The Archie Miller era in Bloomington began Friday night when the Hoosiers faced off against the Sycamores of Indiana State. When all was said and done, and the dust had finally settled, it was the royal blue clad Sycamore fans that left “The Hall” with their heads held high, while Hoosier fans were left shaking theirs.
From my seat in the sixth row it was obvious, even during warmups, that the Sycamores were there to win and not just compete. Meanwhile, it was hard to get a true gauge of what to expect from the Hoosiers. Although my first thought was that they seemed a little nervous.
Right from the opening tip, a couple of things that had worried me the most after watching the two exhibition games jumped out at me. The Hoosiers don’t have a leader on the floor. The one guy who has that personality, Collin Hartman, was once again on the sideline in street clothes. Another thing is the lack of communication on defense. Far too many times any communication came in the form of a “my bad” comment from someone after they chose not to talk on a switch and a shooter was left wide open.
Is there a reason for Hoosier fans to panic? Well I guess that depends on what their expectations were going into the season. And also, if those expectations were actually realistic to begin with.
Any fan with even a remotely reasonable grasp of the game of basketball should know that a new coach does not automatically fix all the issues that a team faced that led to the need for a new coach in the first place.
Coach Miller’s first recruiting class shows the type of players he needs to run his system, both offensively and defensively. Three of the four signed recruits are 6’7 or taller, and above average athletes. The fourth is a true point guard. A leader on the floor. An extension of the coach. Now, if you sit back and really look at the roster that he inherited, the four Freshman and Juwan Morgan are about the only ones that truly fit that description.
De’Ron Davis, Freddie McSwain, Justin Smith, and Aljami Durham showed me the most last night in regards to having a willingness to try and battle and not just say “my bad” after another too late close-out on an open shooter, or a missed switch that once again led to an open look.
And when I say open look, I mean there were some looks that Indiana State shooters got that they had time to line up the seams on the ball like they could if they were shooting free-throws. Yes Indiana State also hit some tough 3’s as well. But those came well after they had found their rhythm while shooting those uncontested ones early on. Which did nothing but boost their confidence even more.
Coach Miller inherited a team that had about three, maybe four, kids he would have recruited himself. And he’s not only trying teach his system to them, keep in mind he’s teaching it to them after they have already developed bad habits due to not having had to play defense in the past.
Offensively this team needs to play inside out right now. There were small stretches last night where ISU didn’t have an answer for De’Ron Davis. And yet instead of going to the well until it was dry, we decided to force something that wasn’t there that resulted in a turnover, or jack up a contested 3 with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. THAT is a result of not have a leader on the floor.
Coach Miller doesn’t have the luxury of adjusting his system any at all like you can if you have an injury or two to key players in your 5th year at a school. He’s trying to build a foundation of how things are going to be done at IU under his watch, and he has to stick to that right now…period.
This team is soft. I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally. Aside from a few players, instead of playing harder, this team hung their head way to early when it became obvious that ISU came to win. They knocked down a few early 3’s, Indiana had a few turnovers and ill-advised shots, and instead of digging a little deeper to stop the bleeding, they looked at each other waiting for someone else to take charge instead of doing it themselves.
This team will struggle offensively all year. It just will. They have NO pure scorers on this team. They have NO leader to demand that people get where they need to be when they need to be there. They still have the mentality of the system they’ve played in since they started their college careers, and we all know that bad habits are hard to break.
Which is the main reason that I think both Al Durham and Justin Smith have showed promise even as Freshman. Because they haven’t really learned any bad habits yet. The mistakes they make are more about just being Freshman, and that’s somewhat expected at times. But when Seniors are making those same kinds of mistakes, well that’s due to them having habits that there haven’t been any consequences for.
There is no reason whatsoever to point out each and every player, or coach, and the things that they need to improve on to continue to get better each game going forward. Those things are obvious to anyone that has a single ounce of basketball knowledge in their body. But due to some comments I received, and saw after the loss, I’m starting to believe that list of people who don’t have that may be longer than I had thought.
I have zero doubt that Archie Miller will win at Indiana, but yes, it will be a long, bumpy road getting to that point. And much to the dismay of fans, that road has a starting point and it has no detours, or faster routes. Breaking old habits and developing toughness don’t happen overnight, but they have to be done in order to build a culture for future Hoosiers.
It was a long 40 minutes of basketball last night. It was an even longer 2 hour drive home. But I endured a lot of them during Tom Crean’s years in Bloomington, especially the first three. And I’m 99.9% certain that it’s not going to be three years before this bumpy road we’re on now, feels more like a freshly paved freeway.
Was I shocked that Indiana State beat Indiana last night? No, not at all. Was I shocked at how easily they did? Oh yeah! They were in control from the first Indiana turnover and their first made 3 pointer. I expected more toughness and a willingness to fight. When you are offensively challenged, you have to be tough minded and have some fight in you. I didn’t see much of that last night.
Defense is largely willingness, and toughness. Our coach has that mentality, and most teams are a reflection of their coach. Which is exactly why, even after last nights debacle, I still have the utmost confidence that our program is in the right hands going forward.
These players are still very much a reflection of their former coach. When, not if, but when, they start reflecting Coach Miller’s toughness and mentality, then the naysayers will be jumping back on the bandwagon. I’ll try and save you a spot, but I make no pronises.
I personally can’t wait for Sunday, because we have no where to go but up, and Sunday is the next rung on that ladder.