At full strength, a 23 point win over No. 24 ranked Marquette would be impressive. Indiana was nowhere near full strength on Wednesday night — and it doesn’t look like they will be for a while.
While Indiana played very well on Wednesday, the injury situation should not be taken lightly. IU is missing critical pieces and has a challenging schedule coming up, including multiple tough road games.
Senior Zach McRoberts is a starter and team captain. Junior guard Devonte Green is clearly a key player in the rotation and may have been an opening day starter were it not for an early thigh injury. Neither played against Marquette. Green was in street clothes and walking with a noticeable limp.
Freshman wing Jerome Hunter appeared to be on track for a big role, earning the team’s gold jersey for exceptional practice just before suffering a still undetermined lower leg injury. Freshman Race Thompson’s role coming into the season wasn’t clear — and we still don’t know as he followed up an early injury with a concussion. They didn’t play either, and neither player was on the bench.
At least on one night, Indiana persevered through the wave of injuries and dominated Marquette. There will apparently be several more opportunities to prove that wasn’t a fluke.
After the game, Indiana head coach Archie Miller noted that it may not be until December until the injured players start to return.
“I see maybe the month of November being a very risky month for us just in general, but we have to do our part. We just have to be ready and we have to be as smart as we can with the guys that are available. But right now we’re planning on moving through the rest of November, practically, maybe without all four. I don’t see them playing here in the near future. “
The biggest mystery continues to be Hunter, who as of last night still did not have a diagnosis for whatever lower leg issue he is dealing with. Miller said this last night:
“You know, I’m not sure. I don’t have an update on Jerome. We’ll probably have more of a clear picture tonight as I talk to the docs, and we’ll have sort of — he’s going to be out indefinitely right now until we can get an exact, like I said, an exact range on what he’s dealing with. He has been being evaluated by doctors here the last few days.”
For Miller, the formula for now is to not focus on the who is missing, but rather the opportunities that are being created for others.
“Well, I mean, you never talk about your weaknesses, every negative, everything that ever can creep into your mind about this couldn’t go well, you have to flip that on them every single chance you get. When guys aren’t available, that’s more minutes for the guys that are there, and that’s an unbelievable opportunity to get chemistry. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to gain confidence.
So I look at guys being out, you get sick to your stomach for the players. You get sick to your stomach for the staff because you know you want to practice and do all the right things. But at the end of the day, the one silver lining is, you start to get rhythm, you get confidence, you get players in there. So it’s a positive too. It’s a positive for the guys that are available.
Obviously it’s frustrating, but it’s something I thought tonight no one blinked.”
While it is a trying time for the coaches and players, there is good news. Several players are getting valuable minutes that will benefit this team in the second half of the season. Second, none of these injuries seem serious for the long term, with the possible exception of Hunter.
Much has been made about the depth of this year’s Hoosier squad, and while that notion is certainly being tested, it is also proving out to be true.
While the healthy players were able to give an inspired effort in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, it remains to be seen whether last night’s level of play can continue, especially on the road. The Hoosiers have four games remaining this month, with two big road tests including a game at No. 1 Duke.
It won’t be a surprise to see IU struggle in those November road contests if they continue to be shorthanded. But if at least Green, McRoberts and Thompson can get back by December, that timing would be extremely beneficial. The Hoosiers start Big Ten play on December 1st, and also have two tough non-conference games in the first half of the month.
Until then, the healthy players are going to have to continue to step up — and at this point there is no reason to doubt them.
Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule, and how it relates to the new reality that Miller provided last night.
REMAINING NOVEMBER SCHEDULE
- at Arkansas
- vs. UT Arlington
- vs. UC Davis
- at Duke
EARLY DECEMBER SCHEDULE
- vs. Northwestern
- at Penn State
- vs. Louisville
- vs. Butler (at Indianapolis)
You can see the full 2018-19 schedule here.
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