Hoosier backcourt takes center stage

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It took three months, but it’s finally happening.

Indiana is getting the guard play it has needed all season.

The Hoosiers’ backcourt took another step toward reliability in Saturday’s 84-82 win at Iowa, leading IU to a come-from-behind victory in a game where foul trouble limited Juwan Morgan’s ability to establish himself as the primary option.

Robert Johnson carried the scoring load in a shootout against the fast-paced Hawkeyes, while Devonte Green commanded the point in the latest example of his complete-game potential.

As Indiana has found traction amid the home stretch of the regular season, its guards have directed the turnaround. Suddenly, a group that had been lamented for its inconsistencies is organizing Indiana’s most impressive run of play to date.

“I’m biased, I’m a guard,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “But guards win, man. The best guard tandems and backcourts, they win games.”

That, of course, is what Indiana recently has done.

Victories in four consecutive games have resuscitated the Hoosiers’ hopes of a postseason beyond the Big Ten Tournament, showcasing a team that is making good use of the sum of its parts.

Green’s play at point guard has been a revelation across the past six games, giving Indiana the creator and playmaker it has needed at the position. Perhaps most importantly, steady play at the point has removed the burden from those around Green.

For his part, Johnson authored a career day Saturday when Indiana needed it.

With Morgan logging his lowest total minutes (27) since leaving the Jan. 19 loss at Michigan State with an ankle injury after only 16 minutes, Johnson filled the primary scoring void at Iowa.

The senior drained nine of his 12 3-point attempts, tying both the IU single-game record and the Carver-Hawkeye arena record, while setting a new personal best with 29 points.

With Indiana staring at an early 13-point hole, the offensive punch supplied by Johnson and Green helped the Hoosiers flip their deficit into a 13-point advantage by the midpoint of the second half.

“The fact that we can both hit open shots is a big deal,” Green said. “We’re both always looking for each other off the drive. I think we just had that connection.”

Developing connections within the backcourt is a big deal for this team, especially considering the lukewarm production Indiana received from its guards for much of the season.

In recent weeks, Miller has instructed his team to adopt an assist-minded approach through crisp movements and better passes within the halfcourt offense.

After posting 23 assists on 32 baskets Saturday, Indiana is now averaging 18 assists per game during its current winning streak. The duo of Johnson and Green combined for 10 assists against only two turnovers against the Hawkeyes.

Green again demonstrated why he is Indiana’s best option for feeding the post on Saturday’s game-winning basket, leading Freddie McSwain to the block on a perfect wraparound pass that went for an easy layup.

“Without question, those two guys — 10 assists, two turnovers and 47 points — that’s a big-time line from those two,” Miller said.

It all complemented the strong defensive presence from both players. Johnson has routinely earned praise from his coach for his work on that end of the floor this season, even as his scoring touch flickered.

Green challenged Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon on Saturday, and while Bohannon’s second-half shooting helped the Hawkeyes erase IU’s advantage, Green still managed one of his better defensive showings of the season.

“(Bohannon) got some good ones and the last one, he could’ve made,” Miller said. “But I thought Devonte had a pretty good defensive game against him, to be honest. It was probably one of Devonte’s better defensive games. He concentrated.”

And with both Green and Johnson playing off each other, Indiana stands to benefit moving forward.

“(They’ve bonded) really well,” Miller said. “It’s probably one of the keys to our success here recently, guard play.”

51 comments

  1. After watching the Neb/ill game, I can see a foul-fest on the way. RoJo getting his mojo going will give Morgan a little more space to operate . Green has been kind of magical with a couple of his passes. Would love to see Colin get hot during his last IU days. Feel bad for Newkirk, his three turnovers negate his 4 points. The change in this team has been fun to watch. They still have time to make some noise. What a weird season this has been.

    1. Newkirk is successful in past history at 1 thing. At the end of a close game the ball in his hands and he is fouled. He is IU’s best foul shooter. Green is 2nd.

  2. They still have time to make some noise

    Ron- It’s fun going back to what the “experts” had to say back in October.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2741495-power-ranking-every-college-basketball-conference-ahead-of-the-2017-18-season

    Michigan State might be the best team in the country, but Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue are all fringe Top 25 teams. Meanwhile, the league has three teams that are probably going to be awful (Illinois, Rutgers and Nebraska), one that should be bad unless Chris Holtmann actually is a wizard (Ohio State) and two others that we might be too generous by listing as NCAA candidates (Indiana and Penn State).
    The Big Ten is still going to send six or seven teams to the tournament because that always seems to be the case.

    Completely wrong on Minnesota and Northwestern in Top 25….Wrong on Nebraska. Wrong on OSU(though they covered their butts just a bit). Basically wrong on Indiana and Penn State because we take the place of their Northwestern and Minnesota predictions.

    Absolutely correct on “Big Ten is still going to send six or seven teams”…Did you read that, Crean apologists? Six or seven teams. That means 10-8 would likely get us in…and 11-7 should be a lock. Anything different would be going drastically against precedent.

    Why would the NCAA go drastically against precedent this year? Hmmm? Who are they attempting to minimize? A new coach in Bloomington…possibly? Sure never hear about the incredible job Archie has done…And why would we hear it on ESPN when guys like Dakich and Crean are now a double anti-Indiana force on a major college basketball network?
    But didn’t they say six or seven teams selected from the Big Ten in the piece I quoted above? And that was a quote from Bleacher Report….correct? And isn’t Bleacher Report considered cutting edge and the most legit sports news/editorial source right now? I mean…Andy Scholes is the man! Isn’t he a regular on CNN….? Never mind. FAKE NEWS! According to the ‘Price-Hughes A. Fox’ Sports Network, the NCAA never sends six or seven teams from the Big Ten…

    1. Update: Latest NIT bracketology has Indiana in the field for the first time, but still on the bubble. Nebraska now solidly an NIT team as a 3 seed. Looks like the Big Ten is only getting four teams barring something weird in the conference tourney.

      1. Care to make a wager…?
        I say six teams from the Big Ten will make the Big Dance. My projections are the top four plus Nebraska and IU. The final two invites is still completely up for grabs, but I still say the number will be six.

        Penn State and Maryland will get NIT bids.

        1. If you’re betting six Big Ten teams, I’ll take that any day of the week. I don’t see more than five, and that’s going to take some work by Nebraska, Penn State or Indiana.

          1. Maybe too much fix this year….e.g. Lunardi said he’s not ready to “put a fork in ND” in regard to the NCAA tournament…(even after their loss to Miami tonight). What the #@$%^%@? They are 6-9…..We beat them when they had Colson. We are 9-7 and we aren’t even mentioned and Nebraska is on the fence?
            Things are effed up this year. I may not watch the tournament at all this year…I would urge others not to watch if they continue to eff over the Midwest/Big Ten to this level of blatant disregard.

      2. Surprised by the NIT teams listed. Big names that normally would be NCAA round of 16 or so. I’d be happy for IU going NIT. May be able to have a nice run.

  3. Ron- Far from over…Farbulous fight ’til the end. Wonder who will be the worse for ware when the dust settles in the middle of the Big standings?

  4. Some of the team listed in the early bracket predictions are such a joke.

    Alabama 17-10 8-6
    Florida 17-10 8-6
    Kentucky 18-9 7-7
    Texas A&M 17-10 6-8 (are you frickin’ kidding me?)

    Keep in mind, these are not records from the Big Ten with multiple team hanging around the top ten. These are records from the sorry assed SEC whose three best teams are Auburn, Tennessee, and Arkansas. How bad do you have to be to be a sub .500 team in the SEC?

    1. Chet- Completely agree…There seems to be a real fix on this year against the Big Ten. Penn State, Indiana, or Nebraska could give any of the teams you listed all they could handle. Loyola of Chicago took down Florida for god’s sake. AGENDAS.

  5. The SEC is not such a “sorry-assed” conference this year, Chet. I watched Alabama play a couple of times earlier this year, and at that time, they’d have beaten IU by 20 points. The Big is simply having a down year.

    1. This year same as past years SEC is a sorry assed conference. No match for the B1G even in a down year.

    2. PO, are you referring to the same Alabama team that lost to Minnesota on a neutral floor and Central Florida at home about that same time?

      So, we neat Minnesota twice while they lost to Minnesota but they’d beat IU by 20?

      Right.

      1. To be entirely fair, that Minnesota team had Reggie Lynch, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer. IU never faced those Gophers, as both Lynch (suspended) and Coffey (season-ending injury) did not play. McBrayer played in the first game vs. the Hoosiers, not the second.

        1. McBrayer plate 37 minutes scoring 18 points in the first game and Indiana had just lost DeRon Davis.

          But Indiana still won.

          Your point?

          1. Regardless, we are talking about who is playing the best basketball right now. The NCAA selection committee has alway been very clear about that.

            Alabama has been, on a good day, average in conference play in a conference that is represented in the top 25 rankings with the #12 and #19 teams. That’s it. Two teams. Neither ranked very high.

            The Big Ten has four ranked teams including the #2 in the land.

            But, despite all those numbers, you just keep telling me how the SEC is the better conference this season.

            Pesky numbers.

          2. The point was those other guys played against Alabama, they didn’t play against Indiana. Minnesota was ranked in the top 25 at the time. You made the comparison, I noted it was somewhat apples and oranges.

          3. Agree with Chet…We’ve won four straight…Other teams are fading and fatiguing while we are heating up and playing harder..If we were to win out, that would be six straight conference wins. If that doesn’t get NCAA attention/recognition, then it would be unprecedented for the Big Ten. It would be an obvious fix…and maybe a damn good reason to not watch and support the tournament.

          4. I’m not into ‘fixes’ but I do believe in self fulfilling prophesies.

            They are better because we’ve been saying they were all season, not because the numbers will bear it out.

          5. Kenpom has 5 Big Ten teams in the top 25 including two in the top ten at #4 and #6. He has 2 SEC teams ranked at #10 and #15.

        2. To be entirely fair, we don’t have ghost classes and prostitutes available to our players. And to also be fair, Hartman has been banged up, DeRon is done for the season, and Morgan played through a pretty nasty ankle sprain.
          This may be the greatest turnaround in decades …It’s really quite shameful that Archie isn’t be recognized for bringing Indiana Basketball back to Indiana with a group most were pegging a throwaway team.

        3. If indeed these wacky projections resemble the final product the NCAA selects they are shooting themselves in the foot by providing the NIT a larger more illuminated stage for viewers.

          1. Last time I’ve heard of ‘quadrant one’ was in a trigonometry class….

            Do you get the feeling that the new terminology in assessment and selection processes is added to intimidate/validate and give credence to something overly simplified in its conclusions of predetermined bias.

            It reminds me of something I heard last night as proposal to change the NBA playoff structure are considered(paraphrasing): “Ultimately, for the fans, we want the two best teams to play in the Finals…to be there at the end.”

            I’ll not take up more space here, but you don’t need analytics or an advanced math degree to know the plethora of flaws in such an idea that ruins basketball as we know it. Let’s just forget the NCAA tournament, use whatever combination of metrics desired, and place two teams in a championship game. Whatever happened to the idea that cream rises to the top no matter obstacle or road?
            Makes me wonder who they’re protecting….and I guess Milan or Plymouth had no business being in a tournament with Muncie Central…or Gary Roosevelt. I mean, what was their RPI…Who did they have on their schedule? Didn’t the get their asses kicked by Kouts in a regular season contest? Analytics and ‘quadrants’…would have kept Scott Skiles miracles on the sidelines.

            This is all about money( and, yes, fixes), folks. “Bracketology,” my ass. You are ruining the game.

        4. Another note in that game, Alabama played the final 11 min of that game with only 3 players. They actually managed to outscore Minnesota 30-22 during that span. Kind of pathetic.

          I’m with JP. The B1G is top heavy. The rest of the conference stinks. They’ll only get 4 teams unless some team sans MSU, Purdue, UM, or OSU wins the tournament. Indiana only gets in if they win the B1G tournament. I wouldn’t count them out winning the B1G. They’re clicking right now. It’s almost like that gauntlet of playing 3 games vs Purdue, OSU and MSU in less than a week toughened them up.

          There are really only two bubble teams right now and they’re pretty far from getting inside.

          Nebraska: Out. SOS is weak and their RPI is really low. Their loss to Illinois this weekend probably killed their chances. PSU is the same. Neb and PSU play this week for the chance to be the last almost/kinda-sorta bubble team.

          Those SEC bubble teams have a far tougher SOS than our bubble teams. The top half of the SEC isn’t elite, but the middle is better than the B1G. Scheduling matters. Been saying this for years and years as Crean scheduled pickup games in the non-conf. For example, check out Texas A&Ms schedule: they played Arizona, Kansas, USC and WVU this year (went 2-2 in those games). Their SOS is 4th in the country.

          Not saying what I want or believe. Just going through the way committee thinks. I do agree with some of your comments about the fact that they consider how a team is playing at the end of the season heading into the tournament. But Indiana is going to need to win the B1G conference tournament to shake-off the home blowouts by ISU and Fort Wayne. The committee really doesn’t like bad losses.

          1. Dolly Parton is top heavy…She still gets a lot of gigs.

            Crean went beyond cupcakes….He was scheduling twinkies. IPFW and ISU were horrific losses. Archie was still throwing basketball holy water on Lucifer hoops..and performing McCracken turnover exorcisms. Sure, leaving us out of consideration can be easily hung on some “bad losses”…..while ignoring the fact most Crean teams built their puttering seasons on weak wins and bad basketball.
            Archie’s team is gelling and would bringing far stronger basketball to an NCAA tournament than even the highest of ranked/RPI Crean bunch. That’ the irony …The same analytics we begged and defended to send bad playing teams with a ‘high seed’ into March is the guillotine used for a team having early losses but playing much better basketball at this stage of the season.
            It’s easy to argue it’s fair to leave us out of the dance…but those who are paying attention know full well it fails to recognize the transformation of a kid like Morgan…and the transformation of an entire team…along with the quality of basketball in the last month not being awarded. 11-7 for those paying attention should be plenty to give this bunch their just reward.
            Because such recognition is not currently being offered by the pundits and the press, I would find it even a greater accomplishment if this bunch can stay motivated. It[s gotta be tough knowing how many years picking six or seven team from our conference was nearly automatic…(even before the addition of Maryland and Rutgers). Maybe we should have never watered it down with East Coast teams….? Maryland is likely wishing they would have remained in one of those less “top heavy” conferences..

          2. Here’s the thing, based on the projections I read yesterday a Big Ten team ranked #25 by Kenpom won’t make the tourney but 6 SEC teams ranked outside the top 30 will.

            How does that work?

  6. Interesting read. Thought his father watched one of his IU east coast games. The father wanted VO to study marital arts, was against basketball for him. The father also got into a sexual harassment problem at his job. Vic sure has a wide range of talent. Can still picture the almost dunk from the poor pass from Jordy.

  7. He seems a remarkably certered guy, as far as you can tell from here, considering the way that relationship came across in print. Good for him.

    You never know what makes us the people we are.

  8. So, Louisville gets stripped of a national title, several seasons of wins, and a boatload of money over their ‘hookers for recruits’ program.

    The FBI hasn’t even started on them yet for giving recruits hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Must be a great day to be a Cardinal fan.

    1. Can you imagine the quality of hookers in Louisville, Kentucky?

      They must have played the entire NCAA tournament hooked up to an IV of penicillin.

  9. I remember not so long ago when five teams from Indiana made it to the Dance(Valpo, ND, Purdue, Butler, IU) I think there was a season not so long ago that we had six from Indiana? Anyone help me on that one? Now we can’t locate four from the Big Ten…..worthy?
    This could be the first year in decades when only four from the primarily Midwestern Big Ten and only one team from Indiana is taking part in March Madness. I guess it’s the ‘Year of the Boiler.” Are you laughing yet, Lafayette?

    Meanwhile, other than one West Lafayette stinker from the Hoosier state in the Dance, Brad Stevens is developing quite the Bobby Kennedy Bostonian accent….and the Big Tournament is in Madison Square Garden. ESTABLISHMENT FOREVER!

  10. Chet, are you referring to the Indiana team that got blown out by ISU and Ft. Wayne on its home court? Between Alabama and IU’s two referenced losses, which were worse? And while some people don’t believe that injuries to key players should never affect a team’s performance, the reality is that they almost always do….. often in a huge way. I’ll reference Scott May’s broken arm in 1975 that cost IU at least a trip to the final four, if not a national championship. Any college BB team that loses three key starters to injury or suspension is going to see its performance decline as the losses increase.

    1. Our struggles against those “bad teams” with some unbelievable Indiana shooters whose lifetime memory is playing as if in an out-of-body experience against a school failing to recruit them(Thanks again, Tom)… had nothing to do with injury excuses.

      Archie had more bad habits to undue than Houdini had handcuffs in a Chinese torture cell. He had a team of guys who had really never been coached…What a damn surprise how they’re going to struggle and have issues of chemistry and defensive purpose. You’re a genius.

    2. In the first game Minnesota was down two players and Indiana was down one with another injured.

      Personnel wise, it was a wash.

      As I said elsewhere, current projections have a Big Ten team ranked #25 by Kenpom not making the tourney (giving the B1G 4 teams) however 6 SEC teams ranked #30 or worse are projected in the tournament (giving them 8).

      Rationalize that one for me.

      1. It can’t be rationalized. And the cold reality is no matter a Hoosier team struggling or one highly ranked, the candy stripes have the biggest target on their backs in college basketball. We fill opponent’s arenas like no other team..Kids from our state hold grudges when they see us recruiting projects from Jersey and ignoring their talent. When they arrive in Assembly, there first desire is to remove the “Little Sisters of the Poor” moniker. It’s not an excuse….It’s just a reality.

        I’ll give Archie some slack this season because he had a bunch of guys who were void of ever really being coached at the game. Those who bolted for the NBA knew what was coming…and they didn’t feel it was worth the work or bother to play your guts out at both ends of the floor.

  11. Couple of years ago someone on here was holding the Louisville sports program as the ultimate goal for IU. Looked like a nice goal at the time.

  12. Again, Kenpom he 5 B1G teams ranked in the top 25 including two in the top ten at #4 and #6.

    The SEC has two teams in the top 25 at #10 and #15. But the BIG likely gets 2 bids and the SEC gets 8 even though they have dismal record in a conference that historically does miserably in the tournament outside of Kentucky. South Carolina was certainly an anomaly last year and will like never see such rarified air again.

    What a joke.

  13. ^^^Agree. But what’s different this year? Can’t think of much. Teams like Nebraska and Penn State have had such little historical success, I guess they truly have to earn it double. But what is different for Indiana? It’s the Dan & Tom Show on ESPN…Scorned and identified as useless teachers of the game now on the biggest media platform for college basketball…. And they have more love for Indiana than can ever be measured(about as much as East Coast journalists working for Scoop).

  14. Chet, I don’t think anyone is defending the Tournament Selection Committee or trying to rationalize how six or more SEC teams might get invited to the dance. But the SEC is not, at least this season, the crappy BB conference it used to be. They’ve got a lot of quality coaches and a lot of excellent athletes in that conference. Frankly, I like the fact that the SEC is improving in BB. It reduces all the media hype directed at the teams in the ACC. With all the money those SEC schools generate from football, they can afford to invest what is necessary to build strong basketball programs.

    1. Sure. I agree.

      For years I remember watching 7 ACC teams get 1-4 seedings. They would ALL win in the first round. Then 5 of them would lose to the lower seeded team next game. As a result, they would have an over .500 record and be touted as great in the tourney.

      I hate that stuff.

  15. It’s not like the B1G has been some NCAA juggernaut in the tournament in recent history either. Hasn’t had a banner since MSU in 2000. 6 National Championship appearances since then, 6 losses. It’s been a sea of mediocrity.

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