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Indiana basketball needs to (and can) improve its road play in 2018-19

Indiana forward Justin Smith (3) is called for an offensive foul on Rutgers forward Candido Sa during the first half of a game last season in Piscataway, N.J. (By The Associated Press)

It didn’t take long last season for the Indiana University men’s basketball fan base to learn that the hiring of new coach Archie Miller wouldn’t remedy every issue within the Hoosier program.

In the initial 77 seconds of the 2017-18 season, the Hoosiers turned the ball over, committed a foul, gave up a 3-pointer to an Indiana State player, and then missed a shot of their own, all of which took place within Assembly Hall, as the Hoosiers were embarrassed by the Sycamores in the 21-point loss.

That level of performance – in Bloomington – was repeated later in the season in a 20-point rout by Fort Wayne but for the most part, Miller’s team played exceptionally well at home.

Indiana won six of nine Big Ten games at home and even in the losses (vs. No. 3 Purdue, No. 5 Michigan State, and No. 16 Ohio State), Indiana played some of its best basketball of the season.

The challenge for the Hoosiers moving into the 2018-19 campaign is to be able to execute to that degree on the road.

“It’s a difficult league to play on the road,” Miller said of the conference late in the season. “In my opinion, it’s probably one of the hardest leagues to win on the road, just due to the fact of the venues that you play in with the home crowds, and obviously the teams that you’re playing are very good and very well-coached.”

Indiana ultimately finished 12-6 at home but just an anemic 3-8 away from Bloomington, including 3-6 in the league. That should be improved upon this season after learning of the 2018-19 Big Ten opponents.

The Hoosiers will continue to have very challenging road tests at Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue, but the remainder of the league schedule will consist of difficult, but not unrealistic opportunities at a victory.

“Late in the season,” Miller explained, “when teams have a lot on the line, your focus isn’t as much about the road venue as it is about doing your job and finding a way regardless of the circumstances to hang in there.

“It’s to your benefit, the longer you’re in the game, the more confidence you get.”

Indiana will host Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin as part of the 20-game league schedule, while its road-only games will include Maryland, Minnesota, and Penn State.

Miller’s team will have home-and-home games with Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, and Rutgers.

A year ago, Indiana found a way to be competitive against every team in the league with the exception of enduring bad road losses at Michigan and Wisconsin. However, both of those came early in the league schedule and the Hoosiers played markedly better late in the season.

“On the road, obviously, getting off to a good start is always important,” Miller said. “I think we’ve really focused in on that… get off to a good start, to play hard, to play mistake-free, don’t turn the ball over, in particular on the road. Don’t quickly shoot on the road and things like that. I think those couple points have been hammered home.”

HOOSIER HYSTERIA NEARER THAN USUAL

Indiana recently announced that it would be holding its annual fan-fest/open practice session dubbed “Hoosier Hysteria” earlier than usual.

The event typically has been held in October, however, it has been moved to Sept. 29 this season.

“At your disposal is Assembly Hall,” Miller said during the preseason a year ago of the benefits of his program. “At your disposal is one of the great fan bases in college basketball. I think when you have that behind you as a driving force, that’s something that obviously puts you in a position to be successful and to me, that’s one of the reasons that I took the job, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to be here was to be a part of something that’s that big.”

The specific time has not been set yet and will involve both the men’s and women’s programs.

It is free to attend, though fans typically are encouraged to bring a canned food item and donate it to Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

The Hoosiers are eligible to begin practice Sept. 25 with the first regular season game being played no sooner than Nov. 6.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010, Facebook at Thomas Davis, and Instagram at tomdavis101010.

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