Miller looking for spark from players

Archie Miller is wrestling with a problem, one the Indiana coach is still trying to solve.

“We are a low-energy team,” Miller said.

That stubborn truth became increasingly apparent as the Hoosiers navigated the non-conference season prone to fits and starts.

Now, with IU on the verge of beginning the second leg of Big Ten season on Tuesday at Wisconsin, Miller is trying to meet two short-term objectives — prodding his squad to play with sustained intensity and correcting the drop-offs and inconsistencies he’s seen from a few key players.

Through the first two months of action, depending on the night, Indiana has played up or down to the competition, Friday’s 79-51 win over Youngstown State serving as the latest example. Plagued by poor decision making, the Hoosiers started slow before eventually correcting their course during a strong start to the second half keyed by redshirt junior walk-on Zach McRoberts.

When examining IU’s lack of energy and execution, McRoberts and junior forward Juwan Morgan — Indiana’s leading scorer (15.3) and rebounder (7.2) — have been the exception. Others have stepped forward at times, but overall, not to Miller’s satisfaction.

Playing with the tenacity and fundamentals of McRoberts and Morgan is the standard the rest of the Hoosiers now must meet.

“We need to get some other guys on this team fired up and ready to go and playing like that,” Miller said. “And right now I think we’ve got some guys that have deteriorated as the last month has gone by. If you look at some of our production from some guys, we’ve deteriorated in some areas.

“I think it’s confidence. I think it’s relying on offense rather than worrying about the commitment level to how hard you have to play and how much passion you have to play this game with. When you wear Indiana across the front of your jersey, I don’t care who you’re playing, you represent a lot more.”

Indiana continues to suffer from inconsistent production from its entire backcourt, while also seeing a concerning drop-off from De’Ron Davis.

Miller wants the talented sophomore to become a steady, primary option and, at times, Davis has looked the part. But he hasn’t scored in double figures since posting 14 points against Louisville on Dec. 9. On Friday, against the weakest opponent on IU’s schedule, Davis managed only two rebounds.

Entering the Dec. 16 Crossroads Classic overtime win over Notre Dame, Davis had been averaging 11.5 points and 4.4 rebounds through his first 10 games.

Across IU’s past four games, Davis is averaging 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds.

“We got to get De’Ron going right now,” Miller said. “De’Ron, really, in my mind, isn’t playing anywhere near where he was a month ago. Why is that? We’ve got to get him rolling again, get him back in practice competing.

“If he’s going to finish in the game, he’s got to finish in practice and he can’t be a guy that’s not giving maximum effort all the time. If you cheat it, you’re going to struggle. You can’t cheat the process.”

There are no more guarantee-games left on the schedule, no more Youngstown States or Tennessee Techs to serve as tune-up opponents.

With conference play on the horizon, Morgan and McRoberts are setting an example their teammates would be served well to follow. Whether the Hoosiers can consistently meet their level of hustle and energy will determine the direction of IU’s season from here.

“When you have guys out there that impact the game with their effort or their passion,” Miller said, “it can really spearhead some guys.”

26 comments

  1. Wear out your sneakers or wear out the seat of your pants. I’m sure that’s where Archie’s headed with this.

  2. H C sometimes Archie sounds like Knight ( especially when he talks about playing with intensity). I wonder sometimes about the BBall IQ of some. they demonstrate talent but talent alone wont help in UNDERSTANDING how important little things are: recognizing an opposing players favorite side of court, how many fouls are on the man that’s guarding you, following your shot

  3. Archie calls into significance (correctly) that De’Ron Davis’s numbers have drastically decreased. However, from what I saw in person at the Tennessee Tech game is that Davis is injured and can hardly move. It looked to me like his knees are shot…he was in visible pain. My wife commented that “he looks like an old man”. It was sad to see, and I don’t think “effort” or “understanding” have anything to do with Davis (but I DO most certainly agree with TJ in Texas that our other players LACK UNDERSTANDING….and also the entire team lacks a TEAM CONCEPT.) They simply look like they do not enjoy being teammates and that has got to change…but will perhaps only change next season with a new roster.

  4. The invisible player hierarchy, the big man on campus, the “chosen one” status, the teacher’s/coach’s pet, the accepted amount of swagger in practice, the leadership roles(if any)….? It all gets thrown out the window with a coaching change.
    A disjointed team is to be expected….There are roles still evolving and chemistry with the coach and with teammates is likely to remain in limbo; progressing in small increments while sometimes regressing into near dysfunction.
    Some personalities will never fit with Archie….It’s more than learning a new “style” or finally getting to digest a more complex version of X’s and O’s.

    Coaching is a very tricky business these days…..There are needs to be more in tune with demands of different personalities and emotional support. Archie seems to be a very bright guy and has proven roots in the coaching business….What remains to be seen is how well he can lead and get young men to embrace his demands while still getting his players to believe his heart is invested in each and every “adopted” member in a deeper and personal way.

    Do these young men severed from their former coach like Archie Miller….? Should it matter? How long will it take for a new roster family to formulate into the sort of loyalty/bonds that breeds a most optimal amount of team chemistry? Will some have more difficulty giving up old roles/stature/expectations for the betterment of the team?

  5. I have to agree with Hoosier Clarion above. It may cost the team a loss but I remember when Knight made a point for the entire 5 starters against Illinois by letting them ride the bench the whole game. If Archie would start Morgan and McRoberts along with the next three off the bench and let the 3 ‘starters’ sit the whole game, it might make them wake up.

    I would be willing for him to make this anytime if they do not wake up. A good time to do this would be against MS but that is too far away. But if they don’t wake up by then, let them sit against MS.

    1. Yep. That bench can be a very powerful teaching tool. No question RMK knew how to get a point across.

  6. There is too much run and gun is some of the players’ brain, to adapt to the system, that Coach Miller wants. I have season tickets and watched several of the guards are quick return to the prior system, its easier to run and gun. It will take a major change in personnel to get the results Coach Miller wants

  7. All this speculation about what this group of players’ needs to do in order to improve their performance is kind of a waste of time and energy. They’re just not very good, individually or collectively. They simply don’t have enough of the right talent, or at least not the type of talent for their new coach’s preferred style of play. They’re not good shooters, from the 3-point line, at the rim, or from the free throw line. They’re not very big (i.e., long) and therefore are vulnerable in the paint, on both offense and defense. The guards are small and lack leadership and a shooting touch, and too often demonstrate bad decision-making, causing turnovers, trying to penetrate too deep, or lacking situational awareness. Hustle and extra-effort are essential elements of any winning team, but it won’t make up for a fundamental lack of talent. And then let’s examine the potential psychological affects of losing to teams like Indiana State and Ft. Wayne on their home court, early in the season. Those losses had to be demoralizing to these guys. I expected the win over Notre Dame to give these players a huge “spark,” but what did they do after that “signature win” over a top-20 team? They played terrible and got blown out by Ft. Wayne at home!

    With a current record of 8 – 6, looking at the remainder of the Big Ten schedule, it’s hard to see how this IU team is going to win six more games this season! To exceed that total, their going to have to play inspired ball at home, and get a bit lucky against the weaker Big Ten teams they play on the road. I hope they’ve found that spark that allows them to elevate their level of play, but I’m skeptical. It’s going to take two or three really good recruiting classes before Archie can get IU back to where we all want it to be. Hoosier fans are simply going to have to be patient.

    1. I’m afraid you are correct. Watching the Notre Dame game I thought I was witnessing a total ‘buy in’ into Archie’s system. I was wrong. While they have spurts of fundamentally sound basketball they quickly fall back into haphazard play. They could get away with that (sometimes) when there were guys who could light it up from outside as the shot clock expired. Outside of Morgan these guys have trouble with layups.

      The only shot at any kind of success is a total buy in to a disciplined approach while hoping some guys get their shooting confidence back. That’s probably not going to consistently happen.

      I don’t believe for a second that this team would be faring any better with someone else at the helm. We just don’t have a second act after Juwan.

      1. I think you’re both wrong….This team will be monumentally better by March.
        Shooting is a funky thing. Bad shooting can be contagious….It can also improve as the season moves forward.

        Far from giving up hope on this squad. Morgan can put a team on his shoulders in a tight game. Green and Johnson are solid talents. Hartman(a quality shooter) and McRoberts(Wonder Boy Walk-On) bring a lot of intangibles and do the “little” things that add up to victories when you need a key box-out, assist, offensive rebound, etc.

        Never underestimate just how much difference a quality coach can make. I think we’ll see vast improvements in chemistry and attitude as the season progresses. I love the underdog status…Nothing to lose. Everything to gain.

    2. Po,

      If there is one thing I think most posters to this board can agree on is the dysfunctional nature of the current roster. Can they launch a surprise or two during the season, I think so but not consistently. I have said it before and will say it again, this is a team of ill fitting parts. Could some of them play for other schools effectively? Probably, but only in a specifically designed role and I suspect most would be in a off the bench or supporting type function even if starting.

      The problem is none of these players are specifically gifted talent wise and that is not a good recipe for a winning roster. This being said, there is the notable exception of two players thus far who quite gifted heart wise in Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts. You will not win a championship with a team full of such players without the accompanying talent levels needed, but you will have a product you can be proud of win or lose.

      Morgan and McRoberts epitomize what it means to wear the stripes better than any two players I have witnessed in a very long time. Neither is overly gifted with physical talent but both utilize what they do have to the max. You may not win championships solely on such effort, but you certainly cannot win one with out it.

      Currently, I do not see anyone on this roster with sufficient talent to play at the next level. Morgan might be able to leverage himself into a utility role in the NBA by sheer will alone, but that is about the only one. Therefore for the rest of the team, this is their time in the sun. If this is highest level you are going to compete at, don’t let it pass without leaving everything on the floor. Don’t look back 15 years from now with regrets on how hard you played the game.

      A team full of JM’s and Mcfloorburns won’t go all the way, but that kind of effort will be worth at least 5 more games than you should have won.

    3. The guards are small

      Durham 6-4
      Newkirk 6-1
      Johnson 6-3
      Green 6-3

      Outside of Newkirk @ point, is that really a small lineup? Hell, Durham might still grow an inch by the end of the season. And all are very athletic. Three of the four in place of Hulls against Syracuse and we’re likely in a Final Four.

  8. Rock- Any thoughts on the outcome? I’m picking the Hoosiers. This is a sleeper game…Bitter temps in Madison. Possible lackluster crowd while students on break. Indiana team seen as depleted and undervalued. Great scenario for an early season upset. The only thing I don’t like is the fact that Dakich is calling the game….I think he’s generally a negative/dark force for the Hoosiers. But I still think we’ll overcome the Dakich Effect.

    Indiana 68
    Wisconsin 64

    Anyone know the Hoosier’s record against Wisconsin during the Crean era? Maybe someone would like to double check, but I believe it was 2-16 (includes three losses in Big Ten Tournament play).

    Note: I think the tip-off time is 7:00 pm (EST).

  9. thinkaboutit, I love McRoberts. I love his selflessness, his extra effort, his “grit” and his team-first attitude. He belongs in candy stripes. But let’s not confuse those attributes with the basketball talent or the raw athletic ability necessary to make a difference in Big Ten conference play. McRoberts will continue to make positive contributions to this team, but I doubt he’ll ever become a regular starter. For him to do that, he’d need to be a great shooter, and he’s simply not that. In fact, unless he significantly improves his 3-point shooting, my guess is that McRoberts’ minutes will decrease next season when Archie’s first class of recruits arrive in Bloomington.

    Morgan is a real talent, and he’s got plenty of grit too. But it seems he has yet to embrace the leadership role that this team so desperately needs. I don’t see him holding his teammates accountable or pumping them up when that’s necessary. He’s almost too cool-headed right now. Maybe that’s unfair to say, but after his outstanding performance against ND, his energy level during the Ft. Wayne game was very disappointing.

    I’d love to say three months from now that I was dead wrong, but right now I have strong doubt that this IU will win more than six more games for the remainder of this season. The talent is just not there, and this group has struggled to rid themselves of some very bad habits.

    1. True.

      As far as the leadership thing…you never know. These are kids.

      Yogi went a long time before he demonstrated leadership skills.

  10. Looking at the remainder of the Big Ten conference schedule, I don’t see IU beating MSU, Purdue, OSU or MN regardless of where the games are played. We can beat PSU, IL, and NW at home, and Rutgers and Nebraska on the road. If we get really motivated and the shots start dropping, we might beat Iowa again on the road for our seventh Big Ten conference win. But from what I’ve seen, that’s about it. As I said above, I hope that in two months, they’ve proven me to be dead wrong.

  11. This might be the first night in nine years that a Wisconsin team will actually encounter a Hoosier team playing a brand of strong team/help defense. That, in itself, could make tonight’s game very interesting.

    Indiana 68
    Wisconsin 64

  12. When discussing players with toughness I think we should add Collin to that list. He has had limited time due to injuries but he’s a guy I’d want on my side in a fight.

  13. Has anyone ever questioned Hartman’s toughness? If so, they’re idiots. That guy has fought through so much adversity, it’s incredible that he’s come to play at this level. He’s the poster boy for perseverance.

  14. And as we witnessed tonight, a team’s shooting can also get worse. 4 of 15 from 3-point range. Ouch!

    1. Does anyone else sort of get the impression that the Scoop’s grandest Crean apologist is somewhat enjoying the Hoosiers latest struggles?

      But no mention of the fact that the top Indiana players were choosing to play everywhere but in a Hoosier uniform over the last five years. Well, outside of Cody Choirboy Clunky, we now see what abandoning the state of Indiana has done to the program. Anyone surprised?

  15. Not sure if they’re playing afraid or it’s simply uninspired, but it ain’t pretty. When there is very little chemistry, it’s no shocker that nothing drops. Even near the basket, they look hesitant and stiff-armed on most attempts.

    Disappointed. It’s seems these boys came back to sabotage Archie more than imbed their hearts deeper into the pride of wearing the candy stripes.

  16. Interesting that Archie pregame article was about having low energy & effort & playing like the word “Indiana” on the chest means something. He’s simply echoing what many of us have seen and said over the last several (Crean) years.

    And H4H you are correct, should anyone be surprised by these non-native Hoosiers or their skill & effort? NO!!!

    & Podunker, you are correct in not seeing any more than 6 Big Ten wins. I think we’ll be lucky to win 1 road game (1-8) & do a little better than split at home (5-4).

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