Likely to be Challenging First Season at Indiana for Archie Miller

archie miller indiana

Matthew Jordan

Monday, May 8, 2017 3:28 PM GMT

The University of Indiana basketball program made what was considered a grand-slam hire in luring Dayton’s Archie Miller to replace Tom Crean. However, some defections by underclassmen could lead to a mediocre first season for Miller.

Indiana fired Tom Crean on March 16 after nine seasons – and the school did it just as the 2017 NCAA Tournament was beginning to help bury the news. Crean led IU to the Sweet 16 three times, but the Hoosiers missed the Big Dance in 2016-17 for the second time in the past four seasons. Crean’s winning percentage of .551 (166-135) was the second-worst among IU coaches who were on the bench at least 100 games. Lou Watson, who was 62-60 from 1966 to 1971, is the only coach to have a lower winning percentage (.508). Crean, incidentally, hasn’t found another gig yet.

There was talk that Indiana wanted a new coach with ties to the program and the immediate speculation focused on former IU All-American Steve Alford. However, he has a much better job at UCLA. Frankly, Indiana did better than Alford in landing Dayton’s Archie Miller. He led the Flyers to a 24-8 record and the school's first outright Atlantic 10 regular-season title last season. Dayton lost its NCAA Tournament first-round game to an excellent Wichita State team. Miller led Dayton to Big Dance each of the past four years. He went to the Elite Eight in 2014. a stage Indiana hasn't reached since 2002.

Miller is the 29th men’s basketball coach in Indiana history. He annually passed on open coaching jobs – some thought he was waiting for the Ohio State job to open as he coached under Thad Matta there before going to Dayton. OSU reportedly considered dumping Matta after last season but he remains in Columbus.

So what can we expect from Miller’s team this coming season? I’ve not seen Indiana in any of the major early Top 25s for 2017-18. The Hoosiers are +4000 on 5Dimes NCAA basketball odds to win the national championship.

The team’s three best players, sophomores James Blackmon Jr., O.G. Anunoby and Thomas Bryant have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent so they won’t be returning to Bloomington. Blackmon led the Hoosiers in scoring last year at 17.0 ppg but might not even be drafted so his decision is puzzling. Bryant averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds and is projected as a first-round pick. So is Anunoby, who was limited to 16 games due to injury and averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. A fourth player, junior guard Robert Johnson, also has declared but hasn’t yet hired an agent. He was second on the team in scoring at 12.8 ppg. Johnson must decide by May 24 whether to stay in the draft or return.

Miller doesn’t have a stellar recruiting class coming in. It’s not even rated in the Top 40 by ESPN. 247 Sports ranks it as the 35th-best class. Two members of that group, Clifton Moore, a 6-foot-10 forward from Philadelphia, and Lilburn (Ga.) Berkmar guard Al Durham, originally asked out of their letters of intent after Crean was fired but Moore has since convinced them to stay. They are joined by Lincolnshire (Ill.) Adlai Stevenson forward Justin Smith. He is ranked as the No. 75 player in the nation by 247 Sports, with Durham at 175 and Moore at 202.

IU currently projects as maybe the seventh-best team in the Big Ten behind Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue and Northwestern. The best Miller can likely hope for is to get an NCAA bid, but I’d say an NIT berth is more likely. IU’s schedule hasn’t been released yet, but it’s expected to play at Louisville on Dec. 9 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge as well as face Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic on Dec. 16 in Indianapolis.

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