BLOOMINGTON — The 2019-20 season for the Indiana men’s basketball team appeared headed for a breakthrough, as the Hoosiers were in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
It ended prematurely, due to the cancellation of the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments last week because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
At 20-12, Indiana made slight progress from last year’s 19-16 season. But more work must be done in order for Indiana to return to the lofty status it achieved through most of the Bob Knight era.
Indiana coach Archie Miller played a rotation as deep as 10 to 11 players throughout the season with mixed results. Some contributed more to the Hoosiers’ success than others but all played a role in IU reaching the 20-win plateau for the first time in Miller’s three-year tenure.
Here are final grades for each player during the 2019-20 season:
Trayce Jackson-Davis: A
Jackson-Davis was unquestionably the best player for the Hoosiers, leading IU in most statistical categories, including scoring (13.5 ppg), rebounding (8.4 rpg) and blocked shots (59). The 6-foot-9, 245-pound lefty forward shouldered more of a load for the Hoosiers throughout the season and, more often than not, delivered. Jackson-Davis posted 12 double-doubles, with IU winning 10 of the 12 games. He reached double figures in scoring in 22 of 32 games. Jackson-Davis more than likely will be back for his sophomore season, to show NBA scouts he made progress with both his off hand and perimeter range. A jump similar to what Maryland forward Jalen Smith made a sophomore for Jackson-Davis would bode well both for him and for the Hoosiers in 2020-21.
Race Thompson: B
Thompson was slowed by a mid-season injury, but the reserve forward was clearly IU’s most physical and best post defender. The offense still needs to come (Thompson scored in double figures just twice in 2019-20), but the 6-8, 235-pound Thompson displayed a knack to come up with big inside baskets down the stretch in wins over Penn State and at Minnesota. Thompson was 3-for-10 on 3-pointers, so perhaps with continued work on his perimeter game, he could evolve into a stretch-four (power forward), which is a valuable asset to space the floor for any offense.
Al Durham: B
Durham was IU’s most consistent and durable guard throughout the season, making all 32 starts. He hit a midseason rut in which he failed to score in double figures in five straight Big Ten games before closing the season on a high note, averaging 10.5 points and 1.8 assists over his last eight games. He began the season running the point due to early season injuries to Devonte Green and Rob Phinisee but is better off the ball and shot a team-best 38.3% from 3-point range. A co-captain, Durham will be counted on for even more production and leadership next season.
Jerome Hunter: B
Hunter’s development after missing all last season due to lower leg surgery was another bright spot for IU this season. The 6-7 swingman adapted to a scoring role off the bench and displayed decent shooting range with 19 3-pointers. His role could expand depending on how he develops with a full offseason.
Devonte Green: B–
The best of times, the worst of times. When Green was good, he had a hand in some of IU’s biggest wins, scoring a career-high 30 points against Florida State and 27 points against Iowa. But, once again, the 6-3 guard was too shaky with his decision making, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 62 to 52. In a home loss to Arkansas, Green also forced too many shots down the stretch rather than working the ball inside to Jackson-Davis, who was dominating inside with the Hoosiers up in the second half.
Rob Phinisee: B–
Phinisee was slowed by an early season abdominal injury, so it took him time to get on track. He finished the year as IU’s best ballhandler and decision-maker with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 93 to 52. He also was IU’s best perimeter defender but at times got in foul trouble, which proved costly in a loss at Purdue. More consistent scoring also is needed from Phinisee, who averaged just 7.3 points and shot 33.3% from 3-point range.
Joey Brunk: B–
The 6-11, 245-pound center had a stretch in December and January in which he played at a high level, grabbing 10 or more rebounds in five of six games, including a double-double at Rutgers on Jan. 15 (10 points, 10 rebounds). But Brunk’s production dipped in the second half of the season, perhaps due to the physical rigors of playing in the Big Ten after transferring from Butler. Foul trouble (66 fouls) also played a role. Still, Brunk should be a valuable inside presence to play alongside Jackson-Davis again next season.
Justin Smith: C
Smith’s contributions as IU’s most versatile defender should not be discounted. Still, there were too many games when the ultra-athletic 6-7 forward was unable to finish at the rim or stay in control as he drove to the basket. Smith’s 29 to 50 assist-to-turnover ratio was woeful, and his field goal percentage (49.2%) was not high enough for a frontcourt player. Perhaps he was miscast as a small forward, but he didn’t consistently take advantage of his height facing a number of three-guard lineups in the Big Ten, averaging just 5.2 rebounds. If Smith returns as a senior, he will need to continue to develop his perimeter game (26.3% from 3-point range) and value the basketball more.
De’Ron Davis: C
Davis started the 2019-20 season slow and at times last fall didn’t look 100 percent over the ankle and leg injuries that hindered him throughout his career. But he improved as the season progressed. His highlight of the season was scoring 18 points off the bench on 9-of-9 shooting in a loss at Michigan. Throughout the season, though, Davis couldn’t be counted on for big offensive games off the bench. Plus, his lack of lateral mobility made him a liability on defense.
Armaan Franklin: C
Franklin showed promise as a freshman and will be an important building block for the Hoosiers moving forward. His offense was sporadic, though the 6-4 Indianapolis native saved his best games for his homecomings at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, scoring a career-high 17 points in a Crossroads Classic win over Notre Dame and 13 points in IU’s final game against Nebraska at the Big Ten Tournament. Overall, though, Franklin shot just 26.6% from 3-point range and averaged 3.7 points. Franklin brought value in other areas off the bench, taking charges, defending the perimeter and grabbing rebounds, but he needs an offseason of development to become a better offensive player.
Damezi Anderson: D
The 6-7 forward scored in double figures in two of IU’s first three games but was unable to carve out a role in Big Ten play, appearing in just eight of 20 conference games. Turnovers (13) were a problem, as was an inability to get on track from 3-point range (8-for-35, 22.9%). Anderson started the year 8-of-20 from 3-point range before missing his final 15 3-point attempts.
Archie Miller: B–
Miller navigated through a midseason slump and didn’t allow IU to crumble after a four-game losing streak. Still, there were too many Big Ten games on the road in which IU looked overmatched and unprepared to play, most notably in losses by 15 points or more at Wisconsin, Maryland, Penn State and Michigan. Miller also has yet to solve in-state rival Purdue, dropping to 0-6 against the Boilermakers with two more losses going head-to-head with Purdue coach Matt Painter this season. That cannot sit well with some IU fans. Miller deserves some credit for getting the most from a roster with limited guards and inconsistent backcourt play. Help could be on the way next season with the arrival of freshman guards Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway and, perhaps, the reclassification of standout 2021 point guard Khristian Lander.