Three-Point Play: Latest on Indiana; big-time clash; sleeper emerges
Today in the 3-Point Play, national analyst Corey Evans addresses the situation unfolding at Indiana, previews the huge game of the weekend and discusses a sleeper emerging this winter in a tiny town in Maryland.
1. Patience needed in Bloomington
We discussed Indiana in last weekend’s Rivals Roundtable, but that was before the Hoosiers knocked off Michigan State on Saturday, providing even more food for thought surrounding the situation in Bloomington.
While the fan base is a bit split with how they believe Archie Miller has fared thus far at IU, the situation there has made me think back to the first few years of John Beilein’s tenure in Ann Arbor. While the program was reeling because of scholarship restrictions, it was not like Beilein walked into Michigan and changed the program overnight. The Wolverines made just one NCAA Tournament in Beilein’s first three years and failed to place higher than fourth in the Big Ten standings until year five. It took a bit longer than many had wanted but the ultimate culture build-up is one that has Michigan winning more than 23 games in six of its past seven seasons.
Can Miller do what Beilein did? It will take some work, but for all those thinking that Romeo Langford was going walk into the program and immediately make IU a national-contending force, well, they were fooling themselves.
Whether it has been Miller playing catch-up with his roster following the exodus of talent that left the program upon his hiring, a dearth of consistent producers outside of Langford and Juwan Morgan or injuries that decimated the Hoosiers' limited depth, this season is one that Miller may want to forget but it could also be one that five years down the road, is the turning point for the program.
Optimism still resides, thanks to Miller and his coaching staff shutting down the borders of the state and landing premier talent in the mold of Langford and Trayce Jackson-Davis, and don’t forget they have a good shot at Keion Brooks. Missing a third straight NCAA Tournament and a seven-game losing streak during league play was not what many had hoped for at the beginning of the season. However, IU has battled through its fair share of adversity this season and still remains in tournament talk. And while this is more of a total culture rebuild, there is no one better prepared for the task than Miller, the same coach that made Dayton the best mid-major program in the sport in recent years.
2. Virginia vs. Duke 2.0
All eyes will be on Charlottesville this weekend. Isn’t it amazing that this has become commonplace in recent years? We are talking about a Virginia program that has been just as good, if not better, then your typical bluebloods since Tony Bennett took over the program. His decisiveness on the recruiting trail and in the coach’s box has placed him among the elite in the sport, and that is why I can't wait to see take two of the Duke-Virginia battle on Saturday evening.
The Cavaliers are one of a few teams that can go toe-to-toe with The Zion and RJ Show this season. The duo is leading the national player of the year conversation, but their putrid 30 percent three-point shooting will again be tested by Virginia's lockdown defense, but this time in the confines of the John Paul Jones Arena. Duke point guard Tre Jones is back after missing the previous match-up, and UVA may now be shorthanded, as Ty Jerome might not be able to play. Sources close to the situation told Rivals.com that he will likely be a game-time decision.
If Jerome is not on the floor, I would expect Kyle Guy and DeAndre Hunter to assume greater ball responsibilities. However, don’t underestimate Kihei Clark, the freshman guard who was formerly committed to UC-Davis before backing off of his pledge after a breakout July on the travel circuit. While many in the industry were skeptical about the idea of Clark playing for a national contending program, I will never forget what Bennett told me last fall: “Corey, just trust me on this one, I feel really good about him. There is just something about him,” Bennett said. It was like he was trying to persuade me as if I was the head coach and he was my subordinate.
Either way, this one is going to be a doozy. The Cavaliers will be hosting Rivals150 commits Casey Morsell and Kadin Shedrick along with Henry Coleman, Josh Taylor, Carter Whitt and Cam Hayes, and 2021 pledge Carson McCorkle. Virginia is a rock-solid program, and it will again be on full display Saturday.
3. A sleeper emerges
Every winter, about this time of the year, programs are scouring the nation for the valued "sleeper," whether it is because of roster attrition, specific needs that have emerged or another factor.
This brings me to Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua, a prospect that literally jumped out at me during my time at the Bob Kirk Invitational on Friday.
I endured one of the most white-knuckled drives of my life from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., where 90-degree bends, 45-degree slopes, and nearly invisible street lines were the norm, but the games at Bishop Walsh High was well worth it. The host program went down in defeat to the loaded Sunrise Christian Academy, program but I was taken aback by Robinson-Nkamhoua, whom I had never even heard of before.
Robinson-Nkamhoua, a 6-foot-8 power forward and native of Helsinki, Finland, moved to the United States in June of 2017. He was living in the DMV and attended Richard Montgomery High last season, but was shelved due to a broken foot. Last summer, he suited up for the non-sponsored 6th Man Warriors program, and while he received some interest from a few of the local mid-majors, it didn’t amount to the interest he received over the weekend.
Illinois, Minnesota and Wake Forest jumped in with offers for Robinson-Nkamhoua. He is not all there yet physically, but there is a fluidity about his game, a strong IQ for a frontcourt prospect and a multi-dimensional skill-set that makes me believe that the best is still ahead of him. He looks to be the next in line to reap the rewards of emerging late in the process, and he could become a valuable recruit for high-majors that need a multi-dimensional forward. The three power programs would love to have him, and others such as Arkansas, Clemson, Kansas State and Seton Hall have shown interest.