Blame Archie Miller, again, for Indiana's latest lost basketball season
Like a dog sprayed by a skunk, Indiana basketball needs some extra time to wipe away the stench of Archie Miller.
One season, it seems, won’t be enough to do the trick.
Barring a couple wins in the Big Ten tournament, this one is just about done for the Hoosiers following a frustrating 69-67 loss at Purdue to close out the regular season.
The biggest issue that has plagued Mike Woodson’s first team is the same malaise that began under Miller.
Indiana can’t shoot. Especially from 3-point range.
This is a particular bitter pill to swallow in the state where there’s a hoop on every barn. The state where Larry Bird honed the game that made him the first great 3-point shooter. Where Reggie Miller set the table for Steph Curry to change the way the game is played. And where Purdue sinks 3s with ease.
Miller dedicated himself to recruiting shooters who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn so many Indiana basketball hoops are attached to.
As we are witnessing with his Georgia tenure, the reasons Indiana fired Tom Crean are manifold. But scoring was not among them.
In Crean’s final season, the Hoosiers shot 38% from 3-point range, which was 48th in the country. And that was a step backwards, which helps explain the termination of his employment.
Miller’s masons never shot better than 33% from outside in 4 seasons while also consistently being one of the nation’s worst free-throw shooting teams.
Indiana shooting percentages under Archie Miller
- 2020-21: 32.4% (241st nationally)
- 2019-20: 32.6% (236th)
- 2018-19: 31.2% (311th)
- 2017-18: 32.2% (307th)
- 2020-21: 66.5% (300th)
- 2019-20: 67.9% (271st)
- 2018-19: 65.5% (328th)
- 2017-18: 65.7% (331st)
The numbers are improving under Woodson, though unfortunately for IU’s tournament hopes that improvement is only incremental in Year 1. Indiana is 178th nationally in 3-point shooting (33.9%) and 254th in free-throw percentage (69.2%).
Purdue loss a sign of future and past
Matt Painter, who has made a handsome living off of beating Indiana, once again had the proper strategy prepared for the Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon.
Purdue’s plan was to deny inside opportunities for Trayce Jackson-Davis and make Indiana’s guards win the game. The shots were certainly there for the taking.
Somewhat surprisingly, Indiana’s guards were very nearly up for the opportunity. The ones recruited by Woodson, that is.
Xavier Johnson, the senior transfer from Pitt, nearly pulled this sputtering clunker of an offense to the finish line.
He had 18 points, 12 assists and 5 rebounds. It was entirely unfortunate that his attempt to win the game was a rushed attempt that he released too soon when he could have covered another 5-8 feet of ground. Because to that point, he was the primary reason Indiana was in the game.
The other was fellow senior transfer Miller Kopp.
Kopp has been mysteriously absent from the offense all season after what seemed a breakthrough 28-point performance at Syracuse on Nov. 30. But on Saturday, he reached double figures for just the second time since the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Kopp was clutch, making 4 of 6 3-point attempts and scoring 14 points.
Outside of Kopp, Indiana was 1-for-14 from 3-point range. Against the Big Ten’s ninth-best 3-point defense.
Players signed by Miller accounted for the bulk of those misses, going 1-for-9. And that is the piece of his recruiting legacy making it overwhelmingly likely Indiana will miss its fifth straight NCAA tournament.
The hope for the Hoosiers is that Woodson has a better eye for shooters. Or teaching guys how to shoot. And there was one nugget from Saturday’s game that provides optimism about Woodson’s teaching.
For the first time since Jan. 11, 2019, the Hoosiers made all of their free throws. Granted, the fact Indiana only attempted 10 free throws in a very physical game is probably a far bigger issue in the eyes of IU fans at the moment.
But perhaps it is a sign of better things to come.
Hoosiers head into tone-setting finish
Indiana’s tournament hopes are not dead. Just mostly dead.
At the bare minimum, the Hoosiers need to beat either Michigan or Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament opener.
Neither makes for an ideal matchup. The Hoosiers had their worst defensive performance of the season against the Wolverines, and their worst offensive showing against the Spartans. A true pick-your-poison scenario awaits.
At least Indiana does match well with top-seeded Wisconsin if it can get past either of those opponents. And a win over the Badgers would make a tournament bid a lock.
But let’s say those things don’t happen — because they probably won’t — and Indiana makes the NIT. Indiana can’t treat this like a typical disappointing NIT appearance.
Because it’s Woodson’s first season, the NIT would actually mark an opportunity to set a tone moving forward. And as his suspension of 5 players for the Northwestern game showed, long-term tone-setting matters to Woodson.
Indiana isn’t where it wants to be now, but winning a few games in March could provide the momentum to get there in the future. And if a return to the NCAA tournament isn’t in the cards, Woodson returning to Madison Square Garden would at least provide a neat way to end his first season back at IU.
Obviously, that’s not how Indiana fans would prefer to see any season finish. But thanks to Archie’s groundwork, it may be as good as they can ask for at the moment.