The two locker rooms couldn’t have been been more different.
IU’s lasting image from the 2016 season was the jubilation of the postgame scene following a victory at Iowa to clinch the Big Ten Conference regular season title.
Then contrast that happiness with IU's locker room just one season later after the Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin in the 2017 Big Ten Tournament.
IU’s NCAA Tournament hopes were extinguished with that loss, and it was clear by the look on the players' faces. The Hoosiers looked shell-shocked and despondent, and there appeared to have been tears shed.
Heading into IU's regular season opener against Indiana State on Nov. 10, this Hoosier team said they are motivated by the failures of last season.
When three of IU's current freshmen signed letters of intent to become Hoosiers last November, they were committing to play under then-Coach Tom Crean.
Crean spent months and years building relationships with these players, but what new IU Coach Archie Miller appreciates about Crean’s recruiting efforts is the way Crean sold prospective players on the school, not just himself.
Though all three freshmen – guard Al Durham and forwards Justin Smith and Clifton Moore – reevaluated their commitments in the spring after Miller replaced Crean, they each stayed loyal to the Hoosiers.
“There was a purpose for them all going to IU,” Miller said. “It wasn't just a basketball decision or coaching staff decision. All three of them were really bought into the university, they got locked in to the tradition and the fan base, and they fell in love with it.”
Their purpose has taken on more meaning now that they’ll be the first class under Miller’s leadership. Senior forward Collin Hartman said all of IU’s players are essentially freshmen this year while learning Miller’s new system, but the 2017 recruiting class will be the one with the most time to develop.
Five new monuments dedicated to IU's national title-winning teams now line the entrance to the south lobby at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The rectangular granite slabs were funded by a gift from Ken Nunn and include the names of each player and coach on the championship teams from 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981 and 1987.
On the front sides of the monuments are images of IU players and scenes from each season. Artist Brian Hanlon designed and produced the monuments, which were installed at Ken Nunn Champions Plaza before Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 21 and will be accessible to fans 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Five new sculptures were also installed inside the south lobby of Assembly Hall before the season. They depict five different iconic moments or eras in IU basketball history. Longtime IU Coach and three-time national champion Bob Knight is notably absent from the sculptures, which IU said was a result of Knight declining to be portrayed.
New coach, new culture, new mentality. We’ve heard it before in what has been a hectic offseason for IU basketball.
But what exactly should you expect from this team?
James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby are all gone, so what does IU need to do this season to make it a successful one?
Last year, an opening win against Kansas and a top-five victory at home against eventual national champion North Carolina, saw expectations rise to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
But after the North Carolina win, IU went 0-7 against ranked opponents the rest of the season, and failed to show up when it mattered most. The win against Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament asked the question if the Hoosiers could get back to the level they were playing at to start the campaign, but the Hoosiers were trumped in the quarterfinals to two-seed Wisconsin.
I don’t need to remind you of what happened after that.
So what is it going to take to consider 2017-18 a “success?" It all starts with improvement, then a marquee win, then the quest for a leader on the court.
Mentoring players will be critical this season, especially for the development of the freshman class.
Green’s teammates and coaches have heaped praise upon his offseason improvements in the lead up to IU’s preseason, and the sophomore guard has delivered on the hype thus far. After leading all Hoosiers in scoring in a sloppy Hoosier Hysteria scrimmage, Green came out in IU’s first exhibition game against Marian University and recorded 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds to lead the Hoosiers in each category.
IU has a pair of senior guards in Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk that figure to handle most of the point guard duties, but Green is making a hard push for his own role as an offensive playmaker. He had the highest three-point field goal percentage (44 percent) of any Hoosier with more than five attempts last season, and impressed Archie Miller enough in October to earn the first “gold jersey” that Miller gives to the most productive player in practice each week.
Green is a member of a sophomore class – alongside guard Curtis Jones and forward De’Ron Davis – that could drastically alter IU’s fortunes this season if they each take a significant jump. So far, all signs point to Green, possibly taking the biggest jump of the three.
Overshadowed and second on the depth chart to Thomas Bryant last season, De’Ron Davis has a chance to come into his own in the 2017-18 campaign. Davis will assume the starting center role on the team and will be part of the foundation for Coach Archie Miller’s first season.
Putting on nine pounds of sheer muscle, Davis should be an even bigger presence down low under the basket. He started four games last season against Louisville, Minnesota, Iowa and Northwestern. In those games, Davis averaged 7.75 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. He scored his career high in points (15) against Iowa in the first round of last season’s Big Ten Tournament, and fans should expect similar productivity from that game in this upcoming season.
In the Hoosiers’ first exhibition game against Marian University, Davis went 5-7 shooting to score 10 points, nabbing four rebounds and dishing out one assist. If Davis makes a significant leap this season, IU should be in the mix of mid-tier Big Ten teams as long as other players step up as well.
Johnson returns for his final season in Bloomington as the most experienced player on IU’s roster with 87 starts as a Hoosier. After three seasons without needing to be the go-to-guy, he figures to be the leading scorer this season along with being a strong defender in Archie Miller’s new defensive scheme.
Johnson is 22 points shy of 1,000 for his career and could reach that total in IU’s season opener Nov. 10 against Indiana State. Last season, Johnson’s three-point percentage dropped by nearly 11-percent from his sophomore year and he’ll be asked to regain his form with James Blackmon Jr. gone.
One of IU’s best perimeter defenders, he had a team-high 29 steals last season. While he won’t be the starting point guard, he’ll handle some of the playmaking duties alongside senior guard Josh Newkirk and sophomore guard Devonte Green.