Arians redshirt a good idea

When bringing up the discussion about redshirting a basketball player, you have to weigh the positives versus the negatives. This is whether you’re talking about an incoming freshman walk-on or the best player on the team.

With Austin Arians, that’s exactly what you’re talking about. The decision to redshirt was an excruciating one. Austin is the best all-around player on the team, a guy whose defense has gone from a debilitating level of liability to excellent. He’s automatic once he passes the half-court line. His backdoor cuts are expert level.

So there’s a struggle. For the program, the negatives are there. You lose your best player for the season. Tough matchups with Wisconsin and Green Bay look tougher. There’s still a Horizon League Title to fight for, there are still banners to hang.

On Austin’s side, he doesn’t get to play this year, sitting as the team goes through a season. If they keep it close with Wisconsin, he’s going to question himself. If the Panthers are in a horse race for the Horizon League title, he’s going to wish he were on the court.

And he’ll just need to remind himself of this fact: it was the right decision.

The Badgers are in the Arena this year, but that’s a tall order even if he’s 100% healthy. He wouldn’t be, not if he came back less than a week before the game – six weeks from the injury is December 4th – so there’s a good chance he wouldn’t be able to contribute at the level he’s hoping for in that Badger game.

We definitely have the talent to compete for a regular season title, but most of Coach Jeter’s goals for the team – Horizon League Tournament¬†Championship, winning in the NCAA Tournament, NCAA Championship – are unobtainable in the 2014-15 season due to the APR ban. Lesson learned for the program.

Austin Arians will get a lot better with live game action, but he was going to have two years of game play whether he redshirted this year or not, so let’s redshirt him. He has a year off to be 100% healthy – which he will be by winter break – and time to learn the game of basketball, observe it from the sidelines, act as an “Undergraduate Assistant.” He has a knowledge of the game that outstrips many of his peers, that much is obvious. By sitting out, he gains a whole lot of experience from a different perspective, which will make him a better player. I’d have him working on scouts for opponents with the assistants.

After a strong mind comes a strong body. Austin will be able to get strength and conditioning work only available to redshirt players. Add inches to his vertical? Don’t mind if I do. Put up 1,000 shots a day? You thought he was automatic before. Running miles a day? Prepare for 30 minutes per game to be a breeze next season.

All this stuff Austin can do during this season makes him better for next season. What about the season after that? He was going to be an excellent senior. Changing his senior season from 2015-16 to 2016-17 could mean the Panthers are getting a special, special senior that year.

The program is better off as well. One banner to hang this season, but plenty more to hang over the next couple of years. With potentially six seniors next season (JJ Panoske, JR Lyle, Jimmy Stamas, Trinson White, Matt Tiby and Arians), it just makes sense to move forward with Arians sitting. He’ll be excellent next season regardless; splitting the class will even things out and ensure we have not only a great shot next year, but the 2016-17 season as well. Add in the likelihood that JR Lyle gets his freshman year of eligibility back, and the Panthers could be marching out three four-year wing players in Arians, Lyle and Cody Wichmann.

Bringing up Wichmann is a perfect segue to the other huge benefit – Arians played 32.6 minutes per game last season. That’s 33 minutes that can go to other players. Remember how I said that game action makes players better? Few players can benefit from that as much as Cody Wichmann, who has gone from 6.8 mpg last season to 20.3 mpg through three games this season. Wichmann has gotten significantly better handling the ball and he has always been able to shoot the three. Just as Arians got better by playing 20.8 mpg his freshman year, Wichmann will get better playing nearly identical minutes this year.

But that’s just a 14-minute bump. There’s still 19 minutes per game to distribute among players who need the experience. After watching that IUPUI game, you can see a lot of players could use the bump.

Austin Arians is far from a finished product, but not playing this year is a smart investment in the future.

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