The Journal Gazette
Thursday, March 19, 2020 1:00 am

Hoosiers unsure of what is ahead

Face questions after abrupt end to season

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

We'll never know whether Indiana would have been an NCAA Tournament team in its third season under coach Archie Miller.

The Hoosiers were likely one victory away from locking up a spot but were still on the bubble when the rest of the Big Ten Tournament and the entire NCAA bracket were canceled in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.

The cancellation left the Hoosiers with a 20-12 finish to the regular season and left seniors Devonte Green and De'Ron Davis as the first four-year players at Indiana to miss out on playing in March Madness since the class of 1972.

“I don't really have the words right now,” Green wrote on Instagram. “I've set a goal before this season started and worked so hard to achieve that goal. The moment I reach the promise land my college career was put to an end.

“I'm sick ... but just like everything else I've dealt with, all I can do is move forward. Thank you to everyone who supported/believed in me through the years. I'll be a Hoosier for life”

It wasn't only the seniors that were upset that the team was unable to reach its ultimate goal. 

“I'm sick, not just for myself but for the seniors on the team who worked so hard for this,” freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis tweeted. “They deserve more.”

Jackson-Davis, the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball, was the Hoosiers' best player most of the season and was a unanimous selection for the Big Ten's All-Freshman team. If he comes back next season, as he indicated in February that he would, he will lead a team that has a chance to be among the best in the Big Ten. 

“I am proud of the way our team grew up, battled, overcame adversity and put the program in a position to achieve its goals of competing on the biggest stage college basketball offers,” coach Archie Miller said after the announcement of the canceled tournaments. “It's a disappointing end for our seniors, De'Ron (Davis) and Devonte (Green), but they will leave Indiana University as better people and importantly, as graduates.

“The future for our group offers limitless possibilities and I look for them to use this year's experiences as a springboard. On behalf of everyone in our program, we want to thank Hoosier Nation for their passion, support and unwavering loyalty.”

As the 2019-20 season ends without a satisfying resolution, here are three questions that will dominate the Indiana offseason:

Will late-season shooting be back?

Indiana's biggest weakness throughout Miller's tenure has been outside shooting. The Hoosiers ranked 315th of 353 Division I teams in 3-point shooting percentage in Miller's first season and 317th in his second season. IU looked to be on the way to another finish outside the top 300 this season, but the Hoosiers finally found the range late in the year, hitting at least 35% from beyond the arc in four of their last six games and going above 40% three times in that stretch.

Ultimately, Indiana finished 219th in 3-point percentage this season. Not good, certainly, but much better than past years.

Green played a role in the surge, hitting three 3s in each of his last two games as a Hoosier and his instant-offense production will certainly have be replaced. However, Indiana also got capable shooting down the stretch from Al Durham, Jerome Hunter, Rob Phinisee and even Armaan Franklin. Incoming recruit Anthony Leal is a solid shooter, as well, and Justin Smith improved as the year went on.

It's possible shooting could be a moderate strength for the Hoosiers next season. At the very least, it might help IU avoid the long field-goal droughts that became a staple of this season.

Will Jackson-Davis be back?

This is maybe the most important question Indiana faces in the months – or maybe more; cancellations and postponements are the order of the day – leading up to the NBA draft.

The talented freshman said in February that he planned to return for his sophomore season, but that could change if he has some good workouts in front of NBA teams and his stock begins to rise in what appears to be a weak draft class.

Jackson-Davis led the Hoosiers in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage and became much more assertive after Miller called him out by name after a Feb. 16 loss to Michigan. In the seven games after that loss, he averaged 13.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, giving Indiana fans a glimpse of what might await next season if he returns.

If the Hoosiers put some shooting around him, forcing teams to guard him one-on-one, the Center Grove native could be a Big Ten Player of the Year contender.

Will Khristian Lander re-classify?

Lander, a Hoosiers commit, is the top point guard in the 2021 class, a five-star recruit and the latest example of Miller's desire to recruit the top in-state talent (Lander plays for Evansville Reitz). He has said he is considering re-classifying to play for the Hoosiers in 2020, in part to play with Jackson-Davis before the latter departs for the NBA.

Lander is a terrific finisher around the rim and his court vision is solid. Phinisee is the best pure point guard the Hoosiers have had since Yogi Ferrell, but Lander is so talented he'd probably force his way on to the court immediately in some capacity.

The 6-foot-1 guard envisions himself running pick-and-rolls with Jackson-Davis and would replace Green as a player Indiana could count on to create off the dribble. If he and Jackson-Davis are in, the Hoosiers become downright dangerous next season.

Top 5 moments

Devonte Green beats Florida State: In Indiana's first game against a Top 25 opponent this season, Green had 30 points, went 5 for 7 from 3-point range and added six rebounds, three assists and two steals to lead the Hoosiers past the No. 17 Seminoles. Florida State went on to win the ACC.

Armaan Franklin pushes IU past Notre Dame: For the second straight year, a true freshman's late 3 gave Indiana a win in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. In 2018, it was Rob Phinisee with a game-winner against Butler. and this season, it was Franklin with a go-ahead jumper with 15 seconds remaining to give the Hoosiers a 62-60 win over the Irish. Franklin had a season-high 17 points in the game and was 4 for 5 from beyond the arc.

De'Ron Davis is perfect: Indiana's other senior saw his promising career curtailed by injuries, but he played an important role as a backup big man this season. He kept his team in the game against Michigan on Feb. 16 with a series of strong post moves and difficult hooks. Though Indiana lost, Davis went 9 for 9 from the field for a season-high 18 points, tying the Hoosiers' single-game record for most made baskets without a miss.

Indiana takes down Michigan State: The Spartans came into Assembly Hall on Jan. 23 ranked No. 11 and leading the Big Ten. Indiana outrebounded one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, built a 15-point lead and hung on late to earn one of its biggest victories of the season.

Trayce Jackson-Davis responds: After Archie Miller called out Jackson-Davis for his lack of assertiveness in the February loss to Michigan, the star freshman bounced back with his best game of the year, scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds to lead the Hoosiers to only their second road win of the season at Minnesota.

– Dylan Sinn, The Journal Gazette

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily