— The Daily Hoosier, November 17, 2017 —
The Archie Miller era at Indiana didn’t exactly start how Indiana fans hoped it would. The reality is that coaching changes can take a while to “stick”. It is not uncommon for things to get worse before they get better. Even for the great ones. Coach K’s first three years at Duke resulted in a 38-47 record and no NCAA tournament appearances. He probably would have been fired after year three in today’s environment. Indiana fans always have high expectations, but most are likely resigned to the fact that with significant roster turnover and a new regime in Bloomington, 2017-2018 might not be a “banner year”. There is reason to be optimistic about the future however. Archie Miller has been a highly regarded coach for many years and everyone knew that one day he would end up with a job like Indiana. Today we look at 3 moments during his Dayton years that should leave Hoosier fans feeling good about the years to come.
(1) 2011-12 — Year 1 at Dayton
So what about things getting worse before they get better? It didn’t happen during Miller’s first season at Dayton. Dayton was a 22-14 first round NIT loser in 2010-11, and a 20-13 first round NIT loser in 2011-12. The Flyers got off to an impressive start to the 2011-12 season with a string of 3 straight victories at the Old Spice Classic in Florida. Those wins included victories over an ACC team (Wake Forest) and a B1G team (Minnesota). Hoosier fans might remember that Gopher squad. Minnesota came into Assembly Hall and knocked off IU 77-74 two months later. December wins included the slaying of two SEC opponents — Ole Miss, and an Alabama team that was ranked at the time and made the NCAA tournament. The Atlantic 10 season was a rollercoaster for the Flyers, but notably saw them trade blows with Sweet 16 team Xavier, beating them once and losing to them by only 1 in the A10 tournament. Additional wins over NCAA tournament teams came against St. Louis and Temple. Ultimately it wasn’t enough to make the Big Dance, as the Flyers stood at 20-12 before receiving an NIT bid. They lost in the first round of the NIT by 9 at Iowa, where Indiana had lost a month earlier by 12.
(2) The 2014 NCAA Elite Eight Run
After what perhaps was a slight drop off in the 2012-13 season which saw the Flyers finish at 17-14 and miss postseason play altogether, it was more reasonable to expect that 2013-14 would be “Archie’s team” with a roster full of his own recruits or players that had 2 full years of his system under their belts. The results did not disappoint. The Flyers put the country on notice in November at Maui with a stunning come from behind upset of 11th ranked Gonzaga. Additional early wins came against power conference schools including Georgia Tech, Cal and Ole Miss. The Flyers got off to a rough 1-5 start in the A10 before rallying to win 9 of their last 10. They lost in the 2nd round of the A10 tournament to St. Joseph’s, which went on to win the tournament and secure an NCAA automatic bid. That left Dayton at 23-10 and clearly on the NCAA tournament bubble. The Flyers snuck in as an 11th seed and rewarded the NCAA tournament committee for its choice. Dayton got things rolling with a win over the Aaron Craft (yeah, that guy) led Ohio State Buckeyes in a 60-59 nail biter. The real stunner came next. Dayton did something Indiana could not do a year earlier as it knocked off Syracuse 55-53. The Flyers advanced to the Elite 8 with a win over Stanford, and ultimately lost to the 1 seed Florida. Immediately, Archie Miller was on every short list as a major coaching prospect.
(3) The 2014-2015 Overachievers
For all the magic of the 2014 NCAA run, the 2014-15 season would ultimately turn out to be even more impressive. But it didn’t start out that way. Dayton dismissed two players from the team in 2014 and they were left with only six scholarship players and a walk-on turned scholarship player for the second half of the season. Despite these significant hurdles, the Flyers made it to the championship game of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and then went on to beat Boise State and Providence in the NCAA Tournament. With the Sweet 16 on the line, Dayton had Oklahoma down by nine – 49-40 – with just over 12 minutes left before they ran out of gas. The team finished 27-9 and left an indelible mark on their coach. “I’ll remember this team for as long as I live regardless of how long I coach,” Miller said. “There will never be a team of seven people to duplicate what we did, win 27 games with six scholarship players, a freshman and three sophomores. It will never be done again.”
It will take Indiana fans a while to get the Indiana State game out of their system. It was after all, the 3rd worst loss ever for the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall, and the worst ever against a mid-major. But Archie Miller’s track record at Dayton suggests that he will get this program where Hoosier fans expect it to be — and perhaps sooner than they think.