CROSSROADS CLASSIC PREVIEW: The good and bad for Indiana this season
This is the fourth and final installment in a series of stories pertaining to Saturday’s Crossroads Classic basketball event in Indianapolis.
Today: Indiana: What has gone right/wrong this season?
It’s a new era for the Indiana men’s basketball program in a number of ways.
The Hoosiers have a new leader in former Dayton coach Archie Miller, and a lot of the Indiana players are in new, and often more significant, roles under this coaching staff.
“We’re playing harder,” Miller said of the growth in his team that he has seen so far this season. “We believe in what we are doing a lot more than we did a month ago.”
The Hoosiers (5-5) will face 18th-ranked Notre Dame (8-2) at 2:30 p.m. (FOX), which follows the Butler vs. Purdue game at noon.
Here is a glance at what has gone right and wrong for Indiana this season.
• Learning, growing, working
Miller said from Day One that there would be growing pains and there certainly have been.
The Hoosiers have looked awful (the season-opening loss in Bloomington to Indiana State can serve as Exhibit A), but they have also looked really good (competing with No. 1-ranked Duke for 36 minutes before losing).
“There’s not as much ‘I hope this is going to go well,'” Miller said of his team’s growing confidence. “There is a lot more confidence in how we do things and what we do.”
Indiana has been better in a lot of areas from its recent past, which resulted in a coaching change, with effort being at the forefront, as Miller noted.
“We’re being able to establish our style for longer stretches,” Miller said. “We’re able to play harder for longer stretches. We’re better at some of the things that we really struggled with.”
• Being smarter
A year ago, Indiana committed over 15 turnovers per game, but Miller has made lowering that number a priority and his harping on the topic has shown dividends.
The Hoosiers are only throwing the ball away 12 times per game so far this season and have had 10 or fewer in four of their games.
“Our turnovers are something that we are constantly evaluating,” Miller said. “We want to be a team that is playing in a low turnover percentage. We’re trying to keep our turnovers down. I think that it is something that we’re really mindful of.”
• The emergence of Juwan
A number of Indiana players have shown considerable development this season, but none more so than junior Juwan Morgan.
The 6-foot-8 forward has doubled his scoring average (14 points per game) from a year ago and also raised his rebounding numbers to 6.6 per game.
“Juwan has done a nice job since we first got here of (having) an everyday approach,” Miller said, “being a guy that communicates. He is a guy that brings in a vibe of working hard all the time.”
Morgan is shooting a blazing 58 percent from the field and has also blocked 13 shots.
He is on a four-game streak of scoring in double figures and has grabbed at least eight boards in three straight games.
“You can pretty much count on his practices looking the same,” Miller said, “so he is leading by example.”
• Hartman helps
Indiana missed the leadership of then-senior forward Collin Hartman a year ago after he was injured in September, but Miller is enjoying the veteran’s presence this season.
After sitting out five games with a groin injury (his knee was injured last season), Hartman has made a nice impact of late.
“Collin is a guy that is important to what we’re doing,” Miller said. “He’s sort of a quarterback, who is not really a point guard, but he’s sort of a quarterback for our team.”
The 6-foot-7 graduate student has played double-figure minutes in four straight games and scored in double figures in two of those.
“He’s emotional,” Miller said. “He communicates and when he’s out there, generally you’re going to see a guy that is playing really hard and he’s giving us everything he has.”
• Contest that shot!
From the very opening tip of this season, Indiana has been a poor defensive team on the perimeter.
Indiana State made 17 3-point shots (65 percent) in that opening rout of the Hoosiers, which set the tone for this squad early on.
“We can really continue to develop our half-court defense,” Miller said. “That is going to be something that we, week by week, have to challenge ourselves to continue to get better.”
And Indiana has.
Following that first game, the Hoosiers have held six of their next nine opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from long range.
“The better we are on the defensive side of the ball,” Miller explained, “the easier it becomes for us.”
• Make that shot!
The Hoosiers are also struggling in MAKING 3-point shots so far.
Indiana is shooting a paltry 32 percent from beyond the arc, with Morgan (16 percent) and Robert Johnson (30 percent) struggling, in particular.
Overall, however, Indiana is shooting over 47 percent from the field, so that is respectable.
“Offensively,” Miller said, “we’re still trying to find that chemistry where we have a lot of different guys playing at their best. It just seems like we haven’t had a lot of chemistry and continuity offensively, where we’ve had four and five guys clicking on all cylinders.”
• It is an open shot
The Hoosiers are also struggling from the free throw line thus far.
Indiana is getting a good amount of opportunities (220 to its opponents’ 178), but Miller’s guys are connecting on just 65 percent of those chances.
Sophomore center De’Ron Davis has been a pleasant surprise with his evolving play in the low post, but he will most assuredly have to improve on his current 47.9 percent free throw shooting as this season progresses.
• Playing to his potential
Prior to this season, there were high expectations from not just Miller, but the Indiana fan base, as well, for sophomore guard Devonte Green. However, Green has struggled, of late with his perimeter shooting (he has missed 13 of his 17 3-point shots in the past five games) and for the season, he has just five more assists (25) than turnovers (20).
“Devonte is one of our more talented players,” Miller said. “He has to come with the focus on doing the job. When he has had unbelievable stretches in games, he has shown what type of player that he can be, and a lot of that will come with an everyday approach.”
“When your everyday approach is really good, good things will follow. I think Devonte has had a really good approach. The big thing for Devonte is to stay with it.”
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