Indiana is entering its fourth season under head coach Archie Miller on Wednesday against Tennessee Tech with high expectations.
The Hoosiers return seven of their top nine scorers, including four starters, from a team that finished 20-12 last season. Indiana was on the brink of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 before the postseason was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Threats of games being postponed due to the pandemic still loom, but Indiana remains on track to start on time and continue a challenging non-conference schedule.
After Tennessee Tech, IU travels to Asheville, N.C., to face Providence in the Maui Invitational, and will face either Texas or Davidson on Tuesday in the three-game event. In addition, Indiana will play at No. 21 Florida State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 9 and Butler in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis on Dec. 19.
“We are excited, a lot like probably everybody, to get the official start, like everybody else in college basketball, going,” Miller said. “We have been anxious, like a lot of people, to get back together and have real purpose in front of us.”
The Hoosiers received a boost this offseason when 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward Trayce Jackson-Davis opted to bypass the NBA draft and return for his sophomore season. Jackson-Davis, who led IU in scoring (13.5 ppg), rebounding (8.4 rpg) and blocks (59) last season, will be the focal point of IU’s offense again this season.
Last season, Jackson-Davis posted 11 double-doubles, with IU going 10-1 in those games.
“Trayce has to continue to evolve from a freshman in that natural progression as a sophomore where not everything is new to him anymore,” Miller said. “So he’s leading the way more along the lines than he is learning on the run, but very, very few players as a freshman in America were more productive than him, and I think he has to just up the production.
“He has got to be a dominant, dominant rebounder for us. Scoring, there’s got to be some different ways he can attack.”
Indiana also returns its starting backcourt tandem of junior point guard Rob Phinisee and senior Al Durham, and adds an incoming freshman class led by five-star point guard Khristian Lander, rated as a top 20 recruit nationally by most recognized recruiting sites. With Lander joining Phinisee and Durham, IU will be capable of playing more three and four-guard lineups this season.
“We’re always on a quest to have versatility and skill in what we’re doing,” Miller said. “I do think for this group to be successful, we have to have a lot of different type of versatility offensively.”
Tennessee Tech returns four starters from a team that went 9-22 last season, including junior guard Jr. Clay, who led the Golden Eagles in scoring (13.4 ppg) and steals (56) last season.
Tennessee Tech is entering its second season under head coach John Pelphrey, who had prior head coaching stints at South Alabama and Arkansas and has posted a career 149-126 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances.
–Field Level Media