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Previewing IUPUI: Jaguars' remodeling job leaves plenty of unanswered questions

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch or listen to the game

Tip time: 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Nov. 18

TV: haha no

Online streamingESPN3

Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network (affiliates)

IUPUI vitals

Record: 1-1
Pomeroy ranking: No. 278

Adjusted tempo: 70.5 poss/40 minutes (ranks 267th)
Adjusted offensive efficiency: 96.0 (ranks 296th)
Adjusted defensive efficiency: 103.3 (ranks 232nd)

IUPUI roster
IUPUI schedule
IUPUI stats 2015 2016

The IUPUI offense and starters

IUPUI Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2014-15 46.5 (277) 23.6 (344) 31.1 (164) 32.8 (280)
2015-16 49.1 (152) 22.9 (250) 30.3 (154) 35.1 (207)

One way to overhaul a roster is to bring in as many transfers as you can get your hands on, which is exactly what Jason Gardner*** did when he got the IUPUI job prior to last season. Gardner has added a handful of players who began their careers at other D-I schools, and four of them became eligible for 2015-16.

(***Yes, that's former Arizona star Jason Gardner, who is not only a head coach now but also has four children. Makes me feel pretty old.)

Seven of the 15 dudes on this roster are D-I transfers, and most are from Indiana. Gardner's been able to leverage the pull of goin' home to land these kids, and while it's early, the injection of players is looking crucial. Three of the transfer players to come eligible this season are in the starting lineup, led by guard Darell Combs, who is pacing the team with 18.5 points per game.

The Jaguars put a scare into a decent Marquette team over the weekend, taking the Golden Eagles to overtime before letting the game get away from them. That's a good initial sign for an IUPUI team coming off a miserable 10-21 season.

Still there's plenty left to be sorted, as the four factors make plain--the Jags do nothing particularly well, unless you count turning the ball over. They've been shooting threes far more frequently this year, which may or may not hold (we are only talkin' about two games' worth of data here), but they're making only about 30% from deep. Their mediocre overall shooting combined with the turnover trouble makes for some bad offense.

One thing that's not clear is who should be leading this offense. Combs has been the alpha dog out of the gate, but his track record doesn't make that seem like the best idea. In his lone season at Eastern Michigan prior to transferring, he took an absurd 34.9% of that team's shots while he was on the floor. He also posted an effective field goal percentage just north of 40.0. (Which is real bad, kids. Real bad.)

Looking through his game logs, I noticed one occasion where he took eight shots in 10 minutes, and I also noticed that's not an exception. There is nothing to suggest that his shot-hoarding tendency is going to change--although he's taking a mere 29.8% of the shots at IUPUI--and there's also nothing to suggest he can efficiently handle this sort of workload.

But then, if Combs isn't the guy, who is? Marcellus Barksdale is one of the few rotation guys who's played multiple seasons with IUPUI, but again we've got a track record that leaves little reason to think he can be a useful primary scorer. The Jaguars could try to make a more concerted effort to find their transfer bigs, who are both off to nice starts, but most likely Gardner will keep on experimenting, just as he did for pretty much the entirety of his first season.


Darell Combs (6-2, 195) -- Combs is the perfect example of why it's important to investigate the how and why behind a player's output. Sure, that 18.5 PPG number looks mighty fine, but as I mentioned, Combs is a volume shooter, and not a very good one. He's a career 35.9% shooter on twos and a career 31.6% three-point shooter. His aggression in attacking the basket is paying dividends (8.1 fouls drawn per 40 minutes) but comes with a cost--turnovers.

Mason Archie (6-5, 185) -- His shot attempts last season were split almost 50-50 between twos and threes; he can be a secondary option for the offense but needs to get better from beyond the arc (career 31.2% shooter.

Marcellus Barksdale (6-5, 210) -- Barksdale is a disruptive defender and decent defensive rebounder. He also has a knack for getting to the free throw line, which is good since he's never posted an effective field goal percentage higher than 42.9 in a single season. For his flaws scorin' the ball otherwise, he is a good free throw shooter, so NC State would be advised to keep him off the line.

Matt O'Leary (6-8, 225) -- O'Leary is one of three transfers from Loyola on this team, including his frontcourt pal Nick Osborne. O'Leary has been solid inside the arc but dreadful beyond it (career 24.5% shooter from three), and while you may see a flawed approach to basketball, I see a man with big dreams. Who are we to smash this fellow's life goals? You go be that three-point shooter, Matt O'Leary. I believe in your belief.

Nick Osborne (6-8, 230) -- Also willing to take threes--and also shouldn't be willing to take them--but not nearly to the same degree as O'Leary. A bit turnover prone, not much of a shot botherer. Pretty good defensive rebounder.

The IUPUI bench and defense

Reserves: Aaron Brennan (6-6, 225), Evan Hall (6-7, 200), T.J. Henderson (6-0, 160), Leo Svete (6-5, 190). Svete is basically a not-so-good three-point specialist, and he ain't shy, either. Brennan has been a solid scorer inside during his brief career, though he is a bit turnover prone. Hall and Henderson are both freshmen, so who the heck knows what they're going to provide. Hall has been aggressive early on; he's also averaging 13.8 fouls committed per 40 minutes through two games. (Eep.)

IUPUI Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2014-15 51.3 (269) 20.9 (67) 28.3 (54) 41.8 (267)
2015-16 45.9 (120) 22.3 (78)
33.3 (198) 58.2 (266)

Gardner got IUPUI to improve significantly in the turnover and rebounding categories during his first season, and as a result the Jaguars jumped 185 spots in adjusted defensive efficiency. That moved them up from dreadful to sorta okay.

There's only so much that you can do if your field goal percentage defense is poor, because as a wise man once opined, "you gotta make the other team miss shots." I think that's how it went, anyway. Shootin' trumps all.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 16.