Hoosiers excited to begin postseason play

After completing its regular season run on Friday night, Indiana enjoyed the rarest of rewards.

Two whole days off.

When the Hoosiers returned to practice on Monday, Archie Miller saw the difference a couple days of rest and relaxation made.

“Watching us practice yesterday was kind of funny,” Miller said Tuesday. “We had a great balance. We had guys that were excited to be in the gym working again, just amazing sometimes when you have a couple days off just to reboot physically and mentally.”

Now, the Hoosiers are hoping that break pays off at Madison Square Garden.

Ahead of its Big Ten Tournament opener on Thursday at 9 p.m., IU is currently in the midst of its longest layoff since an eight-day Christmas break. The Hoosiers are using the downtime to focus on internal improvement as they prepare for a New York City swing that they hope will ultimately allow them to clinch a postseason opportunity beyond this weekend.

“We’re in a good place,” Miller said. “This team’s been unique all year. There’s been a lot of ups and downs. There’s been some disappointments along the way, but there’s always been constant improvement. There’s never been a time where our team has taken a step back, you know, throughout the course of taking some punches along the way.

“You know, to me, our team has improved as much as any in the conference over the last six weeks. You know, I think we’re moving into this postseason hungry to play.”

As the No. 6 seed in this week’s conference tournament, Indiana is waiting to see if it will face No. 11 Minnesota or No. 14 Rutgers in the Thursday opener. The Golden Gophers and Scarlet Knights play at approximately 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Indiana heads East on a two-game losing skid, though the team clings to the positivity generated from solid play over the course of the final month of the regular season.

The Hoosiers went 4-3 in February, capturing all four of those victories in a row. Even the three losses saw Indiana competitive until the final buzzer, with turnovers and missed free throws ultimately dooming it to defeat last week against Nebraska and Ohio State, respectively.

Indiana finished the regular season firmly in the middle of the Big Ten hierarchy, beating the teams it should theoretically beat and losing to the teams above it in the league standings.

The challenge now, with a potential Friday matchup looming against No. 3 Purdue, is to continue grinding out games, while also finding methods to secure victory late in battle.

“We just want to take everything one day, one step at a time,” senior guard Robert Johnson said. “At the end of the day, we want to continue to play for as long as we can at the highest level that we possibly can. So I think it all comes down to making the most out of everything we do day by day.”

Junior forward Juwan Morgan said: “Just going off that, of just taking it one day at a time, it starts with Thursday. We just have to focus in on that day and go forward from there and just like Rob said, obviously we want to keep playing as long as possible and we just have to get it done.”

The only way Indiana makes this year’s NCAA Tournament is if it wins the Big Ten Tournament. The National Invitation Tournament remains in play, though the Hoosiers could still use at least another victory in New York to feel good about their odds. Even then, so much will remain in flux as the mid-major conferences complete their league tournaments.

The Hoosiers are currently projected as a No. 6 seed in the NIT, according to the latest bracketology at nycbuckets.com.

For its part, Indiana is trying to stay alive as long as it can.

This week will go a long way toward determining just how long it does.

“I think these guys like playing with one another,” Miller said. “I think they have enjoyed sort of the grind, and it doesn’t feel like a team that’s on a negative.

“So many times this year, you really have a dead team. You have a team that doesn’t want to be around or you have a team that’s excited to play. I feel our team is excited to play.”

17 comments

  1. Glad they got some R&R and are excited to continue playing in the post season. It would be a huge boost to them, and the players returning next year, if this roster can win four of rive more games and finish the season with more than 20 wins. Let’s hope their two days of rest allows them to improve their free throw shooting and reduce turnovers. If they do that, they could go deep in both the Big Ten tourney and the NIT. Everybody appreciates their great effort and improvement on defense, but its time they demonstrate that they’ve improved those two key fundamentals.

    1. For a team like the Hoosiers, who rely on intensity more than talent, the extra rest could be huge.

      Minnesota and Rutgers are both a mess right now. I feel pretty good about our first game.

      After that it’s a matter of who conjures up the tournament magic.

  2. There has been a small sample set of games when turnovers numbers approached Crean era ugliness, but considering the lack of deep shooting threats, it’s quite remarkable how Archie has improved valuing possessions. If we had the dynamite outside shooter/shooters(our severe Achilles heel), maybe we don’t need to work so hard for mid-range and inside shots..? A lot of guys became trigger shy from beyond the arc….and possessions lengthened due to hesitancy to take a deep shot when it was available. Stretch possessions and you stretch the potential for turnovers.
    But we’ve had way less mindless turnovers of years past….

    2016-17 Turnovers: 579 Rank: 339th (that’s known as nearly the worst in the nation)
    2017-18 Turnovers: 375 Rank: 152nd

    Outside of Durham @ guard, Archie Inherited the same players minus our best outside shooting threat…Still cut the season totals in turnovers to less than 1/2 Crean’s final year.

    Turnovers will improve in the coming years as Archie brings in more of his recruits and instills his values/teachings.
    Also keep in mind that we are 2nd in the conference in steals(far more defensive tenacity) which helps improve our turnover margin(+ 1.0).

      1. I meant the national turnover ranking of 152 is less than 1/2 the previous year’s ranking of 339. I am a math whiz…
        The actual number of turnovers is around 35% fewer…. 200 fewer turnovers is damn significant progress to go along with the better turnover margin that goes along with better defense and more steals.

          1. How’s this….? Moving more than halfway up the rankings list….after being one of the 8 worst turnover teams in 2016-17.

            Or…

            Only 2% of all D-1 teams committed more turnovers than
            Crean’s Hoosiers in 2016-17.
            Whereas 57% of all D-1 teams committed more turnovers than Archie’s Hoosiers in 2017-18.

      2. Maybe one of the more telling stats is the season ranking comparisons for opponents turnovers.

        Opponents Turnovers Rankings (out of 347 schools):

        Ninth Season of Crean
        2016-17 Rank 290th
        First Season of Archie
        Archie 2017-18 Rank 128th

        As noted in the earlier post, last year’s team under Crean was at the cellar in turnovers committed (339th out of 347 programs)….But also make note that with a 290 rank in opponents turnovers, only 16% (57/347) of all Division One schools had worse numbers in creating opponent turnovers.

        How can anyone not notice the differences in both categories…Outside of a season or two of below average turnovers at best, Crean’s teams were typically some of the worst in the nation at protecting the ball….and taking it away.

        Discussing Archie’s teams’ turnover issues in the backdrop of the Crean era…is akin to the authorities attempting to nab a jaywalker while doing nothing as Jack the Ripper butchers someone in full view across the street.

  3. Honestly think we’re in a far more favorable side of the Big Ten tournament brackets.

    a) Potential Penn State match-up with OSU …could easily go the way of the Nittany Lions. (remember, PSU lost on a buzzer-beater @ Ohio State). OSU is due for some stumbling.
    b) Can’t look ahead, but I will….Hopefully, after disposing of Minny or Rutgers, I think we can play pretty damn even with Purdue. Justin Smith is playing much better…RJ has stepped it up on his outside stroke. Both Hoosiers should be bigger factors going forward.
    c) If we can get past Purdue, it could potentially be a semi-final with Penn State.

    Like our chances in this side of the bracket far more than the Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska side….

  4. Only one quibble, Harv! We’re not playing at Assembly Hall anymore…… I don’t think the MSG referees are going to let us punch, grab, hold Isaac Haas without calling a foul. The real excitement of a re-match is to ascertain just how many points Assembly Hall gives us. Remember, a lot earlier on this site I said I would be pumped for a re-match on a Neutral Site…..BRING IT ON!!!!

    1. So you’re saying the MSG refs will not be as Haas-pitable?
      If you don’t call out an Isaac screen, he’ll put you in the Haas-pital?
      Isaac Haas: The dude won a 4-A title before playing one game….(a’s in his name).
      Haas come he’s so damn big? I don’t know but….
      When he jumps 4 inches off the ground, he’s actually in the StratHaasphere.

        1. It’s more fun to do the ‘Haas’ jokes when you read them aloud while using a Southern/Arkansas-like accent…

          You can’t guard him in the paint…You’re nothing but a Haastage to his size.

          1. Hope I don’t see this future Scoop headline….

            IU Loses to Purdue: Inside Game Taken Haas-tage.

  5. When this season is complete, IU’s total number of turnovers will exceed 400, and while that represents a significant improvement over last year, it’s still not saying much. But here’s two other stats that we should consider when comparing the two teams. In 2016/17, IU took 2,004 shots and made 959, for a percentage of .479. They also took 683 Free Throws and made 498, for a .729 percentage. So far this season, IU has attempted 1,714 FGs and made 787 for a .459 percentage while attempting 615 Free Throws and making 398, for a .647 percentage. For a team that will have committed more than 100 fewer turnovers, attempting wha will be 200 fewer field goals and 50 fewer free throws suggests that we were reluctant to pull the trigger or struggled getting open looks. Bottom line is that this year’s team has sucked on offense for much of the season.

    We can beat anyone in the Big Ten on a neutral court if we make the majority of our free throws and reduce turnovers, especially the stupid turnovers that lead to the opposing teams’ getting easy layups. Of course, finishing at the rim would help too, but I don’t want to get greedy.

  6. And they’ll also create more turnovers..before season’s end.

    Look at the rankings numbers, dude. Crean’s final season and his team ranked 339th out of 347 teams in committed turnovers. Sure, we can get better than a 152 ranking…and we will when Archie has his own recruited point guard and some shooters.

  7. They have sucked on offense….No Blackmon. No Bryant. DeRon out.
    And you’re giving us shocking news of a struggling offense?
    Bottom Line: You’d have to be blind to not see the better quality of defense and play sets…Sure, we struggle in the shooting department. We have a product of what Crean left us(no recruitment of Indiana marksman)….minus those who departed for the NBA.
    I don’t think Justin Smith…albeit his great improvement of late, can make up for the absence of our top 3-pt. threat and a majorly depleted inside game(although Morgan has done a beyond admirable job considering the singular weight/importance on his sole/island in the paint performances.

    Really don’t understand how you can complain…This is a first year coach. He’s cleaned up the turnovers and defense is actually being played again. They are rarely lost on in-bounds plays…Have you not noticed how many quality offensive sets we have coming out of timeouts? It’s light years ahead of anything a Crean team could do out of a timeout(defending and in-bounds play…or executing one on offense). When we get some more offensive firepower and shore-up the inside, I think the product will even look more superior than the incredible difference already obvious with 1/10 an honest and educated eye for the game.

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