(Updated to include the addition of St. Mary’s graduate transfer Evan Fitzner)
This is going to be a long six months.
With the buzz surrounding the commitment of 5-star Romeo Langford still fresh, a lot of folks are justifiably looking forward to the 2018-19 season and wondering what is possible. In the crazy world of college basketball, predictions are difficult in March, let alone May.
But if Indiana clears one last hurdle and Juwan Morgan decides to return for his senior year, IU fans should start feeling optimistic. It could even get better than that, with one open scholarship remaining and Indiana meeting with another graduate transfer this week. We will have more on that tomorrow.
We don’t know what Morgan is going to do yet. We discussed his options and professional prospects in greater detail here. He has until the end of the month to decide on the NBA draft. There has also been chatter about him exploring international options as well. Finally, there is the question regarding how he perceives the addition of Langford.
While it isn’t clear, our guess is that Morgan returns for the chance to play for a better team, under a brighter spotlight, and with an opportunity to have a player like Langford complement his game. There is little question that a 2018-19 team with Juwan Morgan will be better than this past season. The question is — how much better.
Take a look at the anticipated key contributors next season.
A few things really stand out with this group.
The first thing is depth. Those are 13 guys that can play Big Ten basketball. This doesn’t appear to be a roster where if one guy gets injured or there is foul trouble, suddenly the wheels come off. No Collin Hartman playing center. No turning to walk-ons out of desperation. Zach McRoberts of course is excluded from that one. No Tim Priller trying to guard Caleb Swanigan.
The second thing is length. IU is going to bring at least ten guys at you that are 6’6″ or taller. Moreover, Indiana is going to have long guards too. This seems like the ideal situation for executing the pack-line defense, as the Hoosiers will be much more difficult to shoot over. Indiana was also a pretty decent rebounding team last season despite fairly limited length. That is something that could be a strength looking forward.
Finally, this team will have experience. Sure, the freshman will play a key role, but IU will bring back eight guys with at least a year in the Archie Miller system, including four or five upperclassmen that will play big minutes. In modern college basketball, that seems to be a good formula — experienced leaders coupled with highly regarded freshmen.
To be sure, this won’t be a team without questions. Beyond Devonte Green, virtually all of the perimeter shooting will be in the hands of freshmen or front court guys that haven’t proven that they can consistently shoot from distance. The addition of Evan Fitzner might help. IU will need to make big strides from 3-point range. If you watched the Final Four this year, you know how important that part of the game has become.
Another point of concern will be post defense beyond De’Ron Davis. We saw the matchup problems that were created when Davis went down and Indiana tried to guard more traditional post players with Morgan and Freddie McSwain. While the overall team length will help, there could still be challenges here, especially if Davis takes time to get back to full strength.
Finally, who is going to be a leader on the floor and in the locker room? We suspected that was a missing piece to the 2017-18 team. Who from the returning cast can fill that role? Morgan is the logical choice, but is it in his DNA? It would be too much to expect from a freshman. For all of his superlatives, Langford doesn’t seem to be that guy.
Every team has question marks, but with Morgan and Langford, the 2018-19 season should at a minimum be quite entertaining. Now if we can just get there. Summer is overrated. Is it November yet?
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