The Tom Crean era at Indiana University was an up and down ride, a roller coaster of excitement and disappointment that always kept Indiana fans guessing which team was going to show up on any given night.
Under Tom Crean, the Hoosiers were a prime example of a team who could beat absolutely anybody in the country on one night, and then just days later suffer defeat at the hands of a team like IPFW.
This season, however, kicks off the Archie Miller era at Indiana as they will look for a more consistent routine of high level success.
Let’s take a look at three of the main storylines for Indiana Basketball this coming season.
The Archie Miller era begins
As was mentioned, the Tom Crean era was a mixed bag for the Indiana Hoosiers. Archie Miller brings with him from Dayton a sustained history of success, including success in the NCAA Tournament. At Dayton, Miller coached his way to a 139-63 record over six years, including four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament to finish his time there. Everyone remembers their run to the Elite Eight in the 2014 NCAA Tournament that began the first real rumors of Miller perhaps moving up the coaching ladder.
The recent history of NCAA Tournament appearances is an encouraging sign for a fan base that has only seen their team make five NCAA appearances in the previous nine years, an unacceptable mark at Indiana University.
Archie Miller will look to change the immediate fortunes of the Indiana Hoosiers and look to find a way to get this roster that has lost much of its talent back into the NCAA Tournament after a one year hiatus.
New faces will have to step up
As I just mentioned, this will be far from the same Indiana team that we’ve seen over the previous few years. With the departures of Thomas Bryant, James Blackmon Jr. and O.G. Anunoby all to the professional ranks, Miller will be looking to a lot of faces that haven’t been the most familiar contributors to the team over the past few years.
Players like Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk, Juwan Morgan and Deron Davis will almost certainly see their roles expand dramatically. Without the three stars from the previous years, somebody will have to step up and take over the role of the emotional leader like Thomas Bryant was. Somebody on this team will have to prove that they can be a guy like James Blackmon who can create their own shot in late clock situations whenever they present themselves.
A key player for the Hoosiers this year could end up being Justin Smith, their top ranked recruit out of the state of Illinois. At 6’7”, 220 pounds, Smith already has a good body size to compete at the collegiate level and he will only get better with experience. Averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds last season as a high school senior, he has a skill set that the Hoosiers will find very valuable.
Defense will be a welcome sight for the Hoosiers
One of the most ongoing issues throughout the Tom Crean era was pretty simple: his teams did not play defense at a high level consistently.
For anyone who has ever played basketball, you know that there are two things that are always in your control: your mental resolve and your effort. Quite frankly, the effort was not there more often than not on the defensive side of the ball for the Hoosiers the past five or so years.
Archie Miller brings with him from Dayton a much more hard nosed defensive mentality. Miller has a history of running a pack-line type defense like you would see from Tony Bennett and his teams at Virginia. This defense then lends itself to a transition offense that allows players to thrive on the offensive end of the floor. Millers teams at Dayton have been a great example over the past few years of a teams defense creating easy offense.
This team will look to force plenty of turnovers, but do it in a more disciplined defensive system than has been seen in the past. More importantly than any system, however, is Millers ability to get this team to play with a fire defensively. The talent and ability was there defensively the past few years and it would be seen in spurts, but for such a high ceiling defensively, the basement was as low as it could get.
Archie Miller is looking to build a new type of culture at Indiana, and the fruits of his labor will not be seen on their full scale this year or likely even the year after, but he’s certainly building something with what he’s done at Indiana already. Retaining Justin Smith in the recruiting class and then landing Race Thompson and having him reclassify have given a solid foundation for him to build his program from.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Hoosiers make a run at the NCAA Tournament if they can finish in the middle of the pack in a Big Ten that should be loaded with potential NCAA Tournament teams. If they get the new faces to step up and get some of the older, more familiar faces to improve and play like veterans with a high level of disciplined effort on the defensive end, they have the talent to compete in the conference.