How adding Kanaan Carlyle and Myles Rice improves Indiana’s offense

  • 04/23/2024 8:31 am in

Mike Woodson entered the offseason with an unhappy fanbase and seven scholarship spots to fill.

The objective has been clear: acquire talent in the backcourt and plug the other holes with experienced and efficient players. Indiana’s three top-20 transfer portal commitments, Oumar Ballo, Myles Rice, and Kanaan Carlyle, accomplish that.

With the opening night of the 2024-25 season half a year away, Woodson has put Indiana in a good position. But how did this become a “do or die” offseason for Indiana and its guard play in the first place?

The arrival of Jalen Hood-Schifino before the 2022-23 season gave Indiana NBA-level talent in the backcourt. Before Xavier Johnson broke his foot in December, Hood-Schifino was paired with Johnson in the backcourt. With shared ball-handling duties between the two, Indiana had options. When Johnson went out for the season, Indiana had no problem giving the freshman Hood-Schifino the reins to the offense.

According to Kenpom, the Hoosiers finished the 2022-23 campaign with the 28th-best offense in the country, easily the highest mark of the Woodson era. Woodson admitted that he did not expect Hood-Schifino to enter the NBA draft after his Big Ten freshman of the year season. This oversight set the program back last season as IU relied on Johnson (who only started 13 games), a freshman in Gabe Cupps, and Trey Galloway.

Simply put, Indiana’s guard play lowered its ceiling last season.

Galloway missed Indiana’s final two games but still played 1,034 minutes, 69 more than any Hoosier and the 13th-highest percentage in the Big Ten. The Culver Academy product does many things well, but he needs a little support from his teammates when generating offense. That’s why Indiana loves to have him come off screens at the elbow and get him in a spot where he can play off two feet in the paint. Galloway, who will return next winter for a fifth season, improved in the pick and roll and as a decision-maker throughout last season. Galloway finished the season ninth in the Big Ten in assist rate (25.6) and had double-digit assists in three of his final seven games.

But he wasn’t effective as a creator off the dribble, which was a problem. He was asked to play a role he wasn’t entirely comfortable with. On top of guarding the opposition’s best perimeter player, Galloway got worn down — hence his 3-point percentage dipping from 46.2 percent in 2022-23 to 26 percent this past year. In 2022-23, Galloway’s usage rate was 12.1 percent (11th highest on the roster). In 2023-24, Galloway was used an average of 19.1 percent of possessions, the fifth highest on the roster. That was just too large of a jump.

Indiana’s three frontcourt players, Kel’el Ware, Malik Reneau, and Mackenzie Mgbako, had the three highest usage rates last season. That makes sense, as those were Indiana’s three best players. However, the lack of usage and creation IU was getting from its backcourt was concerning.

The addition of Rice and Carlyle gives Indiana talented backcourt depth and two of the best creators off the dribble available in the portal.’s “role” statistic calculates a player’s role in his team’s offense based on their stats and team contributions on a 1.0 to 5.0 scale. A 1.0 means the player is the team’s “creator” and a 5.0 would be the team’s “receiver.”

Rice, the Pac-12 freshman of the year, was a 1.6, making him Washington State’s strongest and most pure creator. Carlyle was a 2.7, the fourth-highest in Stanford’s offense. It’s important to note that Carlyle missed the first month of his true freshman season and only started 16 games.

Carlyle averaged 0.941 points per possession in isolation last season, ranking in the 71st percentile. That’s good for a freshman. As a team, Indiana averaged 0.793 points per possession in isolation last season. Rice was even better in isolation. He averaged one point per possession in 43 isolation opportunities. Isolation offense isn’t the name of the game in college basketball, but now Indiana has two perimeter players who are comfortable breaking down defenders if the ball stalls.

Both also spent over 100 possessions as the ball handler in the pick and roll (Rice spent 236), putting up solid numbers in getting to the basket and making effective decisions.

Rice and Carlyle were two of the portal’s most dynamic guards and now Indiana has both. Pair the two of them with Galloway and a more experienced Cupps and IU suddenly has depth and talent on the perimeter. That’s three or four guys where there’s comfort in handling the ball and generating offense. Last season, IU maybe felt comfortable with one or two of those guys, especially in late-game scenarios.

Galloway, Mgbako and Reneau (all returners from last season) should benefit from this. Indiana will have more spot-up opportunities as guys get downhill, and with a significant target/lob threat in Ballo, opposing teams will have a lot to account for in the scouting report. Indiana has a chance to have its best offense in the Woodson regime.

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