On Nov. 26, the Indiana Daily Student published a story entitled “Competition aside, Archie Miller’s offense is finally clicking.”
The story was just before IU played then-No. 17 Florida State University and looked to have shown that the offensive success that had come against the weakest part of the nonconference schedule was the reality of the team.
It’s been the opposite since. Whether IU is playing a top-tier Big Ten team like Maryland or a last-place one like Northwestern, the offense has produced similar results.
Competition aside, IU men’s basketball head coach Archie Miller’s offense is struggling.
That has led him to question a calling card for IU since the start of the season. IU has been one of the nation’s deepest teams. It plays all 11 of its scholarship players in its rotation.
Now Miller’s not sure if that’s what’s best.
“I don't necessarily know right now if the 11-guy rotation is going to work,” Miller said. “I just don't know necessarily if that's the best thing moving forward if we're not going to get all 11 heated up and playing as hard and as unselfish as we possibly can. It may be five. It may be just five. I don't know.”
Throughout the first 15 games of the season, the large rotation has made IU’s scoring balanced, even if that scoring isn’t coming in large quantities. It keeps IU out of individual foul trouble and provides different lineup combinations with each timeout for the opposing team to defend.
But in its current form, IU is playing without energy, and that’s at the core of the stagnant play. The lack of energy is part of the reason behind why Miller is questioning his own strategy.
“We were definitely lacking some energy.” junior forward Justin Smith said. “Why? I couldn’t tell you. We need to be more engaged going into it. We got a little comfortable, especially with the lead early on. They hit us back and we didn’t respond. We came out with good energy, we have to continue that energy for the entire game to be successful.”
IU made a late run to come back and beat Northwestern, the only team in the Big Ten still without a conference win, 66-62 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. In doing so, it pulled itself out of a hole another offensive drought had dug.
“We were not very together, not very energized early,” Miller said. “It took urgency and it took desperation to get us into gear.”
Miller’s uncertainty comes as his team plummets down the rankings in multiple offensive statistics. At the end of November, IU’s scoring offense was in the top five nationally. Even as recently as December 23, IU was in the top five in the Big Ten by every major offensive statistic.
Since December 23, those rankings have only dropped further. Before it even took the floor against Northwestern, IU was 206th nationally in free throw percentage despite attempting the ninth most.
The Hoosiers' scoring offense has fallen out of the top 50. They are last in the Big Ten in assist to turnover ratio. They dropped out of the top 100 and to 10th in the Big Ten in total rebounds. They are last in the Big Ten and 326th overall in 3-pointers made.
All of the offensive shortcomings remained unchanged against a Northwestern team that has the fewest steals and blocks in the Big Ten, a field goal percentage defense ranked 174th nationally and the 120th ranked scoring defense.
IU returned to playing inside and getting to the free throw line that gave IU the scoring boost it needed to escape with a win Wednesday night.
“We wanted to get back to what made us successful early on in the season, which was getting to the foul line and knocking them down,” Smith said.”
The rotation won’t look the same Saturday when No. 11 Ohio State comes to Assembly Hall. Four games into Big Ten play, IU is reshaping itself.
“You see guys do the same certain things game in and game out it deflates you,” Miller said. “We’re just searching for ourselves again.”