The Hoosiers have lost their last four games. They aren’t in a great place. Parts of the fan base are starting to get riled up and it’s probably safe to say that Archie Miller’s honeymoon is over.
let’s check in on the fanbase. pic.twitter.com/NQkudIyd7E— crimson quarry (@crimsonquarry) January 19, 2019
Now I’m not calling for Miller’s job. That would be ridiculous. What I would like to do is inspect the current moment—how it came to be, what it could mean for IU basketball, and what it could mean for Miller himself.
Just over two months ago Hoosier fans were floating on air. Indiana clobbered a good Marquette team at home and it was hard to not to be optimistic. It looked like this team’s ceiling was higher than anticipated, especially on the offensive end. Sure the Hoosiers lost to Arkansas in their next game, but it was the first loss of the season and it was on the road by the slightest of margins. It was forgivable. Afterward, Indiana got back on the horse, winning their next two games.
Then the loss to Duke came. That was forgivable too. Duke was and is very, very good. Plenty of people chalked that one up as a loss before the season even tipped off.
Once again, the Hoosiers got right back on the horse. They ripped off seven straight wins, including tight wins over Big Ten foes Northwestern and Penn State as well as Louisville and Butler.
That streak ended in Ann Arbor with a loss to a great Michigan team. Not surprising, certainly forgivable, just like IU’s two previous losses. This time though, there was a difference—the Hoosiers didn’t get back on the horse. They let the horse drag them around the pasture like a yuppie at a dude ranch with his foot stuck in a stirrup.
First, it was a second-half implosion in College Park. Are the Terps talented? Absolutely. Should Indiana have won that game after dominating the first half and leading 35-27 at the break? Almost certainly.
They followed that performance by returning to Bloomington and laying an egg against Nebraska. The Hoosiers saw a zone defense and clammed up like it was some foreign concept that they’d never seen before. Maybe they just couldn’t beat the zone because there isn’t a legitimate deep shooting threat on the roster. Nevertheless, Indiana was outplayed practically from the start to the finish by the Cornhuskers in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
After that? Saturday’s trip to West Lafayette. The Hoosiers started a bit slow, then kept it respectable for the rest of the first half. The Boilermakers pulled even further away in the second half, but it never really felt like IU had a chance to win anyway.
This brings us to the present. The Hoosiers are losers of four straight games and they’ve reached their lowest point of the season, at least their lowest point so far.
If they don’t right the boat quickly, things could get ugly.
On Tuesday, Indiana will travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern. They already beat the Wildcats earlier in the season, but things are a bit different now and it’s a Big Ten road game so nothing is a given. After that one Michigan comes to town. That one could get ugly. If they lost both of those games they’ll head to Piscataway for a matchup with r u t g e r in the midst of a six-game losing streak. The Scarlet Knights may be the worst team in the conference, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to beat. In fact, in the 2018 Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden rutger (redacted).
I think you get the point. Right now the Hoosiers are on a slippery slope and need to get off of it quickly, especially if they have any sort of NCAA Tournament aspirations.
At the moment, the Hoosiers are still seen as a team that can make the dance as an at-large bid. Their stock has dropped a bit for obvious reasons, but they can still save the season. There’s plenty of time left.
This is where Miller comes in. He’s had an interesting tenure at IU so far, to say the least. From opening the 2017-18 season with a spanking at the hands of Indiana State to taking down a ranked Notre Dame team in the Crossroads Classic to the Marquette win to now his teams have had plenty of peaks and valleys. This is just the latest of those, but the way that his team recovers from its latest low could tell us something about who Miller is and how much success he can have during the rest of his time in Bloomington.
Coaching, after all, is partially about finding the right buttons to push and knowing when to push them in order to make the most of what you have on your roster. It’s also partially about game planning, the X’s and O’s, and adjusting your plans based on the personnel available and whatever your opponent throws at you. The way that Miller and his staff approach these tasks in the coming weeks is going to be something to watch. Will they make some changes or will they let this team ride it out and try to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve dug? Either way, it tells us something and the success those changes (or non-changes) have can tell us something as well.
Miller hasn’t had quite enough time in Bloomington to warrant judgment. He’s had successes and he’s had failures, but the present moment feels like a crossroads for the Hoosiers and Miller’s IU tenure. What comes next could go a long way toward either saving face with the fanbase or getting him out the door. Will Miller be able to hoist his team back onto the horse, or will they keep dragging from the stirrup like a bunch of fools?