When IU men’s basketball takes the court to open the season Wednesday versus Tennessee Tech University, home will feel very different. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no fans in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, no band – just basketball.
While the Hoosiers prepared for the season, head coach Archie Miller said he was acutely aware of the challenges that were to come following an unusual offseason.
“As games get started here, you can see some teams that aren’t ready,” Miller said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “I know I’m concerned. I’m concerned with our group in terms of being physically conditioned to play a game. Forty minutes in a game and be able to play as hard as you have to play, game shape is a different type of shape.”
NCAA pandemic restrictions didn’t allow IU to play any closed scrimmages or exhibition games against other teams before officially starting the season. As a result, the Hoosiers will be forced to use their early season nonconference games to experiment with lineups and fine-tune their style of play.
Miller said it’s been difficult to get a sense of how the rotations will look and how playing time will be divided up due to the limitations of only having intersquad scrimmages. However, he said it is important all players remain ready for their roles to quickly change with the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we head into the first game, the one thing we haven’t been able to do is to evaluate several rotations of players,” Miller said. “Planning-wise the long game, we just don’t know who’s going to be available for you at certain times of the year, so every guy on your team has to have a little bit of experience.”
Throughout the offseason, Miller and the team have talked about the new revamped offense that is designed to play faster and take advantage of their depth and athleticism at the guard and wing positions.
Junior guard Rob Phinisee said the team has been able to practice the new offense, but it’s hard to get an exact feel for how it will work in a live game setting. He said after playing against the same teammates since June, you start to pick up on each other’s tendencies and can predict what’s coming.
It’s been 258 days since IU’s season came to a screeching halt in Indianapolis after defeating Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament and the beginning of the 2020-21 season appears it will start just as strangely as the 2020 season ended.
“It feels like it was yesterday when we stopped playing and had to come back from Indy,” senior guard Al Durham said. “But also while you’re in it, you're itching to play basketball against somebody else.”