With no hopes of making the Summit League conference tournament, there were never really any great expectations of the Mavs over the last 4 seasons, other than just hoping for improvement. As fans of a transitioning team, I felt most of us would look at it as Okay, We Are Not Great, But We Are Not IUPUI. I have to say, the more and more I research about the Jaguars, the more and more I am growing fearful of their potential.
You have to consider why we have fans have been going with a little bit of this IUPUI Sucks logic…
They only had 6 wins in each of the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons. They have not had a winning season since 2010-2011. What Ron Hunter had built up from a NAIA to Division 1 program had been lost by Todd Howard. Basically to be summed up, ever since the Dakota schools gained some recognition, the Jaguars dropped off the map, so how could adding another school just south of the Dakotas help with that? IUPUI dumped Howard and got an attractive hire in Jason Gardner, former 2nd Team All American guard at Arizona.
As fans we like to jump on the Oh, He Played Point Guard in College, So He Will Be A Great Coach theory pretty easily. Maybe we are jumping the gun here on Gardner in thinking he will be a great coach at IUPUI and turn the program around. When I say “we”, I mean the people that tune into IUPUI games on ESPN3, it is all the commentators talk about. Before Gardner took over the job at IUPUI, he was an assistant with Josh Pastor at Memphis for a season, and an assistant at Loyola Chicago for two seasons. By the way, am I the only one that feels Pastor is incredibly overrated?
Anyway, in Gardner’s first year at IUPUI he is able almost double the team’s win totals and get them up to 10 wins…yay! Which is actually a supreme feat considering there were some people that did not think the Jaguars would win one game all year. With no real big time scorer, (Marcellus Barksdale led the team this season with 9.5 points per game) the team had an odd style of play, did not shoot particularly that well (42.6 FG% – 7th in Summit, 29.6 3pt% – 9th in Summit), hell they were even last in the Summit League in turnovers with 15.5 per game. Yes, someone averaged more turnovers than the Mavs! The Jaguars were able to pick up some wins over IPFW, who was the preseason favorite in the Summit, Denver (twice) who was also a favorite in the Summit before the season started, and also picked up wins against South Dakota, Western Illinois, and Omaha when CJ Carter had a career high 45 points. Their non conference schedule had some games you expected them to lose; Xavier, Evansville, Purdue, Drake, and Indiana State, but they were able to pick up some close wins against Milwaukee, Ball State, and South Alabama. Also you know what they did not do during the non-conference? They did not play any division 2 or NAIA teams for some easy slap stick comedy wins.
The men’s basketball program is growing as the university is growing as well. Like UNO, as a commuter campus, the university did not have much for on campus living for students. A few years ago, the university acquired the University Palace Hotel, a one time 4 diamond hotel, whatever the hell that means, and they renovated it into a dorms for students in 2013. The men’s basketball team has also moved into a renovated Fairgrounds arena, which can seat up to 8,200. So with a new coach, new facilities, IUPUI is starting to gain some attention, and they are clearly trying to make an effort to get their program to where it once was under Ron Hunter.
As far as what is coming for IUPUI basketball, Gardner has been working toward recruiting some decent talent for the men’s team…although it is not like he has much to improve from. The Jaguars had 5 players that transferred out from from the 2014-2015 season, but it is not like they are losing 5 guys that anyone is screaming “oh no, we might not get to 10 wins again!” When Gardner was hired at IUPUI, 3 players from Loyola decided to transfer to the Jaguars program who will be available for 2015-2016.
- Nick Osborne is 6’8″ and 220, he played in 28 games and made 17 starts in his sophomore year at Loyola while averaging 5.4 points per game and 4 rebounds per game, and he shot 50% from the field. He is also a post player that can hit 80% of his free throws, that is never a terrible thing. Maybe he is not a guy that is going to come in and save the program by any means, but taking a year off to practice, he can definitely come into the Jaguars program and be an instant help to the team. Most likely a starter for the team, especially considering that the Jaguars do not have much of a front court.
- Matt O’Leary is 6’8″ and 225, he played in 31 games his sophomore season at Loyola and made 5 starts himself. I do not care what anyone says, O’Leary is always a bad ass last name. O’Leary averaged 4.2 points per game and 3 rebounds per game his sophomore year at Loyola. He is also not a terrible passer for a big man, averaging 2 assists per game his sophomore and had a career high of 6 assists at Tennessee Tech. Osborne and O’Leary can each step out and hit a three, but it is not like it is a big part of their game, does it seriously sound like IUPUI has two John Karhoffs coming into the program?
- Jordan Pickett is a 6’0″ sophomore guard who also sat out after transferring from Loyola, he only played in 5 games at Loyola before a season ending injury. Seriously a wild card.
Darrell Combs is a another player who sat out the 2014-2015 season after transferring from Eastern Michigan. Combs is a 6’2″ guard who can score the ball. He played in 36 games, and started 7 his sophomore season for an Eastern Michigan team that went 22-15 and made it to the second round of the CIT. He averaged 7.5 points per game his sophomore year, but he only shot 32% from the field, so hopefully for the Jaguars he has been working on that in the year that he redshirted. But hopefully for the Mavs, he has not… He did also score in double figures 12 times his sophomore season. Osborne, O’Leary, and Pickett are all candidates that could jump into the starting lineup at IUPUI with Barksdale for the 2015-2016 and completely change the look of their team.
Incoming as freshman, the Jaguars have T.J. Henderson, a 5’11” guard from Indianapolis. Henderson averaged nearly 30 points per game, 5 assists, and 5 steals per game as a junior in high school. He also held offers from IPFW, Kennesaw State, and Buffalo. I cannot find out how his senior season went, he transferred high schools, but 30 points per game, 5 assists, 5 steals…ehhhhhhhhh. We will (obviously) have to wait and see what that will translate into as a college player. Five steals a game just sounds like Devin Patterson to me, that is a good thing. I saw a blip in an article mentioning Henderson returning from an injury and scoring 20 points in a game in “limited minutes.” The team will also be adding Henderson’s teammate, forward Gary Bonds, at 6’8″ he was in and out with injuries over his senior season. So, another wild card, he did also receive scholarship offers from Wright state and New Orleans. IUPUI will also be gaining a 6’9″ forward from Indianapolis, who played with Henderson and Bonds in AAU, and averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds as a senior. He is described as being a guy who does the dirty work of setting screens, diving after the ball, posting for rebounds, which is never a terrible thing to have on your roster.
The Jaguars also have Evan Hall, a 6’7″ forward from Hindman, Kentucky who picked IUPUI over Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, and Northern Kentucky, some recruiting sites listed him as a 3 star player as well. Hall averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds as a senior and shot 65% as a senior, he also had 14 points and 8 rebounds as a junior while shooting 72% from the field. Sounds like is pretty solid, or like he played against a bunch of 5’10” post players in a small Kentucky region. I have never been to Kentucky, no one has ever invited me, and I doubt anyone ever will. He was on the AAU National Championship team though.
The team will be adding Grant Sinn, who is a transfer from North Park University in Chicago, which is a real thing, but I am unclear if he ever actually played before transferring to IUPUI in the Spring semester. He shot 45% from three point range in high school. If you ever talk to a non-hipster from Chicago, they do not know what or where North Park is. Sinn gained interest from some D-1 programs before settling on North Park, Gardner has said that Sinn will be an immediate asset to their basketball program.
As for more for the future, Gardner and IUPUI picked up a transfer from Syracuse, 6’3″ guard Ron Patterson. Patterson was never the ultimate player at Syracuse, so he does not sound like a big time factor for the success of IUPUI, or like he is going to be an All First Team player for the Summit League. His best game at Syracuse was a 13 point and 4 assist performance in a blowout win over Colgate. He averaged 2.6 points per game and 1.7 assists while shooting 31 percent from the floor in his sophomore year at Syracuse.
None of these incoming players, or new facilities are guarantees for success for the Jaguars, but they certainly are some positive momentum that the Jaguars have not had in a few years. They ended their season on a 2 point loss to Oral Roberts in the Summit League tournament, ending the season on a 2 point loss in a tournament makes players think Crap, If Only We Would Have Hit One More Three Earlier In The Game! That sticks in their mind and makes them work harder in the off season, well hopefully. The Jaguars are not a joke anymore, they are not what they were from 2012-2014. Gardner is pulling them into the right direction, they might not get to the North Dakota State and South Dakota State level this upcoming season, but they have the tools to get their eventually.