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Opinion

SMITH: Confidence growing for IU

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Archie Miller is confident in his team —  are you?

It’s year three of the Archie Miller era at Indiana, and the Hoosiers head coach is sounding pretty confident in his team this time around.  At Hoosier Hysteria, Miller said, “This team can be special this year. It can be very, very special.” 

He wasn’t just hyping up the fan base. He really believes it. Otherwise, he would’ve said that the last few seasons too.

Why is he so confident?  For starters, he’s excited about the depth of his team.

“We played a lot of guys (Tuesday), which was good to see,” Miller said. “And as we get a little bit more healthy and get Devonte (Green) back — I think everyone can tell that there’s not a guy that doesn’t belong out there.  We have a lot of different guys that can help this team. It’s going to be strength by numbers.”

The Hoosiers have a weak non-conference schedule this year, one that resembles the Tom Crean era to be honest.  But racking up a bunch of wins could be a good thing for a group trying to find confidence.

Miller also seems more confident in some of his returning players.  He’s expecting big things from Juniors Justin Smith and Al Durham.

We’ve seen good flashes from Justin Smith in previous years. We’ve also seen him disappear at other times.  After a 24 point performance in the opener, it could be a sign of things to come.

“He changed the game for us in the first half,” said Miller. “It wasn’t about the 3-point shot that went in. It was much more about him changing the game with his effort level. I’ve been pleased with his defense and his leadership.”

Al Durham had quite the opener himself.  He was perfect from the field (7-for-7) for 21 points.

“I have a lot of confidence in Al,” his coach said. “I think Al’s a very, very vital piece to what we’re doing with the ball. Whether he’s playing with a guy like Rob or Devonte, doesn’t matter to me, but Al is going to play a lot of point guard this season.”

Miller had some defensive minded juggernauts when he coached at Dayton. Many of those teams had a bulldog mentality where defense created their offense. In his last three seasons at Dayton, his teams finished 15th, 30th, and 43rd in the country in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rating.  That’s no small feat for a mid-major program. Could this year’s Hoosiers team fit that mold? Coach Miller knows they have room to grow, but sure sounds optimistic that his team can resemble what he used to have.

“If this team has a chance to reach its potential, it has to become an elite defensive team,” Miller said. “If that happens, a lot of things offensively that you sort of worry about will take care of themselves.”

The Hoosiers lost two great players in Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford.  But they’ve added some great pieces. Jerome Hunter is healthy. The players have said team chemistry is in a much better place. And now that Miller and his staff are in year three, it could be the year where his system starts to take shape.  Only time will tell.

Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosier basketball for Indy Sports Legends. Smith is also the youth pastor at New Hope Christian Church, and the varsity girl’s basketball coach at Crawfordsville High School.

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