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My Two Cents: Indiana's Rebounding Concerns Should Abate Once Brunk Returns

Playing a three-guard set always leads to issues with rebounding, but getting center Joey Brunk back from a back injury would help even more as Indiana heads to the Maui Invitational next week.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – College basketball is often all about the give and the take. That's certainly true for Indiana this season as well. Archie Miller and the Hoosiers want to play small this year, with three guards on the floor most of the time. 

That's the take.

The give? Playing with a small lineup means better ball protection and perimeter shoot, but the rebounding might suffer. That was certainly the case in Wednesday night's season-opening win over Tennessee Tech, where the Hoosiers won convincingly, posting an 89-59 victory, but won the rebounding battle by only thee (36-33). 

That has to change going forward, and quickly. 

"This team right now as you watch us, we are built differently. We are a little bit more skilled and perimeter-oriented,'' Miller said. "With that being said, I think we are deficient on the glass right now. Trayce (Jackson-Davis) can rebound the ball, Race (Thompson) can rebound the ball, but other than that I don’t know that we have a ton of guys going after the ball to rebound it. 

"That is the biggest concern going to Asheville (for the Maui Invitation starting on Monday). With that type of field, that's going to be a concern, our rebounding.''

It's easy to overreact from one game, and Indiana's fan base is very good about that. Two big things to remember about Wednesday's performance is that starting center Joey Brunk, who's 6-foot-11 and 255 pounds, didn't play at all, sitting out because of a sore back.

And Race Thompson, who started in his place upfront with Trayce Jackson-Davis, got in early foul trouble. He picked up there fouls in eight-plus minutes in the first half, and wasn't the factor he would normally be. He played only 16 minutes, and had three rebounds. Without those two on the floor, the Hoosiers were really small.

"I think, in general, we are smaller right now, especially with Joey out,'' Miller said. 'When Joey returns, that makes us deeper and bigger, but we are smaller and you can see we are switching more. I think that switching puts our guards on the glass a lot more, and that hurts. That's where the switching hurts you.

"In general, right now my biggest concerns are our ability to rebound and take care of it. Those two things, if we can do those two things, we will be OK.''

Being OK means the guards need to help on the boards more. Miller started Al Durham, Rob Phinisee and Armaan Franklin, and the four freshmen — Trey Galloway, Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal and Jordan Geronimo — saw a good bit of playing time off the bench. 

Galloway had a great debut, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. He looks to be ready to contribute immediately to this team, so helping out on the boards will be huge. He had two rebounds Wednesday night.

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"The big thing with Trey is the physicality on the boards. He is going to have to find a way over the course of the season to get more involved in the rebounding game,'' Miller said. "We are a small perimeter-oriented team. It helps you on one end, but you really have to be aware of it on the other end. I think that is the biggest concern, when we head to Asheville, can we rebound? We want Trey to rebound a little better.''

Rebounding is so much a team thing these days. Because there is so much perimeter shooting, there are a lot of long rebounds to be had. Two guards, Al Durham and Rob Phinisee, had six and five rebounds, respectively.

It's just one game, so there's no reason to panic about it. Not yet. It will certainly be a teaching tool and a point of emphasis before the Maui Invitational starts on Monday against Providence in Asheville, N.C.

Jackson-Davis certainly did his share, grabbing 11 rebounds and scoring 26 points in the opener. He's an All-American candidate for a reason, and it showed against Tennessee Tech.

He can do it all. We've seen that before, and we saw it Wednesday night. Now it's all about getting him more help.

"I think the rebounding, the running, the shot-blocking, those are the things that stand him about away from everyone else,'' Miller said about Jackson-Davis, the sophomore from Greenwood, Ind.. You can tell he is better with his right hand around the rim and he can move on the perimeter, he is quick. He is a lot better as a player. 

"There is no question, when your best player is out there getting offensive rebounds and blocking shots or defending the ball screen the way he was at times, he definitely gives you an anchor out there.''

Getting Brunk back will help. So will seeing Thompson get extended minutes and staying out of foul trouble.

"If Joey returns to the deal, that makes us deeper, makes us bigger,'' Miller said. "Yeah, he's day-by-day. I don't really know. Joey's been going full blast going the last three weeks, and he got a little sore. 

"We have three games in three days down there (in Asheville), so we didn't feel like tonight was the night that we needed to rush him back. He could have played if this was something very very urgent. In Asheville, we plan on having him. If there's a setback we won't but we definitely plan on hiving him in Asheville.''

That Maui Invitational field is loaded with talented teams, so the Hoosiers will get a good challenge every day, starting with a Providence team that is a legitimate Big East contender.

So if rebounding is going to remain a concern, we're going to find out in a hurry down there.

  • THREE THINGS I LIKED: Here's what I liked most about Indiana's season-opening 89-59 win over Tennessee Tech, including an expected star, a freshman on the rise, and a mostly-clean game. CLICK HERE
  • GAME STORY: Here are all the details on Indiana's first win over Tennessee Tech, including quotes from coach Archie Miller and players Trayce Jackson-Davis and Trey Galloway. CLICK HERE
  • TOM BREW COLUMN: With COVID-19 concerns everywhere, be prepared for a long season of uncertainty. CLICK HERE