And just like that, it’s over.
After Romeo Langford committed to Indiana in April and Juwan Morgan decided to return in May, no one was predicting this:
- No 20 win season
- No NCAA Tournament
And yet here we are, and that is exactly what happened.
That’s a far cry from a range of expectations that went so far as to put Indiana in the national title discussion.
One of the more bizarre and frustrating seasons in recent IU basketball history has come to an end….and some would say mercifully.
We’ve discussed what went wrong ad nauseam. There is no sense in going back through it.
It is time to look forward.
Over the next seven months, head coach Archie Miller and his staff will be evaluating their roster, their schemes, their culture and just about every other conceivable angle to get this thing headed in the right direction.
It is going to be a critical offseason for Miller, because let’s face it, at 35-31 in his first two years and no NCAA Tournament appearances, his tenure isn’t off to a good start. And this isn’t a patient fan base.
Here are the five more glaring issues that we believe Miller will need to address before November.
1. Establish the Culture
Quick, name a positive defining attribute of Indiana basketball over the last two seasons. No, I said positive.
When you think of Michigan State you think of toughness, rebounding, and fast break offense. When you think of Wisconsin you think of slow and efficient tempo, low turnovers, and low fouls. When you think of Purdue you think of playing hard, three-point shooting and rim protection.
Indiana has no identity right now. They have no culture — something that Michigan’s John Beilein told us earlier in the season is essential to winning in the Big Ten.
Some have suggested that having just a single one-and-done player on the team created cultural challenges.
While it is an uninformed opinion to suggest that Romeo Langford’s season was a disappointment, the team results certainly were that. Miller likely learned some lessons when it comes to integrating high end 5-star talent with the culture he is trying to create.
His Dayton teams were known for their toughness and togetherness. Can he foster that same kind of culture with higher level talent? That is an unknown right now with no clear indication of change forthcoming.
But something has to change. We need to know what a high major Archie Miller basketball program is all about.
2. Find Perimeter Shooters
From an execution standpoint, there is little question what sunk this 2018-19 season. If you had any doubts, Miller erased them after Tuesday’s season ending loss to Wichita State when he said this —
“Shooting from the three-point line is the No. 1 reason in many ways that our team could not get over the hump so many times,” Miller said.
Miller warned coming into the season that this edition of the Hoosiers would not be a great perimeter shooting team, but did he know it would be this bad?
Indiana’s three-point percentage was 31.2% this year, currently 313th in the country. This was on the heels of shooting 32.2% (307th) last year.
Is some of it bad luck? Well, Romeo Langford was supposed to be better than 27%, Damezi Anderson was supposed to be better than 23%, Evan Fitzner was supposed to be better than 31%. Jerome Hunter was supposed to play and Race Thompson was supposed to play a lot more.
Can players become better shooters? Sure, we’ve seen it before. Victor Oladipo comes to mind as does Rod Wilmont. It can happen.
But whether Miller’s staff develops shooters or finds them, something needs to change.
3. Improve the Half Court Offensive Production
Something else that Miller said after the Wichita State game stood out.
“You’ve got to be able to make shots in the Big Ten because they turned it into a half court league,” Miller said.
That comment is noteworthy if you recall Miller’s Dayton tenure, where his teams were known for their transition offense, as the Flyers looked to score before the defense got back and set up.
In Miller’s last year at Dayton the Flyers were No. 72 according to KenPom in average possession length. In his first two years at Indiana the Hoosiers have been No. 161 and No. 132.
Miller is getting slowed down and taken out of what he wants to do.
When you can’t get out and run, aren’t dominant in the post, and can’t knock down shots in the half court, you’re in trouble.
Miller will either need to continue to find the personnel that can get up and down and impose their will, or adapt schematically to the realities of the Big Ten.
4. Indiana Needs Real Size.
For far too long we’ve been watching players like Juwan Morgan try to score on and defend against guys like Ethan Happ, Jon Teske and Matt Haarms.
It hasn’t helped that De’Ron Davis hasn’t been healthy for much of his career.
Indiana needs multiple strong, physical bigs that are at least 6-foot-10 and can protect the rim.
Could former recruiting target Joey Brunk, who is athletic, stands 6-foot-11, and recently announced his intent to be a graduate transfer from Butler be part of the solution?
5. Player Leadership Needs to Emerge.
Not only does Indiana need a culture, they need ambassadors of that culture. They need tough guys, alpha leaders, and glue guys.
They need guys with a fire in their belly that play with an edge and have a nastiness about them that is readily apparent.
Miller succeeded at Dayton with “some dogs, some meet-me-in-the-alley players.”
After spending a good amount of time in the locker room over the last week, I can tell you that these players are just what they appear to be on television — a bunch of nice guys.
That doesn’t mean that they can’t be leaders and tenacious between the lines, but sitting here right now it isn’t clear who those players are.
Coming into the season IU’s co-captains indicated that they were leaders by example. Quite frankly, that cannot happen again.
Indiana needs leaders by leading, not by example.
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