Indiana will open its 50th season at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday as the Hoosiers get set to take on Tennessee Tech.
But while the timing of the start of the season is similar to how it was in the early days, the atmosphere inside the building will be unlike anything anyone has ever seen.
IU and the Golden Eagles will play in a nearly empty arena in Bloomington, with only player family members in attendance.
But after more than eight months without basketball, players, coaches and fans alike are just happy the season is finally here.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Tennessee Tech (0-0) at Indiana (0-0)
- Tip time: 8 p.m. ET
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: Big Ten Network
- Series: Indiana leads 4-0
- Point Spread: Indiana is around an 21.5 point favorite
- KenPom has No. 26 Indiana by 24 over No. 314 Tennessee Tech
See also: What Archie Miller sees in the freshmen
Will Indiana finally make three-pointers?
If you ask the casual Indiana fan what has been missing from the team the last few years you will hear a fairly consistent answer.
Hoosiers fans were spoiled after the team shot above 40 percent in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Last year, not one scholarship player shot above 40 percent from behind the arc.
Long distance shooting has been a problem since head coach Archie Miller arrived in 2017. That’s something he will readily admit.
“It’s an ongoing issue that we haven’t really knocked down the open looks,” Miller said on his radio show on Monday night.
Indiana ranked No. 204 nationally in three-point field goal percentage in 2019-20 after coming in at No. 311 and No. 307 in 2018-19 and 2017-18, respectively.
Hey, signs of progress, right?
Well, sort of. While the Hoosiers moved up more than 100 spots, they were still outside the top-200, and more important their three-point field goal percentage really didn’t jump up all that much.
Instead, three-point shooting across college basketball declined in 2019-20, in large part because the arc was moved back to 22 feet, 1¾ inches.
As a team IU shot 32.6 percent from long range last year, and 31.2 and 32.2 percent in 2018-19 and 2017-18, respectively.
Miller believes a more balanced and deep Big Ten contributes to the shooting woes, and there is support for that contention. While IU shot what seems like a low percentage in 2019-20, the Hoosiers finished No. 8 in the league in Big Ten shooting percentage, and only one team (Ohio State) finished in the top 70.
“I mean I think that every team goes through tough stretches in the Big Ten with the defenses that we play against, but you’ve got to make the open ones,” Miller said. “If you look at our games last year in our biggest wins, we typically had a guard score the ball from the perimeter, whether it was Devonte (Green) who really had some big games from three, or we had Al (Durham) or Rob (Phinisee) make shots.”
Green has of course graduated and moved on.
So who are some of the players that are likely to produce from three-point range this year?
Some of the late trends from the 2019-20 season are interesting to examine.
Durham shot 52.3 percent from deep over his last eight games. Jerome Hunter made 42.8 percent over his last 14. Armaan Franklin connected on 9 of his last 22 attempts (40.9 percent).
There is hope here.
So who is likely to lead the way in 2020-21?
“I think right now, the preseason leading into practice and looking at our statistical numbers every day, Al Durham is our best shooter, Miller said at a Tuesday media availability. “I think he is a guy we can really count on in terms of being consistent in this point of his career.
“The top three guys that would be trusted to make a shot to me starts with Al Durham. I think Rob Phinisee is a much-improved shooter. I also think from three, Jerome Hunter is a much-improved shooter form a year ago. Those three guys I know have made them in games, and I look at those guys as being improved. I think overall we have some more guys that could stretch the floor.”
Race Thompson also has the ability to make three-pointers although he hasn’t shown it yet at the college level. Assuming all goes well, he will likely take much more than the 10 attempts he tried last year.
And then there are the freshman.
Can any of Indiana’s four newcomers be expected to knock down perimeter shots early in their careers?
Much like Thompson, the ability is there, but perhaps we should believe it when we see it.
Freshmen notoriously struggle from long range as they adapt to the speed and length of the college game.
“From a percentage standpoint (Trey) Galloway, (Anthony) Leal and (Khristian) Lander all have shown glimpses that they can make shots,” Miller said. “I think percentage shows shot selection a little bit, so we’re going to have to get into the game to figure that out.”
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