Photo: Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

IU basketball: With Mason Miller to Creighton, Archie Miller now seeing first real recruiting challenges

PANIC!

Okay, no, calm down.

But really, is it time to panic?

Probably not.

But after Indiana missed on top-75 class of 2021 forward Mason Miller on Monday night, one has to wonder.

Is Archie Miller’s honeymoon recruiting period at Indiana officially over?

Through the class of 2020, no one in the Big Ten was recruiting better than Miller.

According to the recruiting service aggregated 247Sports Composite, his first three classes were ranked No. 2 (2018), No. 6 (2019), and No. 2 (2020) in the conference.

The three year average position of those Indiana classes are a Big Ten best 3.33, a full spot ahead of Michigan and Michigan State, who are tied at second place with a three year average of 4.33.

But what about the class of 2021?  We should probably wait until the class is finished to write the postmortem.

But there are red flags.

As it stands, Miller has only landed Cincinnati, Ohio center Logan Duncomb.  That’s no small accomplishment.  Duncomb was a priority for the staff and a top-65 recruit who committed in April.

But the wave of misses in the high school senior class since then has been staggering.

You remember some of the names.

Trey Patterson to Villanova, Jordan Longino to Villanova, Bryce Hopkins to Kentucky, Caleb Furst to Purdue, Trey Kaufman to Purdue, Mustapha Amzil we barely knew you, and now Mason Miller to Creighton.

Furst and Kaufman sting more than the others, and not just because they are headed to a rival.

All of that early recruiting success turned in by Miller was built on a foundation of in-state players.  Romeo Langford, Rob Phinisee, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Armaan Franklin, Anthony Leal, Trey Galloway and Khristian Lander.

The 2021 in-state class has been described for years as one of the best, and a perfect opportunity for Miller to further capitalize on his inside-out recruiting approach.

Instead, Indiana will land no one in the 2021 class from the Hoosier state.

Yes, we know that Lander was originally in the class of 2021, and you can spin things that way if you’d like.  But Lander is the primary reason why the 2020 class is ranked so high.  You can’t have it both ways.

The in-state class of 2021 might just be remembered more for who IU didn’t recruit rather than who they did.  Indiana stopped pursuing South Bend guard Blake Wesley.  We’ll come back to him.  The Hoosiers never offered Illinois bound Luke Goode, or Notre Dame bound J.R. Konieczny.

Everything seemed perfectly fine in the spring.  Confined to his home with all of college basketball in a recruiting dead period, Miller memorably sounded confident when it came to the class of 2021.

“I feel like we’re in a really good situation with the 2021 class, so I’m not as concerned about having to be out there all the time watching them,” Miller said in late May.

Did a lack of in-person face time and live observation ultimately work against Miller and his staff?  It’s possible.  We know that in the ordinary course of things they put a high premium on both of those aspects of recruiting.

But we’ll go back to something Wesley said this summer in an interview he gave us and others at an AAU event.

“They need to pick up the pace of their offense,” Wesley said of IU.

If you have the stomach to read why Kaufman picked Purdue, and why Mason Miller picked Creighton, you’ll see references to the respective offensive systems as major factors in their decisions.  Fit in the system sealed the deal for both players.

Sure you can point out that Purdue’s offense was actually slower than Indiana in 2019-20 based on KenPom, but sometimes perception is reality.

Recruits can see how Creighton plays, and they can at least recall how Purdue played in 2018-19 with Carsen Edwards.

They were comparing those systems to the most recent vintage of Indiana basketball, that featured a three forward lineup of Justin Smith, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Joey Brunk.

Miller said playing a big lineup gave IU the best chance to win, and he was probably right.  Hoosier fans would have howled if he sacrificed winning today to appeal to tomorrow’s recruits.

But in the eyes of recruits, you can understand why the product on the court wasn’t particularly appealing.

Today’s recruits view the entire world through the NBA lens, and the way Indiana played in 2019-20 resembled the 1990’s Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” more than the more desirable and modern Golden State Warriors.

In other words, they saw an outdated playing style.  And they were right.  Truth be told, Indiana’s offense hasn’t been particularly efficient, and has lacked an identity throughout Miller’s time in Bloomington.

Miller has promised a faster, more spread out, and guard oriented product this year.  With Lander in the fold and more talented, experienced and healthy guards on the roster, we suspect he is going to deliver on that promise.

But Miller has now transitioned from honeymoon to prove it mode on the recruiting trail.

And the class can be salvaged.

2021 5-star guard Aminu Mohammed is committing in the next few weeks, and he will likely be watching intently to see how IU plays.

There will be a wide open transfer market this spring too after the introduction of a one-time waiver from the normal requirement to sit out a year.

Miller and his staff still have plenty of opportunities to pull together a strong 2021-22 roster.

But while the IU brand and a strong pitch closed the deal before, now it appears recruits are going to have to see it to believe it.


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