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The Only Questions: Q&A with Indiana

The Spartans look to get back on track against the Hoosiers

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Following a 91-61 home victory against Maryland; the Spartans have struggled mightily, especially on offense.

Since then, fans have witnessed a double digit loss to Ohio State, an overtime victory against Rutgers (that was too close for comfort) and now a home loss to Michigan. Its obvious MSU needs to find a way out of this funk. With Tom Izzo leading the way and plenty of winnable games left Spartan Nation should rest easy.

Surely this is one of the most talented teams Izzo has ever assembled. Their talent level comes with tremendous expectations. Fans and analysts alike may have seen MSU easily winning the conference title this year but with sudden chemistry and leadership issues we have to stop and realize they have a long ways to go.

The best place for fans to start believing again is right here at The Only Colors. So in order to prepare everyone we’ve brought in Ben Raphel of The Crimson Quarry to give us the scouting report on the Hoosiers ahead of time.

Tom Crean was the head basketball coach for the Indiana Hoosiers for a total of nine years. In that time he won the Big Ten Conference Title twice and was awarded Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016. He qualified for the NCAA Tournament four times, reaching the Sweet Sixteen on three separate occasions. He was fired by Indiana on March 16th, 2017. What happened between Crean and Indiana? Was it time to move on in your opinion? And how did the fan base feel about the firing?

There were a lot of factors that led to Crean’s firing. While he did get to three Sweet Sixteens, there was a lot of inconsistency along the way, and unlike his mentor Tom Izzo, Crean just wasn’t producing winning teams consistently enough at IU, which has a very hard to please fanbase to say the least. I personally thought it was time to move on as the relationship between Crean and IU administration had become too strained, while the problems that plagued some of his teams such as defense and turnovers were never addressed. In addition, the recruiting had been on the decline. I think everyone recognized that Crean was a great guy and he got IU through a tough period in its history, but both he and the Hoosiers needed a clean break and a fresh start.

Following the firing of Crean, Indiana hired Archie Miller to be their next HC. Along with Miller came three new assistant coaches as well. Their names are Tom Ostrom, Ed Schilling, and Bruiser Flint. How have the players reacted? How has the fan base felt this far into the new year? And what do you think about the new coaching staff as a whole?

I was at Assembly Hall for the game against Northwestern last Sunday, and there seems to be a lot of excitement and enthusiasm over the new staff, despite some early losses. Getting Schilling from UCLA was a nice coup, Flint has years of D-1 head coaching experience and connections to talent-rich east coast areas, and Ostrom has been Miller’s right-hand man in Dayton for years. As for the players, one good early sign was that all three of IU’s recruits last season (Justin Smith, Al Durham, Clifton Moore) all stuck with IU after Miller was hired. Obviously every coaching style is different and we still are seeing some growing pains, but there’s definitely progress.

One important moment for Archie Miller will be if Romeo Langford, the southern Indiana standout who is one of the top 5 high school seniors in the nation, decides to come to IU next season. If he goes elsewhere, the honeymoon for Archie with IU fans could come to an abrupt end.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Through 18 regular season games the Hoosiers are 11-7 (4-2 B1G). Where do you see this team finishing? What were your initial predictions before the start of the season?

Before the start of the season, I predicted middle of the pack in the B1G and an outside shot at a tourney berth. So far, the first prediction is holding strong. That being said, the second part might be tougher, considering the Hoosiers have two 20-point home losses to in-state rivals to their name, and that nonconference win over Notre Dame looks worse and worse every day. They still have 5 total games left against MSU/Purdue/OSU and probably will need to win at least 2 of them and finish above .500 in the B1G in order to sniff the tourney.

Who has been a standout player on their roster this year?

Juwan Morgan has had a great season for the Hoosiers thus far, and he has made a difference in how the team plays. Last month, he singlehandedly won the game for IU against Notre Dame. On Sunday, he got into foul trouble early and was on the bench most of the first half. Once he came back in the second half, the offense started rolling again and the Hoosiers turned a tight game against Northwestern into an easy victory.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

What are three things Indiana needs to do to upset Michigan State at home?

1. Keep the shots falling. Archie doesn’t seem to give his players as much of a green light as Crean did when it comes to shooting the ball, and the offense has been inconsistent this season, especially from outside.

2. Defend the three. Indiana has struggled to defend three-pointers all season and Sparty seems particularly good at shooting it from downtown.

3. Don’t let MSU get to the line. Sparty leads the B1G in Free Throw Rate conference play thus far. Will this continue tomorrow in front of a home crowd?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

There’s always lots of talk surrounding leadership when we hear about college basketball. In your opinion who has stepped up and really took command of this Hoosier team?

Obviously, Morgan has stepped up to the plate. But Collin Hartman has battled injury and getting him back as a 5th-year senior has really helped. Robert Johnson has really put the offense on his back recently too - he’s scored in double digits in every game for over a month now.

Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?

I know Sparty has been on a decline in the past couple weeks, but IU has historically been terrible at Breslin, having won there only once since 1991. Unless Juwan Morgan can have the game of his life against Miles Bridges, I’ll pick Michigan State to win, 74-65, as Tom Izzo gets his team back on track.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s all give a big thank you to Ben and everyone at The Crimson Quarry for making this Q&A possible.

Go Green!