Growing old and staying old seems to be all the rage in college basketball these days.
With Kentucky’s one-and-done revolving circus missing the Final Four for the fourth straight year, and Duke’s insanely hyped “can’t miss” 2018-19 team, well, missing, some believe that a perpetually young roster is no longer a reliable path to championships — if it ever was.
The Final Four teams, on the other hand, are largely comprised of veterans. They are by no means the most experienced teams in the country, but they aren’t relying on a cast of characters right out of high school either.
Michigan State’s Aaron Henry comes in as the top scoring freshman among the four teams — and he averages just 5.9 points per game.
To be sure, the dynamics are going to change in college basketball irrespective of a program’s current recruiting strategy. The NBA is planning to lower its age limit to 18 by 2022, which will effectively end the one-and-done era as we know it.
But before that even happens there does seem to be a clear trend towards establishing a culture through some semblance of continuity and veteran leadership.
So where does that leave Indiana for next year?
The first question would have to be where do things stand with a roster that seems to change by the day. Clifton Moore, Jake Forrester and Vijay Blackmon have all announced their intent to transfer in just the past week, while Romeo Langford has now stated that he intends to declare for the NBA Draft.
Based on the churn in the last week, it would be reasonable to expect that more turnover is forthcoming. Maybe. Maybe not.
But as things stand right now, the Hoosiers will have just four players returning next year with two years of experience in head coach Archie Miller’s system, and none of them were guys that he recruited to Indiana:
- De’Ron Davis
- Devonte Green
- Al Durham
- Justin Smith
You could include Race Thompson in the list. He will be entering his third year with the program, although he has played just 63 minutes in his first two years that included a redshirt 2017-18 season.
Beyond that, this Indiana team is on track to be something that Miller hasn’t yet found a way to escape — young.
Out of the 17 players expected on next year’s roster, the experience distribution should look something like this: five upperclassmen to 12 underclassmen. Baked into that assumption are guesses that IU picks up a grad transfer like Joey Brunk, and then fills out its remaining openings with freshmen. The Hoosiers currently have three open scholarships for next season.
Perhaps even more important than seemingly perpetual youth is a lack of continuity. Out of the 17 players on the 2018-19 roster, only 8 will be back next year. One of those eight is Jerome Hunter, who hasn’t played and no one seems to know for sure if he ever will.
That’s all a far cry from a core group of upperclassmen that have played in a coach’s system for four years.
Even the walk-ons will be new to the program next year — something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Behind the scenes a walk-on can be an important torchbearer for the program’s core principles.
Now some if you may be thinking, “yeah, but what if we get ______.” You can insert whatever elite recruiting name you like. Trendon Watford? Lester Quinones? Harlond Beverly?
Any or all of them would be valuable additions to the 2019-20 Indiana Hoosiers. But if a lesson was learned in 2018-19, it was that no one player is going to dramatically change the fortunes of a program.
Not in Bloomington, and apparently not throughout college basketball.
Indiana can and should plug its openings with elite freshmen and capable grad transfers. Not just for the sake of filling the holes, but because they can contribute.
But whoever comes in, they are likely not as talented Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, and even they weren’t able to produce a dramatic difference in results.
Too much doom and gloom? Don’t take it that way.
Indiana can still make progress next year if those four upperclassmen become leaders and fully embrace the culture, and if the Hoosiers can find a couple guys that can reliably knock down three-point shots.
IU was just inches away from the NCAA Tournament in 2019 after all. It won’t take much to change the narrative, and a return to the big dance would do that while also showing two straight years of progress over Miller’s year one.
But given the direction of the roster and college basketball in general, we probably shouldn’t expect year three for Miller to be transformational.
Realistically, it might not be until more like 2022 or even 2023 when Miller’s own recruiting classes start to graduate. Athletic Director Fred Glass called this thing a “serious rebuild,” and that is probably how much time Miller will need to complete that kind of job.
When it comes to team results, it seems there are no overnight sensations in today’s game. Or at least there are no saviors anyway. Here recently, success is earned by patience and persistence.
Those are the national trends, and those are the ongoing hard lessons being learned in Bloomington.
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