How will Indiana’s non-conference scheduling philosophy change under Archie Miller?

  • 03/30/2017 8:50 am in

One legitimate criticism of Tom Crean during his tenure in Bloomington was the program’s non-conference scheduling.

In 2015-16, Indiana won the Big Ten title outright by two games, but only earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. The lackluster non-conference schedule certainly played a part. According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, IU’s non-conference slate for 2015-16 ranked just 160th nationally and the RPI ranked IU’s non-conference schedule 208th.

Here’s a look at IU’s non-conference strength of schedule for the last six seasons, according to Pomeroy and the RPI:

There are plenty of problems with these numbers beyond the tournament seeding implications.

First, repeatedly scheduling low major opponents for guaranteed blowout games doesn’t challenge a team leading into Big Ten play. This past season, Indiana played eight teams who finished 211th or worse in Ken Pomeroy’s final rankings in the non-conference. Five of those teams finished 289th or worse.

Yes, Indiana had the talent to beat anyone in the country and proved that in knocking off Kansas and North Carolina. But between the North Carolina and Butler games, Indiana wasn’t challenged at all with SIU Edwardsville, Southeast Missouri State and Houston Baptist. And after the Butler loss, IU played Delaware State and Austin Peay leading into the Big Ten opener against Nebraska.

The second problem is season ticket holders are paying for glorified scrimmages for a significant portion of their spend. The Big Ten schedule is always excellent and that isn’t changing. But in the non-conference, Indiana routinely scheduled for wins in recent seasons. This past season, the only team that came to Assembly Hall that ended up in the postseason was North Carolina. And that game was mandated by the conference as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

One of the first questions Archie Miller took in his press conference on Monday was regarding non-conference schedule. And he didn’t hesitate when asked how he’ll approach the issue.

“The non-conference scheduling component is probably the second most important thing you do as a coach other than recruit,” Miller said. “Here at Indiana University, non-conference scheduling is about finding a way to put yourself in a great position in terms of seeding. You know, you have to be the master of creating a non-conference schedule that, one, creates great excitement with your fans; two, challenges you at the highest level as you enter the Big Ten; and three, puts you in a non-conference résumé that stacks up with the best teams in college basketball. That’s what will be our goal.”

Looking at what Miller did at Dayton with his schedule, those words aren’t hollow:

This past season, the Flyers played four non-conference home games against NCAA tournament teams – St. Mary’s, Winthrop, East Tennessee State and Vanderbilt. Dayton also played at Alabama and against Nebraska on a neutral floor. The Flyers played just one sub-300 KenPom team.

Miller might not need to be as aggressive at Indiana as he was at Dayton because of the increased strength of the conference, but look for him to take a similar approach in Bloomington.

His brother Sean, the head coach at Arizona, routinely puts together a non-conference schedule that ranks in the top 100 of the KenPom rankings. In four of the last six seasons, Arizona’s non-conference slate was ranked 73rd or higher according to Pomeroy.

For Indiana fans, who pay the same price per ticket regardless of the opponent, a change in scheduling philosophy will be welcomed with open arms.

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  • Shaggy_C

    I think one thing that always gets missed in these kinds of discussions is that really bad non-conference opponents hurt much more than really good opponents help. IU doesn’t have to schedule multiple top 10 teams in the the non-conference to have a good season; it just needs to avoid the 300+ RPI teams and replace them with 100+ teams.

    If we’re going to go all-in on the Indiana and midwest connections, then we should start playing many more games like IPFW. Home-and-home dates with Ball State (180), Evansville (154), Indiana State (199), IUPUI (198), and Valpo (104) would give the program extra visibility to high schools around the state, improve the schedule dramatically, and help prepare the team for the trials of the conference season.

  • Brad

    Love it. Everything that Archie has said is backed up by facts. From his attack mentality which is proven from the free throw rate stats and now his scheduling philosophy which is backed up by the SOS figures. We may have to wait a couple years though as far as the scheduling goes since a lot of these games are already set in place. Regardless, I’m excited about the changes he has announced. A big improvement over the Crean style.

  • SCHoosier

    I think it will take a season or two for us to see how coach Miller really wants a schedule mix to develop. Really like his philosophy and intent re: seeding emphasis.

  • sam

    I’m glad he’s coming back but I’m not sure it’s as big a deal as it is made out to be. He’s average on D and not dependable on O… So we are still over signed at this point…

  • Russ

    2016/17 NC SOS: Ken Pom 310, RPI 139. How is there such a discrepancy here? Apparently Ken Pom gives zero weight to Kansas and North Carolina. I would argue our 2016/17 NC slate was one of IU’s toughest under Crean (which, admittedly, is not saying much).

  • adam

    wrong topic i think

  • adam

    also, really?

  • Michael McColly

    Yes, I hope the non-conference schedule eventually reflects the confidence and intelligence of an elite program instead of subtle plan to assure wins and cash for IU’s athletic department. Here’s a story that I’d be really interested in reading: who exactly creates IU’s schedule? And what is the formula being used? What is the criteria? It seems every year the topic has come up and everyone complains about it, but no one can say for sure who is responsible or what factors are to blame. I know that IU doesn’t want to give up home games opportunities to make money for the athletic program. So we find teams that will take our deal to play for so much money. Playing home and away has been rare for this program during the non-conference. I’d like to get back to playing Butler and Notre Dame as home/away games. Ditto with other state teams.

  • Ole Man

    Hard to financially do those home and home with schools that simply don’t have the seating capacity. Having them into AH would work almost as well, however.

  • Zora Clevenger

    It has been my impression that Crean had a lot of imput on scheduling. We heard a lot about playing “this team” because they pressed, or “that team because they liked to run, etc. The obvious flaw there was that Mississipi Valley’s press or Houston Baptist’s running game were so bad that they were pointless.

  • TomJameson

    I would love to see a home-and-home with Evansville Aces. The Ford Center has a basketball attendance capacity of 10,000. That’s probably enough. Plus, they’ve had those (I think) twice already. Lots of basketball talent in Southern Indiana. Plus great exposure for the “forgotten” part of Indiana.

  • TomJameson

    I agree that these cupcake games did gave little more than a glorified scrimmage to the players, and a high-priced scrimmage for the fans.

    The worse thing about them, is that there was almost nothing to prepare IU for the B1G season. No challenges, no need to play hard, no need to focus on much more than your own shot.

  • IUBizmark

    I could theoretically get behind Crean’s philosophy on those, but agree the teams need to be at least decent at something AND that we should strive to hit X number of assists, turnovers, steals, etc. against those teams too. We probably did do that already, but sometimes I wonder because the focus just was not there.

  • Ole Man

    I would love that one with the Aces as well!
    And even if some other schools only sat 9000, I think IU should take a close look at it.
    The intangibles would more than make up for the few dollars lost.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    I think losing to a top 50 team would hurt less than simply playing a 300+ school and winning by 30+. That’s the thing. Crean seemed to struggle with the balancing act required in scheduling. You can give the team some soft games in December without giving them Houston Baptist and Mississippi Valley St. Switch those 300+ games with 100-200 games, and you’ve got a fine NC schedule.

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    I feel the same way..his leadership and experience will be valuable but his play is average.

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    SOS comes into play more from non power 5 conferences. Do well in B1G usually means good seeding. Bubble and fringe teams worry about SOS #weRelite

  • Creek0512

    Like last year when Indiana won the Big Ten with a 15-3 record and got a 5 seed?

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    It was the Wake Forest, UNLV losses plus the Tanking in the B1G tourney can’t go 15-3 and loose in 1st game

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Next year, IU already has three committed NC games: ACC/B1G challenge, Crossroads Classic vs ND and UL at the Yum Center. The ACC/B1G game is likely going to be a road game too, so spitballing here…maybe Syracuse at Carrier Dome?

    If Arch was to move our NCSOS from the 300 range in KenPom to less than 100, I think he could do it just by adding one major opponent, and then filling out with a couple 50-100 games, and the rest 100-200 games.

    Guaranteed opponents
    ACC/B1G Challenge…at Syracuse?
    Notre Dame – Bankers Life
    Louisville – KFC Yum! Center
    Random guesses
    BYU – 80
    Belmont – 83
    Richmond – 92
    Winthrop – 113
    So. Illinois – 150
    Evansville – 154
    Wright St – 163
    Samford – 165
    Texas St – 174
    Murray St – 197

    That gives us a much more difficult NCSOS, yet still gives us quite a few easy Ws too. This is the type of schedule I’d like to see. We’d probably have to do a home and home with either BYU or Richmond…but probably not Belmont.

  • Jason

    This is the most incorrect comment I’ve ever read!!! I bet Michigan would have said the same about Max B. Just sayin

  • John Mathias

    Under Crean most of our non-conference schedule was unwatchable. I cant remember the last time I watched more then 5 of IUs non conference games in a season. Playing 8 garbage teams at home is boring and has zero value for the team in either helping build the tourney resume or getting better as a team. It was my number 1 beef under Crean

  • John D Murphy

    Would love to see them come out here and play BYU or Utah.

  • John D Murphy

    I would like to see IU play somewhere in Indiana that isn’t Bloomington or Indy once a year. Whether that is South Bend, Fort Wayne, Evansville, Muncie, Terre Haute, or any other arena that is large enough.

  • BKLock

    Didn’t we do a two for one with Evansville? We could work out similar scheduling with a few of the other in state schools like Valpo, BS, ISU etc.

  • The Lights Go Down

    I remember us playing Evansville a few times way back when, and Ball State also. That may have been before Knight’s departure.

  • The Lights Go Down

    I think we’re going to see results the first year. The team has been so lost on things that his focus on the simple, fundamental stuff is going to be soaked up like water in the Sahara. They are going to enjoy playing again, and that is going to result in a lot of wins.

  • The Lights Go Down

    The focus was probably on deflections. I really don’t want to hear that word ever again in my life.

  • Zora Clevenger

    I deflect your under appreciation of that valuable stat. (laugh, cough, laugh). I’m with you, the next time I hear “deflection” I’m punching somebody.

  • BKLock

    We played Evansville while Crean was here 2010, 2011 and 2013. Also have played Ball State in 2012.