Indiana Basketball: So About That Depth — It’s Already Being Tested

We wanted to write a story about all of the players on the IU basketball team that are dealing with injuries.

It might be a quicker exercise to talk about the players that are not.

That’s an exaggeration of course, but based on our count, five Hoosiers are dealing with various issues — and we haven’t even gotten to the season opener.  That’s on Tuesday, and the question now is how many of the following will see the floor against Chicago State as IU opens its 119th season:

  • Sophomore guard Al Durham, Jr. has been seen walking around campus in a boot, had his hand in a wrap during the Southern Indiana exhibition, and he limped off the court during that game and did not see further playing time.  IU head coach Archie Miller said today that he is unlikely to play in either game this week.
  • Also unlikely to play this week is redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson.  The Minnesota native has been dealing with groin and hip issues, and Miller grouped him with Durham in the unlikely category.
  • Junior guard Devonte Green, who has been dealing with a thigh issue, was cleared to resume practicing in full according to Archie Miller today.  It appears that he will have the opportunity to play on Tuesday night against Chicago State.
  • Freshman forward Jerome Hunter missed the exhibition with a foot issue.  Miller insinuated that Hunter isn’t likely to play in the near term when he stated that fellow freshman Damezi Anderson is likely to see more action in his place.
  • Junior forward De’Ron Davis is still working his way back from an Achilles tendon tear.  It was clear during the exhibition that he still has a ways to go with his conditioning.  He appeared to tweak his ankle in the exhibition, but Miller said today that he was “the best he’s been” in practice today.  He should play in the season opener, although he will be on a pitch count.

Now, the good news.  It doesn’t appear that we are talking about anything serious or long term here.  Nevertheless, Tim Garl is going to be busy in that new training room with his name on it.

Since Romeo Langford committed and Juwan Morgan decided to return, we have been leading the drumbeat that this 2018-19 edition of IU basketball has something that the program hasn’t had in years — depth.  It is times like these when that depth gets tested.

As much as IU fans loved the guys, it wasn’t reasonable for fans to expect recent vintage teams to be capable of a deep run into March when guys like Harrison Niego and Ryan Burton were seeing minutes in tight games.  The top teams have benches full of four star talent.

The further good news is that the injuries don’t involve expected starters, save perhaps for Green, and as we said, he appears to be ready to go.  The starting lineup against Chicago State is likely to be as follows:

  • Juwan Morgan
  • Justin Smith
  • Zach McRoberts
  • Romeo Langford
  • Rob Phinisee

They are all apparently healthy, and Indiana will still have Green, Davis, Anderson, Evan Fitzner, Jake Forrester and Clifton Moore likely or able to play off the bench.

To be sure, walk-ons other than McRoberts might see action this week also.  Durham is somewhat of a keystone player that can relieve multiple positions.  His absence might mean that Johnny Jager and/or Vijay Blackmon could get some minutes.  But that is really more about the final bit of good news — the next two opponents.

Tuesday’s opponent Chicago State is currently ranked No. 344 out of 353 in the current KenPom rankings.  Last week’s exhibition opponent Southern Indiana is probably better.  Friday’s opponent Montana State sits at No. 269.  Those kind of opponents should give IU the chance to get valuable real game experience for guys further down the depth chart.

Indiana won’t need to push the envelope with the injuries this week, and it shouldn’t need to force the healthy guys to play extended minutes.  While the walk-ons might not tear off the candy stripes against more formidable opponents like Marquette next week, IU has the short term luxury of going deeper into the roster.

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