TJD (or Brunk/Race/etc.) is a designed passer. Or at the very least, creating movement on the weak side, rather than just standing and watching TJD try to score on two guys.

The video below shows some nice kickouts from post ups last season.

TJD Range Extension

TJD obviously has NBA aspirations, and the biggest leap he can make with his draft stock will be by showcasing more range.

Above, you can see TJD’s shot chart on jumpers last season. The biggest takeaway from the shot chart is simply that Trayce didn’t shoot outside much. However, his mechanics weren’t horrid or anything, so it’s not like extending the range is out of the question.

In fact, I’d almost guarantee he’s worked on his range a lot in the offseason, as it not only makes him a better pro prospect, but it makes Indiana that much more dangerous on the offensive end.

I’m not advocating for him to float around the perimeter, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him step out and knock down some jumpers.

I look at somebody like Kaleb Wesson, who went 4-14 from deep his freshman season and went 45-106 his junior year (42%), as an example of a big that expanded their range as their college career went on. I don’t think we’d see TJD put up numbers anywhere near those of Wesson’s junior year, but being able to expand his range is a win for everybody.

“Small” Ball

The most frequent lineup we saw from the Hoosiers last season was Phinisee, Durham, Smith, TJD, and Brunk. Those last three players went 10-38, 0-0, and 0-0 from the three point line. Teams could pack the paint and clog driving lines – which caused a lot of problems for the Hoosiers.

The game has changed, and having two (let alone three) guys on the floor that aren’t outside threats is a recipe for disaster on the offensive end.

Which is why I’d love to see more ‘small’ ball lineups from the Hoosiers next season. I envision something like Lander, Phinisee, Durham, Hunter, and TJD as a group that can do a lot of creative things on the offensive end.

That would put 4 guys around the perimeter that can all knock down the three surrounding TJD.

There’s a lot you can do with a lineup like that. I like “Horns” as a base alignment. Horns is a very common alignment you see that starts with your two ‘bigs’ up at the slots and two other guards in either corner (show below).

Team France - Simple Horns Actions

There are about a million things you can do out of this alignment, but something as simple as TJD at the 5 and Hunter at the 4 would allow a screen & roll in which TJD rolls and Hunter pops. That’s extremely basic and it can get much more advanced than that, especially when you have numerous shooters on the floor.

If you’re interested in more Horns plays, I recommend hopping on YouTube & searching for them. There’s certainly no shortage of them.

Khristian Lander

I mentioned Lander as part of the ‘small ball’ lineup, but he brings a skillset that Indiana just didn’t have last year. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect him to be a savior, but I forsee fans being most comfortable when the ball is hands. Lander can score in high volumes at all three levels, sees the floor well, and can make things happen when plays break down.

Indiana lacked a consistent playmaker last year when things broke down (which they did a lot). Devonte Green tried to shoulder that burden, but it oftentimes resulted in something negative rather than positive.

Set Creativity

With a large part of the core returning from last season, I hope to see more creativity in the sets they run. I mentioned a Horns base alignment for some of their sets, but I’d also like to see Indiana run counters, add new sets as the season goes on, and overall just be less predictable than they’ve been under Archie Miller.

Last season, Indiana really only ran a handful of sets & most of them really only had one or two options, which makes them easy to scout. As you grind through a Big Ten season, teams pretty much know everything you’re going to run, so running counters keeps them on their toes.

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