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COLUMN: Men's basketball culture change is here



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Head Coach Archie Miller talks during media availability last Thursday afternoon at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Miller has already begun to implement a defense-first mentality with the men's basketball team.  Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

It’s always nice to start over with a clean slate, and there was a lot of gunk on IU’s plate from last season.

The fans had a glimpse of a sixth banner being unveiled in the newly renovated Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall after the Hoosiers took down a then-No. 2 Kansas team in the first game of what was a roller coaster of a season.

Then Fort Wayne happened. OK, a significant slip-up.

Did you say a win at home against a top-five North Carolina team? That was the last time IU looked like a national championship contender.

Losses to Butler, Louisville, Wisconsin, and, yes, Purdue followed, just to name a few.

Fans asked, was this really the defending Big Ten regular season champions excluding Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams?

I couldn't believe it, and I know you couldn't either.

The season ended with an 18-16 record, an 11th place finish in the Big Ten, and an abysmal l first-round exit in the National Invitation Tournament.

Enter Archie Miller — the same Archie Miller who took Dayton to March Madness glory after leading his team to a 2014 Elite Eight appearance.

When was the last time Tom Crean made an Elite Eight? 2003, when he and a dude named Dwyane Wade took Marquette all the way to the Final Four.

So here we are. New year, new coach, clean slate.

The Hoosiers gave up 73.3 points per game last season, which was enough to rank them 207th out of 347 NCAA Division I programs.

Brutal.

Who wants to guess what the team’s focus has been in summer workouts?

“We've spent, I'd say, 75-25 in our team workouts, offense to defense,” Miller said.

Ding, ding, ding!

For those of you who are jumping out of your seats thinking IU is going to be a defensive powerhouse that’s tough to break from the moment Miller grabs the whistle, tap the brakes a little bit and simmer down. Yes, it’s exciting to think about the Hoosiers shutting anyone and everyone down on the defensive end, but maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to see that in the near future.

Things are looking promising as far as defense goes, and Miller brought in Clif Marshall, Director of Athletic Performance, to help the players cut fat, gain more muscle, and increase speed as well.

Marshall helped sophomore forward De’Ron Davis cut 20 pounds this summer, and that’s not only going to help his versatility and speed, but his vocalization with teammates as well.

Davis has high expectations this season, and, in a way, the Hoosiers are going to be as good as Davis performs. Being one of the key foundational pieces for the team, Davis knows he needs to have a big year in order for IU to return to national prominence.

“Last year I know that, when I got tired in practice, I kind of got quiet, but this year I'm starting to not be as quiet, be more of a vocal leader and also a visual leader,” Davis said. “Just my main focus is trying to play above the rim, try to be athletic, try to be fast with my moves, be precise with my moves.”

Leadership, or the lack thereof, was a concerning issue for the team. The likes of Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr. didn’t make any waves in the locker room, and Crean said multiple times last year that he was the biggest leader on the court.

Senior guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk were two players who Crean looked to last season to hold a leadership type of role, but they were too quiet for his liking. This season they are going to get senior forward Collin Hartman back after sitting all of last season with a knee injury, which just adds another vocal leader on the floor.

Miller said he’s liked what he’s seen from Newkirk and Hartman so far as far as vocalization goes, which is a promising sign for the team going forward. If IU has any chance of being consistently good this season, especially in times of adversity, the leaders are going to be the essential piece to whether or not the Hoosiers can keep their heads straight.

“I think that Collin Hartman and Josh Newkirk are two guys that have really brought a spirit when I'm around,” Miller said. “The way that they communicate with each other and their teammates brings such a positive vibe, even when they're not doing well personally, and I think that's been a big step.”

We’ll know more about this team when the season starts, but for now, all signs are pointing to a positive outlook on the season, and IU’s veterans will have last season in the back of their minds as motivation.

Are they going to come into the season with a chip on their shoulders because of this, or will the remnants of last season show on this year’s squad too?

There are a lot of questions to be answered this season, but this one is for certain. The Archie Miller Era is officially beginning in Bloomington, and you can feel it.

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