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December 6, 2019

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

HEAD COACH ARCHIE MILLER: Well, Big Ten opener this weekend at Wisconsin. An incredible challenge here early in the year, when you start Big Ten play, this is now a few years into the early December games, and it just changes the whole complexion of, you know, your thought process around the game. It just changes everything about the purpose.

You know, when you're in Big Ten play in January and February, it's easy to kind of set your sights on league play and home and road and what it means, but when you get into December, you kind of have to erase everything that you've ever done on the front end, when it comes to, you know, your plan and everything that's around and just really start to think about how important your first Big Ten game is and what is means to go on the road in this league and how hard it is, especially at a place like Wisconsin, and the credibility and the team that they have.

And so to be able to go on the road here early in December in a conference game, it's just not only it's a great opportunity for our league, but it just puts a lot of weight, so to speak, on a game that means a lot down the road.

You know, our team coming off of Tuesday night, hopefully we were able to put Florida State to bed very quickly, some of the things that we did well and some of the things that we didn't, and move on and stay grounded, and the humility about us that we are not anywhere near where we have to get to.

But as you head into Wisconsin, you know, an imperfect team that doesn't have a lot of Big Ten road experience in certain cases. There's a lot that goes into this one, you know, that makes it a very, very serious approach, and hopefully our team, as long as we stay grounded and we stay coachable and we keep working at the little things to keep getting better; that we put ourselves in a situation that we're ready to play.

Q. Playing various styles throughout the season, how different would you say Wisconsin is?
HEAD COACH ARCHIE MILLER: It's a complete 180 from Tuesday night. Florida State's pressure and Florida State's depth and their style of play is the complete opposite of what you're going to deal with when you play Wisconsin, especially in Madison.

You know, Wisconsin is much more of a methodical approach. They are much more of a physical, Big Ten defensive team. So it's more of an execution game and it's more of long possessions and it's much more discipline than it is sort of having to just make, you know, constant plays under pressure.

I mean, there's a different type of style, but our team has played a lot of different styles early here, playing against Wisconsin, to me, is a team that is very efficient both ends of the floor. They shoot the ball obviously a lot better at home, which most teams do, and they have played a very tough schedule. Watching them play at home against at Marquette, they were great.

We expect them to be obviously a very, very, you know, ready team, and for us, it's going to come down to not turn it over on the road. We've turned it over here recently quite a bit. Obviously Florida State does that to a lot of teams and some of our turnovers against Florida State can be corrected, and some of them just happened out of the course of the game. We're going to have to take care of the ball way better than we have in the recent two and a half games or last few halves in particular on the road.

We can't turn it over up there. It's a different type of turnover. You're dealing with the crowd. You're dealing with road conditions. You're dealing with a different type of system and style that makes you turn it over in different ways, maybe not as much pressure, but decision-making. So that's one thing we are very concerned about is taking care of it up there. We're going to have to do that.

But defensively we are going to have bring the energy we brought the other night and we're going have to be just as good, if not better, without our home crowd behind us. It's a team that hopefully we take up there and has everybody ready. We need all hands on deck so to speak to be able to do what we need to do. We are going to need a lot of guys to contribute like we did the other night.

Q. Talking about scheduling, do you see long-term with the early start to conference play, December being like this more often than not where it feels like there is kind of ACC and two conference games -- December is just going to be more crowded than November?
HEAD COACH ARCHIE MILLER: With the league's experience level and looking at the communication from all the coaches over the last couple years, I think the very first year we did it, we played like two games in three days.

So we've been able to get a gap at least between December where you don't have to play back-to-back Big Ten games in three days on one-day rest which is good. That gives you a little bit more separation where you don't have to play them like boom, boom.

But definitely our Decembers have changed the landscape of scheduling. When you add in the contractual obligations of the Gavitt, the Big Ten and the Crossroads, if you're in an exempt event like a Maui, you're very restricted on what you can do in December, and you have to try and jam as many in as you can in November, because December, you're holding weeks at a time for certain dates.

That's sort of how it played out this year. Without going it in detail, we could have maybe had the Arkansas game earlier. Television kind of put that one back on us for an opportunity post-Christmas, so we're able to do that before we get into Big Ten play, but we kind of knew going into this year without a Gavitt opportunity that our Arkansas game may be able to take place earlier, but it didn't.

So now it just kind of plays into a month of December where you're dealing with Big Ten opponents and high-major opponent, and I don't see how that will change unless our league moves a game like the ACC did to the first week of the season. So you basically eliminate an opportunity in December, and you move one specifically to November. You take away some bye weeks maybe from the Big Ten season in the league and you space it out a little bit more, but I just don't see moving the 20 and moving the two in there with the contractual obligations of our entire league, not just us. Michigan State was in Maui this year. They have something contractual with the Champions Classic.

I know Illinois, a year ago, really had a lot of -- no wiggle room with their schedule coming from Maui. If you look at their schedule, they had a lot of contractual obligations. It's just a little difficult when you add in these league games on how you maneuver them.

But I think we are in a good place as a league where you have them in between a seven- to ten-day window where they are not back-to-back or on one-day preps or you're able to get one in on a weekend and then maybe move to the following weekend, sort of like we're doing or whatnot. And then you can move one in the middle like we did this year where we're able to take on the Jimmy B in New York City to play UCONN, and then we have Notre Dame after.

So our month here in November has a little space in it, but obviously our opponents are way, way up in terms of the calibre of leagues and teams that we're playing, if that makes sense.

Q. Style of play, how do you carry that on the road, eight games at home you've established that, but how do you see that translating when you go on the road?
HEAD COACH ARCHIE MILLER: Clearly road conditions dictate different types of styles of play. I would hope to think that rebounding travels. I would hope to think that's something that we're trying to really establish, regardless of where you play, what we do, it's something we take a lot of pride in. In this league on the road, rebounding is everything. It will be everything on Saturday.

Getting fouled is something that we aspire to do a lot and I think the pace at which we've played helps us to do that. I think on the road, sometimes you're not able to play as fast. You have to control it a little bit more and the tempo goes down, especially when you play Wisconsin that's a little bit more of a half-court oriented offense and defensive team. Their style is one of which makes you work on both ends.

So I'm not necessarily saying we're racing around trying to get fouled and do all that stuff, but you know, it's specific with us. It's defense-to-offense. It's pace of play, and then in the half-court, it's movement. It's ball movement and it's player movement, and it's being able to get guys in spots where they can be effective. And I think we have a lot of different types of players that are getting fouled, not just one, which is good.

But without question, the rebounding is something that on the road has to travel with you, as does your defense and your discipline, but you're going to deal with all kind of elements on the road. The crowd, the officiating is never going to go your way, so you have to control what you can, and I think rebounding obviously is something that it travels, you know what I mean.

If you're somebody -- if you're a team of people that takes great pride in that, hopefully that's something that can travel with you wherever you go, and getting fouled is just a style. It's an execution thing. You've got to be able to execute and on the road, it's much harder, but I think this team is built a certain way to play a certain way and we have to stay with it and keep getting better at it.

Q. Justin Smith had the best game rebounding against Florida State, just the way he was able to calm the team on court, when it comes to leadership, with him being a non-captain, how has he grown into that leadership role?
HEAD COACH ARCHIE MILLER: He has, he's done a very nice job. I talked to him yesterday a lot about football analogy of you have guys on the field that are play callers, not just offensive play callers, not just a quarterback. You have a defensive middle linebacker.

To me, he's sort of evolving into a guy that our staff is going to look at to communicate what we have going on from huddles and time-outs, substitutions, because he has to think for other people right now, and he did that the other night really well. He helped Trayce a few times. He helped our guards. He's in the right place at the right time.

You know, without question, I thought he did bring a very calming approach to what we were doing in the way that he played. He played within himself, played extremely hard on both ends of the floor. But more so than anything, his demeanor or is one of which he doesn't really get a whole lot of animation into what he's doing, but he's a thinker, and I think you've got to take that strength.

He's got a great gift that he's thinking the game when he's involved right now and he's thinking for other people. If we can get that to take another couple jumps, I think without question, he's growing into one of the leaders of this team.

Q. I want to ask about Rob's situation and also isn't Wisconsin going to be tough because they are on a two- or three-game losing streak, but they get this clean slate of conference play, and sometimes you see teams turn it around once they start conference play?
HEAD COACH ARCHIE MILLER: When it comes to Rob, Rob, obviously he's treated as day-to-day. To be honest with you, he's nursing a singular injury right now which is an ankle. He's doing underwater work and normal rehabilitation. He was on the floor yesterday without his boot shooting, and I think he'll hopefully be able to progress a little bit more into that today.

I would say doubtful for this weekend and maybe early next week. With no setbacks, maybe we see towards the end of December or middle games, our last few games in December where he get in. My hope is that he continues to work towards getting back to practicing a little bit more.

And then you know, hopefully getting more and more rhythm that he can -- he's losing conditioning because he's not practicing, but I think it's vital that if healthy and if cleared to go, that we definitely reengage him into what we're doing with our layups, because I think he's a key component to moving into January and February into Big Ten play, and he's got a few more weeks and a couple big, big games coming up, and we'll see how it goes today and through this weekend.

I think as we approach next week, it may be later in the week. It could be something that maybe makes a jump, I don't know, but he's day-to-day. Thankfully for us, we're over a couple humps of some of the other nagging stuff; that right now he's just pretty much nursing a weekly ankle thing; that if we can get over that and we can get him back to work and in practice a little bit more, I don't think we'll hesitate to play him as soon as he's ready to go and get him back reengaged with our team. That would make us hopefully fully loaded, so to speak, as we enter the later month of December and as we go into January.

As I look at Wisconsin, they obviously haven't been at home here and they have been on a neutral site tournament, exempt tournament in New York, and then they go on the road to an ACC open. They are maybe on a little bit of a skid, so to speak, but they haven't been at home. They are much better at home like every team is.

I think as they probably approach this game, I'm not speaking for them, but I think they look at it as their Big Ten opener. Like every other team right now, regardless of what happened with what we did or what we were doing, this is one game in the Big Ten Conference season, everybody is looking at it as being 1-0 or 0-1.

So I think that's probably the focus. But without question we are going to play a very ready team and a team that's very motivated, and a team that like us, you know, quite frankly, regardless of what you're doing in your non-conference, this game right here counts more. This counts more towards the big scheme of things as you get into February, March, as the seeding of your league and where you're stacked up with quality wins.

Wisconsin is a tournament team. They have some veteran guys back, and I think as the course of the season evolves, they played a difficult schedule; as the season involves, they will be battle tested and very difficult to deal within Madison like they always have been.

Thank you.

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