In preparation for today’s game I wanted to get the Rivals perspective. So, when the folks over at Crimson Quarry reached out I was happy to trade questions with them in prepartion for what should be a tough game in a tough environment.
IU coach Woodson is already facing an angry chorus of IU fans, and some local journalists, saying this season is a wash and over and calling for his head. That seems pretty premature and shortsighted to me. What is the general vibe about Woodson right now?
I wrote some about this before the season but the reality is that the expectations going into the year were “could be good, could be mid” and the result thus far has firmly been the latter.
A thing I don’t think Indiana fans expected that should’ve been more apparent is that this, if anything, is more of a rebuilding year than people saw coming. Indiana’s best player is a sophomore who already looks significantly better than he did last season.
Outside of the message boards, Indiana is pretty appreciative of Woodson for his efforts on the recruiting trail and making this very rivalry at least competitive again after Archie made it an annual embarrassment.
It comes down to this: Indiana needed better guard play, tried to get it in the portal and whiffed because it was hard for guys to see minutes with Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway on the roster. Not to mention the fact that freshman Jakai Newton has been out with an injury all year.
If Indiana still looks rough this time next year then the questions will be valid. For now, Woodson has earned the right to fix this and everybody just needs to calm down.
What’s the status of Xavier Johnson heading into this one and how does his prescense, or absence, impact this game?
Oh that’s such a weird one to break down honestly.
When he’s on and playing well, he is one of the better point guards in the country. We saw this in the Big Ten tournament in 2022, against Xavier last year and then Ohio State at home not too long ago. Guys like Brad Underwood and Bill Self have brought him up unprompted with praise.
When he’s off? He is off.
It was probably reasonable to expect a guy entering “year six” to be a bit more consistent after we all saw what he was capable of during that BTT run. Indiana doesn’t make the dance that year without him. The program bet big on that and lost out.
If he’s playing and playing well (which, context, he came off the bench last game and decidedly was not) he’ll be an issue. He has a great amount of speed with the ball in his hands and is Indiana’s best creator.
If he’s not in the game, Gabe Cupps starts while Trey Galloway is Indiana’s best passer on the perimeter. Cupps has been great in on-ball defense and, while his assist numbers aren’t gaudy, he’s a smart player and can get Indiana into its sets. He knows exactly where to be on either end of the court.
IU hasn’t been the best at shooting the three this year, but I know they’ve got guys capable of pouring it on. Who should Purdue fans be on the lookout for?
Mackenzie Mgbako. If Indiana needs a three, he’s the guy Woodson is running plays through.
He’s been incredible from the left wing on kick-outs when Malik Reneau gets doubled in the post and hit a tough pull-up in transition against Kansas that got Assembly Hall going. He’s significantly better now, especially as a shooter, than he was for his first few games of the season.
The staff has been encouraging him to work on driving the ball and handling it. He’s made strides getting to the rim and is an underrated passer. But if he gets the ball he can make some really, really tough shots if he’s having a good game.
Other than him? Galloway can hit shots in big games, Reneau has knocked down a few when he’s open and the same can be said for Kel’el Ware.
What would you say is this IU team’s biggest flaw on either side of the ball?
On offense, Indiana doesn’t take enough 3s to keep up with its opponent. They’ve shot more in their past two games and have had a few good nights hitting their shots.
I think the rise in percentage comes from quality of the shots being taken. Indiana has gotten some really good looks to fall but there’s not a ton of guys you feel great about shooting the ball. X was one of them, but we don’t know how he’s gonna look or how much he’ll play.
On defense? Well, something similar. Indiana gives up *a lot* of 3s and I think Purdue has the ability to exploit that weakness. You mentioned Loyer can be streaky but if I’m Matt Painter I’d feel good about getting him shots because he’ll get open.
Indiana’s issue lies in overhelping leaving someone open just one pass away and enough teams have made them pay for that to either win or just narrowly lose.
How deep do you expect Woodson to go in a big rivalry game like this?
Not very unless there’s a Michael Durr situation with one of Indiana’s backup bigs (more on that below).
Woodson has gotten a lot of grief for his rotation patterns but to his credit he has shortened that rotation as the season goes on once he finds the guys that click, which is what happened last year. He knew he was going to have to play his starters as much as possible against Kansas which almost worked until fatigue caught up at the end.
If one of the starters is playing particularly Not Well, he’ll look somewhere else for what he needs. I wouldn’t expect too much of the bench to be on the floor at once against Purdue and Woodson has done a pretty good job of getting guys ready to play in the big games.
What is the expected defensive plan against Zach Edey?
Hope he misses shots.
In all honesty though, there isn’t a good one. You really can’t risk either Kel’el Ware or Malik Reneau getting into foul trouble. Xavier Johnson is really, really good at drawing fouls on offense that could get Edey on the bench but again, no way to know what’ll happen with him tomorrow.
The dark horse plan is to engage the Michael Durr Protocol of throwing a backup big on Edey to go full Big Ten bullyball mode and foul but that’s much more of a “could you imagine” bit than a legitimate plan of action.
What’s your prediction for this one?
I don’t love predicting exact scores but as far as a result I think Purdue probably takes this one.
Team full of returning guys who remember losing here last year vs. a young squad of new dudes still trying to play complimentary ball together. Boilers could win by ten or more.