IUPUI is loaded with experienced talent this season, a vital asset in a league like the Summit League. Three of the starting five, Darell Combs, Kellon Thomas, and Matt O’Leary, are seniors. Four of the starting five have played elsewhere and have had success. Another senior, Josh James, is a valuable addition coming off the bench. These athletes have all been here before, and are primed for a successful season. With experience comes composure, and that can be an important thing to keep in mind during waning minutes of a close contest.
The Jaguars will play an exciting brand of basketball this season. The Jaguars play small ball; their tallest starter is 6-foot-8. What they lack in height, they make up for in shooting ability and speed. The entire team can get out and run, including the big men. Forwards Evan Hall and Matt O’Leary are mobile enough to make for a deadly fast break team. Not to mention, all three of the guards are speed demons. Combs, Thomas, and Ron Patterson all have compact builds, and they get up and down the floor with ease. The trio should be a headache for all opposing coaches.
In addition to the fast break, they can shoot. Matt O’Leary is a deceptively good shooter. Last season, he averaged 10 points and shot 57 percent from the field. In the four games he has played this season, he is shooting 42 percent from three point range. Darell Combs is deadly with the ball in his hands. Last season he shot 43 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. That kind of consistent scoring should be a major key to the success of the Jaguars.
As successful as the starting five hopes to be, they will need help from their bench players. D.J. McCall and T.J. Henderson seem to be the solution to that issue. McCall redshirted last season, but is a rebound machine and a quality scoring threat. Henderson is just a younger version of the starting frontcourt. He can run the court like it’s nothing, and has a hot hand behind the arc. In a game against Howard this season, he went 3-6 from 3-point land. Both players should be key cogs in the machine that is Jaguar basketball.
So far this season, the Jaguars have looked like a potential heavyweight in the Summit conference. They fought Michigan with an outstanding effort, eventually falling 77-65. That said, they put quite the scare into the Big Ten Wolverines. The Jaguars looked impressive in their two home games this season. Against Howard, they were by far the more talented team, and it showed. They capitalized on great chances to run some set plays, which almost always ended with a basket. Howard also threw a 3-2 zone at them, which would seemingly hinder the abilities of a team that likes to shoot the basketball. It was a good challenge for the Jaguars, who eventually won 77-55. A day later, they played an athletic Eastern Michigan team. The team won that game with their three-point shooting abilities, shooting 50 percent for the game and sinking eight in the first half.
Expect an above average season from IUPUI this year. They have looked strong against big and small teams alike. After a few more games against Big Ten teams before the conference season starts, the Jaguars should be primed for a successful campaign under coach Jason Gardner.