An Optimistic Take: Indiana Basketball is Halfway There

Throughout the now 15 game 2017-18 Indiana basketball season we’ve heard various perspectives from head coach Archie Miller on the team’s apparent inability to piece together complete games:

“We were, to be honest with you, soft on the glass,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “In the second half, the game really changed on second shots.” (Wisconsin game)

“Give Louisville credit, they did some good things in the second half,” Indiana first-year coach Archie Miller said. “We had some turnovers the last six minutes that really hurt us.”

“Really disappointing game for our team,” Miller said. “Give Fort Wayne a lot of credit. Executed their game plan on both ends of the floor really well. Wasn’t close in terms of the approach coming out of halftime. It wasn’t close.”

And yes, before you even say it, we could have just as well titled this story “Pessimistic Take:  Indiana Cannot Piece Together a Complete Game”.

Tribune News Service

We’ve gone back and compared Indiana’s performance in the halves of all of their games and it is clear — this is a real thing.  In several of their games IU has seen a fairly dramatic, to even shockingly dramatic, spread between its first and second half performances:

  • Seton Hall:  Down 1 at the half, lose by 16
  • USF:  Down 1 at the half, win by 17
  • Eastern Michigan:  Up 5 at the half, win by 20
  • Michigan:  Down 13 at the half, lose by 14
  • Iowa:  Up 15 at the half, win by 13
  • Louisville:  Up 1 at the half, lose by 9
  • Fort Wayne:  Up 1 at the half, lose by 20
  • Youngstown State:  Up 9 at the half, win by 28
  • Wisconsin:  Up 3 at the half, lose by 10

There were other games where merely comparing halves does not tell the complete story:

  • The Howard game was only a 1 point IU lead at the 5:00 mark in the first half
  • Arkansas State was tied with IU at the 8:00 mark of the first half, IU then ran out to a 14 point halftime lead, and then allowed Arkansas State back within 3 at the 8:00 mark of the second half before it proceeded to win by 17.
  • Notre Dame had a 14 point first half lead at the 5:00 minute mark, which IU cut to 1 early in the second half, only to see the Irish stretch it right back out to a 12 point lead over the course of only 2 more minutes.

If you feel like this season has been exhausting — there’s good reason for that.  Sure, some of this is just the game of basketball.  It is largely a game of runs.  But this has been so extreme that it borders on a clinical diagnosis of multiple personalities.

So the obvious question then becomes, what is the cause of all of this inconsistency?

  • Is it a team that hasn’t fully grasped what their new coaching staff is trying to implement?  Yes.
  • Is it a team that doesn’t have a lot of natural leaders on the floor?  Yes.
  • Is it a team that doesn’t fully appreciate the energy and focus that is required to compete at this level?  Yes.
  • Is it a team that is struggling to shoot from the perimeter thereby always leaving the door cracked open?  Yes.
  • Is it a team that seems to lack mental toughness and cracks when the tide turns against them?  Yes.

Are things going to change midseason?  We don’t know.  At this point it doesn’t seem likely.  Either the seniors on the team are going to have to move out of their comfort zones and really start to lead, or a few guys (e.g. Johnson, Hartman, and Green) are going to have to consistently find their shooting touch.  Otherwise, buckle up, and keep your arms and hands in the ride at all times — or at least half of the time.

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Main photo credit:  (Mark Humphrey / AP)