The firing of Archie Miller as the head men’s basketball coach at Indiana is inevitable.
With a 12-3 start and a win over Florida State, who is now ranked in the top ten in the country, one would think optimism would be the story ahead of a matchup against a tough Ohio State at Assembly Hall.
However, the numbers would tell a different story. IU fell behind by ten points in the second half to lowly Northwestern on Wednesday night at home before rallying for a narrow 66-62 victory. Throw in a collapse against Arkansas at home and no shows in the first to Big Ten road games against Wisconsin and Maryland, and the season already looks lost.
One simple reason? the Hoosiers can’t shoot. Miller said it was “BS” that the Hoosiers couldn’t shoot before the Northwestern game (IU shot 2-14 from distance in that one). Under Miller, the Hoosiers shot 32.2 percent from 3 his first season, good for 307th in the country (out of 350 Division I teams). Last year, IU was worse, coming in at no. 311. And this year, the Hoosiers are barely better, coming in at 299 overall, hitting just 30.2 percent from deep.
The shooting woes don’t stop there. IU is hitting just 69.3 percent of its free throws, good for 194th in the country. That looks even worse when the Hoosiers are currently 4th in the country in total free throw attempts.
The Northwestern game was a prime example of the Hoosiers under Miller: build a decent first half lead, let that lead slip early in the second half and whatever happens after that depends on effort. It has worked this season against Notre Dame, Nebraska and Northwestern. But that same scenario didn’t play out in the Hoosiers’ favor against Arkansas.
IU faces the Big Ten gauntlet starting Saturday: Ohio State, at Rutgers, at Nebraska, Michigan State, Maryland, at Penn State and at Ohio State. And after that, the Hoosiers host rival Purdue. It’s hard to find more than 2-3 wins in that stretch, especially with how difficult it is to win on the road in this conference.
Before the season, IU probably only needed 10 wins in conference play to assure their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016. But that looks unlikely with the struggles of beating mediocre Nebraska and Northwestern teams. Throw in a cupcake non-conference schedule, and the Hoosiers aren’t ready for the Big Ten slate.
In a conference that could send 8 to 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, IU certainly doesn’t look like one of them. But that also shows the bigger picture of Archie Miller’s tenure at Indiana: outside of successfully recruiting Romeo Langford and beating Michigan State twice last season, what has he accomplished?
His signing of more recruits from the state makes fans happy longing for the IU of yesteryear. But that doesn’t matter if shooters aren’t added to the roster. While Tom Crean started strong in that area, those struggles returned at the end of his tenure as coach.
Miller also preaches defensive intensity, but this team and his previous two have seemed to only play defense when they want. Players look disengaged. The effort for Miller’s team isn’t there most nights. The shooting certainly isn’t. The defense is average.
The Hoosiers aren’t interesting, they are bad, and they are boring. And while how much longer Miller remains the head coach is more in the hands of who the university hires as the next athletic director, apathy will set in and fans will want Miller gone just like what happened with Crean.
Miller’s tenure as the head coach of Indiana has already run it’s course. It’s now a matter of when, not if for IU to look for the new face of the program.
The facilities, tradition, fan support and interest in the program are all there. But success in the 21st century is fleeting compared to the glory days of the 70s, 80s and first half of the 90s. Maybe the next coach such as a Chris Beard or another mid-major coach whose name we will learn this March is the answer.
But Archie Miller certainly isn’t.