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2017-18 Indiana Preview: Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk ready to lead the Hoosier Backcourt

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2017-’18 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.

Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the backcourt for Indiana. The Hoosiers return plenty of experience from last year’s team, but will it be enough to exceed expectations this year?

‘BTPowerhouse Preview’- Indiana Backcourt

  • 2016-’17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: James Blackmon (Honorable Mention)
  • Key Departures: James Blackmon
  • Additions: Al Durham
  • Top Player: Robert Johnson

Even with the loss of high-scoring guard James Blackmon, Indiana returns plenty of firepower in the backcourt for the 2017-’18 season. The Hoosiers were unable to find a steady point guard last year after the loss of Yogi Ferrell, but head coach Archie Miller has plenty of depth in the backcourt to get this program back to relevancy.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the guards who will make a difference this year for the Indiana Hoosiers.

Robert Johnson

Indiana’s highest returning scorer, a lot is expected of Johnson in his senior season. Though Johnson averaged a solid 12.8 points in 29 minutes per game last year, he turned over the ball around 2.3 times a contest and only handed out 2.5 assists a game. If Indiana’s offense wants to be efficient this season, Johnson is going to have to take care of the ball and be able to facilitate and score the basketball.

Johnson shot 37% from three-point land his junior season compared to roughly 45% his sophomore season. Johnson’s biggest strength on the offensive end is his ability to knock down threes at a consistent rate. If Johnson can find a way to shoot like he did his junior year, he’ll be able to make up the scoring void Blackmon took with him.

Indiana’s problem last year was they couldn’t find any consistency, and that starts at the point guard position. Johnson has a big job this year as a senior and the leader of the backcourt. We know Johnson can put the ball in the bucket, but can he limit his turnovers and excel in the leadership role?

Josh Newkirk

After sitting out the 2015-’16 after transferring from Pittsburgh, Newkirk shared point guard responsibilities with Johnson last year and saw the floor more as the season went on. Arguably the most athletic member of the backcourt, Newkirk flashed signs of greatness last year putting up 27 and 22 in back to back games against Penn State and Wisconsin.

Newkirk is not known for being a prolific scorer, but those performances last year give IU fans a reason to believe Newkirk can improve on his first season in Bloomington. Similar to Johnson, Newkirk’s weakness is turnovers and he’s going to need to find a way to keep that number at a minimum.

The senior duo of Johnson and Newkirk could give the Hoosiers a good scoring boost from the backcourt. Though it’s no Victor Oladipo / Yogi Ferrel tandem, I think Miller should feel confident about Johnson and Newkirk leading from the guard position.

Curtis Jones

In his Indiana debut, Curtis dropped 15 points off the bench in a 103-99 win over then no. 3 Kansas. The first game of the year seemed to be the peak for Jones in his freshman season as he could never find a groove after his breakout act.

Much of Jones’ downfall was due to his lack of confidence and didn’t shoot the ball as well as he could. Another area where Jones struggled was turnovers. Hm, seems to be a common trend. Jones had a turnover percentage of 20.2, a brutal statistic.

Jones’ greatest asset is his shooting ability, and I think he can build on that as well as other areas of his game and become a solid player for the Hoosiers. The biggest facet of his arsenal that needs improvement is his defense, and a summer with the coaching staff definitely helped him build his defensive skills.

Devonte Green

The brother of San Antonio Spurs’ guard Danny Green, Devonte is a crafty offensive player who can play a big role this year for the Hoosiers. Green shot 44% from three last season and played around 15 minutes per game.

Every team needs a knockdown shooter and playing more minutes this year will allow Green to get more comfortable and become a sniper from behind the arc. Green showed progress in every aspect of his game last season and could be a pleasant surprise off the bench for Indiana.

Al Durham

A three-star recruit, Durham is an athletic combo guard who’s a very solid defensive player. Durham won’t be a threat on the offensive end in his first season, but if Indiana needs a boast on defense, Durham can supply that great spark off the bench and make a difference.

Durham de-committed from Indiana after the firing of Tom Crean, but Archie and the new coaching staff made it a priority to get him back, which must mean he can be a key piece of the program in the future.

Overall

Indiana’s backcourt isn’t necessarily dominant, but there’s a good mix of experience and talent which could go a long way. Johnson and Newkirk are poised for big senior years while Jones and Green could be potential breakout prospects. It’s unsure how much we’ll see Durham this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes off the bench when a defensive stop is needed.