Miller says IU won’t take North Alabama lightly

The names on the front of the opponents’ jerseys haven’t been big brands.

Early in non-conference play, Indiana has faced Western Illinois and Portland State, and now it’s North Alabama arriving 7 p.m. tonight at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

But on his radio show Monday night, IU coach Archie Miller delivered a sort of warning to players and fans alike. There was a 33-point win for the Hoosiers over Western Illinois, but Portland State pulled the final margin within 11.

North Alabama (1-1) is not all that far removed from a trip to another major-conference program.

“We have to be better,” Miller said. “They’ve already been to South Carolina. They won’t be very wide-eyed when they come in.”

Opponent aside, the Hoosiers (2-0) have had some things to figure out on their own end. Senior guard Devonte Green, IU’s leading returning scorer, remains out with a hamstring injury.

Sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee has been rapidly building back up from an abdominal issue, despite non-existent practice reps in October.

There has been a lot of newness on the floor with grad transfer Joey Brunk and freshmen Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin taking starting roles.

A lighter non-conference slate is helpful under these circumstances, but Miller pushed back on the idea that these are pushover programs. Western Illinois, for example, had a star guard in Indy native Kobe Webster. Portland State’s duo of Matt Hauser and Holland Woods was a handful.

North Alabama has a preseason all-conference player in guard Jamari Blackmon. The Lions also run a lot of pressure, similar to Portland State. IU has to be ready on both ends of the floor, or things could get far too interesting.

“We are not the type of team that has a lot of leeway,” Miller said.

In the first couple of games, Miller has seen a mix of good and bad.

The most negative aspect for Miller has been the Hoosiers’ defense. To an extent, lapses are to be expected with Green out and the Hoosiers forced into bigger or less-experienced lineups versus smaller, quicker foes.

At the same time, Portland State was able to get to the free throw line 33 times versus IU, and Woods and Hauser were each able to bury a quartet of 3s.

“This week is a huge step for our team,” Miller said. “Right now it’s week-to-week, and are we making the improvements that we need to make? We have to make an improvement defensively right now. There are some things that are alarming. There are some things that didn’t go from Game 1 of last week to Game 2 and we got burned.

“And if that doesn’t change from Game 2 to 3 to 4, you know how that goes. You are going to get really beat up and down the floor with some things.”

On the other hand, there have been many positives. In Green’s stead, juniors Al Durham and Justin Smith have each scored about 20 points per game — and efficiently so. Redshirt sophomore Race Thompson and others have led a charge to the glass, helping the Hoosiers own the boards.

Phinisee, despite missed practice time, has been able to affect the game with his relentless defense.

“In Rob’s defense, it’s like asking a guy to go zero to 100, but we need you to run about 85 here before you get warmed up,” Miller said, adding Phinisee practiced “full-bore” Monday. “You can’t just go out there and guard a really good player, high-level, without having your feet under you.

“I thought second half (versus Portland State), as he started to get cranked up out there, whichever guy we put him on, he stuck to them pretty good … but he’s not anywhere near the Rob we are accustomed to having.”

Miller is also interested to see how the Hoosiers’ youngest players handle the rest of this non-conference slate.

It’s easy to forget student-athletes like Franklin and Jackson-Davis are not only learning the Division I game but also what it’s like to go to class and practice.

“You get to Thanksgiving, man, young guys hit the wall,” Miller said. “December is coming, finals are coming, these games don’t stop coming. You got Christmas, ‘Boy, I’d like to go home.’”

Thus far, Franklin and Jackson-Davis have been model citizens. But they still have areas where they can improve.

Miller mentioned after the Hoosiers’ last win how Jackson-Davis can be more assertive with his 6-foot-9 frame, going strong to the basket. Franklin could also bring some added physicality to the floor.

“Armaan is a very smooth, confident basketball player … we are just trying to get Armaan a little bit dirtier after the game,” Miller said. “We want his pads to be a little bit dirtier. Maybe his helmet can have a couple more nicks in it.

“And when he comes to the locker room afterwards, he looks like he got rolled around in the dirt a little bit.”

There is still some time until the Hoosiers are matching up with other Power 5 teams, but that doesn’t mean these games are meaningless.

Durham, for one, doesn’t feel like the Hoosiers came into this season with a lot of respect. His 14-of-18 shooting effort in the first two games was part of getting an “underdog” team out to a good start, he said.

“I just wanted to shock the world, I wanted the team to come out with confidence, I wanted everyone to feel like we were the underdogs,” Durham said. “We weren’t talked about, we weren’t spoken highly of. We were just, like, there.

“So I felt like we had a chip on our shoulder and we wanted to make sure we came out and put ourselves on the map.”

North Alabama (1-1)

P. No. Name Ht. Cl. Avg.

F 5 Mervin James 6-7 Fr. 8.0

F 14 Payton Youngblood 6-5 Jr. 10.0

F 21 Emmanuel Littles 6-7 So. 10.5

G 3 Jamari Blackmon 6-1 So. 6.0

G 11 C.J. Brim 5-9 Jr. 12.0

Indiana (2-0)

P. No. Name Ht. Cl. Avg.

F 4 Trayce Jackson-Davis 6-9 Fr. 10.5

F 3 Justin Smith 6-7 Jr. 20.0

C 50 Joey Brunk 6-11 Jr. 9.5

G 2 Armaan Franklin 6-4 Fr. 4.5

G 1 Al Durham 6-4 Jr. 19.5

COACHES: Archie Miller, 37-31 in third season at IU, 176-94 in ninth year overall; Tony Pujol, 11-23 in second season at North Alabama.

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

SERIES: First meeting.

BROADCASTS: BTN; IU Radio Network.

14 comments

  1. Make a Lion into a Blue Devil, a Wildcat, a Tar Heel, a Cardinal, a Spartan, a Jayhawk, a Zag, a Cav, or even a Red Raider; if that makes it feel better playing a schedule that competes with an average mid major level.
    Does this team develop an inferiority complex or a Disney Land complex playing in the land of Oz leading to thinking you are so much better than you really are? IU men’s basketball expectations use to be different . Now, it is showing the world what (team captain)? that IU men’s basketball beats Gannon/ex, Western Illinois, Portland State, North Alabama Lions tonight, and next up the men of TROY (sounds better). Showing the world what? Is IU men’s plan of destiny to join division 2 college basketball? Is that a secret goal that was first implemented by Myles Brand who upon Knight debacle had no sound back up plan under the disguise of an incompetent like Brand himself an incompetent blue ribbon panel. The sad part it worked. brand became the leader of NCAA.

  2. The I U Cupcake schedule is back, no wonder there’s $1 tickets on STUB HUB, I thought there was a bonus payment if Archie scheduled better preseason games. Look at the Women’s schedule after this week they are on the road to play Florida, South Carolina and Baylor all top rated programs, while the I U men are homestanding for the month of November in Assembly Hall playing also ran teams, with only exception of Florida State. I don’t see any progress in year three of Coach Miller’s Contract, I thought the $5 upper level seating during Crean’s first years were a low point, maybe I U will do what Penn State does for basketball, blocks off the upper level seats with a black curtain. (could be removed for the I U Women’s games).

  3. Not a big fan of the schedule either, but moving to more conference games (which I like) has made all kinds of issues in scheduling pre-conf season. We play FSU (home), UConn (neutral in NYC), Arkansas (home) and ND (Indy) this year, but those games are mixed within the conference schedule. There’s nothing but intensity until March for Indiana starting Dec 3 vs FSU.

    Of all the years for a front loaded cupcake schedule to happen, this might be the year. Our two best guards are ailing, with one playing at about 50% and the other not on the floor yet. I like seeing Armaan get more minutes early, especially in running the point.

    Things I like this year so far:

    Leadership: this has been missing from Archie’s last two teams. Al D is really stepping up. I heard his dad is a coach. You can really see him stepping up as a leader. Brunk has been vocal amongst the big men. Although, he really has a lot of his game that needs work to be ready for the B1G season. But he’s teachable.

    I like the aggression Archie is bringing to teach these young guys how to get ready for the B1G season. TJD and Armaan could get away without being particularly aggressive in HS due to their talent. Now he wants them to get dirty and attack. I really like seeing that. We haven’t seen players who were willing to bring the pain in Bloomington since Knight left.

    It’s so refreshing to read Archie’s comments. He answers questions directly and thoughtfully. Not a bunch of gobbledy gook nonsense. He’s a real ball coach. I think the Hoosiers are going to take a leap this year, even though they have quite a bit of work to do. I like something about this team that I can’t really put my finger on. Really excited to see how this year plays out. Maybe I’m like the V13 of basketball? But without the brains. Keep hope alive!!! Hehehe.

  4. Football: Get to six wins. Go undefeated against cupcakes (3-0). Win a 3 or 4 conference games against the conference patsies. Get to bowl. Win against a conference opponent not a total patsy and consider it the greatest season in the history of the program. Low bar.
    Basketball: Get to twenty wins. Go undefeated against cupcakes (7-0). Win 60% of conference games against the usual low to mid-tier teams(12-8). Throw in one more win to get to twenty (Crossroads Classic, more competitive non-conference(ACC Challenge if not Duke or UNC) /conference(MSU, Maryland, etc). Get NCAA bid. Low bar.

    This is what we accept as the norm now. It’s all about postseason. It’s get your foot in the door…rather than have a team that can really do damage once you get in the door (postseason).

    My only question is how much influence does a head coach (especially a coach with only a season or two under his belt) have in the making of the schedule. Are these schedules basically made by Glass ….or is it in full consolation? Sure seems like we could give the fans a bit more entertainment. This reminds me a lot of how the NBA is now doing “load management(sitting star players..or limiting the play) while giving no regard to the paying customer making all the wealth possible.

    IU is load managing in a different way…Lighten the load on the schedule and the players. Lighten the load in hopes because the victories mean more than the challenge and the entertainment value. Lighten the load simply because you have the privilege to play in major conference where many teams will be selected for postseason play(as opposed to mid-majors who must win their conference…or demonstrate extremely big wins against non-conference opponents).
    Privilege is the order of the day. Lighten loads early in the season(individual and team). Don’t give a damn about the parent taking their kid to what may be their only game to see in a lifetime. Low bars to get in doors (a.k.a. building a ‘mirage’ of being a strong team or tested player).

    Sunshine, lollypops, and rainbows…and cupcakes. SKI PARTY!

  5. Well, we can no longer fully give credit to Tom Crean as Mr. Cupcake Zone.

    One down, Archie. You’re on your way. Checking off cupcakes is a nice start. Now tackle the following to complete the resume:

    ● Pacing and clapping more. Multiple substitutions. Look the part.
    ● Start saying how guys are “next level” talents. If you know the NBA, you know hoops.
    ● Master the jargon. Dasani bottles are your friend.
    Your offense? It “just moves.”
    ● Basketball doesn’t meet the eye test? “PROCESS.” Very important to remember…It’s a process…process…process.
    ● Be blunt with journalists and present yourself as above their inquiries.
    ● Talk of your faith a bit more on twitter. Tweet the Bob Knight name intermittently between quotes of faith. Jesus #1 Bob #2
    ● REUNIONS, BABY! If there is a multiple of five years of any previous basketball accomplishment from three plus decades ago, MAKE IT A REUNION PARTY! BYOB…Bring your own Bobby!
    ● Are you ready to be a basketball kung fu master (legitimizing you’re worth all that dough and all of those contract extensions)? Go for the kill: BRING OUT THE CUE CARDS!

    You can do this, Archie!

  6. I hate the cupcake schedule as well. I’ve been trying to give my tickets away and can’t. I do think it is what this team needs right now. 5 out of the top 10 players are either new to the program or were hurt for most of the year last year. They just need to play, develop some chemistry, and learn the system. You won’t get that done getting blown out by Duke. Hopefully, come December we are ready to go once the Big season starts.

  7. Archie is conducting a big experiment. The hypothesis is that you can win Big Ten Championships with a group of 4-star players that stay in the program for three or four years, who are well coached to play tenacious defense. They’re not particularly good outside shooters and they are below average free throw shooters, but they’ll learn to play together and win with defense.

    I watched Arizona beat IL the other night. Couldn’t help but notice their three new freshman stars. Wow, Nico Mannion is outstanding. They have three or four international players on their roster and not one kid from the state of Arizona. I guess Sean doesn’t due inside-out recruiting. Why is it that Archie is not emulating the recruiting strategy deployed by his brother Sean? Archie used to be his top recruiter when he was an assistant there! Why isn’t IU signing as many top players as AZ? AZ has one National Championship in its history! it was under a cloud for over a year (still is to some people). AZ is a nice school and good campus, but come on! What gives?

  8. IU men’s basketball is getting high level recruits here and there and from Indiana but not getting enough to be dominating elite. Just middle of the pack big ten. Not enough really high level players want to come to IU.

  9. Only been a couple of games but thinking IU should not take any of the games lightly. Somebody had their top 100 non-conference games this season. None for IU. Purdue listed for 5 games. Interesting one – Dayton vs Georgia….

  10. Indiana State Sycamores gave Dayton a good game at Dayton. Indiana State felt good that they gave Dayton a fairly good game even though they lost because Dayton is pretty good….This seems to be like an example of IU men’s basketball line of thinking. It is understandable for Indiana State. What has happened at IU is not understandable.

  11. I can’t stop laughing! UK losing to the Purple Aces, who had to go into OT to beat Southern Indiana in an exhibition game ! Lol!!!!!!!

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