I’ve been an Indiana University basketball fan since 1975, therefore I grew up watching the Hoosiers being led by “The General” Bob Knight. As most people know, he was as strict and as demanding a coach as there’s ever been. He not only expected, but more times than not, got the absolute best out of his players. He proved time and again that he didn’t need the the best players in the country to win basketball games, he only needed players that best fit his system.
I’m not anointing Archie Miller as the second coming of Coach Knight, but I am saying that Coach Miller’s no nonsense approach is very “Knight like.” The job that Miller has done instilling toughness in this team in his first year is pretty remarkable. Defense and decision making are two things that will keep you in games and give you a chance to win. They are now both now being done on a consistent basis. The Hoosiers we saw on February 9th against Minnesota looked nothing at all like the Hoosiers we saw on November 10th against Indiana State in the first game of the season.
Miller and his staff deserve a ton of credit for that. But let’s not forget to credit this group of young men that wear the Candy Stripes also. Remember, they didn’t come here to play for Miller, but I believe they have now completely bought into what he is “selling.” They’ve basically had to change every aspect of their mindset, and their individual games, in most cases. To their credit, they’ve done just that. The team right now is almost unrecognizable from that ISU game.
Believing in a system and sticking to it even when the bumps in the road are sinkholes and not potholes is not easy on coaches, players, or the fans. Keeping the players upbeat and trusting you and your system is the coach’s highest hurdle. Each player on this roster has made strides individually. And thus, from a team standpoint, the results are showing on the floor. They play hard. They play smart. They play defense. They play together.
At times this year, they’ve looked uncertain, frustrated, and like they’re not really enjoying themselves. Of late, they’ve looked focused, confident, and like they enjoy playing together, and enjoy playing the game. That they are trusting in the system and each other is obvious. They applaud each other’s defensive stops as much as they do their offensive accomplishments. Their first reaction is to get on the floor for a loose ball, whereas a couple of months ago, they had to be reminded that was what was expected, or else they’d have to take a seat next to coach for a while. They have been held accountable from the get go by the coaches, and now, they are holding each other accountable too. For this longtime Hoosier fan, it’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
This season, wins and losses will not be what we as fans want, or expect in the future. But this group will long be remembered by me as the team that helped Archie Miller lay the foundation of what Indiana teams will look like in the future when the wins start piling up.
Toughness. Accountability. Defense. Togetherness. Effort. Those are all traits of the best teams in college basketball. The 2017-2018 Indiana Hoosiers haven’t been one of those teams this year. But this roster developing those traits over the course of the year has allowed them to compete right down to the wire with some of the best ones.
That in itself has me excited for the future, and that future is Wednesday night vs. Illinois. That’s right; they are improving every game, so the future is always the next game, and I can’t wait.