Miller hopes non-league schedule tests young team, positions IU well

There are home games against Marquette and Louisville, trips to Arkansas and Duke and a couple other notable contests tucked in between.

When he looks at Indiana’s non-conference schedule, Archie Miller sees what he wants — a pre-league slate that will both test his new-look roster and potentially position IU well come March.

“If you look just at the selection process last year and you look at the (Big Ten) teams that didn’t make the tournament and what was the thing, you have to have a strong non-conference schedule,” Miller said.

Upon taking the IU job in March 2017, Miller called scheduling the second-most important task he has, behind only recruiting. This year, crafting the schedule took on an added importance.

On one hand, Miller is working around the Big Ten’s new 20-game schedule, which will continue to place a pair of conference contests on the early-December docket.

On the other, Miller wanted to make sure a team full of new faces would both be tested and have time to gel leading into the second leg of Big Ten play in January.

Of the 14 players vying for regular roles on this year’s squad, 10 have spent no more than a year in Bloomington. Of that group, seven will be new to the action, if you count redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson.

Meshing his team through a tough non-conference schedule is part of a philosophy that Miller first honed during his tenure at Dayton.

“Most of our teams that we’ve tried to develop have always been to put them in situations where they’re playing the best,” Miller said. “When you’re playing the best, the biggest improvement you’re gonna get is winning or losing and film. Then, go back to work and do it again, do it again. That’s how you have to do it.

“Some of these guys are going to be thrown into the fire early and they’re going to make mistakes, our freshmen and young guys. That’s why I keep going back to the consistency of the guys returning from a year ago. I hope for those guys to really be solid and help guide the team.”

Ultimately, returning to the NCAA Tournament is a baseline expectation for this year’s Indiana team. To not only get there but put the Hoosiers in position to earn a favorable seed, Miller had to consider a few factors.

In August, the NCAA announced that it has replaced the RPI as the primary rubric for grading postseason resumes in favor of the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which will rely on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses.

Shifting away from the RPI is part of the men’s basketball selection committee’s ongoing move toward developing a more contemporary process. Last year, the NCAA adopted a tier-based system that placed greater emphasis on road games.

Scheduling a home-and-home series with Arkansas, which tips off next month in Fayetteville, Ark., is Miller’s response to the NCAA adding weight to games away from home.

“We get a really good opponent to come to Simon Skjodt (Assembly Hall),” Miller said. “For our fans, that’s obviously primo option No. 1. To do that, you obviously have to go on the road. Going on the road right now is important in the non-conference. Some teams aren’t playing as many, but if you can get a true road game with a really good SEC team, which Arkansas is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

With the new 20-game league schedule, Miller said he’ll have to be selective about how he schedules moving forward. The additional league games take away two opportunities to schedule notable non-conference games, likely meaning that a rumored matchup with his brother Sean’s Arizona program won’t happen anytime soon, he said.

But the 20-game Big Ten schedule isn’t a bad thing. Or, at least, Miller is entering its first run with an open mind.

“If you’re playing more Big Ten teams, you’re playing more real games,” Miller said. “If you’re playing more real games, then our league is out there at the forefront of doing things differently than everyone else right now. That’s a good thing. I think 20 is a challenge. That’s really going to challenge you. But I don’t think you’re gonna get penalized because you’re playing more Big Ten opponents. It’s only gonna help you.”

Miller said he’ll continue to evaluate how non-conference exempt tournaments, such as the Maui Invitational, fit into his plans. IU, which played in Maui during the 2015-16 season, is scheduled to return to the island in November 2020.

“Whether it’s the Jimmy V Classic, whether it’s Madison Square Garden, or you name it, those conversations are happening for the exciting neutral site type of games,” Miller said.

Adding exciting games, period, is Miller’s ultimate goal.

“It’ll be hard and it’ll be a really, really competitive non-conference,” Miller said. “But I think that helps us as we get into the league.”

7 comments

  1. you have to have a strong non-conference schedule,” Miller said.

    Strength in the non-conference? What a concept! It’s wonderful to have competence and commonsense back at Indiana Basketball. It’s crazy that the lack thereof was allowed to hold the program hostage for nine years.

    God help us if we ever see Lipscomb or Grand Canyon State on an IU Basketball schedule again.

    1. Lipscomb is a good program. Get your facts straight. They and Belmont are both good games to schedule. They are like Butler before the two runs to the final four, back in the Horizon League days.

      1. They(Lipscomb) are like Butler before the two runs to the final four, back in the Horizon League days.

        Strength of Schedule Ranking (2010-11)
        Butler #83 (Final Four run)
        Lipscomb #262

        Strength of Schedule Ranking (2017-18)
        Butler #8
        Lipscomb #203

        Come on, man. I knew you were a Crean apologist over at Inside the Halitosis, but this is ridiculous.

        2013-14 Non-Conference SOS Ranking
        #1 UK
        #2 Kansas
        #3 Wisconsin
        #7 Michigan
        #8 MSU
        #10 Louisville

        #109 Indiana

        Get your facts straight. SOS isn’t everything. We do play in the BigTen after all. But outside of a couple seasons, the non-conference has been an insult to the fan base of IU over the last decade. And comparing Butler basketball(especially under Stevens) to Lipscomb is like comparing grass fields on Earth to ice dust on Uranus.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. The crowds were beginning to be an embarrassment under the previous administration and glad to see some competitive teams come back to AH.

  3. It’s great for IU basketball for those involved and concerned to have a coach to lead them back to IU basketball language and tradition that shows he understands his role and how to get there.
    This is in stark contrast to talking about how Lipscomb and Grand Canyon State having players and coach and program that makes them one of the best elite blue chip programs in the country so if we can beat them look at us and how great we are similar to status of IU football.

  4. ^^^Exactly.
    And bring back the IU vs. UK border rivalry. We are IU! We should fear no one…..Not even an NBA farm camp disguised as a college team. The fans should be allowed the wonderful rivalry game which was a standing tradition for so many decades. Play the game in Indy. Play the game in Louisville. Play the game on an aircraft carrier. Play the game in Moscow…for all I care. Invite Putin and The Don. Get the enemies together. Promote world peace via basketball. JUST GET IT DONE!
    Play the damn game and stop ducking Calipiranha.

  5. Pool of 5-star McDonald’s All-American meat….? Beware of Calipiranha!

    courtesy H4H.

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