Why is this a pivotal game against Maryland?
Two reasons. The first is that we don’t know whether or not Juwan Morgan will play, or the extent of his injury. The second is that with the exception of the Illinois game this Wednesday, Indiana is about to go through a mini gauntlet of tough opposing B1G teams.
The significance of Juwan Morgan’s injury is huge. Losing De’Ron Davis is manageable, but losing both De’Ron and Juwan could prove to be extremely difficult.
Morgan leads the team in points per game, rebounds per game, offensive rebounds per game, steals per game (tied), and now that Davis is out, blocks per game and FG percentage per game.
That’s a lot of categories in which Morgan leads the team in.
Not only that, but he’s a difference maker when he’s on the court. Whenever the team is in doubt offensively, they just throw the ball to him in the paint and he goes to work. He is a monster on the offensive glass and gets rebounds that no one else will get. As a team, he also provides much needed depth. If Juwan were to miss significant time, his 27.2 minutes per game have to go to other players. Archie has not gone very far into the bench, and that is a lot of minutes that have to go to inexperienced players (most likely freshman such as Clifton Moore who have played a total of 37 minutes the entire season).
This is a concerning time for Indiana basketball right after they were finding their groove. If you take away the MSU game, the Hoosiers were playing sound basketball and getting confident wins in a 3 game win streak. Taking away Juwan Morgan for a significant time would cripple their chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament.
After the Maryland game, Indiana travels to Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini, who happen to be the worst team in the B1G with an 0-7 record in conference play.
After that, the Hoosiers face (currently) the #3 team in the nation in Purdue, then travel to Ohio State to play the surprisingly ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. After that, the Hoosiers host Michigan State in a rematch game. Those are three tough, ranked teams that Indiana will face in back-to-back-to-back games.
If the Hoosiers lose to Maryland and then lose the mini gauntlet, IU could (potentially) find themselves in a 5-7 hole in conference play where they would have lost 5 of their last 6 games (assuming they beat Illinois even with an injury ridden team). That, coupled with the iffy start to the season in losses to Indiana State and Fort Wayne, could really put their tournament hopes in jeopardy. Indiana cannot afford to go 1-6 in any stretch of the season and need to pull out at least one win. With the way the B1G is shaping up so far, the game against Maryland needs to be that game.
What to look for
The starting lineup if Juwan is out (and lets assume he is for now).
Archie would have his two guard set in Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk that have been the norm in recent games. There is no reason that Zach McRoberts would come off the bench either.
It gets a little tricky going from there.
There’s a good chance Archie will stick with Justin Smith in the starting lineup, but where do you go from there? Juwan was the guy that played the 5 spot and battled with opposing big men after De’Ron went down. Colin could get the nod, but then the tallest players on the court (for Indiana) would be Colin and Justin. In that scenario, Colin would most likely battle down low, but he might want some more size.
That being said, he could start Clifton Moore, the freshman who has only played 37 total minutes this season, and most of those would be garbage time minutes. It would certainly give Indiana height, but can Clifton battle down low with a smaller stature and no experience on the court?
One last option Archie could use is Freddie McSwain Jr. I wouldn’t anticipate Freddie getting a lot of minutes, but he could start at the 5 spot and give Clifton time to watch and adjust to what is going on with the Maryland front court and come off the bench strong.
I anticipate the starting lineup will be, in order, Josh Newkirk, Robert Johnson, Zach McRoberts, Justin Smith, and Freddie McSwain Jr. I think he will use Clifton a lot more, but just off the bench. Colin could easily start, but I think Archie likes to have at least one experienced player on the court when the starters have to rest.
The Terrapins like to play with four people in their front court, while the Hoosiers like to play backcourt heavy (most of the time). It will be interesting to see which team gives to the other. Sometimes, when teams will play small ball, the other team will have to adjust to a quicker and more nimble opponent and be forced to go smaller. Same thing the other way around, but that’s what Hoosier fans will have to hope for in the game tonight. Even if Archie were to give Clifton Moore and Tim Priller more minutes, Indiana would still be inferior in the front court against Maryland.
Lastly, foul trouble is something that plagues the Hoosiers. The lack of experience in the majority of the team could lend itself to lots of foul trouble, which would mean we might see some strange lineups moving forward.
This is a pivotal stretch for Archie and this Hoosier team. We will have to wait and see how he reacts to this situation and how the Hoosiers approach each game with very limited size and experience if Juwan were to be out for a while.