Coach Archie Miller expects the Indiana Hoosiers to look and play differently this season.
He has a bigger, stronger, more experienced roster. He expects better ball movement. And it all starts with more communication.
Miller believes improving those areas will finally produce consistently better results and could help Indiana return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
“I definitely think our team understands from a staff perspective that there is a lot of pressure on us as a group of people to really come together,” Miller said Wednesday at Indiana’s annual media day. “To do that, I think definitely requires more talking, more communicating and more situations where we’re forcing them to be sort of the driving force behind that.”
It appears Miller has the program heading in the right direction despite concerns from impatient fans.
After missing the postseason in Tom Crean’s final season in Bloomington and again in Miller’s first season with the Hoosiers, Indiana reached the NIT quarterfinals in March.
Taking that next step in Miller’s third season means Indiana must figure out how to replace its top two scorers — Romeo Langford, who left after one season for the NBA, and Juwan Morgan, who graduated. Miller knows it won’t be easy to replace 32 points per game, nearly half the team’s scoring average.
So Miller is working on intangibles first, hoping that will provide a solid foundation on which to grow.
“You know the setting with young people these days, they very literally don’t talk as much as they used to,” he said. “So we try to put our guys in situations where it forces them to communicate, be more active with one another. I think the one thing that’s unique, as you get older, is you have more familiarity with each other, you have more closeness.”
And two years in the system should help with continuity, too.
But Miller also needs highly touted in-state recruits Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin to fill the voids left by Morgan and Langford, and Miller thinks redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter also can make a difference after missing all of last season following surgery on his leg.
Indiana announced Tuesday that Hunter is participating in all basketball-related activities and Miller told reporters Hunter has been making steady progress over the last five weeks.
Plus, the Hoosiers found a new veteran voice in the locker room: 6-foot-11, 245-pound graduate transfer Joey Brunk who spent the last three seasons at Butler.
“We do have a group of guys that, naturally, are kind of quiet natured. I think that’s where Joey has been a great boost,” Miller said. “His personality has really helped our workouts, our locker room. The younger guys who have a year under their belt have changed. Robert (Phinisee) has done a really nice job in our workouts. He’s taken a concerted effort to communicate better, talk better, not be quiet.”
But Miller isn’t just talking a good game; he’s trying to find answers on the court, too.
Even with Langford and Morgan last season, the Hoosiers struggled mightily from 3-point range.
The solution might be better movement in the offense.
“We’re going to have to be much more difficult to deal with, which means the offense has to have a lot more randomness in what we do,” Miller said. “We have to utilize our versatility with the guys that can play multiple positions together. And we are going to have to move that ball. To do that, you’re going to have a lot of concepts and action to the way you play.”
Will the new approach change the bottom line?
Miller thinks it will.
“This team is built a little bit differently,” Miller said. “Our versatility is more inside out than it is outside in. I do think we have some guys that are going to have to stretch the floor for us to be effective, and that starts with our backcourt. Our perimeter guys have to shoot it in, and we’ll have to find some other guys that can fill that niche.”
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