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INDIANA UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 26, 2018
ARCHIE MILLER: We had a Friday night game, which obviously gives you the weekend to kind of evaluate yourselves. Obviously some wear and tear last week with some guys playing a lot of minutes, so trying to be smart.
But came back yesterday with probably one of our better practices in a long time. We just had to get back and start to compete more. I thought that the guys were really engaged. That's always a good sign.
Hopefully we'll put together another good workout today and then we'll travel. A big opportunity for our team to grow up another step, so to speak, with Duke on Tuesday night. Then we come back and open up Big Ten play.
It's an exciting week.
Q. As a player going into a place like that, how tough do you have to be to play well?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, you got to be tough. You got to be tough to play on the road in the Big Ten, too. There's a lot of great environments. Duke is obviously one of them.
I think more than anything you can't make the platform and the stage even bigger than it is. It's Indiana, us. Can we go and execute against a good team, compete against a good team?
Mental toughness is something that's going to be paramount. Confidence, though, is everything when you go into these types of games. You need your best guys to be the most confident, you need them to lead the way.
I think as a staff right now, we're comfortable with our leadership. As we go into this game on Tuesday, it's a mindset. You just have to physically be ready, mentally you have to be ready. More so than anything, you have to be smart, you have to be yourself.
Q. Had an overtime game there at one point. Any personal memories about that place?
ARCHIE MILLER: Not very many wins. I know that. Not very many wins. But, yeah, it's a great place to play. I'm sure more than anything there's some mystique about it. The thing that I always remember about playing in Cameron wasn't really the fans or the environment, it was much more of the teams that we played.
This team that we're going up against Tuesday really resembles and reminds me of some of the teams in the late '90s and early 2000s that I played against. Extremely talented, have great chemistry, play really, really hard. They really challenge you on both ends of the floor.
I thinks that the thing that is reminiscent most about playing at Duke, coaching at Duke, the teams you play against are much harder than the venue.
Q. (No microphone.)
ARCHIE MILLER: You play mind games with yourself where you can break it down into smaller groups. You can maybe put your first group, first seven, however it is, versus...
At the end of the day it really comes back down to the same thing: how hard are you willing to get your guys to compete for short amounts of time or long periods of time.
Understand that rotations and depth is something that you always want at your disposal. When it's not there, how do you continue to work hard without losing that edge. Last week we lost a little bit of that edge.
Like I said, a lot of it had to do with some of the countless guys being in and out per day, playing two hard-fought games during the week that required a lot of minutes from some guys.
You could tell just in general the strength of our team early was going to be the numbers, maybe just scaling back a little bit, trying to protect more than continuing to develop and work. Obviously maybe got us off to some chemistry problems offensively in both games.
Then defensively I think you saw some real slippage in terms of the toughness, the effort level, what's required to be a good defensive team.
I give our guys credit, they found a way to win two hard-fought games. Especially the last probably seven minutes of both games, your leadership kind of spearheaded you. Some guys stepped up and made some plays.
At the end of the day it's hard to win. Winning is the ultimate goal. If you get one, regardless of how you get it, you feel good about it. You try to obviously get a little bit better.
It's been difficult a little bit early. November has been hard on our team in general. Guys just, you know, in, out, in, out. I don't feel bad as a coach. I feel bad for them because I believe certain guys have worked really hard to get in there and they haven't had a chance yet.
Q. Devonte and Zach, you mentioned last week they were day-to-day. What are you expecting in terms of their availability this week?
ARCHIE MILLER: Both guys for the first time in I don't know how long were on the court yesterday doing non-contact, full court and halfcourt, which is good to see. They did not practice in the live stuff. Today we'll try to give that a go again and see where we're at. We haven't had a setback with those two.
It's probably going to be at this point in time just wait, react and see how back-to-back days go for them. If there's any setbacks, hopefully we can communicate, find a way to get one or two of those guys back into the rotation.
Not just now, but heading into our two Big Ten games, finishing December off of our non-conference, it will be nice to get those guys back. It would be a big help. It would also get those guys an opportunity to prepare themselves for January.
Q. You talked about guys not wanting to be overwhelmed by the moment, the stage at Duke. At the same time do you want them to find some balance where they are feeding off of the opportunity to play on that stage, the electricity of that atmosphere, even if it is on the road?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I mean, competitors want to be in that environment. The best want to play the best. I think our guys want to play well. I think our guys want to go down there and play our game, play tough-minded, take it step by step.
Anyone that is a little bit worried going down there probably shouldn't go. That's just the way that works. I hope we have a mindset that our team takes the floor ready to go. That's what a coach hopes for, the best, is the mindset. We're working really hard to prepare them for that.
Every game is a big game. Whether you're playing in Assembly Hall or Cameron, the stage is a stage. You can create it however you want to create it.
It should be an exciting leadup to the game. I think a lot of people are excited for it. I know our guys are excited to play, but yeah.
Q. When you look at Zion, R.J. and Cam, what stands out to you about what they've actually done to help the team win outside of the hype?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think all three guys are right fitting into the mold of what Duke basketball does, which is team. I don't see three guys or two guys, however you want to do it, sort of out there rolling their eyes at another guy.
That's the thing you're always so impressed with with Duke, regardless of the team, is their chemistry. I think they have good chemistry. Those guys are playing their roles. They have great opportunities with expanded roles.
They've been able to impact their team, in my opinion, with great attitude, great competitiveness. Obviously their talents and basketball ability is on display. I think everybody has seen how good they are.
They're playing team ball. I think that's the thing that's always so unique about Coach K, what he does, is how he can create the team, mix in older guys with them, but at the same time put his best players in position to be successful, which is what they do.
Q. What do you think De'Ron can give you guys not only for tomorrow night but heading into Big Ten play health-wise but from an experience standpoint?
ARCHIE MILLER: De'Ron, again, it's very difficult for a guy to come off injury and sort of enter a season where you're not fully recovered. So when you have to go through the recovery, through the practices, the minutes that he's tried to build up to, you're also trying to get into shape.
With that, your body sort of goes into shutdown mode where you just don't feel good from top to bottom. I think he's dealing with a lot of soreness, a lot of aches and pains just because he's trying to play through it, where a lot of guys have already worked to get there.
He's off and on right now. He's had some soreness obviously in his Achilles. I thought he practiced well yesterday, but he is sore. I'm hoping as Tuesday rolls around, as we get into Big Ten play, finish December, he can continue to push through.
We're going to need his size and his experience level and sort of that presence of physicalness as we hit the big stretch of the season just because I think, number one, he's our biggest guy, but two, he can also get you some baskets. He's also a guy that can hold his ground in there.
We're hoping he can continue to push through, give us more and more every game. If that doesn't happen, we're going to have to find a way to find more depth inside just because we're going to need another guy.
Q. We've seen not a whole lot of Jake Forrester, Clifton Moore. Is there a hesitancy to throw them into the fire?
ARCHIE MILLER: Just in general we felt very comfortable right now with our inside rotation, and also trying to work De'Ron in there as much as possible to get him some game reps and experience. I think you're going to see Juwan play a lot of minutes. I think you're going to see Justin and Evan complement each other. They've earned that right.
Those other two guys have done a great job. Both guys are chomping at the bit. I wouldn't be surprised if either or both, however it works, they don't start to find a way to get in there and help a little bit.
Q. The NCAA released the first edition of its rankings. Is that something you as a staff or program are playing close attention to this early in the season? What are your thoughts on that?
ARCHIE MILLER: I'll be honest with you. I haven't seen it. It's very far off my mind. At this stage of the season, when this early in the season. Whether it is an RPI or a Kenpom, whatever they call that, their first published ones come out, a small sample size. Such a long way to go with so many huge opportunities.
Those numbers are dictated by what you do. I think if you pay attention to them all the time, you can kind of get caught up. You just have to control what you can control, which is every opportunity you have, to take advantage of.
With every ranking that comes out, you see teams start one way, you see them finish another, whether that's good or bad. But I'll have to obviously sit down and look. We'll definitely as a staff sort of kind of see how it's shaking out right now.
With the non-conference scheduling being so imbalanced right now early in the season, it's probably going to be a wide range. I would think the balances will play out especially within the Big Ten just due to the fact that it looks to me like the Big Ten may be the deepest league, if not one of them, throughout the course of the regular season.
So I think the Big Ten in general will have with 20 opportunities now a much different effect when you play those games in conference this year, which last year obviously probably was an outlier, where you play Indiana, you lose, you lose to a Tier III opponent. There's some scenarios within the league last year that were really difficult to kind of justify.
But I think our league is really on the up and up right now in terms of our depth, the teams that are doing well. I think everything should balance after December. January and February is going to be a real grind.
Q. Defensively I think you guys have yet to allow a point per possession in a game this year. In general, where has the team grown the most since last year at this stage?
ARCHIE MILLER: We're much better defensively than we were a year ago, clearly. Our veteran guys, our older guys, have a much different understanding of how to play, what needs to be done. As crazy as it sounds, when you look at having Rob, Romeo and even Damezi for long, long periods of time out there as true freshmen, we're probably not anywhere near where we can get come January and February with their game experience, scouting, some of the things they don't know that they're obviously getting game reps.
If you add Devonte and McRoberts back to the fold, our perimeter depth gets better, we should theoretically be able to be even more solid, be able to apply a hard-playing team, because sometimes fatigue is playing a role in our breakdowns.
From an inside perspective, I don't think we're the greatest size rim protecting team. I think we have quickness and can cover for some things. Without a question, I feel this team is a better defensive team than last year team clearly at this time. I thought last year's team evolved and developed. I think you could see at the start of the season that evolvement has continued.
Knock on wood, if we can continue to work in December, as we get into Big Ten play, you keep raising the bar, so to speak. Hopefully we can keep doing that.
Q. With Rob last year, do you have any sense of how much he studied you guys as you played games last year? Did you give him any homework?
ARCHIE MILLER: I didn't give him any homework, but he definitely paid attention. He watched us tirelessly. Came to a lot of games. Was at practice in the fall. Understands the game in terms of what it's about, how to play the position a little bit.
But without question, he really paid attention. He understood throughout the course of the season when we would talk to him where we were struggling at, what he saw.
I think early in his career here you're seeing a guy that thinks the game a little bit. He's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he is there every day. He's extremely tough-minded. He thinks during the games. He can communicate. He improves from film session to film session.
I didn't think played his best game defensively in our last one, which was one of the probably few times this season that as a staff we kind of watched him and said, He had taken a step back. Maybe part of that is due to our miscommunications on the floor at times, just in general fatigue maybe had set in a little bit. He had a good day yesterday. He's doing a fine job.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports