With all of the excitement that surrounds the start of a new college basketball season, especially when it follows a frustrating season for fans and players alike, and then you throw a new coach into that mix, the excitement meter is off the charts.
Where fans have to keep themselves in check is with their expectations. Because sometimes that excitement can cloud ones judgement and that can lead to their expectations reaching the same level as their excitement, which can then be a recipe for disappointment.
With a new coach even the returning players are basically freshman. Yes, they have some actual game experience, but they have also never played in the new coach’s system, and in some cases, not even in a similar system. So for that very reason alone expectation levels need to be lagging behind the excitement levels.
In looking at Coach Miller’s first Indiana University roster it’s easy to see why there is a lot of excitement as the Hoosiers prepare for their first regular season game next Friday against Indiana State.
De’Ron Davis, Collin Hartman, Robert Johnson, Devonte’ Green, Curtis Jones, Juwan Morgan, Freddie McSwain, Zach McRoberts and Tim Priller make up a pretty good group of players from which Coach Miller can expect some success while also laying the foundation for this new era in Indiana basketball. Throw in three very talented Freshman in Clifton Moore, Justin Smith, and Aljami Durham to that roster and it’s hard not to be excited about the upcoming season.
In looking at that roster, watching the Hoosier Hysteria scrimmage, and then seeing the exhibition games, two things kind of jump out at me.
#1) The lack of a “go to” guy. A guy that you can turn to and trust to go get you a basket when you need it. Are there players that I think are capable of being that guy? Absolutely. But at the same time, none of them have ever been asked to be that guy at this point in their careers, so who will step up and be that guy is yet to be seen.
#2) Front court depth. Although De’Ron Davis has transformed his body from last year, which should greatly improve his defensive positioning, if our guards continuously get beat out front like last year, and he picks up cheap fouls from having to help, we could really struggle post wise and have to play small at times.
We have pretty good depth at every other position on the floor, especially with some guys, like Hartman, Moore, Smith, Durham, and Jones being able to play multiple positions. But Davis and McSwain are are only true post presences. Now, before you let that deter your optimism, remember, Coach Miller took one of his Dayton teams, with a roster reduced to 8 players, and none of which were taller than 6’8”, to the Elite 8.
Some “experts” have Indiana picked to finish 9th or lower in the Big10, and they very well may be right. But I feel as though the early predictions are based more on the other teams, and less on IU. Because let’s be honest here, how can anyone know how quickly this team adapts to Coach Miller’s style and philosophy? No one, that’s who.
If they are ahead of the learning curve, and with the seasoned vets of college basketball that they do have, maybe they will be, then a lot of eyes may be opened, and a lot of opinions may change by the time the Big10 season opens.
But for now, this seasoned vet of a fan will let his excitement continue to grow as the regular season grows nearer. But he will also temper his expectations and let Coach Miller continue to lay the foundation for what I believe will be a long and rewarding tenure as the head coach of my (our) Indiana Hoosiers.
I may be showing my age here, but I long for the days of my youth in the 70’s & 80’s when my excitement and my expectations went hand in hand every year. When I knew that the Hoosiers would be battling for the Big10 title and would be poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament EVERY year.
If next years recruiting class is a true indication of Coach Millers ability on the recruiting landscape, my wait for reliving that part of my youth may be short lived.
Excitement level: 100% Expectation level: 60%