Our trip around the Big Ten continues with Indiana and the Indianapolis Star’s Zach Osterman shedding some light on the Hoosiers men’s basketball program:
What would you consider to be the most significant change Indiana will face in the 2020-21 season?
If we’re talking structurally, I think you should expect to see IU playing a lot more three-guard lineups this year. The Hoosiers went with two true backcourt players most of the time last year because their rotation was effectively about four guards deep. They lost Devonte Green but added Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway, and Armaan Franklin is probably ready for a bigger role. You’ll see more three-guard rotations, with the strong possibility any of the three can run as the effective point guard in any given scenario.
The more intangible piece will be the relative changing of the guard in terms of leadership. This is the first roster Archie Miller has had composed entirely of players he either re-recruited at hiring or recruited himself. It’s the proverbial “his team,” and that needs to reflect in mentality as well as performance.
How does the addition of Lander change the dynamic on what this coming season could be?
Part of it is the aforementioned expanded backcourt possibilities. But it’s also worth pointing out that while a lot of its guards can act as a de-facto point guard, IU now has two true points — Lander and Rob Phinisee — with two pretty distinct skill sets. Phinisee is right-handed, Lander left. Phinisee is a great defensive stopper, with a solid passing feel. Lander might already be the best player this team has one-on-one off the dribble. Important since the only Hoosier with significant success creating his own shot last year was Green. Can they play together? Absolutely, and I expect they will. I’d say there’s even a decent chance they start together from day one (whenever day one is).
Who do you think is a potential breakout candidate for the Hoosiers this year?
I think there are a couple ways to answer that. In terms of players fans don’t know, the two most obvious candidates would be Race Thompson and Jerome Hunter. Thompson is an athletic four whose tough defense and rebounding rates really spiked his playing time late last year, and he’s had a good offseason by all accounts. Hunter had health problems as a freshman and basically had to start from scratch as a redshirt last year but has the potential to be a scoring wing/stretch four, if he can find his three-point shot.
I also just more broadly think Trayce Jackson-Davis could make a leap this year from one of the best freshman in the league to just broadly one of the best players in the league. Indiana needs to put better structure around him — starting with better three-point shooting — but he’s going to play more of the five this year, which is his natural position. He’s probably going to play significant minutes with multiple point guards on the floor and a smaller team should space better around him naturally. I think he could be in for a first-team all-league kind of season.