The 2018-’19 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2018-’19 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.
Back in my younger days, I remember making the grave mistake of joining my high school’s cross country team. A few friends had relentlessly asked me to join the team and I figured it would be good exercise and a nice way to get outside in the summer and fall.
It couldn’t be that bad, right?
Well, for those of us who despise the sport of running, I can attest that it was that bad. Over the course of the season, running was broken up with . . . yup, you guessed it, more running. It was as if you took the most frustrating parts of other sports and combined them all into one. Yeah, probably not something you should join if you have mixed (at best) feelings about running.
One run, in particular, stands out to me from the rest. It was the middle of the summer and we were supposed to be doing the “long run” of our training schedule. The idea was that we could get in our mileage then and work back as we got closer to the season.
Naturally, I prepared for the worst.
And for the majority of the afternoon, that’s exactly what happened. My shirt was about as drenched as Andy’s from the 5K episode of The Office and I desperately counted down the minutes until we could call it quits. It was great exercise, mind you, but it still seemed like torture for the vast majority of the afternoon.
But as we came to the conclusion of the run, I vividly remember seeing the group gathered as we reached the final portion of the run. We had finally made it to the finish line. I just needed to hold out a little long and it would be over. The pain would subside and I would have made it through the most challenging day of our training. A great accomplishment.
And for Hoosier fans, that’s exactly where they sit today. They can see the finish line. Where the long decade of suffering will finally be over with. Where things will finally come together. Where Indiana will resume its position atop the Big Ten and the national scene.
Since Indiana lost in the national championship game against Maryland in 2002, little has gone right for the Hoosiers. The program faded during the conclusion of the Mike Davis years, was hampered by NCAA allegations with Kelvin Sampson at the helm, and suffered from incredibly inconsistency under Tom Crean.
During the last 15 years, Indiana has missed the NCAA Tournament eight times and has only advanced past the first weekend three times. There was also no consistency, either. Outside of the three appearances between 2006 and 2008, Indiana hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament twice in a row in those 15 years. By any measure, it’s hard to get things going when a team is as inconsistent as that.
But with the hiring of Archie Miller last offseason, hopes have been high. Here’s what I wrote in last year’s preview:
“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.”
Of course, as we all know now, things didn’t work out in year one. Indiana limped to a 16-15 overall record and beat just one top 100 team (Iowa) in the final two months of the season. The Hoosiers ended up finishing at 71st overall on KenPom, which was lower than its preseason rating of 65th. It was an underwhelming performance.
But even Miller’s worst critics would have to admit that the shelves were pretty bare in year one. The backcourt was a mess and the roster lacked high-end talent.
But that will change this year. Juwan Morgan is back after a great season, most of the younger players with potential are back, and Indiana is adding a stellar 2018 recruiting class, highlighted by five-star Romeo Langford.
Fans can see the finish line now. They’re on the verge of something special.
But can the team do it? Let’s take a look at this year’s Hoosiers.
1. 2017-’18 Season Performance
- Record: 16-15 (9-9)
- KenPom Team Rating: #71
- RPI Rating: #124
- Postseason Appearance: None
By any general measure, Indiana was a mediocre team last season. The Hoosiers weren’t terrible, but the team wasn’t great either. After all, a 16-15 overall record speaks for itself. While Indiana generally took care of the bottom teams, it just wasn’t good enough to take down the powers of the Big Ten.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about last year’s Indiana team, though, was the inconsistency. Indiana would struggle, follow that with a hot streak, and then drop right back down. It might seem unusual, but it’s a pretty common trait of mediocre teams. The Hoosiers just weren’t quite good enough to maintain any high level of play.
For context, just look at how Indiana started the season. The Hoosiers began the Miller era with a home loss to Indiana State by a 21-point margin. An absolutely devastating loss. And how did the team respond? By winning four of its next five and defeating two top 100 teams to open December, including a huge win over Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic.
But where did things go from there?
Indiana then dropped another home game. This time, to Fort Wayne. By 20 points.
Looking back, that was the narrative for the Hoosiers last season. Inconsistency, mixed results, and a plethora of mixed opportunities. A narrow loss to an underwhelming Illinois team. A relatively competitive home matchup against Purdue. And the three straight losses to end the season.
But there were some signs of progress. After bottoming out at 100th overall on KenPom in early January, Indiana made clear strides and got all the way up to 73rd by the end of the season. Entering a season with decent expectations, underachieving, and then rebounding isn’t an easy task. Many teams would have folded after the early season results. The Hoosiers improved, despite finishing on a sour note. Fans are, obviously, hoping that is a sign of things to come with Miller at the helm.
Highlights of the season included a huge non-conference win over Notre Dame and home wins over Maryland and Penn State. Low points of the season were the home losses to Fort Wayne and Indiana State and the Big Ten Tournament loss to Rutgers.
Individual statistical leaders were Juwan Morgan and Josh Newkirk. Morgan led the team in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, total win shares and usage. Newkirk led the team in assists.
2. Offseason Exits
After getting blasted by departures during his first offseason in Bloomington, things should be a lot more manageable this year for Miller and his staff. The Hoosiers are losing six players, but only two are major losses. These players are Collin Hartman, Robert Johnson, Ethan Lasko, Freddie McSwain, Josh Newkirk, and Tim Priller.
The two major departures are Johnson and Newkirk. They both ranked among the top three on the roster in overall minutes last season and Johnson led the team in playing time. Newkirk also led the team in assists and both ranked among the top four on the roster in scoring. Additionally, Johnson led the team in three-pointers last season and the two were some of the more consistent free throw shooters on the roster.
However, despite putting up these numbers, it’s important to recognize that neither of these players were exactly first round NBA picks. The two finished last season with offensive ratings right around 100 and Newkirk played less than 20 minutes in four of the team’s final five games. In fact, during the course of last season, Newkirk actually only played 57.5 percent of the team’s minutes and wasn’t even starting in the final games of the year. Freshman Alijami Durham was the player who was taking Newkirk’s minutes.
It’s hard to characterize any of the other four departures as substantial. To start, Lasko and Priller combined for a total of five minutes last season. And while Hartman and McSwain saw time, both were clearly reserve options. They both averaged right around 15 minutes a game and combined for 8.4 points per game. The only area where one of the two stood out last season was McSwain’s defensive rebounding. That will be the key thing that the Hoosiers will have to try and replace for the team’s bench production.
What we’re left with here is a situation where Indiana is losing one legitimate starter, a fringe starter, and two replaceable reserve options. In today’s college basketball, that’s a pretty good draw. And with the development of some returning underclassmen and newcomers, it’s nothing that should stall the team’s growth.
3. New Additions
This season, the Hoosiers will be adding five new recruits and one transfer. The recruits are Damezi Anderson, Jake Forrester, Jerome Hunter, Romeo Langford, and Robert Phinisee. According to 247Sports, Langford is a five-star prospect, Anderson, Hunter, and Phinisee are four-stars, and Forrester is a three-star. Phinisee is listed as a point guard, Langford as a shooting guard, Anderson as a small forward, and Forrester and Hunter as power forwards.
There’s little debating that the gem of this recruiting class is Langford. He is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds and is one of the better prospects to come out of the state of Indiana in some time. Langford is a bonafide five-star and the seventh-best player in the class, per 247Sports. By any traditional measure, he is expected to be a starter and one of the best players in the Big Ten as a true freshman. Anything else would be a disappointment.
The other player receiving significant attention is Hunter. He comes out of Ohio and received attention from just about every midwestern college power on the recruiting trail. Getting him to come to Bloomington was a major recruiting victory for the program. He is a top 60 prospect and should be able to compete with Justin Smith in the frontcourt. Expect him to replace most (if not all) the lost contributions from Hartman and McSwain.
While not as highly regarded, Anderson, Forrester, and Phinisee are also solid prospects. All three are in the top 150 and could be ready to contribute as freshmen. The good news for Hoosier fans is that none of the three must contribute as freshmen. Anything Miller and his staff get from these three is just gravy. However, with the loss of Johnson, the one fans will be hoping to succeed the most will be Phinisee.
Indiana also added St. Mary’s graduate transfer Evan Fitzner, who is listed at 6-foot-10 and 230 lbs. During his time at Saint Mary’s, he played in over 100 career games and averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Fitzner was also an impressive outside shooter, hitting 41.5 percent on 301 career attempts. Whether he can beat out a healthy De’Ron Davis remains to be seen, but Fitzner will certainly get time on the floor and add valuable frontcourt depth.
All told, Indiana is adding a plethora of talented options this offseason. Langford projects to be an immediate star and the Hoosiers are also adding plenty around him as well. It’s not crazy to think that two, or even three, of the team’s starters this season could come out of this group.
4. Points of Optimism
There’s a lot to be excited about with regard to this year’s Indiana squad, but nothing looks as encouraging as the sheer talent on the roster. By any measure, Indiana is absolutely stacked. Verbal Commits now has the Hoosiers among the league’s most talented teams and the program is adding a top 10 recruiting class.
The idea here isn’t exactly a complicated one. If you have a lot of talent, things tend to go well on the court.
Additionally, that talent isn’t all focused at one position or limited to the freshmen class. This isn’t a roster where the frontcourt is loaded, but the backcourt is a desert. It’s also not a team where all the players are seniors with little to no room for improvement. Indiana will be able to improve each and every game and could be incredibly dangerous by time we move into late February and March.
For the first time in several years, Indiana also enters the season with legitimate star power. Not players with potential. Not false hope. These are legitimate options that could do major damage in the Big Ten and beyond. Langford is a legitimate one-and-done prospect and Juwan Morgan has already shown what he can do on the court in a Hoosier uniform. We don’t need to guess about what those two can do, as they could very well be in the mix for first-team All-Big Ten honors by season’s end.
Many underestimate the impact that having that type of high-end talent can have for a team. It covers up weaknesses elsewhere and is often the difference in marquee matchups. Media members can often overblow the idea of a player “putting a team on his back,” but it became a discussion point for a reason. Big players rise up in big games. While we know that Indiana is going to need a team effort to win a championship, having someone extra special will be a huge boost.
One other thing that’s particularly exciting about Indiana is the number of players on the depth chart that could be surprise contributors this season. We all know about Langford and Morgan, but there are a lot of others that shouldn’t be forgotten. Davis and Green are now upperclassmen, Hunter might be the league’s most overlooked recruit, and last year’s freshmen class should have matured quite a bit over the offseason.
With regard to last year’s freshmen (now sophomores), here’s what I wrote last year:
“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.”
The point I was making last year should have been clear. The 2017 class was a good one for Indiana, but unlikely to contribute in year one. It was a group that was always going to emerge in time. Well, we’re now a year removed from those comments and the time for those players to emerge has arrived. Durham and Smith both showed flashes as freshmen and could be set to take another step and Moore and Thompson have upside as well. If that 2017 class emerges, Indiana could end up being insanely deep.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about Indiana’s roster and potential coming into this season. The Hoosiers have a chance to be special, if things go right. There’s star power, a lot of potential, and options at every position. Those are all good signs for the future in Bloomington.
5. Team Weaknesses
Although Hoosier fans have a lot to be excited about heading into this season, Indiana also has some legitimate concerns as well. For as much potential is on the roster, there are still plenty of question marks that fans need to keep in mind. How Miller and his staff answer those questions will determine how far this team can go this season.
But before diving into the roster, the first thing we have to acknowledge (once again), is that Indiana was not a great team last season. Fans generally like to believe that “everything will be different” and that the issues of the past will be rectified during the offseason. However, we know that’s often not the case. Teams can vary between seasons, but more often than not, they’re pretty close to what they were in the preceding years. Hoosier fans are, obviously, hoping the team is much better this time around than it was last season.
But while there are some clear reasons to think Indiana will improve off last season and many have been outlined above, it’s important to remember that the starting point is a 16-15 season where the team was 71st on KenPom. From a rankings perspective, Indiana was closer to Rutgers than Michigan State last season. That alone speaks volumes as to where the Hoosiers are coming from.
It’s also important to reemphasize the difficulty in growing from a mediocre team into a great one. This is something that is constantly highlighted in these previews and for good reason. Teams don’t move up and down in college basketball on an escalator. Going from terrible to bad and from bad to mediocre is easy, but as a team continues to climb, the hill gets much steeper and the air gets thinner.
Indiana is trying to go turn into an elite team after playing at a mediocre level the last few seasons. That’s a huge step, especially considering that many of the players on the roster have never played in the NCAA Tournament or seriously contended for a league title. After all, Juwan Morgan is the only Hoosier who contributed to Indiana’s last NCAA team in 2016. College basketball may be younger than ever before, but establishing a winning culture is easier said than done.
There are also some other concerns for the Hoosiers, outside of the big picture stuff. The first will be how the backcourt sorts things out after losing two of its biggest contributors in Johnson and Newkirk. While Langford will certainly lock down one of the spots, Indiana is going to have to figure out how to initiate its offense and how minutes are going to be split with its new faces. How he and Durham play together will tell a lot about this season.
Additionally, how the depth chart sorts out at the three, four, and five spots will also be interesting. Morgan will lock down a spot, but who else sees time and where? While Davis showed positive signs last season and Fitzner comes in with a decent track record, neither was exactly a superstar last season. Smith also still needs to improve and even if people like Hunter’s potential, he’s still a freshman. If Indiana is going to win at a high level, two or three of these guys need to be really productive players. It’s a reasonable scenario, but far from guaranteed.
The point here is relatively simple. Indiana has a slew of options around Langford and Morgan, but little that’s proven around them. Others have shown flashes and even more have potential, but we have heard that story before. And while Langford comes with immense potential, it’s important to remember that he’s a freshman as well. It wouldn’t be unprecedented if Langford arrives and is just good (not great) next year.
6. Top Player
Heading into last season, there was a huge opening for players to emerge as the top player on Indiana’s team. With OG Anunoby, James Blackmon, and Thomas Bryant heading to the NBA, it was anyone’s guess who would end up leading the Hoosiers. Here’s what I ended up writing:
“The prime candidates will be De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan. Neither had a particularly impressive 2016-’17 season, but each showed tangible 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.”
Looking back, that was a pretty solid projection. Morgan ended up being the team’s best player and Davis was second on the time in win shares per 40 minutes played. Obviously, Davis played a shortened season, but one can make a pretty strong argument that he was the team’s second best player when on the floor.
With Davis and Morgan returning, it’s logical to think that those two will be among the team’s better players. But the elephant in the room is Langford, who arrives with massive expectations. If he can hit the ground running, he will end up being the team’s best player. Morgan was really productive and Davis had some nice moments, but Langford’s potential is off the chart.
Langford seems likely to end up being the team’s best player, but it should be pretty close between him and Morgan. Both should be in the All-Big Ten race. Davis could also be a wildcard, if he takes another step forward.
7. 2018-’19 Schedule Breakdown
- 11/1 - Southern Indiana (Ex.)
- 11/6 - Chicago State
- 11/9 - Montana State
- 11/14 - Marquette
- 11/18 - at Arkansas
- 11/20 - UT Arlington
- 11/23 - Cal-Davis
- 11/27 - at Duke
- 12/1 - Northwestern
- 12/4 - at Penn State
- 12/8 - Louisville
- 12/15 - vs Butler (Indianapolis, IN)
- 12/19 - Central Arkansas
- 12/22 - Jacksonville
- 1/3 - Illinois
- 1/6 - at Michigan
- 1/11 - at Maryland
- 1/14 - Nebraska
- 1/19 - at Purdue
- 1/22 - at Northwestern
- 1/25 - Michigan
- 1/30 - at Rutgers
- 2/2 - at Michigan State
- 2/7 - Iowa
- 2/10 - Ohio State
- 2/16 - at Minnesota
- 2/19 - Purdue
- 2/22 - at Iowa
- 2/26 - Wisconsin
- 3/2 - Michigan State
- 3/7 - at Illinois
- 3/10 - Rutgers
The first thing to remember about this year’s schedule is that the Big Ten bumped up from 18 to 20 conference games this season. For the most part, that means two of the “filler” games have now turned into more challenging conference matchups. Obviously, that’s going to make things more difficult, but it also means that Big Ten slates are going to vary far less. From now on, it’s going to be much rarer to get “lucky” and avoid road trips to places like Ann Arbor, East Lansing, and Madison.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into this schedule.
The non-conference slate looks pretty tough on paper and reeks of a program that feels like it’s ready to compete for an NCAA Tournament and much more. Just take a look at the marquee non-con games on the schedule for the Hoosiers this season:
- 11/14 - Marquette
- 11/18 - at Arkansas
- 11/20 - UT Arlington
- 11/27 - at Duke
- 12/8 - Louisville
- 12/15 - vs Butler (Indianapolis, IN)
All six of those games are going to be challenging for Indiana next season. Not only did three of those teams make the NCAA Tournament last season, but two others made the NIT and the last (UT Arlington) finished among the top 130 on KenPom. Add in that three of those games are away from home and it’s easy to see the challenge that will face Indiana’s squad this year.
Winning on the road against Duke is a monumental challenge, but the other five are certainly winnable. The Marquette and Louisville games are at home and it’s not like Arkansas and Butler were perfect teams last year. Realistically, Indiana should be trying to go 4-2 or better in these six. That would be a huge boost to the team’s postseason hopes.
In Big Ten play, Indiana is going to have its work cut out. Not only do the Hoosiers get Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue twice, but it also gets tricky road games against Illinois and Maryland as well. On paper, all of those look pretty challenging. The team needs to find a way to win a fair share of these.
The good news is that the Hoosiers did catch a few breaks. To start, Indiana doesn’t have to travel to Lincoln or Madison this season. Nebraska figures to be one of the better teams in the league and everyone knows Indiana’s recent history against the Badgers, so that’s good news.
Undoubtedly, the most difficult portion of Indiana’s league slate will come in January. In a six-game slate, Indiana gets Michigan twice, Nebraska at home, and Maryland, Northwestern, and Purdue on the road. That would be an absolutely brutal slate for any team. But if Indiana can get through it, the close is very manageable.
Overall, Indiana looks like it could finish between 12 and 14 wins in Big Ten play. Taking care of manageable games on the road and seeing how opponents evolve will determine the ceiling for the Hoosiers. The schedule certainly could allow a solid run for Indiana and some major wins.
8. Projected Starting Lineup
- PG: Devonte Green (Jr.) - 60%
- SG: Romeo Langford (Fr.) - 95%
- SF: Zach McRoberts (Rs. Sr.) - 51%
- PF: Juwan Morgan (Sr.) - 95%
- C: De’Ron Davis (Jr.) - 85%
(Percentage likelihood of starting.)
Despite having a stockpile of talent and some proven options, Indiana enters this season with a great deal of uncertainty with regard to its starting lineup. And it’s not because experts are unnecessarily skeptical. The issue is that there’s a lot of flexibility and players competing for a limited number of spots. Things could shake out in a variety of ways.
In the backcourt, the biggest question is going to be how Miller wants to use Langford. To be honest, he’s probably good enough to play as a zero guard at the college level. But for purposes of this piece, we are going to assume that he will play as a two in the lineup. This is where Miller would certainly prefer to play him, but it will depend on how Langford and the team’s other guards perform.
With Langford at the two, Devonte Green looks like the frontrunner to start at point guard. He played 55.5 percent of the team’s minutes last season and many of them came behind Josh Newkirk at the point. True freshman Phinisee looks like the primary backup off the bench. Whether he is good enough to push Green is the question. Considering that Green finished with an underwhelming 91.7 offensive rating last season, Indiana is probably hoping for a player with more upside can pass him in the lineup.
On the wing, it’s anyone’s guess who starts. McRoberts is given the edge here due to his experience, but Durham, Smith, and the incoming freshmen will all be competing for time as well. Langford is also big enough to shift down to the three (and maybe even the four) if needed. However, that seems unlikely.
The two players to watch on the wing are going to be Hunter and Smith. Both came in as highly touted recruits and will be hoping to make a mark this season. Hunter is still a freshman, but will have a ton of upside and Smith should be improved and is coming off a solid freshman campaign. It seems likely that Hunter, McRoberts, and Smith will split the lion’s share of minutes at the three and the reserve minutes at the four spot.
The frontcourt minutes are going to be dominated by Davis, Fitzner, and Morgan. To start, Davis and Morgan were both productive as starters last season and there is no reason to think that changes now. This could easily be one of the better frontcourt groups in the Big Ten this season. And Fitzner should grab plenty of reserve minutes as an experienced option off the bench. He also has a different style of play that should make him a nice change of pace when Indiana needs someone to ignite the offense.
All told, Indiana has a lineup with three solid starters and two question marks. The good news is that the Hoosiers have some solid options to fill one of those open spots and plenty of quality reserves on the roster. A lot will depend simply on how the team fills the point guard vacancy and how some of the younger options develop. There is a lot of upside here and a pretty solid floor.
9. Team Perspective From Jordan Maly
“The second year of Archie Miller’s tenure as the Indiana Hoosier’s Men’s Basketball team comes with high expectations. The preseason rankings, most having the Hoosiers as a fringe Top-25 team are looking to be more than that. Since I can remember being on campus, the talk was about keeping in-state recruits, in-state.
That’s exactly what Miller did by landing No. 7 recruit in the country (No. 1 in Indiana) Romeo Langford along with No. 125 recruit Damezi Anderson (No. 3 in Indiana) and No. 136 Robert Phinisee (No. 4 in Indiana). Indiana coming into the year had the 10th best recruiting class in the nation. It’s at least enough to have people once again paying attention to Indiana and for the Hoosiers it has to translate to wins on the floor. Langford has been the most talked about prospect for the Hoosiers since the days of landing Eric Gordon and Cody Zeller.
Along with the recruiting class of 2018, key veteran pieces will be returning for Indiana including senior forward Juwan Morgan, junior forward De’Ron Davis, and junior guard Devonte Green. The Hoosiers have an extremely intriguing core and you add Romeo Langford to the mix, anything is truly possible.
Speaking of Juwan Morgan, a player looking to build upon his breakout performance in 2017-18 season will be looking at the NBA. As of right this minute, Morgan may not be on too many NBA teams radar but I can assure you he will by the time March rolls around. Morgan averaged 16.5-points, 7.4-rebounds, a block, a steal, and shot 57.9% from the field. Romeo Langford may be all the talk in NBA circles, but rest assure Morgan will find his way into the conversation too if he can stay healthy.
The Hoosiers will be tested early. Indiana through their first 12 games of the season will have to go on the road against Arkansas, No. 4 Duke, Penn State, and Butler (neutral site but may as well be an away game). The Hoosiers also have to play Marquette, Northwestern, and Louisville at home all before Christmas Day.
Whether the hype is real around Indiana or not this season, they could as easily be in the conversation about an Elite-8 or more run as they are about missing the tournament entirely. The hype is real around Romeo Langford but will the pieces around him be good enough to put them back on top of the Big Ten?” - Jordan Maly.
10. Overall Season Outlook
It’s hard not to get excited about Indiana’s roster heading into this season. It’s oozing with talent, depth, and potential. This is the type of group that could very well blast onto the scene after years of inconsistency. It’s also a team hoping that a variety of unproven options turn into major contributors on a nationally competitive team.
From the positive side, there are plenty of things to be excited about for Hoosiers fans. Of course, that all starts with Langford. He’s the type of recruit that can instantly change a program. Maybe he doesn’t end up being as productive, but his commitment seems eerily similar to Cody Zeller’s commitment before the 2011-’12 season. As fans will surely recall, Indiana turned (almost immediately) from a Big Ten bottom dweller into a contender in one offseason. Langford could very well do that again for the Hoosiers.
Add in a proven player in Morgan, a handful of intriguing returners like Davis, Green, and McRoberts, and quality newcomers like Fitzner and Hunter and there are some legitimate reasons to believe in the Hoosiers. This isn’t going to be one player and friends. This is a real roster with far more than just Langford.
But there are some real concerns, too.
To start, Indiana only has one player on its roster that is a proven option in Morgan. While Langford has immense potential, he’s still just a freshman. Fitzner and Hunter have also never played a minute in a Hoosier uniform yet. Moreover, even if Davis was productive during last season, he missed substantial time due to injury. Green and McRoberts also need to take steps forward this offseason to be difference makers.
And Indiana can’t just match last season’s results, either. The Hoosiers need to improve, and significantly. The team went 16-15 last season and finished 71st nationally on KenPom. Indiana also finished the year with three straight losses and a brutal upset loss against Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament. More simply put, Indiana needs to grow from a mediocre Big Ten team into a legitimate contender. That’s a lofty challenge.
Still, the talent is there and Miller has shown he can win at this level. Langford also looks like a potential first team All-Big Ten player for this season.