This offseason for the Hoosiers’ men’s basketball program has been one of the more exciting ones in recent memory. Headlined by a coaching change and renovations to the Assembly Hall, fans will have plenty of things to look forward to for next season. However, just how high of a bar should be set for this program? Many factors still have to be determined for that to question to be answered.
Nine days after Tom Crean was fired, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass hired former Dayton head coach Archie Miller to fill the void. The hire was a homerun in the eyes of the fans and the national press but to appease the win now attitude of Hoosier fans, Miller must have a strong first campaign. The Hoosier faithful still have a sour taste in their mouths after a losing Big Ten record and a first round exit from the NIT Tournament. For Miller to go through a two or three year rebuilding phase with his new school is not an option. Fans have a hunger for wins that only a deep NCAA Tournament run could satisfy but unfortunately.
The immediate future of the program looked to be in peril. The situation further declined after four starting players (OG Anunoby, Robert Johnson, James Blackmon Jr., and Thomas Bryant) all decided to test the NBA waters and declare for the draft. Anunoby has hired an agent and will not be returning to IU while the other three still have the option of returning. After all of the early offseason commotion, the dust settled for at least the next few weeks. With 15 current scholarship players (13 is the limit), Archie Miller will need to navigate a potential log jam if some of the players pull their name from the NBA Draft.
Once Miller was hired, two of the three Indiana recruits asked out of their National Letters of Intent. Only Justin Smith, a power forward from Stevenson High School in suburban Chicago remained faithful to his original commitment. The other two recruits, power forward Clifton Moore and point guard Al Durham, asked for time to reconsider their original decisions. Following visits from Archie Miller, both Clifton Moore and Al Durham recommitted.
Durham gives IU a quick guard with excellent court vision who can work well with the bigs inside. Durham would most likely come off the bench and play behind guards Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson. He is a driver at this point in time with lots of fundamental work needed on his jump shot.
Justin Smith, the highest rated recruit of the three, offers a unique skill set for a player of his size. Smith’s inside game is subpar due to his slender frame but he can run the floor and is an effective slasher. At 6’7” Smith can create matchup nightmares as opposing coaches will have to decide whether to defend him with smaller quick-footed players or taller post defenders who may be caught off guard by the quickness of Smith. Playing time will be hard to come by for Smith who will be in the rotation behind Juwan Morgan and Colin Hartman.
Clifton Moore, a 6’10” power forward is one of the more underrated prospects in his class. Moore’s recruiting ranking should be taken with a grain of salt as he elected not to play for a shoe sponsored AAU team and therefore did not receive as much exposure as others. If Thomas Bryant decides to stay in the draft, Moore will be needed to provide some minutes at the 5 to backup De’Ron Davis. Unfortunately, Moore will have to bulk up to compete with other Big Ten centers but at a program like Indiana, he should have no trouble doing so.
Collin Hartman will also done the candy stripes for one more season next year after missing all of last season due to a knee injury. His return is a winning recruitment in itself with it being a surprise to Hoosier Nation.
Because we have not heard anything from some players, there is still the possibility of a someone transferring as the semester of classes ends in two weeks. Some players may see the writing on the wall when it comes to scholarships or even simply playing time with Archie Miller now at the helm. If two of Bryant, Blackmon, or Johnson return to school, Archie Miller will have to find a way to get down to 13 scholarship players.
The 2017-2018 IU basketball roster is still an ever changing work in progress. Expectations should certainly be held in check if Indiana loses Bryant, Johnson, and Blackmon to the draft as the Hoosiers will be left without a true leader or star player on the court. The next six weeks will be a waiting game for Hoosier nation as we wait to finalize the roster. Nothing is set in stone for the time being and all Hoosier fans can do at this point is wait and hope.
Indiana University ’21