Hoosiers ready for early start to season #iubb

If it seems like the basketball season is starting early, that’s because it is.

When the Indiana men’s basketball team takes the floor for tonight’s 8 o’clock exhibition opener against Marian University, it will be the second-earliest such contest in IU history behind only an Oct. 26, 2013, game against Southern Indiana.

But there will be a lot of firsts for the Hoosiers and new coach Archie Miller.

The first shootaround, the first pregame routine, the first time five players play and the rest sit on the bench and the list goes on.

In other words, it’s a learning experience.

“A lot of times you go into the deal with a scripted first half rotation, giving guys big windows or even opportunities to get small windows, then as the second half comes, you want to get a feel for the game,” Miller said. “It’s a little uncharted water, because we haven’t coached these guys in a game, so you don’t know what to expect.”

Whoever Miller sends out as his five starters, there will be a lot for both the coaching staff and the players to learn about each other outside of a practice setting.

“We always want to win, we’re competitors, but we just look forward to having fun with our team, getting out there with a new coaching staff and try to have fun,” sophomore De’Ron Davis said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Try to see where we’re at, all our hard work over the summer and our preparation, so we’ll just get out there and see where we’re at.”

Miller said freshman Al Durham (hamstring) and senior Collin Hartman (ankle) are expected to be held out of the exhibition opener, just as they were the scrimmage at Hoosier Hysteria, but strictly as a precaution. Josh Newkirk was “full-go” at practice this week and is expected to play.

Everybody else will begin the process of proving where they fit and how much they should play.

“I’m really looking forward to putting a group out there that can play well, and whoever’s playing well is going to play,” Miller said. “We’re trying to win the game.”

Davis says it’s less about earning minutes during the game and more about carrying practice over to a game situation.

“We earn minutes through our whole practice system with the gold jersey standard, stuff like that, competing (shooting) free throws,” he said. “Practice is set up to compete, regardless. If we approach the game like we approach practice, that stuff will sort out itself.”

In a game like this, the first chance to make a big impression on fans, teammates and coaches, there is a certain temptation to seek individual accomplishment. But that’s not what the Hoosiers have in mind.

“Really, there’s no individual goals, just see where we’re at as a team and see what steps we have to take to be a better team,” senior forward Freddie McSwain Jr. said.

Marian will be seeking the same approach under first-year head coach Scott Heady, who previously coached at Carmel. Among his pupils there was IU redshirt junior walk-on Zach McRoberts.

That isn’t the only Hoosier connection for the Knights.

Steve Downing, the 1973 Big Ten MVP, All-American and IU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee is the Marian athletic director, while 1981 Big Ten Player of the Year and IU Athletics Hall of Famer Ray Tolbert is an assistant coach.
Nonetheless, expect both teams to be focused on themselves.

“It’s more about what we’re trying to accomplish and executing our system on the fly against somebody else,” Miller said, “having to make some adjustments during the game and seeing how can execute what we’re trying to do every day regardless of who we’re playing.”