“The team. The team. The team.”
That wasn’t IU head coach Archie Miller. That was Norman Dale in the movie “Hoosiers.”
But with his Indiana team transitioning from a roster of a couple top stars to a more balanced approach, it sounds like a philosophy that Miller is fully embracing in his third season in Bloomington.
“To me maybe there’s not headliners on the paper that everyone’s looking at,” Miller said at the Big Ten’s media day.
“Maybe there’s a lot of guys like that. I’m hopeful that this team gets the most out of everything rather than one or two or three guys that you can say these are their main guys. Maybe we can have a lot of guys that can contribute. To me that’s a team that can be dangerous in this league because you need a lot of different contributions on a given night in this conference because it’s so hard.”
While an emphasis on running the offense through top stars Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford was at least understandable, the results left much to be desired.
The Hoosiers ended the season ranked No. 82 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, and frankly, it didn’t seem even that good.
Much of the criticism aimed at IU’s 2018-19 offensive scheme focused on an approach that seemed to involve too much standing around and too much dribbling.
When quizzed on how the Hoosiers’ more balanced attack will look different in 2019-20, Miller went straight to ball movement.
“Move the ball,” Miller said. “Move the ball man. Move the ball.”
“The more you share the ball, the more you move the ball, the more you pass it, the more you work with one another, the more guys are going to contribute. That’s just the name of the game. That’s how it works. This team has got to have that kind of belief. You’ve got to have possessions at times where it’s five, six, seven passes.”
Miller and his staff plan to lead by example when it comes to emphasizing sharing and moving the basketball.
“And then you know what, when you’re showing film as a team, the credit given is to the pass, the credit given is to the sharing,” Miller said. “It’s not given to the scorer.”
With Langford now with the Boston Celtics and Morgan the Utah Jazz, Miller recognizes that one person is not going to step in and replace that kind of star power.
And it likely won’t be the same people leading the way from game to game.
“We need a group that scores a lot of points from a lot of different people,” Miller said. “You know what, maybe one guy got four or five one night on the road. That’s a big deal in the Big Ten if you can get somebody to come in there and get that. At home, maybe its four guys in double figures.”
Rather than trying to find a way to run the offense through the top guys, it sounds like this season will have a game-by-game focus where the points are generated more organically based on a unique scheme and taking what works against a particular opponent.
“Maybe its Devonte and Al having good nights, maybe its our big guys getting to the foul line,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat.”
With the IU roster taking on more of Miller’s identity each year, he hopes that some of the change will happen as a result of having more of his type of players on the floor that are seasoned in his philosophy.
“It’s not that we’re changing, it’s that we have to evolve,” Miller said. “We have to become more of what we aspire to be, and to me that’s having a lot of guys that you recruit that have a lot of different types of talents that can blend well. You’re looking for versatility, multifaceted guys. We have that.”
Although Indiana only has eleven scholarship players for the 2019-20 season, Miller doesn’t see anyone when he looks up and down his bench that gives him pause.
While a Clifton Moore, Jake Forrester or Damezi Anderson raised more questions than answers last year, this year Miller sees eleven guys that are ready to play at a high major level.
“The thing I like about this team a little bit more so than any, everybody on our team can play,” Miller said. “There isn’t anybody from Armaan Franklin who is on his first way in to De’Ron and Devonte who are on their last rung, all these guys can play, and I think they all feel like they can contribute and impact the team.”
Eleven guys that can play is one thing. But with the sum of the parts approach, everybody has to contribute.
And that’s where it comes to buying into and successfully implementing a more team oriented approach on the offensive end of the floor.
“The key will be chemistry, guys being unselfish, and guys understanding that certain nights require certain lineups or whatever the case may be,” Miller said.
“But we have a lot of versatility and lot of guys that can play. To me this team is going to be built with our speed and ability to play inside.”
Speed, playing inside, playing unselfish, and moving the basketball.
Those are the variables that Miller believes should be on display if his offense can take the next step despite losing two NBA caliber leading scorers.
Just don’t expect one or two guys to jump into those shoes.
After all, it’s about the team. The team. The team.
And when it comes to this team, Miller doesn’t see an Ollie McLellan. Instead, he believes that he has eleven guys that are ready to go.
“There shouldn’t be a day that we feel apprehensive about putting a guy in the game,” Miller said. “We should feel confident in all of our guys that we have the deepest team since I’ve been here.
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