On Friday, Indiana University men’s basketball head coach Archie Miller shared the unfortunate news that sophomore big man De’Ron Davis will miss time with an undisclosed lower leg injury. No timeline for his return was provided.
We’ve seen this story before with Indiana basketball, and it wasn’t all that long ago. Recent enough, in fact, that one of the same players who had to play center then will likely have to at least share that duty once again. Back in the 2014-15 season Hoosier sophomore guard/forward Collin Hartman was asked to fill in for injured IU big man Hanner Mosquera-Perea. At the time Indiana coach Tom Crean was reluctant to throw freshman Emmit Holt into the fire and instead opted for the more experienced and savvy Hartman.
If anyone will know what to do it’s Miller, who led the 2014-15 Dayton team to 27 wins including two NCAA tournament wins despite having only 6 scholarship players and no one on the roster taller than 6-6.
Today we take a quick look at the various players whose minutes will most likely be impacted as well as the likely impact on the Hoosiers game plan going forward.
HARTMAN BACK AT CENTER?
Just like in 2015, we suspect the most noticeable impact will be more playing time for Collin Hartman and a shift to him playing more at the 4 and 5. Hartman just may be relishing the opportunity, at least on offense. He thrived somewhat in that role in 2015 as big men had to chase him all over the floor. Imagine Isaac Haas trying to to chase Hartman through screens and defending the 3-pointer. By the same token, imagine Hartman trying to stop Haas in the post. Indiana will likely have to rely heavily on double teams from its guards when the ball enters the post.
CALLING JUSTIN SMITH
Freshman forward Justin Smith is the other player that we suspect will see the biggest impact from the Davis injury. Smith has been an enigma this year, flashing athleticism and talent, but rarely seeing the floor. The reason why Smith will likely benefit from Davis’ absence is because of his versatility. He can score the ball, he can rebound, and he is athletic. You can’t just replace Davis with someone that is limited offensively, and Smith is the most likely after Hartman to deliver.
WHAT MOR-GAN HE DO?
Junior forward Juwan Morgan may be asked to do more but he may not be able to deliver the results. Already a major focus of opposing defenses, Morgan will now be wearing a bullseye. Morgan may just have to somewhat abandon the post and instead spread the floor along with Hartman and get his points in the paint via penetration rather than trying to force the ball into post-up mismatches.
We mentioned that Justin Smith was more versatile than others, and we had Freddie McSwain at least partially in mind with that comment. It is difficult to imagine McSwain averaging 30 minutes a night. He might average 30 rebounds, but his limited offensive repertoire and propensity to turn the ball over make a significantly expanded role unlikely.
Similar to McSwain, we don’t see a major change for Clifton Moore. He probably will see the floor a bit more often, but we wouldn’t expect anything more than periodic spot duty when there is foul trouble. He has the length and versatility to eventually play big minutes at this level, but it doesn’t appear that he is quite ready yet.
We’ve see things get so bleak in the front court that Tim Priller had to try to stop Caleb Swanigan. He actually did ok considering the circumstances. Similar to Moore, Priller might see the floor occasionally now, but again, we just don’t see this being Archie Miller’s “go to” solution.
RACE TO THE RESCUE?
We’d be remiss to not at least mention redshirt freshman Race Thompson, if for no other reason than the fact that Archie Miller has specifically highlighted how much Thompson has improved. Ultimately, asking Thompson to give up a year of eligibility at this point wouldn’t be fair, but if there is another injury or two, who knows.
GREATER RELIANCE ON PERIMETER SHOOTING
Gulp. Yes, without Davis in the mix there will be an even greater need for Indiana to knock down the 3-point shot to generate points. Juwan Morgan will almost certainly see more double teams thus forcing him to kick it out to shooters. For a team ranked 322nd in the country shooting at a 30.5% clip that is a scary proposition.
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