Hoosiers expect to win in 2018-19

Juwan Morgan didn’t come to Indiana to sit idle in March.

The past two seasons, which featured missed NCAA Tournaments, middling Big Ten results and a coaching change, weren’t part of his vision. Now, Morgan wants to make the most of his final year.

This season, he and the Hoosiers don’t merely hope to win. They’re counting on it.

“I expect it a lot,” Morgan said at IU’s media day on Wednesday. “Trying to (not) be overly confident, but I think the work we’ve put in and just how hard we go at each other in practice, I just can’t wait to see how it is when the person across from us isn’t wearing the same colors.”

That won’t happen for more than a month, when IU opens the season on Nov. 6 against Chicago State. In the meantime, the Indiana basketball team that opens practice on Monday has the pieces to meet Morgan’s expectation for the season.

There is size and skill, star power and high upside.

Most of all, there is depth.

IU opens the preseason with at least a dozen players who will compete for meaningful minutes on this year’s team, which will make for an interesting month of October. Archie Miller has several options in the frontcourt and extended versatility everywhere else.

And as the build-up to his much-anticipated second-season continues into the fall, Miller is putting the responsibility on his players to prove which ones deserve the available minutes in his rotation

“It has to be that way,” Miller said. “When you don’t have it that way, you’re sort of strapped as a coach and you kind of live and die with the results. When you have depth and you have the competition level that I think we can have, every day you’re going to have to earn it, and that’s how teams really grow.”

Led by Morgan, an All-Big Ten forward, and blue chip freshman guard Romeo Langford, Indiana has the pieces and the foundation that last year’s team did not.

It has scoring punch in the form of Morgan and Langford, who should form the most potent offensive duo in the Big Ten this winter.

It has perimeter shooting in the form of Saint Mary’s graduate transfer Evan Fitzner, a 40 percent 3-point marksman as a stretch-forward.

It has versatile, high-upside forwards such as Justin Smith, a sophomore, and freshman Jerome Hunter to provide athleticism and explosion.

IU also has the benefit of a year in Miller’s pack-line defensive system, which saw the Hoosiers jump 39 spots in defensive efficiency from No. 104 nationally in former coach Tom Crean’s final campaign in 2016-17 to No. 65 last season.

“That team a year ago started at ground zero,” Miller said. “I think everybody knew that, and I think we finished playing in a very competitive, spirited way. I think we learned how to battle together. We did things together all season long, and that team finished the season last year with a much, much better understanding of how we have to do things.

“Now, the key is for those eight returning guys to not regress back to where the beginning was again. It’s to start at a much higher level. The expectation is much different.”

The good thing for Miller is that the Hoosiers are acting like a team banking on meeting their own expectations.

Junior forward De’Ron Davis on Wednesday spoke about achievements such as winning the league, then winning the Big Ten Tournament as “small goals.”

Langford also voiced his expectation of capturing a national championship at the end of what could be his only season in Bloomington.

Long before any of those dreams are realized, the Hoosiers, like every other team in the country, have things to figure out.

They need to find consistency and reliability from what will be a point-guard-by-committee approach between junior Devonte Green, sophomore Al Durham and freshman Robert Phinisee.

They need to learn just how much Davis, who is still working his way back from an Achilles injury suffered in January, can contribute at center.

They need to figure out just how far the experience of Morgan, Fitzner and scrappy walk-on Zach McRoberts can propel them into February and March.

All the while, Miller wants to see just how many sacrifices his players are willing to make for a team with ample depth and, perhaps, not enough minutes to initially go around.

“Painting that picture for them sometimes isn’t easy for them to see until sometimes their first game and only five of them take the floor,” Miller said. “But there’s going to be some serious sacrifices, not just from Romeo but Juwan to every single guy that just wants to contribute. This has to be a team of depth and togetherness this year. It really does. If we’re not playing nine, ten guys, then we’re not getting the maximum out of everybody on the team.”

And make no mistake, Morgan, as much as anyone else, wants this team to max out.

“I think it goes for everybody that everybody is just significantly better than what we finished off at,” Morgan said. “I think that’s a good thing for us going forward.”

4 comments

  1. Both in this article and a media Q&A with Miller on another site I find it both surprising and revealing at no mention of Clifton Moore. Not a whisper.

  2. Another article that references IU’s improved “size.” Aside from Langford being 6’6″ and our graduate transfer (tall and slim), I’m not seeing how IU has increased it’s size relative to last season or in any meaningful way? And our biggest guy is still trying to recover from a major injury and may not play until January! Size is relative to the five guys on the floor at the same time, and I don’t see how any five guys on this year’s roster will be significantly bigger than any five guys on last year’s roster. We appear to have much better depth and much better talent, but in realistic terms, I don’t believe we have increased the team’s size to any significant degree. When Archie signs a couple 7-footers, then we can talk about IU’s increased size. In the meantime, we’re going to see size when we play Duke.

    1. The most important aspect of “size” is the size differences in coaching aptitude from the current Hoosier bench compared to the last.
      The closer proximity of IU Basketball to Coach K’s “size” of basketball aptitude far overpowers the 1 or 2 inches in average height differences between opponents.

      We have plenty adequate physical height to go along with much more “size” in coaching. How big was Loyola of Chicago’s roster compared to Duke?

      Duke had the tallest team in last season’s NCAA tournament….Loyola of Chicago was the 25th tallest entering the NCAA tournament. Loyola was in the Final Four. Duke was not.
      The NCAA champs, Villanova, had the 54th tallest team(out of 68) in the tournament.

  3. I agree with that thought. I guess the only way he will get recognized is to be bold and put a few drives and dunks in like Smith did in a few games last year. A much more agressive attitude like “give me the ball” and then do it!

    Hope he gets his playing time.

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