At this very moment, Archie Miller currently sits with two empty scholarship spots heading into the 2018 season.
What happens with those scholarships is up in the air and it’s hard to really have many answers. The only thing we truly do know is that those two spots could truly make or break this Indiana Basketball team next year.
Every roster spot has a value and your goal as a basketball coach is to maximize that value in whatever way possible. Wasting a spot can be detrimental and he perfect example of that idea sits directly in Indiana’s locker room.
Before heading into the 2017 season, Archie Miller had one scholarship to play with. Instead of wasting it, Miller chose to wisely offer it to top prospect in the class of 2018. In an ingenious move towards value maximization, Indiana added Race Thompson to the roster and allowed him spend the year as a redshirt. Now he looks like this…
So proud of Redshirt Freshman Race Thompson. Over the last 6 months he has changed his diet, worked hard in the weight-room, & transformed his body. Body fat ⬇ – strength, power, & lean muscle mass ⬆. #IUBB #StrongerFasterHigherBetter pic.twitter.com/QZdY45Kiyq
— Coach Clif Marshall (@ClifMarshall) March 8, 2018
OH MY THE VALUE MAXIMIZATION! (I’m sorry, let me be a nerd here. I promise it’s worth it.)
Now with the 2017 season behind us, one of the biggest questions remaining is how Miller will decide to use his two free scholarships this upcoming year.
There are a load of variables that come into play here. Those two spots could easily become three if Juwan Morgan decides to leave for the NBA. Those two spots could also easily become one if Indiana finds itself with its most valuable recruit in at least a decade in Romeo Langford.
From there, Miller could go with the simple approach of pursuing another recruit. He could look at adding James Akinjo, the 95th best player in the country according to 247Sports, a point guard with Indiana interest that recently decommitted to UCONN.
Indiana could also look to add a JUCO transfer such as Isaiah Tisdale of Vincennes University, a combo guard that Miller has visited in the past.
Or, Miller could go for the option that the rest of college basketball has seemingly found comfort in.
In 2018, Archie Miller needs to find Indiana a graduate transfer.
After a year in which Indiana Basketball seemingly got a free pass under a coach in his first year at the head of the program, now is the time for Indiana to push the competitive boundaries. Heading into next season, more than half of Miller’s roster will be comprised of players in which he recruited, so there is no excuse to stop you from taking a step in the right direction.
Indiana needs a metaphorical Max Bielfeldt. In 2016, Indiana doesn’t win a Big Ten title without him. Bielfeldt didn’t light up the score sheet or blow you away in any means, but he provided valuable minutes off the bench and was named Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.
Indiana needs that. The Hoosiers need to find a way to replace the production of Robert Johnson, reduce the stress level of its talented freshman class, and they need to simply add a veteran presence on what will be an extremely young roster.
It’s not like this is uncommon. Last season, 883 players transferred to new programs. 592 of those players left with immediate eligibility, representing just how much of a blatant common place that graduate transfers have become.
Below, all 43 graduate transfers that left for programs in one of the seven major conferences in college basketball are listed.
As most of these players left for bigger programs and bigger opportunities, the statistical drop-off shouldn’t be much of surprise. The group as a whole averaged 10.88 points per game prior to transferring and 7.51 points per game after. What that means is simple.
Even with an expected drop-off in production, graduate transfers are still incredibly reliable sources of production for teams in major conferences.
The average graduate transfer in one of the seven major conferences brought in 7.51 points per game, played 21.31 minutes per game, and grabbed 3.23 rebounds per game. It’s a stat line that doesn’t blow you away, but it’s a stat line that Indiana needs.
It’s also a stat line that is oddly reminiscent of the aforementioned Max Bielfeldt, as the 2015-16 graduate transfer averaged 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game.
Graduate Transfers to Major Conferences
Below are the 12 individuals that left one major conference school for another. Having already adjusted to the competition level, the drop off in production barely measurable, as the 12 of them combined to average .067 less points per game after transferring.
With stats that are nearly unchanged, you can pinpoint players such as Al Freeman and Cam Johnson who were both pivotal cogs for their new teams.
Graduate Transfers that Left One Major Conference for Another
From there, you can even cut the criteria even further to look at the type of players that Indiana should be looking at for this upcoming season.
Indiana should obviously be looking at the best statistical prospects available. So, look at every graduate transfer that averaged at least 10 points per game before heading to their new school.
The group of 26 averaged 8.98 points per game this season, a number that would fit so perfectly into Indiana’s future plans. Players such as Elijah Brown, Egor Koulechov, and Kassius Robertson displayed the simple fact that Indiana could easily find a difference maker in the graduate transfer market.
Along with that, the 14 players that averaged at least eight points per game portray just how reliable of an opportunity this could be.
It’s all that Indiana needs.
Graduate Transfers that Averaged 10 Points or More Before Leaving
There is an argument to be made that Zach McRoberts is deserving of one of the open scholarship spots. Actually, there isn’t really argument.
McRoberts is incredibly deserving of a scholarship. The only issue with that idea is the fact that it doesn’t make you better, and this Indiana Basketball program needs to explore every avenue possible in order to get better. So, if the season starts and a scholarship spot sits open, McRoberts should have it. It shouldn’t come to that.
Archie Miller doesn’t need a life saver–he needs a grad transfer.