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Archie Miller should start preparing for next season right now

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With an NCAA at-large bid impossible, an AQ bid laughable, and an NIT bid inconsequential– it’s time to make moves.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get a few disclaimers out of the way:

  • I don’t attend nearly as much Indiana Hoosiers basketball practice as Archie Miller does.
  • Archie Miller has a lot more D1 coaching success than I do.
  • I’m dumb and wrong a lot.

With those out of the way, here’s my suggestion on how to handle the last eight-ish games this season.

Over the last five games, Indiana is 1-4 and played themselves out of the race for a cheeky at-large bid that seemed at least distantly possible when they sat at 4-2 and near the top of the B1G garbage pile. Their There is nothing in their present (or their history) that suggests they’ll mount a realistic challenge for the Big Ten’s at-large bid and there is no reason to prioritize securing NIT eligibility.

So with all that understood, perhaps it’s time to start shuffling minutes around.

In the last five games, Archie has allocated minutes the following way (all minutes estimates and positional allocation from kenpom.com):

PG: Josh Newkirk (60%), Robert Johnson (22%), Devonte Green (16%)

SG: Robert Johnson (46%), Aljami Durham (28%), Devonte Green (26%)

SF: Zach McRoberts (76%), Robert Johnson (19%)

PF: Justin Smith (57%), Collin Hartman (28%), Freddie McSwain (15%)

C: Juwan Morgan (73%), Freddie McSwain (24%)

Those in italics are all seniors who will not be here next year. An absurd 82% of the available minutes at point guard are being split between two guys that will have no possible impact on next year’s squad. This isn’t to say that Newkirk and RoJo deserve an outright benching (though I know a handful of Indiana fans that will disagree) but I would certainly be scaling back those minutes in favor of giving Devonte Green the chance to show what he can do in the backcourt.

Green had a horrific start to Big Ten play but came alive last night in Columbus, playing 30 minutes (mostly in the second half) and scoring 20 points, all while playing significantly more under control and within himself than we had seen in weeks. Perhaps it was a fluke, but now is the time to find out. It would do wonders for this team if Green could rediscover his shooting form— it’s easy to forget he shot 43.6% from deep as a freshman. Maybe last night was the start of that, his 4 of 5 performance from beyond the arc raised his 3PT% back above 30%.

It’s true that Robert Phinisee is the heir-apparent to Indiana’s point guard throne, but it’s also rare that a kid can come in and handle that kind of job right out of the gates. Hell, the reigning Dime King didn’t exactly light the world on fire as a true freshman and he was a far more highly-rated prospect than Phinisee. Yogi shot an eFG of 45.4% with an assist rate of 25.7% against a turnover rate of 24.5% in his first campaign with the Hoosiers. Unless Phinisee comes in uncommonly ready for college basketball (which would be dope!), Indiana is going to need Devonte Green (and Aljami Durham) to play some serious minutes in the backcourt. Phinisee is the only incoming guard in his class right now (sup Romeo), the Hoosiers will need all hands on deck unless Archie snags late commitments or transfers to shore up his guard depth.

And then there’s the frontcourt.

Once De’Ron Davis went down, the minutes up front were left to Juwan Morgan, freshman Justin Smith, and seniors Freddie McSwain and Collin Hartman. Since the Davis injury, Smith has played at least 17 minutes in every game but one. The results have been a mixed bag, but that kind of court time should pay dividends next season. Likewise, McSwain has logged at least 13 minutes in every game but two since Davis went down while alleged Indiana men’s basketball player Clifton Moore has played 14 minutes total in the same span.

Clifton Moore is a 6’10” scholarship freshman who has played 37 minutes TOTAL this season. He stayed glued to the bench during most of Indiana’s paycheck games and his game-high for minutes is 7, a number he’s reached three times (against USF, Northwestern, and Michigan State). It’s fairly obvious that Archie Miller doesn’t believe Moore is remotely ready for D1 college basketball, much less a night-in, night-out role in the Big Ten– but does that really matter? The roster has proven, as a whole, they weren’t ready for Big Ten basketball, so why not toss him out there for a few extended runs and get a feel for what you have in a live fire exercise?

Let’s recall that Moore cropped up in the first round of way-too-early 2019 mock drafts. His projected skill set plays in the NBA and there are plenty of guys who think he’s a prospect worth keeping tabs on. For a team that is so desperate for reinforcements in the post (particularly since Hartman’s latest injury) how can you leave all that potential on the bench? Certainly there are no “sure things” and popping up in a two-years-away mock draft doesn’t mean you’re ready for anything but surely he can get on the court here down the stretch and not accidentally light himself on fire.

Indiana can get a head start on the 2018-19 season, and given how poorly this inaugural campaign has gone, they should elect to take it.