Defense will be a work in progress under Miller

Archie Miller believes he can fix Indiana’s defensive approach.

Doing so, he acknowledges, will take time.

The IU coach doesn’t expect to have a lockdown defensive team during his first year in Bloomington, not as he introduces new concepts to a new roster of players.

But Miller hopes that by spending more time than usual on installing his man-to-man defensive principles, this year’s Hoosiers can grow on that end of the floor, while laying the foundation for how Miller wants his teams to look during the years to come.

“It’s an adjustment,” Miller said. “It’s really an adjustment. It’s repetition after repetition. It’s technique after technique. It’s film after film from this point forward, but I think we’ll be a team that hopefully can continue to really improve.”

There’s reason to believe Miller’s work this year can initiate the groundwork for tougher, more consistent defensive teams in the future.

With Miller at the helm, Dayton improved its defensive efficiency in each of the coach’s first five seasons with the program, peaking at No. 15 nationally during the 2015-16 season, according to KenPom.com

Last year’s Dayton team finished ranked No. 43 in defensive efficiency, while Indiana came in at No. 104 nationally — and dead last in the Big Ten.

“I think we’re going to be a team that prides ourselves on (defense),” Miller said. “Our guys know that, and individual defenders will improve just like they do on offense.

“We’re sticking to the script. We started in the summer, and we’ll be here in the fall. I think from our practice perspective right now, we’re going to try to be great on both, but we’re spending an abnormal amount of time on (defense).”

How much time? Miller estimates 75 percent of IU’s workload during off-season workouts was dedicated to honing better defensive skills.

Indiana will be an undersized team in some respects, particularly as a group that does not possess great post depth. IU will attempt to overcome some of this team’s limitations by emphasizing quickness, both in transition and in halfcourt coverage.

Also by being consistently tough.

“(We’re) just going at each other every day defensively, the 75-25 thing, because championships are won on defense,” junior forward Juwan Morgan said. “So if we can get the stops all the time, then there would be no problems scoring.”

Since KenPom.com began tracking advanced basketball statistics in 2002, there has not been a national champion with a defensive efficiency rating worse than No. 21 in the country.

Miller’s first IU team doesn’t appear to have national championship capacity, but that could change in the coming years, especially with a well-regarded recruiting class on the way next fall.

Meanwhile, this year’s team is being asked to take the first steps toward getting the program back to that point.

For Miller, it starts with defense.

“We work on it every single day,” IU senior forward Collin Hartman said. “Defensive closeouts. There’s defense schemes that us older guys are having to learn. With the freshmen and just being young and being new to the new system, we have to learn it, too, and just learn the different rotations because different schemes have different rotations on the back side, loading to the ball or what have you.

“So it’s a learning curve, but we’re excited.”

7 comments

  1. My interpretation of the comments in this article is that Hoosier fans should have conservative expectations about this upcoming season. As talented a coach as Archie is, he does not have a magic wand. He’ll need time to transform players that were lousy at defense last year into effective defenders, and a few years to build the program up to where we all want it to be.

  2. I am referring to welcome news as making defense a major focal point and hopefully an organized team on defense and offense. Next, comes higher expectations. As for next year we will see how fast expectations grow and to what extent.

    1. No tempered expectations here. The transformation that comes with taking privilege, prima donna attitudes, aloofness on team defense, and mind-boggling carelessness with the ball, out of the basketball equation will return the spirit of Indiana Basketball back to McCracken.

      We may be a bit talent shy …but the hunger and potential to take some teams stronger on paper by surprise will be worth the price of admission again.

  3. The feeling, I have, is that IU basketball will be very mediocre this year. Simply put, the talent level is not there. However, Archie has a good class coming in next year, and the possibility of Langford or Garland committing still exists. I really believe IU will be contending for the Big 10 title in two years, and after that, achieving bigger goals.

  4. I have high expectations and won’t change them. This team will play good ball now that they’re getting good instruction and focusing on D. That single change makes them more dangerous.

  5. It’s been a while since I agreed with a comment posted by HC, but I agree with his comment above. But while I expect IU to play “good ball” and solid defense, that does not mean they’ll win a great number of games. I’ll be delighted, and consider it a major achievement if IU wins 22 our 23 games through the Big Ten Tournament. Hopefully, that will be good enough to get them invited to the dance, where by then, they should be playing their best basketball and may surprise some higher seeded teams.

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