vs. Chicago State
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
When: 6:30 p.m. today
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM, 102.9 FM
The 119th season of Indiana Hoosiers basketball officially tips off tonight.
The second year of the Archie Miller Era starts somewhat gently for the Hoosiers, who will take on a Chicago State team that finished 3-29 last season and was 346th of 351 Division I teams in Ken Pomeroy's efficiency rankings.
Regardless of the opponent, the Hoosiers will likely be locked in for the season opener. The returnees remember last season's disastrous 90-69 opening day loss to an Indiana State team that went 13-18.
“We'll get into (the season) fast,” Miller said. “We have Chicago State on Tuesday, Montana State on Friday. Both teams a little bit unknown as we get into the early part of the season.”
The Hoosiers have to get into the season quickly because after playing the Cougars and Bobcats this week, they have a rough schedule in the following month, with games against Marquette, Arkansas, Duke and Louisville, plus two Big Ten games in early December against Penn State and Northwestern.
The first week may be mostly a learning experience for the Hoosiers, but the learning will have to happen quickly.
“Obviously you get better as you practice, especially if you're not playing as many minutes in a game,” Miller said. “But in all reality, the games teach you what you can and can't do right now. And then you've got to go back to work.
“All (teams) start at some level of optimism, and then it becomes reality really where you are and where you've got to go. So for us, we'll find out a little bit more about ourselves (tonight).”
The Hoosiers have had a couple of tune-up games heading into the matchup against Chicago State. Indiana had a scrimmage against Loyola Chicago, last year's surprise Final Four team, and an exhibition game against Southern Indiana.
The Hoosiers comfortably won both games, including a 96-62 victory over the Division II Screaming Eagles. In that matchup, the highly touted freshman class gave a preview of what it might be able to accomplish this season: Romeo Langford, Robert Phinisee and Damezi Anderson were the team's top three scorers, combining for 40 points, while Anderson nailed four 3-pointers.
Langford, the only freshman member of the preseason All-Big Ten team, scored 13 points against Southern Indiana but shot only 33 percent from the field. Miller stressed transition baskets will be particularly important for this team because Langford is so good in the open court.
“Romeo is a naturally gifted scorer,” the coach said. “He's going to learn how to play through contact better. At the end of the day, as we get smoother running our stuff, he's going to be able to make some more plays.”
Phinisee was particularly impressive in the exhibition, finishing with 13 points, four assists, three rebounds and no turnovers in 28 minutes. He'd been battling for minutes at point guard with junior Devonte Green, but Green missed the game because of a thigh bruise.
“(Phinisee)'s the strongest freshman I've ever seen,” junior Johnny Jager said after the game. “That dude is built, he's tough. When he's on the ball, defense is really good. It's tough to get around that guy. He's strong, quick, fast. He's just really solid all around.”
Miller said Green will return against the Cougars, and it's likely he and Phinisee will get time at the point. Green was not the only player on the injury report, however. Redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson and sophomore guard Aljami Durham are both unlikely to play this week, Miller said, and freshman forward Jerome Hunter is a game-time decision.