#1. An Improved Record In February and March
Over the last 6 seasons Indiana had a combined record of 40-36 during February and March. Notice that this record does not include Tom Crean’s first 3 seasons in which IU went an abysmal 3-29 during February and March. Even the #1 ranked 2012-13 team took 5 of their 7 losses in February and March. But Indiana fans can expect an improved record down the toughest stretch of the season when teams wrap up conference play and enter conference tournaments and post season play.
In his 6 seasons as Dayton’s head coach, Archie Miller’s teams went 50-28 in February and March. If you give Archie leeway for his first 2 seasons at Dayton (since we have done that for Crean’s first 3 seasons), Dayton went 39-16 in February and March. With this improved record down the stretch of the season Indiana fans can also expect deeper runs into the B1G tournament. IU’s last appearance in the B1G Tourney championship game was in 2001.
#2. An Improved Record In Close Games (+/- 3 points)
Over the last 6 seasons Indiana has only had one season where they won more close games than they lost. There are many variables that effect this statistic but when it is a trend across multiple teams and seasons, one can expect the coaching staff to take much of the blame. Indiana also did not play in as many close games as they only had 31 compared to Dayton’s 41 over the past 6 seasons. Many IU games recently have been blowout wins or blowout losses.
In contrast, Dayton went 20-21 in close games over the last 6 seasons. But when you give Archie leeway for his first 2 seasons (as we have done for Tom Crean in his first 3 seasons) you really begin to see Archie’s coaching effect on close games. In Dayton’s last 4 seasons they went 19-12 in games decided by 3 points or less. Indiana fans can expect a few more close games per season and have much more confidence in IU’s ability to win those games going forward.
#3. More Attacking The Basket, Resulting In More Free Throws
Indiana tended to live and die by the 3 point shot in the Tom Crean era. When you are shooting more threes it means you are taking away opportunities to attack the basket. When you are attacking the basket less, you shoot less free throws. There was a start contrast in the number of free throws taken by Indiana and by Dayton over the past 6 seasons. In fact, Dayton shot more free throws than Indiana in each of those seasons. Indiana never ranked in the top 100 in free throw attempts while Dayton reached as high as the #12 team in the nation in attempts. I don’t have any concrete evidence, but I would suspect that more free throws (and better defense, coming up!) as a part of the reason that Dayton won more close games than IU did.
#3. Improved Turnover Margins
If anything drove Indiana fans insane more than the lack of defense, it would be the overall turnover margin. Last season Indiana finished ranked 342 out of 356 total collegiate teams. And last season was not just an anomaly, in 2013-14 Indiana finished 324 in the same category. In fact, Indiana only finished better than 190 one season under Tom Crean in turnover margin and that was the 2012-13 team who finished at a decent rank of 111.
Compare Indiana’s turnover margin rank of 342 last season to Dayton’s 15 rank. Dayton was truly elite last season in turnover margins. 2014-15 was another season where Dayton was a truly elite team in this category where they ranked at 45. As a result (or as a cause) of improved turnover margins, Indiana fans can expect to have less headaches, see more efficient guard play, and….
#4. A Totally Improved Defense
4a) Less Points Given Up
It’s been no secret that one of the weakest areas of Indiana basketball recently has been their defense. The statistics are a little spotty if you go past 3 years, but in the past 6 years Indiana only had one season where they ranked in the top 100 in scoring defense. Under Tom Crean, Indiana did play at a higher pace so you have to play that into factor for a category such as Total Scoring Defense. With that said it is not hard to understand that the more points you give up, the more your chances of losing increases.
Meanwhile, Dayton ranked in the top 100 each of the last four seasons and in the top 50 in each of the last three seasons in total scoring defense. At 46, 38, and 41 the last three seasons, Archie’s packline defense is consistent at holding teams to low scores. The great thing about having consistent defenses is that you don’t need to rely on a consistent offense. As fans know from previous Indiana teams, even great offenses tend to stall at times. It should be nice to rely on winning through defense once again.
4b) More Steals
The 2015-16 Indiana team that won the B1G regular season and went to the Sweet 16 was a very, very good team at getting steals – ranking at 64. But beyond that, IU teams have been par to sub-par as the other years they came in at 148, 277, and 199 (ranks are not available for the 2012-13 teams that was likely ranked well in this category). As I sit here I struggle to think of a single clutch steal any Indiana team had under Tom Crean.
Archie Miller’s packline defense has a penchant for getting steals and is elite or near-elite at it. Dayton’s defense ranked in the top 100 three of the last four years and in the top 50 two of the last three years in total steals. Tom Crean’s Indiana teams tended to put a ton of pressure on the ball and tried to disrupt passing lanes (deflections ring a bell?). You will find that Archie’s packline also puts some pressure on the ball, but packs the defense inside more allowing easier passes around the perimeter. Depending on what coaches have taught you in the past this may initially sound counter-intuitive, but the Miller family have developed many elite defenses by forcing opponents to play outside of the paint. Doing so not only has resulted in more steals, but also in…
4c) Forcing Teams To Take Low % Shots
By keeping ball pressure at all times and forcing teams to stay out of the paint, you tend to make teams take low percentage and contested shots. In Dayton’s last two seasons they ranked in the top 45 each season in field goal % defense. Archie’s first two seasons at Dayton were a little suspect in this category, but his teams have improved their rank each season showing an improving trend to elite.
Over the past 6 seasons IU had 2 really good seasons, 2 average seasons, and 2 terrible seasons in regards to field goal % defense. The problem though is that there was major inconsistency and no true trend line. While you never knew what kind of defense you would get at IU, Dayton’s field goal % defense improved every year into the elite category.
4d) Less Total Fouls
While this may initially not seem like a huge deal, keep in mind that Dayton’s defense also consistently became an elite team at getting steals and forcing contested shots. So while doing that, they also managed to foul less than what Indiana had. While Archie’s defensive scheme may play a big part in this, I can’t help but feel that Archie had Dayton playing with more discipline and paying more attention to detail.