The way January and February have played out for the IU men’s basketball team, one could forgive fans for turning an eye toward next season as the current one meekly comes to an end.
Losing 10 of 11 games at any point in the season, let alone during conference play after a 12-2 start, would cause any team’s fan base to look forward to the future.
For IU, this means Archie Miller’s third season in charge of the Hoosiers and the second recruiting class he will bring to Bloomington become a focus.
“You want your classes to stack on top of one another, and you want them to be able to get older with one another,” Miller said. “That's where we are sort of at the beginning stages of being able to stack a couple together here.”
IU is guaranteed to lose four senior or redshirt senior players from this year’s roster — guards Quentin Taylor and Zach McRoberts and forwards Juwan Morgan and Evan Fitzner.
It’s also a foregone conclusion that freshman guard Romeo Langford will leave after one season as a Hoosier to enter the NBA Draft, giving IU the chance to add three or four players to its roster for next season based on available scholarships.
Two of next year’s roster additions, guard Armaan Franklin from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and forward Trayce Jackson-Davis from Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana, have already signed their National Letter of Intent to join IU. The rest, be it forwards Keion Brooks Jr. or Trendon Watford or another graduate transfer, remain a mystery for now.
But those curious about whether Miller’s recruiting strategy will be altered by IU’s shortcomings this season — namely lackluster 3-point shooting and a failure to consistently generate offense outside the paint — shouldn’t hold their breath.
“I think perimeter firepower is something that’s obviously, you know, fresh on the mind moving forward,” Miller said. “I think true size, size around the basket, is something that’s got to be brought to the table, as well.”
On the surface, picking up a perimeter shooter would replace what IU has in Fitzner, and interior size would help account for Morgan’s departure.
Disregarding Taylor, who has played 29 minutes during his IU career, and McRoberts, who has been less valued for his hustle plays the more his lack of offense becomes an issue, the main challenge with the roster next season appears to be finding a main scoring option in Langford’s absence.
Miller said identifying a team’s needs as it develops is one of the adjustments to make with recruiting. But as the Hoosiers have shown their deficiencies this season, along with the context of what the roster will likely look like next season, Miller said he will continue the same recruiting philosophy that has thus far guided his classes at IU.
“We're not done recruiting by any stretch of the imagination,” Miller said. “Our recruiting philosophy is fine, and we have brought in one class, have got a second one coming and hopefully that second one isn't finished yet and we can keep going deeper.”
With six regular season games to go, it seems Miller and IU are out of answers for how to cure what ails the team this season. But there are still moments, even during the lowest parts of IU’s season, which point toward the future.
Such was the case toward the end of the first half and during garbage time of Saturday’s loss at Minnesota, when redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson gathered five rebounds and scored the second basket of his IU career.
Moments like those that focus on players who will be with the Hoosiers in the months and years to come are increasingly the ones worth paying attention to as March looms.
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