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What can we expect from men’s basketball this season?



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IU Coach Archie Miller directs his players against Marian on Oct. 28 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Miller is in his first year as head coach of the IU men's basketball program. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

New coach, new culture, new mentality. We’ve heard it before in what has been a hectic offseason for IU basketball.

But what exactly should you expect from this team?

James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby are all gone, so what does IU need to do this season to make it a successful one?

Last year, an opening win against Kansas and a top-five victory at home against eventual national champion North Carolina, saw expectations rise to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

But after the North Carolina win, IU went 0-7 against ranked opponents the rest of the season, and failed to show up when it mattered most. The win against Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament asked the question if the Hoosiers could get back to the level they were playing at to start the campaign, but the Hoosiers were trumped in the quarterfinals to two-seed Wisconsin.

I don’t need to remind you of what happened after that.

So what is it going to take to consider 2017-18 a “success?" It all starts with improvement, then a marquee win, then the quest for a leader on the court.

Mentoring players will be critical this season, especially for the development of the freshman class. 

Freshman forward Clifton Moore is an interesting prospect, a guy who has size and athleticism, and the development of his jump shot could give the Hoosiers another incredible piece down low not only for this season, but for future years as well. Moore is already on 2019 NBA draft boards before he’s even played one game in his collegiate career, so the potential is seen. 

The key is to unlock that potential and to continue to develop it.

The season’s first game doesn’t exactly have national pedigree like Kansas did, but IU’s first road game is an intriguing one. The Hoosiers will travel to Newark, New Jersey, to take on No. 23 Seton Hall, and will face a veteran core led by senior forward Angel Delgado, a preseason All-American watch list nominee.

Davis will get his first real test down low with Delgado, and a win over a team like the Pirates would put a marquee win on Archie Miller’s tenure as well.

IU’s schedule doesn’t lack big game potential, especially in the non-conference slate. Along with Seton Hall is Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame.

Do I include Fort Wayne to this list too? Yeah, I’m going to for obvious reasons.

A non-conference win against any of these opponents would give a confidence boost to Miller, the players and the future. It would mean that Miller has the ability to win games on the big stage like he did while at Dayton. The more impressive part would be his doing it in his first year at IU with a team with a lot of questions surrounding it entering the season.

The Hoosiers went 7-11 in Big Ten play last season, so a winning record would obviously be a success for Miller. 

It will be more important for IU to get some wins against powerhouses like preseason No. 2 Michigan State, a team the Hoosiers play twice, preseason No. 19 Northwestern, who will be bringing back last season’s core squad and a win against Purdue would put the icing on the cake. 

Don’t expect the Hoosiers to get a ton of big wins, if any, but one, two or three solid wins against the top tier of Big Ten teams would make conference play a success.

Time and time again, Hoosier fans have been aware of the leadership issues that were once a major talking point last season. 

Senior forward Collin Hartman will return to the hardwood after suffering a season-ending knee injury before the 2016-17 season began. He, along with senior guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk, will be the ideal options when determining who needs to step up and be the vocal and emotional leader of the team. 

This season will be about laying the foundation down for the coming years, and it will be about what IU fans can expect from Miller while he’s in Bloomington. 

An NCAA Tournament berth would be a huge success for Miller, but if it doesn’t happen, fans shouldn’t get angry, especially if IU finds a leader this season and for the future.

Success will have to be earned this season, and the biggest thing for IU will be to provide a glimpse into how promising the future looks.

It could be critical in getting recruits and players to stay and buy into the system.

michrami@umail.iu.edu

@michrami_

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