The 2017-’18 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview' series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2017-’18 season with analysis on each program's previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team's starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local "insider" who covers said team.
No matter the program, the school, or the fanbase, every coach is going to have his supporters and detractors. Outside of (maybe) a handful of coaches, there’s always going to be a split. Some fans are going to love the coach, while others will hope for a leadership change. When a sport gets this much coverage, it’s going to happen.
But Indiana and Tom Crean put that divide into new terms.
During his nine seasons at the helm, Crean saw the highs and lows of college basketball and everything in between. He brought Indiana’s program back from the dead, but struggled to find consistent success.
For perspective on these issues, look no further than Crean’s last four years with the program. While making two NCAA Tournaments and winning a Big Ten title, the Hoosiers also failed to make the Big Dance in the other two seasons.
So, yeah. Things were a bit up and down.
Undoubtedly, that kind of inconsistency isn’t going to cut it at a place like Indiana. And, of course, that’s probably the biggest reason that Crean was let go last spring. Still, regardless of what happened with Crean, the program moves forward. Fans are hoping that new head coach Archie Miller can get things back on track.
Generally speaking, Miller inherits a decent situation. The roster has depth and talent. Unfortunately, it also has very little that’s proven. With the exits of OG Anunoby, James Blackmon, and Thomas Bryant, there will be more than a few question marks. But if Miller can find some new contributors and hit the ground running on the recruiting trail, the future should be bright in Bloomington for years to come.
But before Miller and the Hoosiers can get to that future, they will have to start this year. Let’s take a look at what Indiana can do in the upcoming season.
BTPowerhouse Season Preview Podcast
Along with reading BTPowerhouse's season preview post for the Indiana Hoosiers, make sure to check out the site's podcast preview of the Hoosiers, featuring BTPowerhouse Manager Thomas Beindit and Jordan Maly of Hoosier State of Mind breaking down Indiana's roster, incoming recruits, schedule, and season outlook.
1. 2016-’17 Season Performance
- Record: 18-16 (7-11)
- KenPom Team Rating: #44
- RPI Rating: #79
- Postseason Appearance: NIT
Perhaps no Big Ten team had a more surprising and unpredictable year than Indiana did last season. Not only because Indiana regressed from a Big Ten championship to the NIT, but also because the team showed such varying levels of play throughout the season. Simply put, Indiana was a hot mess.
To put Indiana’s last season into perspective, just consider this. Despite beating Kansas, Michigan State, and North Carolina during the regular season, Indiana ended up in the NIT. Think about that. How many teams could boast three wins like that in a regular season and still miss the NCAA Tournament? It’s not something you see very often and was the final nail in Crean’s coaching tenure at Indiana.
Once you get the bizarre nature of those wins out of the way, Indiana’s progression during last season is a lot easier to understand. Indiana opened the season at 10-2, but regressed massively when the team entered conference play.
In fact, following the team’s win over North Carolina to end November, Indiana only beat one top 50 team (Michigan State) through late February. Put more simply, when those unusual early season wins over Kansas and North Carolina are excluded, Indiana followed the similar trajectory of beating bad teams and losing against good ones.
This performance established the profile of a team that was respectable, but far from elite. While the Hoosiers finished in the top 50 on KenPom and only a few spots outside the NCAA Tournament, Indiana was never a serious Big Ten contender or a factor nationally. Even if the roster hadn’t been faced with some frustrating injuries, last year’s team wasn’t going to accomplish anything significant.
Highlights of the season included non-conference wins over Kansas and North Carolina, league wins over Michigan State and Northwestern. Low points of the season included a road loss to Fort Wayne in non-conference play, a home loss to Nebraska, two losses to arch-rival Purdue, and a brutal NIT opening round loss to Georgia Tech.
Individual statistical leaders were James Blackmon, Thomas Bryant, Robert Johnson, and Josh Newkirk. Blackmon led the team in points, usage, and total win shares. Bryant led the team in rebounds and blocks. Johnson led the team in minutes and steals. Newkirk led the team in assists.
2. Offseason Exits
On paper, Indiana was set to avoid any significant offseason departures this spring. In fact, three of the team’s starters were underclassmen and most of its key reserves were underclassmen as well. Those circumstances usually bode well for a team’s depth heading into the next season, especially for a team that found itself in the NIT.
Unfortunately, that’s not how things worked out for Indiana.
Despite a frustrating 18-16 season, Indiana ended up losing Anunoby, Blackmon, and Bryant to early NBA Draft declarations. While there was plenty of debate before and after these three had announced their decisions to depart from Bloomington, that won’t mean much for Indiana’s next season. The Hoosiers will need to find a way to replace these three and the transfer of Grant Gelon.
The biggest departure of these four will be Bryant, both literally and figuratively. He was the team’s starting center and one of its biggest playmakers over the last two seasons. During last season, Bryant averaged 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game and his 17.2 defensive rebounding rate was the most productive on the roster. His 112.0 offensive rating also showcases how efficient he was on the offensive side of the floor.
Along with Bryant, Indiana is also losing two important players in Anunoby and Blackmon. While neither lived up to the hype they received earlier in their careers, they were both key pieces of the roster that will be difficult to replace. Anunoby could jump through the ceiling, play defense, and rebound and Blackmon was arguably the most skilled offensive player on the team. Those aren’t the kind of players you can just replace overnight.
It’s hard to undersell what Indiana is losing between these three players. Every college team is going to lose its stars, but these departures could hit particularly hard. Anunoby was easily the team’s highest ceiling player and his First Round selection in July evidences that fact.
And while Blackmon and Bryant had their issues, the two carried the team during last season. To put their play into perspective, just look at the team’s late season win against Iowa. That win nearly pushed the Hoosiers into NCAA Tournament consideration. Blackmon had 23 points, Bryant had 11, and the two combined for 17 rebounds. Other players certainly helped, but it was those two that pushed Indiana to its impressive 22-point win over the Hawkeyes.
Indiana will have options to replace these three, but it won’t be easy. That challenge will also be exacerbated by the fact that the team wasn’t all that good last season. Improving an NIT-level is hard enough on its face and it should be even harder considering that the Hoosiers are losing three of their most talented players.
Finally, Indiana also saw Grant Gelon transfer after his freshman season. He was rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports out of high school and played sparingly last season. Few expected him to be a major contributor either next season or later in his career.
3. New Additions
This season, the Hoosiers will be adding four new recruits and two walk-ons. The recruits are Aljami Durham, Clifton Moore, Justin Smith, and Race Thompson. According to 247Sports, Smith and Thompson are four-star prospects and Durham and Moore are three-stars. Durham is listed as a point guard and the remaining three players are all listed as power forwards and range between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-10.
Given their rankings, the two recruits receiving the most attention are Smith and Thompson. However, the two are very different players. Smith is rated as the No. 77 player in the class and a diverse player that should be able to guard multiple positions on the defensive end of the floor. The Hoosiers might have a deep frontcourt group, but Smith should be good enough to earn minutes early on in his career.
Thompson, on the other hand, does not figure to be ready to contribute this season. He recently reclassified from the 2018 class and will likely use this season as a “prep” year for things to come. If Thompson develops properly, he could be a matchup problem for opponents that can move defenders away from the rim. But those expectations should start in 2018-’19 and beyond.
The other two incoming freshmen are Durham and Moore. While Moore is considered by most to be the more talented prospect, Durham may actually have the easier route to playing time as a freshman. With Blackmon off to the pros, there should be more available minutes in the backcourt this season. Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk project to be the starters, but there are no other guarantees. Fans will have to wait and see if he can push fellow underclassmen like Devonte Green and Curtis Jones for playing time.
Along with those four, Indiana will also be adding two walk-ons in Vijay Blackmon and Ethan Lasko. Neither comes with much fanfare and, given the depth already on the roster, don’t expect either to contribute much in year one. Look for these two to make the vast majority of their contributions on the scout team.
There’s no denying that Indiana is adding a lot of talent this offseason. In fact, the program’s 2017 class is rated No. 17 nationally and as the best class in the Big Ten. While part of this is due to the fact that Indiana is bringing in four prospects (that’s on the larger side for a single class), it also includes four players that could turn into solid starters down the line. It also features multiple players with the ability to play multiple positions, which is always a plus.
However, it’s also important to note that Indiana’s incoming group features no elite prospects. That isn’t to imply these players aren’t good enough to see time on the floor, but it’s important to acknowledge when setting expectations. After all, Smith is Indiana’s highest rated 2017 prospect and there are six Big Ten schools with an incoming freshman rated above him. And that doesn’t even include Illinois, who has a player rated one spot behind him. Again, Smith is a really nice prospect, but Indiana doesn’t appear to be bringing in a Miles Bridges or D’Angelo Russell type prospect.
Where this leaves us is a group of freshman that should do wonders for the team’s depth and projections down the road, but one that will likely only have a limited impact in year one. If Indiana is going to find a way to improve on its performance last year, most of that will likely have to come from the returning players.
4. Points of Optimism
If there’s one thing that’s going to get Hoosier fans excited for the upcoming season, it’s the decision to hire of Archie Miller as head coach. Tom Crean had his successes in Bloomington, but sometimes a program simply needs a fresh face. While change for the sake of change is usually a bad decision, a fresh perspective can lead to good things. Fans will be hoping that’s the case for Miller and the Hoosiers moving forward.
Miller’s success as a coach is virtually unquestioned. He served as an assistant at Western Kentucky, North Carolina State, Ohio State, and Arizona among others beyond taking over at Dayton in 2011. Since becoming the head coach of the Flyers, he led Dayton to a 139-63 (.688) overall record, two league titles, four straight NCAA Tournaments, and an Elite Eight appearance in 2014. One can make a decent argument that the only mid-major to see more success than Dayton over the last six seasons was Gonzaga. That’s a remarkable achievement
Conventional wisdom implies that Miller’s track record indicates big things to come for Indiana. There’s little arguing that Miller will have access to more resources and better players at Indiana than he ever saw during his time at Dayton. The expectations will be higher, of course, but if Miller can continue his track record of development and recruiting in Bloomington, good things should follow.
Breaking through in year one will be a challenge for Miller and his staff, but a fresh face and perspective should be a welcome addition for Indiana’s program. If the Hoosiers are going to find success this season, it will start there. Maybe that’s just a fancy way to describe the hype and excitement of a new coach, but Miller’s arrival could mean some big things for Indiana, even in year one.
And the good news is that Miller will have more to work with at Indiana than many in the media anticipate. While Indiana is losing key players like Blackmon and Bryant, the team does return three starters in Johnson, Newkirk, and Juwan Morgan.
It would be disingenuous to label Johnson, Morgan, or Newkirk as “star” players, but all three were at least decent with significant playing time. In fact, all three had offensive ratings above 100, including Morgan who finished with an impressive 122.2 rating. Morgan is probably the only one of the three with the chance to develop into a top-tier league player next season, but those are three solid players to build around.
The rest of the roster also has plenty of talent. While there may not be a plethora of bonafide five-star prospects, Indiana does come as fifth in the Big Ten on Verbal Commits’ roster talent rankings. And that’s above teams like Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Talent certainly doesn’t guarantee success, but this isn’t a situation where Miller has inherited a bunch of players unfit for Big Ten play. If he can find a way to convert that talent into a respectable depth chart, good things should follow.
If things go right, Indiana’s frontcourt could also end up being one of the better units in the Big Ten. Not only are De’Ron Davis and Morgan set to break out this season, but the team also has Freddie McSwain, Zach McRoberts, and three incoming forwards. While these options aren’t proven, there should be ample depth from a lot of players who have either shown flashes or had intriguing recruiting profiles.
The hope here is obvious. Use those three returning starters to set a baseline, get a returner like Davis or Devonte Green to elevate their game, and then have the newcomers fill in behind them. It’s going to take some luck, but it’s not a preposterous strategy for success. Miller has developed players before and he will just have to do it again.
Most teams that fail to make the NCAA Tournament usually don’t have much hope for the next season, especially if the team loses three of its best players. However, with Miller’s track record and the talent on the roster, there are some major reasons to believe that the Hoosiers can make some noise.
5. Points of Concern
Although there should be plenty of hope about what the Hoosiers can do this season and beyond with Miller at the helm, there are some major red flags for this upcoming season as well. In fact, these issues are significant enough that they will likely keep Indiana near, or below, the level it performed at during last season.
Let’s start with the obvious. There are no proven stars on this team and there might not even be a first, second, or third-team All-Big Ten player on this roster. The only Hoosiers to receive All-Big Ten honors last season were Blackmon and Bryant and both are now gone. And with no elite prospects joining the roster this offseason, there is no obvious pick.
Yes, there’s no debating that some Hoosier should improve enough to be in the All-Big Ten discussion (even honorable mention) between last March and this November. It’s just the nature of college sports. However, in a sport where star players decide games so often, having no front runner is a major concern. Maybe guys like Davis and Morgan step up, but it’s hard to see Indiana taking a substantial step forward without at least one All-Big Ten guy.
Indiana’s backcourt could also be one of the areas that holds back the Hoosiers this season as well. This comment may surprise people considering that it returns two starters, but there doesn’t appear to be much upside here. While Johnson and Newkirk have shown themselves to be reliable options, both are entering their senior seasons after failing to elevate their game to the next level. Johnson struggles for consistency and Newkirk turns the ball over too often. Neither is a particularly great defender either.
Behind Johnson and Newkirk, Indiana only has more question marks. Green and Jones return after decent freshman seasons, but neither has shown they can be a star at this level. The two sat right around a 100 offensive rating last season, struggled with turnovers, and were featured minimally in the offense. Green showed he can shoot from long range, but that’s hardly enough by itself to warrant major minutes this season. He will have to improve. And behind Green and Jones is a three-star true freshman and two walk-ons.
Admittedly, it’s unfair to cast all of those players aside. Green and Jones were freshman last season, after all, and Durham has yet to play a minute of college basketball. It wouldn’t exactly be unprecedented for some returning underclassmen to improve or for a newcomer to exceed expectations.
But from a realistic perspective, Hoosier fans will likely be looking at a backcourt group that’s just decent this season. While that can be overcome, it’s going to be tough without some players on the wing and the frontcourt emerging as major contributors. If those groups end up being only decent-to-good, the backcourt could hold Indiana back.
Finally, it bears mentioning that Indiana could be a bit more susceptible to injury than its roster would seem to indicate. With a full scholarship chart, walk-on depth, and decent experience, one would likely believe that Indiana should be able to whether any injury with relative ease. However, that might not be the case.
The big issue here is really a byproduct of the first potential concern above. With no proven star players, Indiana cannot afford to lose a starter. The team is likely going to need a “sum of all parts” approach and the loss of any one starter could derail that plan. Think of this as a delicate balancing act. Indiana likely won’t have the proven star power to push itself to Big Ten wins. It’s going to need every advantage it can get.
6. Top Player
Heading into last season, Anunoby and Bryant figured to be the team’s best players. Both were more than capable and each projected as a likely pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Here’s what I wrote before last season:
Unfortunately for Indiana, neither Anunoby or Bryant lived up to preseason expectations. Anunoby was injured early in the season and Bryant struggled for consistent offensive production. The player who ended up leading the Hoosiers most consistently during last season was Blackmon. While he had his issues, he led the team in numerous offensive categories and ended up leading the roster in overall win shares.
But with Anunoby, Blackmon, and Bryant all off to the NBA, there is no clear heir to the throne in Bloomington. While the Hoosiers will have a handful of contenders in the race for the team’s best player, there simply are no safe bets. This will be a new-look team with few known commodities.
The prime candidates will be De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan. Neither had a particularly impressive 2016-’17 season, but each showed tangiblr signs of taking the next step. Davis saw increased minutes as the season went on, including a 15-point performance against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. Morgan played starter minutes for the last two months of the season and scored double-digits in three of the team’s last four games.
Some of the other players to watch will be underclassmen Green and Jones and incoming freshmen Moore and Smith. While Green and Jones did see significant minutes last season, neither was all that efficient and each finished with offensive ratings right around 100. If either of these two ends up as Indiana’s best player next season, they will have to make some major progress. Moore and Smith will also have uphill battles as well. Each has plenty of potential, but it’s hard to see either making a substantial impact as a freshman.
As mentioned above (and in the concerns section), Indiana enters this season without any star players. The Hoosiers could have some quality depth, but it’s hard to see more than a player or two who has a realistic chance to earn All-Big Ten honors. As such, it’s hard to predict who ends up being the team’s best player when next season is finished. While Davis and Morgan figure to lead the way, it should be an open race.
7. 2016-’17 Schedule Breakdown
- 10/28 - Marian Univ. (Ex.)
- 11/5 - Indianapolis (Ex.)
- 11/10 - Indiana State
- 11/12 - Howard
- 11/15 - at Seton Hall
- 11/19 - South Florida
- 11/22 - Arkansas State
- 11/24 - Eastern Michigan
- 11/29 - Duke
- 12/2 - at Michigan
- 12/4 - Iowa
- 12/9 - at Louisville
- 12/16 - vs Notre Dame (Indianapolis, Indiana)
- 12/18 - Fort Wayne
- 12/21 - Tennessee Tech
- 12/29 - Youngstown State
- 1/2 - at Wisconsin
- 1/6 - at Minnesota
- 1/9 - Penn State
- 1/14 - Northwestern
- 1/19 - at Michigan State
- 1/22 - Maryland
- 1/24 - at Illinois
- 1/28 - Purdue
- 1/30 - at Ohio State
- 2/3 - Michigan State
- 2/5 - at Rutgers
- 2/9 - Minnesota
- 2/14 - Illinois
- 2/17 - at Iowa
- 2/20 - at Nebraska
- 2/23 - Ohio State
This could get rough. While it’s immensely difficult to project the true merit of a schedule prior to the season’s tip, it does at least provide a framework for a given season. We may not know exactly how good a particular opponent will be on a specific date, but we do have an idea.
And this schedule is going to be tough for Indiana.
Let’s begin with the non-conference slate. While the Hoosiers have done a good job of filling the schedule with some manageable opponents that will provide some RPI boost (see Arkansas State, Eastern Michigan, Fort Wayne), all of the marquee opponents look like tough draws. Duke and Louisville figure to be preseason top 10 teams, Seton Hall should be a challenging road game, and Notre Dame has been a top 40 team for each of the last three seasons.
What this means is that there’s a very realistic scenario where Indiana enters Big Ten play without a marquee non-conference win. And that doesn’t even include the potential of a loss to one of those RPI stuffers or a team outside the top 200. Notably, Indiana has lost to at least two teams outside KenPom’s top 100 in each of the last three seasons and at least one in the last four seasons. Given the current projections, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Indiana drop a game like this in non-conference play.
But the difficult schedule doesn’t stop there.
In its Big Ten schedule, Indiana got slated with double-plays against Michigan State and Minnesota. Both of those teams should be ranked in the preseason and some of the Big Ten’s better teams. On top of that, Indiana will have to go on the road to face Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, and four other teams. The Hoosiers will also have three more home games against teams that made last year’s NCAA Tournament.
When you peel back that schedule, it means Indiana is looking at just five of six games where fans can have confidence about leaving with a win. Those games figure to be Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State, and Penn State at home and Nebraska and Rutgers on the road. Even if fans feel good about winning at places like Illinois and Ohio State, neither of those are close to “sure” wins. Simply put, Indiana is going to have to win every game it should win and a few more to have a shot at being .500 in league play.
That may seem like a pessimistic projection to a lot of Hoosier fans, but when one takes a realistic approach to this schedule, it makes sense. To start, Indiana has nine games against teams that made last year’s NCAA Tournament. Barring something surprising and/or substantial improvement from the Hoosiers, the team figures to be an underdog in all of those games.
And outside of those nine games, Indiana still has two against what figures to be an improved Iowa team and four additional road games. Even if some of those road games are against underwhelming opponents (Nebraska, OSU, and Rutgers), winning on the road is never easy in league play. And even if some of last year’s NCAA teams dropoff, Indiana is looking at an uphill battle to get to eight or nine Big Ten wins.
Perhaps the one positive from this schedule is that it offers plenty of opportunities for Indiana to score marquee wins. With Duke, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue all coming to Bloomington and Notre Dame facing the Hoosiers on a neutral court, Indiana has the chance to score a number of marquee wins (top 10 teams included) without doing so in a difficult environment. Winning those games won’t be easy, but if the Hoosiers can play well at home, there’s a lot of potential in this schedule.
Overall, there’s no denying that Indiana is going to face a daunting schedule this season. There is a scenario where the Hoosiers can use this challenging slate to jumpstart an NCAA Tournament run, but the team will have to keep developing and gaining experience to avoid finishing with a frustrating record. The keys will be taking care of the manageable opponents and playing well at home.
8. Projected Starting Lineup
- PG: Josh Newkirk (Sr.) - 90%
- SG: Robert Johnson (Sr.) - 90%
- SF: Collin Hartman (Sr.) - 75%
- PF: Juwan Morgan (So.) - 85%
- C: De’Ron Davis (So.) - 85%
(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)
This is going to sound like a broken record, but Indiana is set to enter this season without any elite players. While players like Davis and Morgan could be set for breakout years, nobody projects as an All-Big Ten player with an initial glance. There just aren’t many proven options on Indiana’s roster.
However, despite not having any players projecting for All-Big Ten seasons, Indiana does have a roster that could yield a decent starting lineup.
That lineup will start with an experienced backcourt featuring Newkirk and Johnson. During last season, Johnson was one of the team’s most effective scorers, averaging 12.8 points per game, and Newkirk led the team in assists with 3.1 per game. Realistically, it’s hard to see either of these players taking a substantial step forward as seniors, but each figures to be a reliable starter and productive in the league. Behind these two, Green and Jones will push for minutes. Don’t expect either of those two to start, but they do have the potential to earn significant minutes.
On the wing, Indiana faces an interesting situation. Collin Hartman is set to come back from a major injury and should be in line for a starting role. Indiana also returns Zach McRoberts and Freddie McSwain and will add freshmen Aljami Durham and Justin Smith. As mentioned above, while Durham and Smith will have an uphill battle to start for the Hoosiers next season, each should have a chance to secure some bench minutes.
But it’s anyone’s guess as to which of the three returners will lock down a starting role next season. Hartman is the favorite given his past production. During the 2015-’16 season, Hartman finished with a 116.6 offensive rating and shot 40.8 percent from three-point range during league play. He also finished the season really well. Outside of a horrid showing against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, Hartman had an offensive rating above 100 in nine of the team’s final 10 games. Notably, the lone exception was also a blowout victory over Illinois where Hartman played massive minutes.
However, returning from injury is always a question mark. Most are optimistic about his chances, but it’s hard to pencil him into the lineup until he shows it on the court. If he’s not at 100 percent, expect McRoberts and McSwain to compete for playing time. Both saw their first playing time for the Hoosiers last season and had mixed results. Neither played even 30 percent of the team’s minutes during the season. If these two don’t progress, the freshmen will have to step in and grab some minutes.
Upfront is where things get really interesting.
While the team does lose Anunoby and Bryant, Indiana figures to have a deep and talented frontcourt heading into next season. If there’s a way for the Hoosiers to overachieve, it needs to start here. This is the most talented position group on the team. Indiana has talent elsewhere, but the backcourt and wing groups don’t have the ceiling that the frontcourt possesses heading into this season.
That frontcourt group will start with Davis and Morgan. Both showed flashes during last season. Davis showed impressive offensive abilities and a decent ability to rebound the ball in limited minutes. Morgan proved to be one of the team’s most consistent frontcourt players and was one of the Big Ten’s most efficient rebounders. Morgan also developed into a respectable shot blocker by season’s end.
However, Davis and Morgan both have their concerns. To start, Davis only played limited minutes last season and struggled to find consistency. Despite scoring 15 points against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament, Davis failed to top 20 minutes in Indiana’s final five games and only scored double-digits one in his final seven games, including two games where he failed to score at all.
Additionally, there are some questions as to how much better Morgan can get this season. He was efficient offensively and a nice rebounder, but struggled with foul trouble. His 4.7 fouls committed per 40 minutes was one of the worst on Indiana’s roster and his 4.65 fouls committed per 40 minutes in Big Ten play ranked 80th in the league. Simply put, how good can a player be if he can’t stay on the floor?
Either way, fans will hope that Davis can clean up his play as a sophomore and that Morgan can improve his fouling issues. Those two should dominate the minutes upfront for the Hoosiers. Behind those two, Indiana will look to McRoberts and McSwain and incoming freshmen Moore and Smith. Moore will get minutes simply due to his size, but the others will have to compete for minutes behind Davis and Morgan.
All told, there’s a lot to like about Indiana’s starting lineup heading into next season. There aren’t any proven stars, but there is enough to believe that the Hoosiers can keep things interesting. Much will depend on how Hartman performs and whether the frontcourt can make progress.
9. Team Perspective From Jordan Maly of Hoosier State of Mind
"After what was a roller coaster type season for Indiana basketball fans, a fresh face at the helm should have Hoosiers fans intrigued all season. Head coach Archie Miller has already shown the fan base his commitment to the program by his work on the recruiting front, signing three Top-100 recruits for 2018.
On the court, senior guard Robert Johnson hopes to become the star of a relatively young Hoosiers team. After glimpses of De’Ron Davis late last season, it will be interesting to see if Archie Miller can maximize the sophomore forward’s talent after the departure of Thomas Bryant.
This season will be one of important growth and development for Indiana. Archie Miller’s first season with the Hoosiers will be about finding their identity as a team. Miller has shown he is able to get the most out of his players, I find Indiana falling in the middle of the Big Ten pack this season with plenty to look forward to in 2018."
10. Overall Season Outlook
Over the last nine seasons, Hoosier fans have seen just about everything. They’ve seen the heights of college basketball, the depths, and everything in between. You would be hard pressed to find many programs that have fielded three top 10 quality units, three outside the top 80, and two outside the top 190 in just nine seasons.
Simply put, Indiana was the wild child of the Big Ten for much of the last nine seasons. Predicting the Hoosiers was tougher than finding an open parking spot at the mall on Christmas Eve. The program swung wildly between seasons and often varied massively from preseason expectations.
But Crean is now gone and, hopefully, those wild swings in performance too. Hoosier fans are hoping that Miller can offer a steadier hand and keep the team in contention each season. And, frankly, that’s probably a fair expectation. Even if Miller has trouble matching the heights of Crean’s tenure, making the NCAA Tournament in most years seems like a reasonable goal for a program like Indiana.
However, Miller now takes over in what had figured to be a “down” year, even if Crean had remained with the program. With players like Anunoby, Blackmon, and Bryant set to depart during the offseason, Indiana was set to face an uphill battle, regardless of the program’s coach. Still, the timing is rough for Miller. He’s like a President taking over as a recession is about to begin.
The good news is that Miller does have some pieces to work with. Davis and Morgan offer a lot of potential upfront, Hartman should be a veteran presence on the wing, and Johnson and Newkirk are proven players in the backcourt. Add in some newcomers and returning bench players and Indiana has a respectable roster. If things go well, Indiana could field a relatively competitive team.
More realistically, Indiana will be a team that stays close in most games, takes care of the beatable opponents, and operates with a low ceiling for the duration of the season. This looks like a team that will do what it’s supposed to do, but struggle to do much beyond that. And that should be good enough for year one.
Miller and the Hoosiers have a bright future, but until the team’s roster adds some more talent, depth, and experience, fans will need to stay patient for just a bit longer.