Hoosiers managing Hartman’s minutes

Since returning from an early-season groin injury, Collin Hartman has functioned as Indiana’s spark plug.

Knowing when to turn to the fifth-year senior is Archie Miller’s juggling act.

There’s a balance that the Hoosiers are trying to strike with Hartman, who hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in any of the five games he’s played. For Miller, IU’s first-year coach, determining when to play one of his most valuable players comes down to measuring the rhythms of the game.

“His minute distribution is something that has to go with feel, has to go with rotation, and clearly who he’s in with at times,” Miller said.

Indiana has eased Hartman back to game action, playing it safe with an injury that can linger. For his part, Hartman has made the most of the action he’s been able to handle.

The Cathedral product serves as IU’s most efficient player when he’s on the floor. In the five games Hartman has played, IU has outscored opponents by 33 points when he’s in the game. If not for the apparent minute restriction, Hartman, who’s averaging 16.0 minutes per game, might be a good candidate to start — or at least play his way into starter’s minutes.

Given some of the slow, sloppy starts to games the Hoosiers have experienced at times, Hartman seems like he could be the natural fix to that issue. Even so, he’s already giving IU what it needs from his current role.

He’s 6-for-10 from inside the arc and 6-for-15 from 3-point range, while, most importantly, providing a safety net to those around him.

Since the 2014-15 season, Indiana is 49-23 when Hartman is healthy and 21-20 when he is not.

“He’s sort of a quarterback who’s not really a point guard, but he’s sort of a quarterback for our team,” Miller said. “He’s emotional. He communicates, and when he’s out there, generally, you’re going to see a guy that’s playing really hard, and he’s giving us everything he has.”

Hartman’s efficiency and leadership thus far illustrates how much Indiana missed him on the floor last season, which was stolen from him due to a preseason knee injury.

He tried to lead from the background, but that only went so far. Now that he’s taken advantage of his final season of eligibility, Hartman has tried to maximize his time on the court to provide the steady hand, in terms of production and leadership, that this team requires.

“I hold myself to a higher standard in the sense that it’s hard for me to sit out a practice or miss games like I have early in the season and still hold guys to that level (or) standard,” said Hartman, the latest recipient of IU’s “Gold Standard” practice jersey. “It’s another reason why I want to be in all the time.

“I don’t like sitting. I don’t like missing practice because then I feel like I can’t use that leadership because it puts me in the same position I was in last year. I really try not to miss as much as possible.”