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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, September 28, 2017 1:00 am

New basketball era about to begin at IU

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Schedule

Nov. 10 vs. Indiana State, 7 p.m.

Nov. 12 vs. Howard, 8 p.m.

Nov. 15 at Seton Hall, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 19 vs. South Florida, 6 p.m.

Nov. 22 vs. Arkansas State, 7 p.m.

Nov. 24 vs. Eastern Michigan, 4:30 p.m.

Nov. 29 vs. Duke, 9:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 at Michigan, 12:30 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Iowa, 8 p.m.

Dec. 9 at Louisville, 2 p.m.

Dec. 16 vs. Notre Dame in Indianapolis, 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 18 vs. Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.

Dec. 21 vs. Tennessee Tech, 8 p.m.

Dec. 29 vs. Youngstown State, 8 p.m.

Jan. 2 at Wisconsin, 7 p.m.

Jan. 6 at Minnesota, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 9 vs. Penn State, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 14 vs. Northwestern, TBA

Jan. 19 at Michigan State,7 p.m.

Jan. 22 vs. Maryland, 7 p.m.

Jan. 24 at Illinois, 9 p.m.

Jan. 28 vs. Purdue, 3:30 p.m.

Jan. 30 at Ohio State, 7 p.m.

Feb. 3 vs. Michigan State, TBA

Feb. 5 at Rutgers, 7 p.m.

Feb. 9 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 14 vs. Illinois, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 17 at Iowa, 2 p.m.

Feb. 20 at Nebraska, 9 p.m.

Feb. 23 vs. Ohio State, 8 p.m.

College basketball is almost here, which means Indiana is about to start the Archie Miller era.

Although Hoosier Hysteria isn't until Oct. 21, today is the Hoosiers' media day. Training camp begins Friday for a program coming off a disappointing 18-16 season that ended in the first round of the NIT.

“We have a lot of room to grow,” said Miller, who replaced Tom Crean as IU coach in March. “We're all at the beginning stages, but I think this is a group that can handle things. They're very coachable.”

What of their prospects for a return to the NCAA Tournament? Consider five key areas to watch:

How will IU compensate for early-entry losses?

OG Anunoby, James Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant ended their collegiate careers and entered June's NBA draft. Anunoby was a first-round pick of Toronto, Bryant went to the Lakers in the second round, and Blackmon, a Fort Wayne native, is at least in camp with Philadelphia after not being drafted.

Had all or at least two of the three stayed in school, IU might have been a preseason top-25 team. Instead, the Hoosiers must replace a trio that averaged a combined 40.7 points and 16.8 rebounds.

The loss of the 6-foot-10 Bryant could be mitigated by 6-11 De'Ron Davis becoming the player many think he will become. Anunoby's departure leaves a void in terms of upside, athleticism and the ability to guard multiple positions, but Blackmon might be the hardest to replace, because he was such a natural scorer.

Is Robert Johnson ready for more?

Miller's first squad in Bloomington doesn't have a lot of star power, but Johnson averaged 12.8 points per game as a junior and is now one of those treasured four-year guys. Will the swingman embrace all that comes along with being the face of a team?

How will Justin Smith, Al Durham and Clifton Moore contribute as freshmen?

Smith was a top-100 recruit, and Durham and Moore looked promising in high school, but that's a significant step short of the Big Ten. Any of them playing big minutes this first college season is iffy.

To earn their playing time, IU's three scholarship, non-redshirting freshmen will have to demonstrate they won't be liabilities defensively.

“The learning curve is big,” Miller said. “Every freshman has an adjustment with the pace and the speed and the size of everything that's going around. Most of the time their biggest adjustment is learning how to defend in college against older, bigger, stronger, faster guys.”

How much can Miller improve IU's defense?

In three straight years, Miller's teams at Dayton ranked among the top 50 in Ken Pomeroy's schedule-adjusted defensive ratings. IU under Crean often ranked in the top 20 offensively but last season finished outside the top 100 defensively. Miller has spoken of cultivating a more gritty mindset.

Are the Hoosiers going to take care of the ball?

Expect ball security to be emphasized in camp. The Hoosiers gave it away on 21.4 percent of their possessions in 2016-17, the 29th-worst turnover rate out of 351 Division I teams.

cgoff@jg.net