With Juwan Morgan’s Return the Expectations Just Skyrocketed in Bloomington

A few months ago we wrote that you and I just needed a little patience when it came to the early days of the Archie Miller tenure.  That was so a few months ago.

Before we look forward, let’s go back even further — to April, 2017 when Miller was hired.  The immediate concern at the time was player defections — both current players and recruits.  As it turned out, no one defected.  Indiana and their new head coach were quite fortunate and kept the roster largely intact.

It is debatable whether Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon, Jr. might have returned if Tom Crean were retained, but there were no surprising transfers, and no recruits had a change of heart.  To be sure, Miller did not inherit the ideal roster.  But compared to the turnover that some coaches see when they take over a program, he walked into a pretty good situation — or at least a solid foundation to build on.

Next, fast forward to the summer of 2017.  That whole inside-out recruiting thing?  Check.  First in-state Damezi Anderson and Minnesota’s Race Thompson committed in mid-July.  Then Ohio’s Jerome Hunter committed the next day.  A month later, in-state Robert Phinisee became a Hoosier.  Not to be outdone, Jake Forrester committed a month after Phinisee.  Eight weeks, and five top-150 recruits — for a coaching staff in place for less than six months.  Not bad.

We don’t even need to remind you about what happened on April 30th of this year, right?  How crazy is it that most IU fans have the date of Romeo Langford’s commitment memorized, and probably will for some time.

And now today, May 29, 2nd team All-Big Ten performer Juwan Morgan announces that he is going to return for his senior season.

That’s a hell of 14 month run for Miller and his coaching staff.  Some of it good luck, most of it their own doing.  Sure, this is Indiana (where have we heard that before), and that is what they were hired to do.  But it is one thing to draw it up, and a whole other matter to execute it as near flawlessly as they have.

The one pesky little detail tucked into that 14 month stretch is the 2017-18 season.  You know, the whole 16-15, didn’t even make the freaking NIT thing?  That, is where the patience was needed.  Whether it was related to the coaching change or not, the team did lose Bryant, and Blackmon, Jr.  And don’t forget about OG Anunoby, who was going pro irrespective of the coach.

Then there was the in season transfer of Curtis Jones, and season ending injury to De’Ron Davis.  Yes, patience was absolutely warranted, and most rational fans gave Miller the benefit of the doubt.

But looking forward to 2018-19?  We are here to tell you that you and I — we don’t need no stinkin’ patience.

Photo credit – Indiana University Athletics

After the overall run of good fortune Miller and his staff has had, mixed with the fruits of their labor, the time is now.  Sure, it is still a program in transition in every way.  Culturally, schematically, and just about every other way that you can imagine.  Next year, after Morgan and Langford are both almost certainly gone, we might be back to talking about patience again.  At least a little.

But this upcoming season?  Patience, meet expectations.  The roster is stacked.  We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it — there are 14 Big Ten caliber players on this team.  Most of them are high end Big Ten talents.  We implore you to find the last season where that was the case.

Think we’re jumping the gun on the freshmen?  Maybe one or two of them won’t be quite ready?  That might be a blessing.  Although it seems to be a less common option these days, perhaps a red shirt will be in order.  Otherwise, you are going to have 14 highly talented guys getting after it every day in practice — and only about 9 or 10 of them actually playing in games.

We shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves here.  Expectations need to be tempered with reality — and they need to be defined.  Indiana did lose a 4-year starter in Robert Johnson that was one of top 25 scorers in program history.  And those freshman?  The Movement, anyone?

No, we’re not talking national championships here.  We’d like to be.  And we suppose it isn’t out of the question, at least not in a Lloyd Christmas “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” sense.  If Loyola Chicago can make the Final Four, then nothing is really out of the question, is it?

Photo: Bryan Woolston, For the Courier-Journal

But what is realistic?

Be ranked in the top 25?  Absolutely.  Contend for a Big Ten title?  Sure.  Make the NCAA tournament?  Yep.  Be a sleeper team to make a run in March?  See Loyola Chicago.  Get blown out by teams like Indiana State and Fort Wayne?  Not going to happen.

This is Indiana basketball.  It’s back.  We’ve said that before, and we don’t know how long she’ll stay this time.  In today’s one-and-done, transfer-happy world, no one knows much of anything from year to year.  All you can ask for is progress, and then once you get where you want to be, a reasonable measure of consistency.

But patience?  Who needs it.

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