Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller has made his rounds over the course of the past month previewing the Hoosiers 2020-21 team – whether that be at the IU Basketball Media Day or being interviewed for a podcast.

While pretty vanilla in his comments on changes he’d like to see the Hoosiers make, he has offered some nuggets that at least allow for some speculation into what we could see from the Hoosiers this season – both offensively and defensively.

In this post – I’ll show you how Indiana did things in the 2019-20 season and what we might expect things to look like in 2020-21.

Defense

In the 2019-20 campaign, the Hoosiers were a good, not great defensive team. Archie Miller has long been a proponent of the packline defense – which his Hoosier squad employed.

The packline’s philosophy is to play in the gaps and limit driving lanes for opponents.

Something the packline defense can give up, if not executed properly, is open three-pointers. IU was 10th in the conference last season (in conference games) in opponent three-point field goal percentage.

So when you think about the packline defense, it’s pretty much what you see is what you get. However, Archie gave an interesting quote about the Hoosiers defense you might see in 2020-21:

“We’ve got to be a little bit more sophisticated with some of our coverages,” Miller said. “We need to be a little bit more complex in terms of not so much vanilla, not so much fastball. There’s a few curveballs in there as well that we’re able to do.”

Look at this clip below of IU’s ball screen coverage – it is the standard ball screen coverage for packline teams.

The standard coverage is this:

  • The guard that is guarding the ballhandler must force the ballhandler to use the screen. The packline is very big on not allowing guards to reject screens. If a screen is able to be rejected by a ballhandler, it throws the entire coverage out of whack.
  • The ‘big man’ hard hedges out to stop the ballhandler from having a straight-line drive and gives the guard time to recover.
  • A man on the help-side that is designated as the ‘Tag’ man (Armaan Franklin in the above video) is in charge of taking away the screener until the man that is hedging (Race Thompson in this case) can recover.

When Archie talks about being vanilla – this is exactly that. It’s the standard packline coverage and IU deploys it with almost every ball screen. What could we see differently from the Hoosiers on ball screens in 2020-21?

X-Out

An X-Out still involves the basic elements of Indiana’s standard ball-screen coverage, but it will allow them to get to pick-and-pop shooters or slashers much easier.

In the above video, Ohio State employs an X-out against the Hoosiers last season.

What happens is TJD’s man hedges hard on Al Durham & Durham reverse pivots and hits TJD. That would be a tough closeout for the man that is hedging to then return back to guarding TJD.

Instead, OSU’s other big man that was guarding Brunk takes TJD and the hard hedger ‘X’s out’ to guard Brunk.

I would expect to see Indiana try this coverage more this season, especially as the game continues to advance and we see more and more big men that are capable of knocking down an outside shot off of the pick-and-pop.

Ice Coverage

Ice coverage is a ball screen coverage that teams employ on sideline ball screens going to the middle of the floor. This coverage goes against everything the packline teaches, but has proven to be a successful coverage at both the NBA and college levels.

Essentially, ice ball screen coverage actually FORCES the ballhandler to reject a screen and taking away their option to use the screener and get to the middle of the floor. The man guarding the screener “drops” and helps to corral the ballhandler, while the help side is now in charge of ‘tagging’ the screener if he rolls or pops.

As you can see in the video above, this technique is used by Texas Tech, which is also a packline team and made the national championship in 2019 with this method of guarding ball screens.

Switching

Teams that are able to effectively switch are some of the hardest teams to play offense against. What I’ve found is that when teams switch, the offense gets so out of flow trying to exploit mismatches that there is no rhythm to their offense and it gets out of whack.

Archie Miller noted that he’s looking to go with more of a guard-oriented lineup this season, so you might see more switching at the 1 through 4 spots and possibly 1 through 5 in late shot clock situations.

Offense

Offensive struggles have been a staple of the Archie Miller tenure, and he’s obviously hoping to right that ship in the 2020-21 campaign.

The 2019-20 season saw IU try to fit their offense into their personnel by running the Blocker-Mover motion. The Blocker-Mover motion is designed around having two big men (Brunk and TJD) that occupy the each side of the floor.

While it makes sense trying to tailor an offense around personnel, the Blocker-Mover is an antiquated approach to offense and I think that showed at times throughout the season.

Look at the below clip, for example. There is absolutely no space for anybody to operate and everything is clogged. Granted, Nebraska was in a zone at the time, but this was something Indiana fans saw way too much last season. They need to give their guards more space to operate and utilize TJD’s unique skillset by utilizing space.

A couple things of note that Archie Miller has said this offseason about the upcoming season’s offense:

“The paint needs to be a little bit more open, which I think it will be.”

“I think if we take care of the ball a little bit more, we open the floor up a little bit more, along with some added depth on the perimeter, I think it’s going to give us an opportunity to free some things up for Trayce and give us a little bit more room to operate.”

“I also think that we can move Jerome over there a little bit, and move Jordan over there a little bit, and play a little bit more four guys that are a little bit more perimeter oriented around the big guy.”

Those quotes were music to my ears when I heard Archie say them. If you look back on this site, you can see me advocating for Jerome Hunter to move to the 4 last season, as it fits more into modern offense and allows the Hoosiers to space the floor better.

What could Indiana’s offense look like based on these quotes from Archie? Look no farther than Archie’s former team – the Dayton Flyers of 2019-20. The Flyers had an NBA-level big man in Obi Toppin that the offense was centered around. While Toppin is a better outside shooter than TJD (although I’m hoping we’ll see TJD’s range expanded this year), there are some similarities between how the two can be utilizied within an offense.

For example – the Flyers spaced the floor and ran 5-out offense, but Topping still got his fair share of points in the paint? How’s this?

  • Rim-running – Toppin ran the floor as well as any player in the country, and he ran straight to the rim. I’d expect to see TJD do just this and guards like Lander & Phinisee can find him for early offense. If TJD doesn’t get the ball in his rim-runs, he can naturally evacuate the paint and move to the dunker spot or perimeter to maintain spacing.
  • Ball screens rolls & slips – Basketball offense has moved to predominantly ball screens, and TJD can still get his paint touches and points off of rolls & slips within the offense.
  • Quick-hitters – Archie has a plethora of quick-hitter actions he likes to use to get TJD the ball in his favorite spots and I’d expect to see a handful of these ran each game.

You might be thinking “we need TJD on the block posting up!” You’d probably be blown away by the fact that he only shot 37.5% last season on post-ups. He’s much more effective scoring the ball when he’s getting it off of cuts, screens, and rolls.

So what could this offense look like? See below.

Transition

Dayton 5 Out

As you can see – there’s such great pace, flow, and space to the Dayton Flyers offense from last season, and they were able to do it with a dominant big man playing primarily 5-out.

Am I saying the Hoosiers are going to turn in to the Dayton Flyers offense from last year immediately? Absolutely not – they were one of the most efficient offenses in the country. However, I do think they’ll make huge strides as they create a bigger emphasis on spacing.

What are your thoughts on the 2020-21 Hoosiers? What are you hoping to see out of the offense and defense? Tweet me at @CoachAdragna and let me know!

Categories: 2020-21

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