POTB 221: Robert Johnson

  • 03/27/2018 7:58 am in

Podcast on the Brink is back for a new episode with hosts Jerod Morris of The Assembly Call and Alex Bozich of Inside the Hall. The show is available weekly.

On this week’s show, Bozich is joined by Indiana senior guard Robert Johnson to discuss a variety of topics, including:

· Did Robert’s time in Bloomington go as he expected?
· During the recruiting process, when did Robert know that IU was going to be his choice?
· How Robert and his teammates handled the Devin Davis accident and what Robert told Devin recently
· Indiana’s Big Ten championship season and how the Hoosiers turned things around after a rough start
· What it was like playing with Thomas Bryant
· What allowed Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby to make major strides during their freshman seasons
· The differences in game preparation under Archie Miller from the previous coaching staff
· Why Robert feels Archie Miller will bring Indiana back to winning consistently
· Where Robert feels he improved the most over the last four years
· Robert’s thoughts on next season’s team and who can make a major offseason jump

And much, much more. As always, feel free to drop the show a note at [email protected].

Listen in the audio player below, download the episode or subscribe via iTunes.

Other ways to subscribe: iHeart RadioStitcherTuneInOvercast and Google Play.

Filed to:

  • TomJameson

    Great podcast gentlemen. I really enjoyed hearing things from RJ’s perspective. Some of those takes were interesting. Robert certainly gave IU all he had for 4 years, and I hope for the best for his future.

  • pcantidote

    Really enlightening stuff there from RoJo. I had long believed that Crean’s teams struggled because they had no identity on defense and he seemed to basically say the same thing.

  • Oldguyy

    Robert Johnson is just the salt of the earth. And there will be times next year when we’ll wish we had him to guard someone who is lighting it up on us.

  • TennesseeHoosier

    I believe Miller’s system was the best option for this team and gave us the greatest chance of success both long term and this season. This teams guards proved time and again that playing more up tempo lead to increased turnovers. We also lacked the perimeter shooting to win shooting 15-20 threes a game. While the current players were not best suited for Miller’s system, they certainly were not better suited for Crean’s system either.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Great comment and points made. Ultimately I think Archie’s style of play may prove more sustainable and should present more consistent results. So we all agree Crean’s results were very up and down year to year. What if Archie can achieve more consistently good/decent teams, but never reaches Final Fours? How long will fans be satisfied with what they consider “good basketball” if it doesn’t win national championships? Look at what just happened to UVA, a defense-first team, pack line playing team. Unfortunately, many of these defensive teams tend to top out around Sweet 16.

  • First, here’s the most important question to me: why did Crean consistently have personnel that weren’t built for his offensive style? Second, running a consistent offense and defense means that you can drill relentlessly, more easily identify issues and address them (as RJ points out in this interview), and execute them without thinking. Crean was consistent on offense, but terribly inconsistent on defense. Third, one of the all-time great coaches, RMK, ran the same motion offense and the same man-to-man defense regardless of opponent (except when he ran zone just to bug Digger Phelps). He recruited players to his style, and as they progressed in his system they could execute them in their sleep. He was able to adjust _within his systems_ for the opponent, such as running against UNLV in the 1987 NCAA Final Four, but he rarely deviated from the basics.

    Generally, I think there’s more room for adjusting in a given offense and defense than you imply here. Archie always runs the same basic motion offense in the half court, but he has sets that he can run that vary with the opponent. The same with the pack line defense — it’s generally always the same, but there are variations such as switching and doubling the post that can be implemented based on the opponent.

  • Geoff_85

    I agree, Mark. There are variations on how they played the post this season, such as the double teams against Duke, but I didn’t see anything that helped on the perimeter, which is my primary concern with that defense, especially now that Steph Curry has made shooting the 3 cool again. I sometimes play pick up with high school kids, and I work at a middle school, and shooting the 3 is as cool as dunking was when I was in school, at least with the kids I’ve been around. Hopefully he’ll come up with some wrinkles that fluster perimeter players that he can effectively implement (and the players can effectively execute).

  • Virginia lost because their defense fell apart, particularly in doing its most important job of stopping drives to the basket. On defense, that was simply a bad game, which can happen to any team and just happened to occur in the worst possible game. Also, Virginia’s entire system is predicated upon minimizing possessions, and so they simply are not prepared to come back against a team that’s able to score. You simply cannot compare a Bennett-coached team to an Archie-coached team, because Archie’s offense is far more effective at scoring points.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Virginia’s loss was just the latest and most publicized example, but defensive oriented teams (UVA, WVU specifically) are consistently good but not great. Of course every team is subject to a bad game or bad match up once in awhile, but the point is these specific schemes can be exploited. And history has shown teams that play this style in the modern era seem to cap out around the Sweet 16 level. Do we have enough sample size to say Archie’s offense is more effective considering these aren’t his recruits, and he’s only been in the B1G one year?

  • Geoff_85

    You’re missing the point. The reason I am comparing them is because that is the best pack line defense you’ll see, so it’s absolutely logical to make that comparison. They are the litmus test for running that defense to perfection. I heard at least 2 coaches say that Tony Bennett has been the best coach in college basketball for the last 5 seasons. That is because of his defense. I would agree that Virginia’s defense in that game just kind of fell apart. It was weird. As far as the offenses go, I would certainly agree that Archie’s offense is more capable at coming back in a game like that with the right offensive players.

  • Tommy Morrsion

    Genuine question here: Wasn’t the inflexibility of scheme/unwillingness to adapt playing style the same critique of Crean?

    When CTC had personnel that were not built for his get out and run, high volume shooting, ball handler heavy teams – I myself criticized him for not being able to adapt his coaching styles. For example, I went crazy when he would have Zeller dribble in the weave instead of posting on the block. Are we giving Archie a pass on this one?

    I think the one legitimate answer to the question, in my mind (but would like to hear your thoughts), is that Archie’s system better fits what our fan base considers to be “good basketball.” Therefore, we as fans are willing to overlook that he is (arguably) as inflexible as Crean. Winning cures everything, but if IU has a lousy season next year, do we start grilling Archie for not matching playing style with personnel?’

    One more edit: I’m a big Archie fan. Just trying to grade each coach on the same level playing field.

  • Geoff_85

    You might want to look at his free throw and 3pt percentage history. You won’t like it. I hope that with better players that he is getting at Indiana will fix that.
    Transition offense I think is the stark contrast between Bennett and Miller. Archie wants turnovers to turn into fast break points, which Virginia does some, but not like I hope to see the Hoosiers doing next season and into the future with Coach Miller.

  • Geoff_85

    It was definitely better, but Indiana was still in the bottom half in conference when it came to defending the 3. I hope that will change, and I don’t think Coach Miller would have to get away from the pack line defense to make it work, they just need to look at film and see what they were doing when they were closing out on shooters better toward the end of the season. And I agree that they were better defending the 3 by the end of the season, just not as good as I hope to see in the future.

  • Tommy Morrsion

    True, even though IU may employ a pack line D like VA, I think people assume way too much that this means that iubb’s new gold standard is VA.

    Archie continually stresses getting out in transition and fast break offense, a departure from Bennett’s philosophy. That and the type of athlete Archie recurits versus Bennett seem like major differences to me.

  • IdahoHoosier

    If you watch UVA they normally excel at scoring in transition. That seems to be how they break away from opponents. Their tight defense leads to a tap out or straight up steal which ends in a layup on the other end. I’m not sure transition scoring departs from Bennett’s philosophy.

  • Geoff_85

    Yes, absolutely. My hope is that IU’s length will amount to more deflections on perimeter passes leading to fast break points for IU. Percentage can be a tricky stat in this case because you are potentially limiting attempts in this scenario. I thought Indiana tended to sag off the perimeter far too much this season, though.

  • I’m not sure we’ll ever be a team that generates tons of deflections on the perimeter, because the pack line doesn’t contest the passing lanes. It sticks behind the pack line and has just one player pressuring the ball. That last bit, ball pressure, is what was missing most early in the season and it made it far too easy for our opponents to set up their offense and then pick us apart as we over-helped inside the pack line. We’ll start out better on defense next season than we did this past season because we have a core of players who can play the defense and then teach the freshman, and I expect us to be much better by the end of the season than we were this past season given our upgraded length and athleticism.

    Note that the pack line specifically sags off the perimeter, again dropping four players behind the pack line that’s a step inside the 3pt line and then with one player pressuring the ball on the perimeter. Not to belabor the point, but our early problem was both a lack of ball pressure and _over-helping_ in the lane which made us slow to recover. We were also terrible at positioning early, which didn’t help — guys were all over the floor and not where they were supposed to be.

    Seriously, we were _so much_ better later in the season. There’s a reason why we got as high as #52 on KenPom for the season, and we were at one point #1 in the B1G for the conference season. That’s impressive.

  • Right, but remember that we were at one point #1 in the B1G for the conference season in overall defensive efficiency. And I really don’t remember a game late in the season that we lost because we weren’t defending the perimeter — we lost most games because of poor shooting, mainly from outside and at the free throw line. Also, we were of course overmanned in a few games, because this wasn’t the best-constructed roster. I think that changes next season in a big way, and if we land Romeo than all bets are off.

  • Oh, I’ve seen those percentages, and agreed, they weren’t great. But I do think that it’s one of the things that are most impacted by the kinds of players Archie can (and is!) recruiting at IU. We should upgrade our shooting across the board next season, with or without Romeo, and Archie will have better talent at just about every position than he’s ever had as head coach.

  • Geoff_85

    Yes, I understand that in the pack line defense you are supposed to sag on the perimeter, but I thought they sagged too much/far. Absolutely agree on positioning. It was atrocious to start, and improved drastically by the end of the season. I think you’re right that they were much improved overall by the end of the season on defense, but in Big Ten games only, they still finished 7th in the conference in scoring defense and 7th in the conference in scoring margin, which I guess is what this ultimately boils down to. They were even worse offensively, which I think will change, but they’re going to have to be better on the perimeter both offensively and defensively. I think they can look at film and throw a few wrinkles in to improve that. I’m not going to pretend to be a collegiate level coach. I’m just stating what I think needs to happen.

  • Not to be argumentative, but I simply think that what’s needed is for Archie to get his own players on the roster. That should start happening next season.

    Frankly, I’m not married to the pack line defense as a man-to-man variant — I’m okay with any man-to-man as long as it’s intensely and consistently executed with the right players. I’m very happy to see him focus on a single defense because I believe in drilling one system relentlessly so that it can be executed without thinking. But if he were to switch to a different man-to-man, I wouldn’t be bothered by it.

  • IdahoHoosier

    I’m a little confused. You are saying IU won’t generate deflections and won’t contest passing lanes, but you are also saying Archie focuses on scoring in transition. Isn’t attacking passing lanes and taking the ball away the best way to get into positions to execute transition offense? I think the one of the biggest concerns I have and others have is that IU isn’t attacking passing lanes which leads to open shooters on the perimeter. A hot shooting team will exploit that.

  • Incidentally, I don’t remember seeing you in the premium forum. You should consider making the investment, you’ll enjoy the much more in-depth discussions over there.

  • Geoff_85

    I would disagree that Crean was inflexible given that most of the comments/complaints about Crean were that he mixed things up too much, including mixing defenses mid-possession, rotating players too frequently (when they’re hot mainy), etc. I think that he was set on continuing that mindset, so in my mind he was more stubborn than he was inflexible. The lack of flexibility in Coach Miller’s teams is a concern of mine. I think if a team is hitting a high percentage from the 3pt line for a half, you have to fix that in the second half. He showed that is something he is willing to let beat his team, and I don’t like that a bit, so I hope that is something he is willing to change in the future.

    I tend to agree with IdahoHoosier regarding the pack line defense teams. I *thought* that having a good shooting team could fix those teams’ runs in the Tournament and amount to a Final Four/Championship, but I’m questioning that quite a bit now that UVA – with what I think was their best offensive team since they’ve solidified themselves as the best team in the country over the past several seasons – lost to a 16 seed. Granted they were without their 6th man, but there really is no excuse for being the only team to allow that to happen in 136 games.

    Edit: I like Coach Miller. I hope he takes Indiana to where it should be among the elite in NCAA basketball, and I think with some tweaks, he absolutely will.

  • Perimeter defense was _much_ improved later in the season, to the point where it was very good. And that’s with a roster that was poorly constructed for the pack line defense — we’re getting the kind of long, athletic, physical players next season that the pack line demands. Every defense has its weaknesses that are amplified by poor execution, and early this past season that was obviously on the perimeter. But as we got better at pressuring the ball, making it harder for the opponent to set up their offense, and as we stopped over-helping and were quicker in recovering, then we were able to more consistently contest outside shots.

    Note that we didn’t lose a game late in the season because of poor perimeter defense (at least, that I can remember). In fact, we lost the last game of the season because we didn’t pressure the ball handler and we allowed too many drives into the lane.

  • Archie is as good an offensive coach as he is a defensive coach, and he showed that at Dayton. Of course, he didn’t have the players at Dayton and that limited his offensive efficiency — but he’s never been a “defensive-oriented” coach and certainly not one so hyper-focused on limiting possessions as UVA. If you look at this past season, his offense was very effective at moving the ball and generating open shots and drawing fouls — only the roster just couldn’t put the ball in the basket from outside, at the rim on occasion, and from the free throw line. Increase our 3pt and FT percentages just a few points, and we win some games that we lost and make the tournament.

    We’ll hopefully have much better shooters next season, and they’ll be able to hit the shots that this past roster couldn’t. But there’s no doubt that his motion offense is effective, and you can’t discount his focus on transition offense.

  • Right, and the point you’re missing is that UVA lost that game because it didn’t execute its excellent defense in its most basic form. That one UMBC player tore them apart driving to the basket, and that’s not supposed to happen with a pack line defense. It was a _complete_ defensive breakdown, which can happen with _any_ defensive style and it’s really only coincidental that it happened to the pack line. And it just happened to UVA in the worst possible circumstances.

    And then, yes, UVA’s offensive style just isn’t conducive to coming back. When UVA needed to play fast, its players panicked and started heaving up threes. I mean, UVA lost 74-54 — Archie’s offense should never struggle so hard to score 75 points in a high-possession game.

    Also, I’ll note that I’ll be happy to see Archie’s defense be 90% as good as UVA’s. I think that combined with his offense he’ll be less inclined to lose in a tournament setting.

  • The pack line does not contest the passing lanes on the perimeter and won’t generate deflections specifically in that fashion, that’s a fundamental aspect of the defense. It requires exerting significant ball pressure and then keeping the ball out of the post, with the entire idea being to force a team to take lower percentage contested outside shots. Note that I said _contested_ outside shots, it’s not part of the defense for outside shots to be wide open as they were early in the season. But it simply is not a gambling defense that jumps the perimeter pass to generate transition opportunities.

    There are other ways to get deflections and steals than contesting perimeter passes, and Archie’s teams have always been good in scoring in transition. So that’s not a concern of mine, personally.