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Indiana Basketball Big Ten Media Day takeaways

Going into year two of Archie Miller’s tenure as head basketball coach at Indiana has a massively different feel to it than the uncertainty the team faced a year ago.

Thanks to a more experienced roster, a top ten ranked recruiting class, and another year of adjustment to Archie Miller’s system, the Hoosiers’ season looks very promising.

The expectations are certainly high, and that was clear in the league’s preseason honors. Senior forward and team captain, Juwan Morgan, as well as freshman guard, Romeo Langford, were both named to the preseason All-Big Ten first team. In addition, Indiana was voted to finish third in the league in the preseason poll conducted by several media members.

Despite the lofty goals, there is still plenty in question about what the Hoosiers have in store for this season. This is still a team that finished last season with a record of 16-15 and didn’t compete in any postseason tournament.

Some of the intrigue may have been put to rest from what Coach Miller, Morgan, and fellow senior and team captain, Zach McRoberts had to say at Big Ten Media Day on October, 11.

Point Guard Situation

Arguably the biggest question facing Indiana this season is who is going to grab the majority of minutes at point guard for the Hoosiers. The likely options are experienced junior, Devonte Green, sophomore Al Durham or freshman, Robert Phinisee.

Green seemingly would have the upper hand being an upperclassman with valuable experience. The New York native last season averaged 7.6 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, as well as shoot 36.4-percent from the field. Green has shown promise at times while also displaying levels of inconsistency. If Green can improve that consistency as a junior, then Archie Miller should have his point guard.

Miller also gave high praise to Durham, who is coming off a freshman season where he averaged 4.8 points per game and played just under 20 minutes per game.

“If we had to start a game today, if we had to play a game right now, you know, who’s ready? Who’s engaged? I really like Al,” Miller said. “I really think Al is doing a great job, he’s talking he’s communicating.”

In addition to the two experienced options, the freshman Phinisee has already garnered high praise from both Miller and Morgan.

“Defensively he’s a college defender early in his career.” Miller said of Phinisee. “He also has shown the IQ level on defense to be where he’s supposed to be at times maybe a little bit more rapidly than any of the guys defensively.”

The freshman’s ability to play both ways may get him on the court earlier than expected due to Coach Miller’s emphasis on the importance of defense.

Morgan sees the point guard competition as one of the best in practice and something that is a good thing for both players.

“I think it’s a good thing to have that in practice where you have two great point guards going against each other.” Morgan said. “I think they build off each other and I think they’re both taking things from the other.”

Smith taking the next step offensively

Morgan and Langford are expected to become quite the duo offensively and play off each other. As a junior, Morgan averaged 16.5 points per game. In Langford’s senior campaign at New Albany High School averaged about 36 per contest.

Outside of those two, there remains some uncertainty about who will be the third option on offense. Miller believes it to be versatile sophomore wing, Justin Smith, who has the ability to be even more than that.

“He’s very talented obviously, athletically he’s more gifted, he’s a better player right now.” Miller said. “He has a chance to really be a different type of impact on us.”

Smith’s impact on the Hoosiers last year really didn’t come to fruition until later on the season but he certainly showed flashes and potential to be very special. Going off what Miller has been saying and the offseason work he has put in, the expectations are sky high for Smith.

Continuing to Recruit the State

One of the biggest praises Coach Miller has received thus far in his time at Indiana has been his ability to recruit the state. Out of the seven total commits landed under Coach Miller, four of them have been in-state kids.

Three of them hail from the 2018 class: Langford (New Albany), Phinisee (Lafayette), and Damezi Anderson (South Bend). And most recently in the 2019 class there is IU’s newest commit, Armaan Franklin (Indianapolis).

Miller holds a lot of value in recruiting the state and doesn’t look to abandon this method either.

“I’d love to have the best players in Indiana stay home. It’s what makes Indiana in my opinion special.”

Looking ahead to 2019, it’s no secret that the Hoosiers are heavily recruiting the state right now. The 5-star duo of Trayce Jackson-Davis (Greenwood) and Keion Brooks (Fort Wayne) are the Hoosiers’ two top priorities. If the two were to become Hoosiers, they would most likely round out an all in-state 2019 recruiting class.

“For us to be able to come back with another solid group, after a five-man group. That’s sort of your nuts and bolts in year three and four.” Miller said. “We’re working hard towards making it probably a three to four-man class.”

The Depth and Competition

What may be the most special aspect of this Indiana team is the sheer amount of talent it boasts. The depth is an extreme luxury that the Hoosiers didn’t have last year. Cracking the rotation is going to be very tough and is only making practice all the more competitive.

“We have really set the bar high for our guys just in terms of competition they’re going to have to earn it every day.” Miller said on the practice environment. “I think that they understand they’re going against somebody who wants the same amount of minutes as them.”

With the amount of capable guys who could see the court, it’s going to be interesting to see how Miller allocates the minutes and develops a rotation. It certainly looks to be a deeper one than most teams around the country. Miller mentioned that he could see the rotation creeping to ten or eleven players.


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