An early look at Indiana’s 2017-2018 frontcourt

  • 09/07/2017 10:50 am in

With the official start of practice less than a month away, the 2017-2018 season is growing closer. We’ll have comprehensive player-by-player previews next month, but here’s an early look at some of the storylines to keep an eye on with this season’s frontcourt:

· Will the physical transformation of De’Ron Davis lead to improved production? One of the biggest storylines this offseason is the physical transformation of De’Ron Davis.

After a challenge in April from Archie Miller to get in better shape, Indiana’s sophomore big man is down more than 20 pounds. How will it change his game?

First, the improved conditioning and weight loss should allow Davis to play more minutes. As a freshman, injuries and a lack of conditioning held Davis back from carving out a bigger role. He was effective at times, but logged more than 20 minutes just three times as a freshman. With the departure of Thomas Bryant to the NBA, Davis has to take on a bigger role for the Hoosiers to be successful.

The other key for Davis breaking out as a sophomore is learning to defend without fouling. Davis averaged seven fouls per 40 minutes as a freshman. Did some of the fouling have to do with fatigue? Davis believes that it did.

“I used to foul a lot when I got tired, I would try to get a breather,” Davis said in early July. “So me getting in better shape, me losing the weight, taking away some of those foul-prone tendencies.”

· Can Juwan Morgan stay healthy? After battling a shoulder injury as a freshman and a foot injury as a sophomore, Indiana needs Juwan Morgan to stay healthy as a junior.

This offseason should end up being far more productive than last for Morgan, who had to rehab last summer following shoulder surgery.

With Bryant and OG Anunoby gone, Morgan will step into a leadership role in IU’s frontcourt. If he can consistently play 28 to 30 minutes a game, Morgan should be a double figure scorer and IU’s top rebounder.

“We’re all healthy,” Morgan said in July. “We’re all ready to go.”

· Hartman’s return: One of the biggest offseason coups for Archie Miller and the new IU coaching staff was the return of Collin Hartman for a fifth season.

Statistically speaking, Hartman’s return may not seem like a big deal on paper. But having a player who was an integral part of a Big Ten championship team in 2016 back in the fold is big from a leadership perspective.

Hartman’s absence a season ago, according to Morgan, was a significant setback for the Hoosiers.

“Me and OG used to joke about it calling him the annoying guy you always hated hearing, but you knew he was right,” Morgan said of Hartman in July. “I think that’s what we really missed last year.”

· Who else steps forward? Beyond Davis, Morgan and Hartman, the rest of the frontcourt has more questions than answers.

Can Justin Smith, a four-star forward from the Chicago area, contribute right away? His athleticism and Big Ten ready body suggests he can.

Is Clifton Moore ready to physically compete in the Big Ten? There’s no debating his talent and potential, according to his AAU coach.

Will Freddie McSwain show noticeable improvement? McSwain was a capable finisher last season, but had a turnover rate over 26 percent.

Indiana might not have a potential star up front like Bryant or Anunoby, but collectively this group has the talent to outperform expectations.

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  • Mark Bando

    Sorry Alex, but i think DD has chance to be better than both bryant and OG

  • Outoftheloop

    I can visualize every frontcourt player, what they can do, where they are vulnerable, how they can/will contribute, except for Clifton Moore. He is an enigma. But he could be great. IU’s “Kevin Durant”? That is the hope. Of course he needs strength and floor time. But he could be a very special player. He is the hope for a magical season.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I remember when KD was going through the draft process and could not do 3 reps of 185 lbs on the bench. Yes strength is important. But I think with that kind of talent, natural scoring ability trumps strength.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    Agreed on TB, respectfully disagree on OG

  • inLinE6

    Priller deserves a mention?

  • Fivelefts

    I think he could have a better freshmen year than OG! He has similar, if not better intangibles than OG had as a freshmen. He has a way better handle and mid-range shot! He has a higher motor as well! Does he have the confidence?! That will be a major factor.

  • iubase

    Pretty thin up front. Have to hope juean and Collin stay healthy – a big if. DD needs to be consistent and forceful. Certainly have good talent there. Just hope we don’t break down. Season depends on the output from these guys.

  • N71

    I agree and I think it has as much to do about coaching as anything else. Thomas was used in a way that would help strengthen his weaknesses and feature him for the draft. I would have preferred he stayed in the post more, our season would have gone better. OG on the other hand was just getting started and his story was primarily made on potential. If DD can stay healthy, develop, and is used optimally, his stats should be really good, stronger than either TB or OG.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I think as soon as we see the new and improved DD we’ll have a better idea of his potential. Right now all I can picture is how DD played last season which was flashes of offensive skill around the rim but too slow, no jumper, and too foul-prone to stay on the floor. Potential is there but we’ll see how hard he has worked and will work before declaring he is or could be better than Bryant or OG. One thing we know is Bryant especially worked his tail off. That is what it takes to, at worst, realize potential, or even better, overachieve.

  • Ivan Renko

    just curious, what do you disagree with concerning OG? he didn’t really emerge into being a possible nba draft pick (emphasize possible) until the NCAA tournament during his freshman year. and he didn’t play half the year during his ostensible breakout sophomore year, which only included flashes of nba level talent. So i think other than being a physical and athletic specimen, his basketball story really was largely built on potential and what-ifs.

  • millzy32

    Durant still can’t do 3 reps. Hasn’t hurt him much.

  • millzy32

    Not really. But you knew that. Maybe McRoberts.

  • Miamihoosier

    This front court is not thin. I don’t want to hear that. We have FIVE former top 150 recruits in the front court, including a 5th yr sr, a junior, and a 4 star sophomore. Are you kidding me? We have the best young coach in the country and more front court talent on paper than all but 2 teams in the conference. Guys underperformed for Crean last year, so we may all be scarred still from that, but expect this front court to go toe to toe with msu, Wisconsin, and Purdue and I expect us to dominate the rest of the league. There’s no excuse not to

  • Miamihoosier

    No way man. Neither do. If these 2 guys are playing meaningful minutes we are in trouble. Davis and Morgan start backed by Hartman and Smith…Mcswain and Moore are your 3rd string….I do not want to see non scholarship players or Priller on the floor this year unless we’re up 30+

  • AndyCapp

    InLinE6 said a mention, not anything about meaningful minutes. And yes he does deserve a mention, he’s wearing candy stripes and like it or not is a Hoosier in the truest sense of the word. Lighten up on the harsh criticism dude.

  • Arch Puddington

    Can’t speak for E, but I don’t entirely agree with your assessment of OG’s time at IU. His breakout year was his freshman year, not his sophomore year. If anything, his sophomore year was a disappointment due in part to injuries and illness. His freshman year started slowly, but he was having a major impact on the team well before the tournament. Certainly his athleticism and all-around game were apparent, and his defense was dominant at times. For much of that season he and Morgan would sub-in mid-way through the first half, and there were times when the entire complexion of the game changed due to his ability to clog up an entire offense. For example, I was at the Maryland game that year, and they came out quite hot, and took an 18-12 lead into a TV timeout. Anunoby and Morgan came in, and Maryland only scored 10 points the entire rest of the half. He only had one block and one steal, but his presence all over the court completely stymied Maryland’s offense. He was never a prolific scorer, but his presence notably altered the trajectory of many games that year. I’m not how to compare him to DD, but I do know that he was really good.

  • AndyCapp

    He wasn’t asking a rhetorical question, and by the number of upvotes InLinE6 has gotten more than a couple of us feel the same way. He is not going to be featured or get many minutes but he will contribute, so deserves a mention… as does Mc Roberts.

  • Mark Bando

    You bring up a good point on the way bryant was coached and played. It drove me crazy seeing him on the perimeter so much.

  • Mark Bando

    My enthusiasm for DD is based on his obvious instincts and natural moves in the post. Bryant had little in the way of post moves except to try a quick move to get past you. But as N71 says below, bryant was not coached right and a big part of my enthusiasm for DD is that he will be coached right.

  • VOXAC30

    His footwork is like maybe even better than Kirk Haston’s and his shot is just of smooth he is probably not as athletic but he has awesome court awareness as did Haston. I am not the absolute on this but I think what contributed to his limitations last year was due to his weight. I do agree though time will tell.

    If anyone can remember Kirk Haston he had smoothest baby hook.

  • millzy32

    He will have his moment on Senior Day and that will be great. If he plays much other than that we will indeed not be very happy with this season. If you’d like him to play a lot more I assure you that you are in the minority. It’s great that he got to keep his scholarship and remain on the team. We may need him to come in and be a hatchet man from time to time if DD and JM get in bad foul trouble. He does get 5 fouls and we may need them.

  • Ivan Renko

    hey Arch, I completely agree with everything you’re saying, and I love OG as both a player and an individual. I was attempting to make an assessment to the point that OG really never got rolling, if you will, at IU and his legacy indeed has a big “what if” attached to it. And with that being said, there’s not doubt he was drafted more on physical attributes and potential. he averaged only 13 min per game as a freshman (9th on the team) and only played in 16 games as a sophomore (less than half the total games that season). just looking at those facts, you can assume that #1 his breakout year was expected to be his soph year (which obviously didn’t go as planned), #2 he never was able to get rolling since he wasn’t playing against the tougher opponents in the latter half of the season, and #3 he was largely drafted on potential, which is typically the norm nowadays.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    Arch answered why I felt OG was impactful. I believe DD will surpass TB as a sophomore. I think there is a realistic potential for him to play himself up to the level of a late 1st round NBA pick.

    Granted, OG’s season came to an end early and we didn’t get a full OG development, but he was starting to do some special things before the ACL injury. But for the ACL, I think we can all agree OG would have been a lottery pick.

    I don’t see DD playing up to the level of a lottery pick as a sophomore. Maybe as a junior.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    Unfortunately with the early entry NBA path shortening careers, I feel the what if question applies to most who leave before their junior years.

    For example, how good would Noah V have been compared to IU greats had he stayed?

    If VO and Cody had stayed and won an NCAA or gone to the final 4, would they be remembered as top 10 all time IU players? Maybe?

    I feel had OG played at IU 4 years he would have become an all time great IU player.

  • TomJameson

    I think we only have one player we can consider a “center”, and that’s De’Ron at 6’10. The rest of the front court consists of forwards/wings. The tallest is Clifton at 6’10”, but he will not be playing at center. Even Freddie is only 6’6″.

    Now, I really do think they will do a great job with using the forwards to help DD, but I think that the front court, at least the center position, is pretty thin.

  • AndyCapp

    I already said TP will not be getting many minutes, I was responding to your slight that he didn’t even deserve a mention. If they are working their tails off in practice, are good teammates, represent IU well, and suiting up for IUBB … I don’t care if they are on scholly or not, then they deserve a mention, that’s all.

  • Mark Bando

    If only Haston would have stayed one more year. We might have had banner number 6

  • IdahoHoosier

    Good example of metrics that don’t always mean as much as the media suggests. See it in football a lot where they really put a lot of stock in the “combine” numbers. Some guys can just flat out play regardless of wingspan, benching 185, or giving a good interview. Take it all with a grain of salt.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Pure speculation too but I’ll disagree that OG would’ve become an all time great IU player. We tend to give that distinction to big time scorers with VERY few exceptions. I don’t think OG would’ve ever been a 20+ ppg guy. Fan favorite and memorable athlete? Absolutely. But without the big scoring punch I don’t think he would have ever cracked “all time great”. I hope OG has a huge NBA career and plays for 15 years, but if there ever was a guy who capitalized on a small sample size it was he.

  • Arch Puddington

    This is, to say no more, hyperbole. We do not have five top 150 front court players, we have two, only one of whom is taller than 6’7″. Everyone else to whom you are referring is:

    a) a wing or SF
    b) a JUCO transfer with no offense
    c) returning from major injury
    d) a freshman, OR
    e) more than one of the above.

    These are not excuses, they are reality. After DD and JM, we have no true post players on the roster who are certain to have an impact — and we have no backup center at all. Wait until DD gets into foul trouble against Happ or Haas; our “thinness” will be immediately apparent. Maybe one of the freshman will surprise us, maybe FM will have really elevated his game, or maybe CH will his be old self sooner rather than later. But those are all questions, not certainties, and to “expect us to dominate the rest of the league” as though they WERE certain is just wishful thinking.

  • iugradmark

    Arch, this is well said. I have my crimson glasses on most of the time but the reality of our team is what it is. I still give Archie a lot of credit to keep things moving forward by keeping the current kids and recruits mostly intact (except for the kids that were going to the NBA regardless of coaching). Add to this, our schedule is a bit more problematic then I was hoping for. 4 quick turnaround games when some teams in the league have one will hurt this team because of our lack of front line depth. Even if CH is mostly back, he probably can’t be expected to play lots of minutes with no rest. I expect that we will play a lot of unusual lineups and do a lot of help on defense (probably at the expense of leaving kids outside more open then we would want to play).

  • PBzeer

    I don’t pretend that we have “great” talent in our frontcourt. What we do have is good, solid talent with a coach who has shown the ability to maximize the talent he has. Other than MSU, Purdue, Minny & perhaps NW, I don’t see anyone with more talent and experience in their frontcourt than we have.

    Our success this season won’t be determined by any one player, but by a consistent and solid team effort every game.

  • Vernon Aldrich

    Would LOVE to see it.

  • AndyCapp

    Just splittin hairs Mark but I think TB was coached right for *him*. I think that CTC saw that TB was never gonna be a post-up center in the NBA so coached him to work on his mid-range and perimeter game – – usually to the detriment of what our team needed in the paint/post. Like you I think that DD possess a more natural skill set than TB, especially down low, and that he will be coached the right way to maximize those skills.

  • AndyCapp

    Never were truer words spoken than in your last sentence. Well said!

  • VOXAC30

    The following year we play for the National title game. Yep that would have been 6

  • Nimbi63

    But hyperbole is the single most wonderful thing invented since the beginning of the world, or perhaps EVER!

  • MGDC

    Last year teams figured out how to double and triple Davis in the middle when he got the ball. He was way too slow getting it back out to our shooters. That has to really improve. Also, our shooters won’t be as good. He still needs to get it quickly to the open man for good opportunities. He also has to greatly improve his feet on D to avoid the silly fouls with his hands. If we have to play Morgan a lot as a backup in the post because DD is getting in foul trouble we’ll be hurting.

  • MGDC

    I can’t believe DD is being compared to OG. OG has explosive athleticism that you rarely see on a guy his size. Perhaps best defender we’ve had at IU since Wilkerson.

  • Will

    We have a short front court. Like Arch said, no backup center. Sohomore centers get in foul trouble. Especially undersized centers that averaged 7 fouls per 40 as a freshman. Who backs up DD?

  • Larry Brown

    For the first time in many years defense will not be a problem for this frontcourt. But I predict offense will be. None of the three projected frontcourt starters have been scorers at the Collegiate level and scoring is not the Forte of any of them. All three of them are going to have to step up there ability to put points on the board if I you is going to have any chance. And Davis absolutely has to avoid bowel problems or injuries. If he sustains a significant injury, I use season is essentially over .

  • Miamihoosier

    What do you think the rest of the Big Ten has? Do you know who Wisconsin has if Happ gets in foul trouble? What about Purdue’s bench if Hass gets in foul trouble? You make it sound like these teams are bringing Parish and McHale off the bench and all we have to put on them is poor Freddie Mcswain and broken down Hartman. Do you think small forwards are back court players? They’re not. Do you think the other teams in the league after MSU, have 6″9 and 6″10 back up front court players that Colin Hartman or Juwan Morgan will have trouble with? Hahaha they don’t….watch the games man.

  • TomJameson

    While I agree that it’s a little thin up front, I think it’s only because we have only the one “true” center in De’Ron. But I don’t underestimate how the forwards and wings will be helping in the frontcourt, and here’s why.

    #1 – The pack-line defense that Archie plays will actually help keep DD out of foul trouble. #2 – The forwards will be helping a ton with rebounding, weak-side help, and just about everything else. They’ll be coming in waves. #3 – DD is in great shape and won’t be getting tired like he did last season. His conditioning is probably the best he’s ever been in. #4 – Of course it has to be that Archie is the coach.

    Now, I’m not saying he won’t have foul problems, but everything I’ve listed should work together to help alleviate the possibility.

  • Arch Puddington

    We will be fine as long as DD and JM stay healthy (and out of foul trouble), and I’m sure CM will come up with good schemes for playing small. But that is not the same as saying we will “dominate” in the front court. We didn’t even dominate last year when we had a McDonald’s All-American center on the roster.

  • PBzeer

    Not sure why you think DD is undersized … other than to Haas. When DD is out though, I expect we’ll see some combo of CH and JM playing a small-ball 5. But the real key, whomever is in the post, will be better perimeter defense. There’s no more effective defense on a post player than keeping the ball out of their hands.

    You look around the league though, and what team really has any depth at the 5? And other than Sparty, who has more depth in the frontcourt than we do?

  • PBzeer

    Both JM & CH have shown they can score, that simply wasn’t what was needed from them prior to this season. And DD showed last season that even out of shape and out of condition that he could put points on the board. Plus, I believe that Archie’s offense will facilitate our frontcourt scoring, so I’m not that concerned about it at this point.

  • marcusgresham

    Greg Graham might argue that statement.

  • Mr. Shep-dizzle

    I think DD and Morgan have both showed they can score at this level. There were times Davis looked unstoppable and Morgan could of had more double digit scoring if he would have been more of a focus point. It’s all about putting them in the right position to succeed and I think CM will do a better job of that over the old coaching regime, IMO.

  • ScoopGeoff

    Davis is by far the most polished offensive low post big man at IU since Killingsworth

  • ScoopGeoff

    That last sentence drives me bonkers… Davis has more potential to be an effective basketball player than Thomas. Thomas had decent skills but an elite motor. Davis is far superior offensively in the post, which is where we need a presence. He has really good footwork and can score over either shoulder, with either hand… something I can’t remember seeing since DJ’s senior year. Last year he simply lacked explosiveness at the end of his variety of moves… with his new body that should improve greatly. It was obvious from day 1 last year that Davis could be better than Thomas, and this year we’ll see that take shape.