No team in the Big Ten is going through a program rebuild like Indiana is this season. Even after Tom Crean brought back what was a dead Indiana program, he was outed after year nine when his Hoosiers failed to make the NCAA Tournament and patience was (finaly) lost. Along with Crean, three NBA caliber players left Bloomington, leaving the roster relatively thin. Now former Dayton coach Archie Miller steps in and will try to turn things back around.
With Miller at helm in his first power-five gig, questions about the direction of the program and where they could be headed in the future are everywhere.
Let's take a look at some of them here.
How fast will Archie Miller adjust to the Big Ten?
Nobody in college basketball is expecting Archie Miller to resurrect the Hoosiers in year one, however, they are also not expecting the letdown the Hoosiers provided to their fans last season.
Making a transition from a mid-major school to a perennial power-five school can be tough (i.e. Shaka Smart at Texas) and Miller’s team will be tested right out of the gate in non-conference play.
The Hoosiers are scheduled to take on Duke at home in the ACC / Big Ten challenge. With an away game at Louisville and a neutral site matchup against Notre Dame, you suddenly have one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the conference.
Indiana could start 4-0 and just as easily start 0-4 with their opening Big Ten schediule this winter. Miller’s group will take on a tough Michigan team in Ann Arbor and a young Iowa team at home in early December followed by two tough road games against Minnesota and Wisconsin. A bad start will send Hoosiers fans back into a tizzy, while a good start could send some much needed relief throughout the campus.
The one thing that Miller desperately needs at IU is patience. His roster is talented, but nowhere close to a potential conference champion team. Is Miller the right guy to bring Indiana back into the limelight? He very well could be. A good start in year one will further that claim.
How will Indiana replace James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby?
It will not be an easy task replacing the production that James Blackmon Jr, Thomas Bryant, and OG Anunoby brought to Indiana. They were three of the top four scorers on the Hoosiers and as they move on to the NBA, about 41 points per game combined leaves with them.
The Hoosiers have multiple prolific scorers still remaining from last year’s roster that will help to try to maintain that production that has been lost.
A couple of those players are seniors Robert Johnson and Juwan Morgan. Johnson averaged just under 13 points a game last season while Morgan averaged a tad under eight points.
Johnson was known as one of Indiana’s “sharp-shooters”. He was second on the team, just behind Blackmon with 70 three-pointers made during the season. Though Johnson may be asked to drive to the hoop more and create with the ball in his hands this season under Archie Miller, he will still be looked at as a dangerous threat from long range.
As one of only two upperclassmen forwards on the roster, Morgan will be looked at to help lead the Hoosiers in the paint. Morgan’s main responsibility will to be the defensive and rebounding presence that Bryant was last season.
Morgan finished last year averaging just under six rebounds a game and one block per game, both behind Bryant for the team lead. Those numbers are expected to go up with Morgan taking over the position that Bryant left behind.
How good will the incoming freshman class be?
Even though numerous talented players walked out of Bloomington this summer, a new influx of talent comes in and man do they have the potential to be special.
In Miller’s first season as the coach of Indiana he has recruited the 18th ranked class in the country, which is also tops in the Big Ten. The class includes three power forwards and one point guard.
The group of freshman is headed by four-star power forward Justin Smith. Smith, out of Illinois, was originally recruited by Crean. He committed to the Hoosiers back in September of 2016 and signed his national letter of intent about a week later. According to 247sports, Smith was the third rated player in the state of Illinois and the 77th overall recruit in the country.
According to Inside The Hall, Smith averaged over 21.7 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior. Smith will be looked at as a reserve coming off of the bench to start the season, but easily has the potential to squeeze his way into the starting five by Big Ten play.
The Hoosiers picked up a second four-star power forward with the commitment of Race Thompson. Thompson, out of Minneapolis, committed to Indiana in mid-July.
Thompson was Miller’s first commitment as the Hoosiers coach and has decided to reclassify from the 2018 class to the incoming 2017 class. According to 247sports, Thompson is rated as the third player from the state of Minnesota and just outside of the top 100 recruits in the country at 101.
Three-star power forward Clifton Moore out of Pennsylvania and three-star point guard Aljami Durham out of Georgia round out the class that could help Indiana return to the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana will not win the conference this year. Do they have the talent to compete, though? Absolutely.
The Hoosiers will most likely finish in the middle of the Big Ten and could find their way into the NCAA Tournament if things play out favorably. With the new direction under Archie Miller, the Hoosiers will be back and could be a Big Ten champion again in the near future.