So I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t visually see any of Monday’s exhibition against Ferris State, though I did listen to basically the entire second half through the watchful words of Don Fischer (and Royce Waltman). So, uneducated as I might be, let me pose a question you might find puzzling: Isn’t this game better for Indiana, given the way it turned out? Let’s dig past the surface reactions of “Wow, that was really close,” and “Don’t good teams find ways to win?” Consider the following, which we learned about Indiana tonight and wouldn’t have before:
+ First of all, as Ryan touched upon, Victor Oladipo is a gamer. He won’t lead the team in scoring or rebounding or assists, but he’s already a fan favorite. More importantly, for the time being anyway, he’s proven to his coach that he’s a guy Indiana can count on when the stakes are highest.
+ After a veritable barrage last Wednesday, we learned tonight that Indiana does not have the wherewithal to lean heavily on the 3-point shot. Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston, Maurice Creek, (Matt Roth if he’s OK, which by the way Fischer talked about it seems a tough pill to swallow) all of them are talented shooters. But 7-for-27 speaks for itself — this team has to create higher percentage looks.
+ Indiana must improve against the zone. Period. Fischer and Waltman hammered at it in the second half, and shooting south of 37 percent from the floor would indicate their analysis was on target.
+ When the right people get to the line, (Christian Watford) Indiana is dangerous there. Remember when Eric Gordon’s wrist basically precluded him from scoring on any shot that didn’t include his hand hitting the rim in 2008 and he still scored 20 a game because he shot so many free throws? Indiana can do that. With the driving ability of players like Creek, Verdell Jones and Watford, it should do that. More 23-for-28 nights would go a long way, especially when the shots aren’t falling.
+ Indiana will still struggle on the boards and with turnovers. Probably not as much, but the old bugaboos were alive again Monday night.
+ Finally, and this one is a little bit harder to quantify, but maybe it’s better for this team to get a wake-up call. It’s a tired cliche, the “learned they can’t play down to an opponent’s level” line. But for a team still learning how to be a high-major power, maybe a game like this is necessary. Particularly when you look at some of the less impressive teams early on the schedule, if there was to be one hiccup in November, wouldn’t you prefer this be it?
Maybe none of this matters. Maybe all of it matters. In reality, probably about half of it will matter. But we wouldn’t have learned half of this in some 40-point blowout that was over in 10 minutes.
There were real lessons to be taken from Monday night, in a game that ultimately won’t matter a bit. While the possibility of serious injury to Matt Roth lingers, overall, Indiana actually came away from Ferris State in a far better way because they were pushed. It was only in how they responded that we were able to shine some light onto the dark places of a previously untested squad.