“So all things being said, we’re sort of ready to get going,” Archie Miller said at a press conference on Monday as his team readies to face Gannon on Tuesday in Indiana’s lone home exhibition game before the 2019-20 season.
Just sort of.
Don’t worry, Miller doesn’t have reservations about starting his third season in Bloomington.
But he does have an all too familiar problem.
“Here early in the part of the season we’ve been battling the injury bug a little bit,” Miller said. “We’re knocking on wood hopefully not too serious as we continue to pursue our nonconference.”
If there was a position that Indiana could not afford injuries this year it is guard.
The Hoosiers have just four scholarship guards on their roster, and according to Miller, two of the starters haven’t had a big role on the floor during October.
Neither Rob Phinisee nor Devonte Green are expected to play against Gannon.
“I don’t think we’ll see either Rob or Devonte here tomorrow,” Miller said. “We’re hopeful that those guys can keep progressing.”
Green is expected to move off the ball in this his senior season at Indiana as IU looks for more of a scoring punch from the New York native.
But so far, Green hasn’t been able to get much of anything going.
“Devonte has been on a wave of out then back a little bit, now out again,” Miller said. “He’s dealing with a hamstring. Hamstrings are delicate. We want to make sure we’re putting him in a situation where he’s confident.”
Phinisee’s issue seems to be a bit more serious, and perhaps a bit more complex.
The sophomore point guard, whose first season at IU was heavily impacted by a concussion, has been dealing with an abdominal issue.
“Rob has been dealing with a lower abdominal injury,” Miller said. “It’s a delicate thing. It’s something that is not very common. He’s been uncomfortable with that. It would be something that he has to deal with here for some time; it’s just managing it.”
The good news for Phinisee is that it appears as though he is getting closer to returning to live action.
But he isn’t far enough along to the point where Miller is willing to put him on the floor for the exhibition game.
“Rob really hasn’t been a part of anything that we’ve done here in October,” Miller said. “To ask him to play tomorrow night would be sort of I would think unfair a little bit. Hopefully he’s getting closer to getting back to work with us full go.”
With Phinisee and Green out, the two remaining scholarship guards are junior Al Durham and true freshman Armaan Franklin.
Miller indicated that both Durham and Franklin have dealt with their own minor issues as well, but both seem likely to play on Tuesday night.
Indiana also has four walk-on guards, including three that were added to the roster in recent weeks. It now seems clear that Jacquez Henderson, Adrian Chapman and Michael Shipp were added as walk-ons in large part to help this team practice as Green and Phinisee recover.
Along with Cooper Bybee, a local product and a fourth walk-on guard, some combination of the non scholarship group seems likely to see action to spell Durham and Franklin in the exhibition and perhaps into the early portion of the season.
“We’ll have some other guys hopefully that will have the ability to step in and get some minutes,” Miller said. That’s always important as well.”
Indiana’s regular season starts a week from Tuesday, and the relatively easy early portion of the slate might turn out to be a blessing as the Hoosiers try to get healthy. IU’s first five opponents are all ranked outside of the Ken Pom top 180 teams and they don’t play a top 100 team until Florida State on Dec. 3.
That could allow time for Phinisee and Green to get back to 100 percent and build chemistry with their teammates. To this point, the anticipated starting backcourt duo have had very little time together.
“We haven’t really had them in practice; not together at all,” Miller said. “Haven’t had them here in October very much, so like I said, we been kind of rolling with what we have.”
Indiana might be able to win with their size early in the season, but with 24 straight power five contests to close out things out, the Hoosiers won’t go far without their starting backcourt.
Miller acknowledged the important of Green and Phinisee to this team.
“Both guys, like I said before, very, very important,” Miller said. “They log a ton of minutes. They handle the ball quite a bit for us and they’re experienced in big games, so I think it goes without saying that they are both vital to what we’re doing.”
For now all Miller can do it put a positive spin on things.
After a 2018-19 season plagued by the injury bug, that is something that he has likely grown accustomed to.
“It’s given some guys an opportunity to get a lot of reps, and I think some guys stepped up a little bit, Miller explained. “So hopefully today we can put a good practice together, keep building.
“Tomorrow we have an opportunity against Gannon, and that’ll be our last opportunity to sort of really evaluate ourselves without a win or a loss in the record books.”
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