Extra Emphasis On Defense As Practice Gets Underway

Stu Jackson, Staff Writer
The Hoosier
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Jordan Wells / TheHoosier.com

Make no mistake: First-year IU head coach Archie Miller will not tolerate defensive lapses.

Speaking to reporters at last week's local media day, Miller estimated Hoosier players and coaches have spent an estimated 75-25 in terms of defense to offense as practices get underway.

"We're having the base stuff put in," Miller said. "We're building. We're not as sophisticated as we're going to be, but I think from a base perspective, our team is learning what we're about, especially in the half-court."

The renewed focus on defense is a welcome sight for many Indiana fans.

Looking at basic statistics, the Hoosiers had the second-worst scoring defense in the Big Ten last season, allowing 73.8 points per game. They also had the worst turnover margin among the league's 14 teams at -4.1, averaging 15.2 per game while opponents committed just 11.1 against them.

Advanced analytics also tell part of the story. Indiana forced turnovers on 15.7 percent of possible possessions - 325th out of 351 Division I programs according to KenPom.com.

It's not surprising, then, that Indiana's players understand why defense is being emphasized.

"Championships are won on defense," IU junior forward Juwan Morgan said. "So if we can get the stops all the time, then there would be no problems scoring."

Dedicating a heavy amount of time to defense also comes with an unusual schedule on the horizon.

Big Ten games will begin in early December in order to accommodate playing the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York in late February. As a result, Indiana will face Duke, Michigan, Iowa, Louisville and Notre Dame in a span of 18 days.

For perspective, those five schools ranked sixth, fourth, 43rd, 22nd and 18th nationally in offensive efficiency last year, per KenPom's statistics and rankings.

Miller knows the Hoosiers won't be perfect on defense right away.

He is, however, counting on them to embrace it as their identity under his watch.

"I don't expect on Day One we're going to be the Steel Curtain," Miller said, "but I think we're going to be a team that prides itself on that. Our guys know that."

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