Miller’s eye on better passing, backcourt play

Indiana coach Archie Miller gave a strong rebuke Monday to the notion that his team can’t shoot.

“I think the ‘They can’t shoot,’ or ‘They don’t make 3s,’ I think that is complete B.S.,” Miller said on his radio show. “I think we’ll make good 3s if we deliver the ball when it’s supposed to be delivered.”

IU (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) is coming off of a 4-of-18 performance from beyond the arc in a 75-59 loss at Maryland, which exacerbated worries about the Hoosiers’ ability to hit shots. They are currently hitting 30.7 percent of their 3s, the 12th-best rate in the conference.

As Miller’s squad heads down the conference-only portion of its schedule, the third-year coach sees ways his players can create better shots for themselves. He points to IU’s assist rate — also 12th in the Big Ten — at 13.5 per game.

While he seems satisfied with the ability of his posts to kick out, Miller suggested his backcourt players aren’t making the right reads with the ball.

“We are not getting enough rhythm, good looks in the course of a game. We are over-dribbling,” Miller said. “Sometimes we are passing up a good one just to put it down. … You are not going to make the ones at the end of the clock, off the bounce all the time.

“You are going to make the one four passes earlier when you could have made that right read, when there was a guy sitting there with his hands ready, you just didn’t deliver.”

An inability to score over long stretches has burned the Hoosiers in recent weeks, including a near-collapse against Notre Dame and more complete second-half breakdowns against Arkansas and Maryland.

IU’s assist totals steadily dropped in those three games, from 14 against the Fighting Irish, to 12 versus Arkansas, to just seven in Saturday’s game at Xfinity Center.

“As a basketball player, and as a fan, if you are in the game and you see a guy drive the ball and he throws it back out to the corner and the guy is wide open, you’re saying ‘That’s a good shot.’ How many of those are we getting? I don’t see a lot of them right now,” Miller said. “If a guy drives baseline and he throws the ball to the other side of the floor, then that guy makes one more basketball pass, that guy has a chance to make that, and everyone in the arena says ‘That’s a good look.’ We aren’t getting those right now.”

Miller mentioned some surprise about how the Hoosiers played versus Arkansas and Maryland because the intensity level at practice has been good, particularly from the Hoosiers’ frontcourt players.

The backcourt, on the other hand, is still trying to hit its stride. That group has dealt with injuries early this season, including stretches where senior Devonte Green and sophomore Rob Phinisee were out.

“Guys are reluctant for whatever reason to make those reads and those passes. We’ve become a team that’s kind of standing around, letting the bigs kind of catch the ball and do some things,” Miller said. “Our guards aren’t playing the game with one another as easy as they could. I think, to be honest with you, our bigs are doing a good job, but even they could do a better job of finding each other high-low and doing some things.

“Our passing has to get better, and our assist totals have to go up offensively, because it’s not the quality or the type of shot that we are getting that’s good enough.”

Heading into Wednesday’s home game with Northwestern, Miller said he has been challenging players at practice to raise their level of play.

Better execution from the backcourt is especially key.

“If you can get two or three of them playing really well at the same time, our team is so much better,” Miller said. “That’s the quest, that’s the challenge. I challenged the guys today … we started to get some results.

“I think our backcourt is due to sort of break out and have some guys play well.”


  1. Is it possible there’s a lack of continuity on the floor and securing “good shots” and “better looks” isn’t happening because there is divvying of too many minutes between four frequently rotated guards?

    Upperclassmen vs. underclassmen…? Expectations of a senior in getting his playing time vs. Quickly improving freshman getting on the floor?

    Frustration levels in all guard play increases as leadership roles in the backcourt remain undefined?

    Shots don’t fall because guards so frequently rotated can’t get into a rhythm?

    Post/inside play suffers because there is not enough familiarity between the habits , entry pass/delivery methods, penetration style, signal
    /cues, eye to eye communications within the excessive rotations of the backcourt?

    I like the young blood (Franklin & Phinisee) getting a large majority of backcourt minutes (foul trouble or needed short breather being the only reasons to find pine). Will that happen? Nope.
    Problems won’t get fixed, continuity and leadership will not evolve, until we see a real tightening up of the backcourt. But if the tightening up means primarily riding the season on the shoulders of Durham & Green? Then I’m not too confident with that decision(version of tightening up) as well.

    You should have been tougher earlier, Arch. If that meant encouraging certain guys to transfer a couple years ago, then that’s when the hard decisions should have been made. You are now a product of your own delays and safe hand plays.

    Tighten Up!…..the rotations.

  2. It’s simple to be an a$$ to the media…It’s easy to portray confidence and assert certain comments from fans circulating around are “BS” when conducting interviews. Basically, it’s easy to act like you’re tough and matter-of-fact when dealing with those removed from the inner circle of a team.
    I don’t think it’s so easy in locker rooms and practice floors. It’s far more a balancing act and sometimes certain coaches simply can’t balance the best needs of a team vs. the feelings/emotions of those being coached. Tough love is difficult when a coach wasn’t responsible for bringing a particular recruit to a program. Balancing acts become far more difficult for a coach dealing with his predecessor’s recruits because there were no set early expectations from time of recruitment throughout the evolution process as a player. The new coach is dealing with placing a new reality upon kids who had different expectations and emotional investments based on the beliefs of someone no longer coaching.
    When a house is cleaned (via a scandal or witch hunt), there are no balancing acts. Bench players had no expectations. Every new face feels blessed to get quick playing time.
    I think you live in a dream world if you believe Archie has it easy managing expectations and emotions of young men he was never initially invested in from the time of recruitment.
    Acting tough and somewhat defensive in saying certain opinions are “BS”…is, potentially, a bit of a “tell” or an overcompensation of the toughness in the realm of quiet and private coaching duties not quite so simple.

  3. Wow, what a concept….better shots = better shooting %. Knight all over that one. When Knight’s teams excelled they led the Big Ten in FT% and FG%.

    So, back to Archie’s key point, what is easier than an unguarded 15 ft. set shot otherwise known as a FT? I’ll have to go look but our wins are directly correlated to our # of FT makes/game. In our last 2 losses the attempts & % have both been down. Knight’s great teams consistently made more FTs than their opponents attempted. Why? Because they got good shots & hit > 70% of their FTs. Great shots near the rim, or mid-range lead to more FT attempts.

    When you win and shots go in, the game is a thing of pure beauty. When the shots aren’t falling, the product is ugly.

    Which all culminates in 1 key question; which guards shoot the highest % from the FT line? I’d shorten my guard rotations to those kids right now to see if that translates to better FG%. Especially the one’s who also lead the team in assist/TO ratio.

  4. I’ll have to go look but our wins are directly correlated to our # of FT makes/game.

    Still a bit deceptive stat at this juncture because the cupcake wins at home included a large number of free throws and getting to the line against out-manned competition. Once competition level picks up and talent equalizes, then the line trips have not been as frequent.

    Much of the problem is continuity in the backcourt and too much substitution pattern. Guys can’t get into rhythm.
    Knight (since were talking about old great teams) did not go outside using a pair of guards getting the majority of the minutes (other than one ‘super sub’/sub when necessary rest or foul trouble would come into play).

    Archie seems to be attempting to keep ‘4guards’ happy (not the 4guards who used to post on Scoop). It ain’t gonna work.

    Wonder whatever happened to 4guards? Is he posting on Scoop under a different handle? Only ‘The Great Moderator, Oz of Scoop’ knows the answer to such mystery…..

  5. One responsibility of a Coach is to enforce the style of basketball that is allowed to be played.

    When you have Aljami Durham cold-cock an Arkansas player who set a legal pick on him (thanks for the Communication, teammates!) and Durham starts the next game, this sends a Message to the team that “We R Thugs” and that behavior is acceptable.



    1. Rock,
      I’m with you in that it doesn’t look good to have such a flagrant foul go unpunished. However, just a little buzz I had picked up indicates their might be a little more to the story than we have been told. We all know how things go in the heat of the battle, the one responding is the one who usually gets caught. Don’t have anything definitive, but I’m sure wondering. Especially in light of CAM not giving out anything to him that would appear to be punishment.

      Curious . . .

  6. I think Durham knew he was there…because you can see Durham extend his leg an extra distance backwards in what looks to be a purposeful stepping on the Arkansas player’s foot. Something was going on between the two before the elbow….(likely a lot of trash-talking). Maybe the Arkansas kid said he was dating Durham’s mother…?
    Until we know, we don’t know.

    I’d sort of like an explanation…but I also like the fact Archie is not manipulated by what some expect. He’s got a bit of Kevin Wilson in him…
    Allen would likely tear up a snidely letter from Glass…Basketball rules far more supreme than throwing your weight around with a football coach.

    But let’s get to the big news…One storied basketball rivalry is dead….but another storied basketball rivalry between old friends begins. UK vs. IU has been cold-cocked. No replay review can bring it back. No penalties were handed out (except those to the fans).
    UK vs. Georgia begins a new love affair between Tommy and Johnny unburdened by distaste and hostility that was forever inherent in an Indiana vs. Kentucky game. Much kisses…with no cold-cocking will ensue.

  7. What garbage! If he wants his team to play that way(which is what every coach wants), then recruit the kids capable of playing that way. Phinisee and Franklin are not the answer. Phinisee is not quick enough and Franklin is not a great ball handler. If Franklin improves as a scorer then perhaps he plays the shooting guard position. Perhaps the two guards coming in next year are a huge boost.

  8. Never ending excuses and defenders of incompetence by some. Incoming recruits are not going to do much. It’s over.

  9. Guard play was more reliable when Green came off the bench but you don’t have many options when Rob is injured. Timely rotational minutes for Green is more positive than his failing to run the show playing to many PG minutes. As far as Rob not being fast enough some BS thrower on here needs to consult an expert, like Cassius the PG @ MSU. He is a dynamic defender. This team will improve vertically and measurably with a healthy, fulltime Rob Phinisee.

  10. But we must also be a bit honest with ourselves. Watched UK vs. Georgia last night and the amount of talented guards on the floor was almost disheartening. And it’s the same theme watching many top teams in our own conference (including Maryland in our recent loss).

    Anthony Edwards makes Romeo Langford look like a 3-star. There are limits in any roster where b-ball IQ will make up for large discrepancies in outright talent. And when you get your one-and-done, you better be damn sure the hoopla actually matches the talent and the star potential. There are guys getting drafted high who have no business being high first round picks. And then there are guys who actually look the part…Anthony Edwards looks the part.

    Phinisee and Franklin are very good young backcourt players. Chet used to like using the word “pedestrian” to describe talent far from having jaw-dropping abilities. “Serviceable” is another choice adjective for capable but not spectacular….

    We used to have spectacular backcourt talent….Yes, the names are long ago and, mostly, associated with the dusty banners hanging above McCracken. We know them by first name…Quinn, Bobby, Isiah, Randy, Steve, Jay, A.J. and Keith to recite some of the more memorable.

    How would you rate Coverdale, Fife, A.J. Moye and Hornsby against Phinisee, Franklin, Green and Durham. How would you rate the shooting ability and mental toughness comparisons?

    You simply don’t make deep runs in March without phenomenal backcourt play and confident strokes. I see a lot of guys coming through the door who have the swagger …But there are many instances when the hard selling of swagger (or the assumption to be the ‘big man on campus’ ..or kingpin in the Hoosier backcourt) simply doesn’t match the talent its pretending to take to the same dance.

    1. I don’t know H4H,
      How would you rate Rob and Aarman against most of those guys as Freshmen and Sophomores? Obviously, Isaiah and maybe Steve, were the exception, but if my memory isn’t too far gone they didn’t hit their stride until they became upperclassmen. Bringing up Jay Edwards is sore point with me as I always felt he left school way too soon.

      We really don’t have a full representation of what Rob can do due to the lingering injuries he is battling. I would really like to see him at full speed because if the job he did on Winston is any indicator, he can be really good by his 4th year. I have high hopes for Aarman as he develops going forward. Really hope we can see signs of that in the stretch run of this season.

      As for the overall future of guard play I would recommend everyone pay attention to how Leal and Galloway play the rest of this year in HS. Leal appears to be coming on strong as a HS senior. However, after starting the year off very strong, Galloway fractured his wrist and will miss some time. All in all you brought up some good points to consider H4H.

      1. Well, if you read any of my posts over the last few months (which, I believe, you are in an unfortunate minority) you know I’m the most high on Franklin.

        I just believe Archie is having difficulty dealing with the obvious…for whatever reason.

        We have a decent collective backcourt. Just not sure if ‘backcourt by committee’ is going to get it done in March. I think you need something closer to spectacular. You need far more confidence with outside shooting….and a coach needs to guide somebody into the true leadership role. And as you’ve noted above, those steady leaders usually evolve as they become upperclassmen (along with some talent evolution). Green is our upperclassman. Need I say more on how things get complicated?

        Do you immediately bench upperclassman Ramsey next year(assuming Penix is ready and healthy) knowing Penix has the “it factor,” bigger arm…and ability to stretch defenses? Isn’t is sort of similar to what is going on in our backcourt decisions? We know what’s best for the team….but do we have the heart to do it?
        Like I said…, to be a great coach, your players must have an understanding from the beginning(not as simple with guys you didn’t bring to Indiana). You have to be ruthless…and you have to let all understand this isn’t a stage for “you.” It’s a stage for a collective unit and roles are determined by what is first and foremost best for the evolution of a highly competitive team.

  11. Think: I said back when Jeremy posted the link to Al’s Elbow incident. After looking at it, I believed Bailey threw an unobservable R elbow into the kidney of Durham. The kid had never demonstrated any physical “attacks” in all the time at IU. Courtside comment at the time said Bailey had been “jawing” at IU players all game AND Bailey may have felt “I can get away with anything in front of the home crowd. if you get the chance to look again ;you may see Bailey deliver a perfectly timed and perfectly “screened” a “fore arm shiver” to kidney.

    1. Does the kid on Arkansas have a history of punching kids in the kidneys? Are we talking repetitive dysfunctional behavior akin to Grayson Allen’s tripping compulsion at Duke?
      Come on, guys…If this Bailey kid threw a hard punch into Durham’s kidney, Durham would have went straight to Archie …and Archie should have had his player’s back by immediately going to the ref. This is an “after the crime” defense that simply doesn’t hold water with how things went down in the heat(and emotions) of the moment.
      And if we’re going to soil the name of the Arkansas kid, maybe show some evidence to him having this sort of behavior against other teams and other players? Is he the ‘Houdini of Kidney Punching’ in college basketball? Can we expect and ESPN 30 for 30 soon? Come on, guys. Archie didn’t react in a manner that says Durham came to him with the “Houdini Kidney Cruncher” as his fast excuse. It’s almost as if Archie wasn’t shocked by Durham’s actions…If something is out of character, aren’t you immediately asking …”Why did you do that?”

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