TOM DAVIS: Has Archie Miller improved Indiana basketball? Nope.

Indiana men's basketball coach Archie Miller yells to his team during the second half of a game against Wisconsin on Tuesday in Madison, Wis. (By The Associated Press)

For the Indiana fan base that longed for a change in leadership of its favorite men’s basketball squad, well, your complaining was heard and Archie Miller is now leading the charge in Bloomington.

But truthfully, is the program any better off?

Based on Tuesday’s effort at Wisconsin I have to wonder. Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t have to wonder, it isn’t.

For the 16th consecutive time, the Badgers (9-7, 2-1 Big Ten) beat Indiana (8-7, 1-2) in Madison, this time 71-61 and Indiana was terrible at both ends.

The box score – and Miller – will lead you to believe that second half rebounding was the key, and it certainly was one of them. However, the bigger picture is that the Indiana players, whom Miller was publicly critical of recently, and with good reason, don’t play particularly hard, well or smart, and this, after having been worked with by this new coaching staff for nine months.

This is a team that put forth pathetic effort and execution Tuesday and has already had multiple embarrassing performances this season.

Absolutely, that lack of execution and effort is on the players, but the coaches have to own up to this level of performance – or lack thereof, as well.

At one time in these two programs’ history, Indiana owned Wisconsin. However, the Hoosiers played two players Tuesday (freshmen Al Durham and Justin Smith) that weren’t even alive the last time that Indiana won in Madison (Jan. 25, 1998), and there was little evidence that this trend will cease anytime soon.

To emphasize just how poor Indiana’s performance was, here were some notable items to consider regarding the Badgers:

* Wisconsin was playing without three injured guards

* The Badgers got 14 points from Ben Davison, whose shoulder is injured and has popped out five times already this year

* Wisconsin played a former walk-on 20 minutes due to its injury situation

* The Badgers were 1-6 against Power 6 programs this season before Monday

* Wisconsin got crushed by Ohio State by 25 – in Madison last month

* The Badgers got crushed… again… by Marquette by 19 – in Madison last month

It is clear that if ever such an ignominious streak was ever going to be broken, Tuesday would’ve been an opportune time to do so.

I re-watched the tape Wednesday and here were some observations as to why the Indiana program is not progressing at any appreciable pace under Miller. In fact, you could make the argument that the Hoosiers have regressed since Tom Crean was fired.

FIRST HALF

19:34 – Indiana sophomore center De’Ron Davis fouls a shooter to allow an “and one” opportunity.

“We’ve got to get De’Ron going right now,” Miller said recently. “De’Ron really, in my mind, isn’t playing anywhere near where he was a month ago. He can’t be a guy that’s not giving maximum effort all the time.”

After playing at least 21:00 in five of the Hoosiers’ initial seven games this season, Davis has done so just once in the last eight games.

18:54 – Indiana commits a turnover. Forget the Hoosiers’ improved numbers in this regard this season, too often this team is nonsensical with the ball.

18:28 – Indiana forward Juwan Morgan is off-balance on a post-dig, slow to recover to a Wisconsin shooter, 3-pointer made. Badgers up 6-0.

You can say it’s an early possession, or whatever, but in conference games, every possession matters. Games are won by very slim margins. Three points allowed in the first half are just as critical as three in the final minute.

Miller claims to be a defensive-minded coach, but 1:32 into the game and his team has already made poor defensive plays (multiple).

18:06 – Davis with a really nice post move. Remember this moment; it will be his final basket of the entire game.

Davis made one more bucket on Tuesday than Kent Benson did and Benson graduated a long time ago. He finished the night with two points, three rebounds, and two fouls in 10 minutes. His counterpart (Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ) had 28 points and 10 rebounds.

17:33 – Davis picks up his second foul and has to sit down. The Indiana staff has had nine months to work with Davis, is he really any better? “Not much” is the nice answer.

17:25 – Indiana guard Josh Newkirk is wide open going to basket off a back screen from teammate Collin Hartman and Indiana senior guard Robert Johnson doesn’t pass him the ball. Sometimes this team simply isn’t very smart. Newkirk eventually scores on nice drive and finish, but that doesn’t excuse passing up an uncontested lay-in moments earlier.

16:59 – Johnson with nice dive down and deflection on a double on the block.

16:53 – Newkirk nice extend on screen to help teammate and gets the deflection.

16:12 – Hartman hedges on a ball screen and gets hung up on Newkirk, which allows Wisconsin a drive opportunity to get to the rim. Two Hoosier fifth-year players and they screw up a simple ball screen defense. Morgan then doesn’t slide over properly to stop the driver up the lane, who misses the lay-in though, while Indiana redshirt junior forward Zach McRoberts doesn’t slide over to block out Morgan’s man on his half-hearted help-side defensive effort.

The result is Happ gets an offensive board and put-back. Four of Indiana’s five players played poor defense on the possession.

15:23 – Happ fed ball on left block against smaller Morgan (Indiana has had to go small because Davis’ poor defensive effort), Durham doesn’t double down and pinch as he is supposed to, Happ draws the foul on Morgan. That scenario had to have been in the scouting report, but wasn’t followed by the freshman.

14:37 – Hartman on Happ on left block (Indiana small lineup still is problematic due to Davis) and instead of forcing Happ into help, he allows a spin move and lay-in baseline. It was a poor defensive possession by a fifth-year senior.

14:32 – Morgan seals Happ for wide-open position in middle of lane and Indiana sophomore guard Devonte Green doesn’t give him the ball for an easy bucket. He waits a couple of seconds, but by then, Happ has spun around Morgan and deflects the pass for a turnover. Forget all the talk about Green’s potential and ability, this game showed that he struggles to make simple basketball plays at times.

13:49 – Similar play happens with Hartman making a pass to a back-cutting Johnson, who draws the foul. Smart basketball play by both.

13:23 – Perhaps worst play of the game: Green gives up defensively and allows a semi-athletic Brad Davison to drive from 28 feet all the way to the rim for a basket, which missed. However, that is beside the point.

Sharing in the blame, Hartman, Johnson and Durham each make half-hearted help-side efforts. It was an absolutely awful possession defensively for a program that has supposedly been coached hard and well for nine months.

13:17 – That missed Wisconsin lay-in results in an Indiana 3-on-1 break the other way. Green hits Johnson for a lay-in, however, the truth is, he waited way too long to give the ball up and actually charged into a Badger defender. In addition, Green gave it up to Johnson when the easier pass to make was to a wide-open McSwain right next to him. Dumb basketball play again by Green.

12:51 – Indiana gets a defensive stop and leads 12-10 at that point. Green jacks up a very much-contested 3-pointer just five seconds into the possession. It misses. Dumb basketball play by Green. Rinse and repeat.

12:15 – Johnson makes a steal and hits Newkirk on break with great bounce pass. Smart basketball play and nice effort by both.

10:51 – Nice secondary break possession by Indiana puts Hoosiers up 17-10. If they had actually played smart basketball, the lead would be 15 at this point.

10:43 – McRoberts gets ball screened and Newkirk gives his teammate absolutely zero help. The Wisconsin driver then gets to the middle of the lane and ALL five Indiana players are ball side with the ball in the middle of the lane. Go ask a middle school coach if that is ever acceptable. Yes, a simple kick to the wing is made, followed by a pass up near the key and BOOM! A former walk-on player buries a 3. Terrible defense by Indiana.

10:15 – Newkirk with a bounce pass through Wisconsin traffic to McSwain. It gets deflected and stolen. Dumb play by a fifth-year guard.

9:51 – Wisconsin forward walks to middle of lane, underneath the basket and simply turns around. Four Indiana defenders (Hartman, McSwain, McRoberts and Newkirk) don’t communicate to figure out who has him. Newkirk is actually guarding no one; at least the other three were in help-side to their men. Easy pass/catch/dunk. Good Lord, Indiana is terrible defensively.

9:12 – McRoberts gets praised a lot for his “hustle plays,” but I’m telling you, he is out of position with some degree of frequency, as well. His not playing two Badgers (while Hartman helped on Happ) properly results in a wide-open Wisconsin 3 (that missed).

9:05 – Happ catches ball on right wing, guarded by Morgan, who never shows “active hands,” as taught at just about every basketball camp in the country. Easy skip pass to Wisconsin shooter, who buries it because McRoberts (in the lane) allowed himself to get screened in, while Johnson didn’t have proper position to guard two guys at once on weak side either.

7:36 – Smith completely loses his man from high wing, who cuts down lane for easy pass/catch. McRoberts has to help up, Wisconsin dump down, and Smith completes the defensive snafu by fouling the shooter as he recovers waaaay too late to do anything. Remember the “head on a swivel” drill that you learned in 5th grade? Yep, it would’ve helped there.

7:11 – Wisconsin post defender vs. Morgan is riding him high-side, Johnson tries to force it to Morgan, Badger defender dives in front to swat it away, but is called for a foul.

6:59 – Wisconsin defender knocks ball out of bound as Hartman tries to swing it to Johnson, who made little effort to come to the ball and prevent defender from getting into passing lane. The play leaves just :08 on the shot clock. Remember that.

6:51 – The very experienced lineup of Morgan, Hartman, Johnson, McRoberts, and Green allows the following to happen on the ensuing play:

– Inbound to Green, who dribbles twice, neither time with aggression toward the rim

– With :05 left on the shot clock, Green actually travels (but gets away with it) as he passes it to Morgan, who is 23 feet from the basket and little time to do anything.

– Morgan then half-attempts to drive down the right side of the lane, eventually just stepping on the baseline for a turnover as the clock expires.

– There was no definitive play called or made by any of the Indiana players.

– Not a single Indiana player circled into an open area calling for the ball. Johnson was on the wing and actually drifted away from Morgan, never saying a word. Stunning.

The play was the Hoosier program, of late, in a nutshell.

6:29 – Indiana gets a defensive stop. Morgan outlets to Green, who does a shake-bake seven seconds into the possession, and… it misses.

6:00 – Morgan picks up another foul as he tries to guard Happ and goes to the bench. Why is Indiana’s best player still trying to guard a guy two inches taller and now having to leave the game?

Because of De’Ron Davis.

Indiana now is going to have to guard the 6-foot-10 Happ with the 6-foot-6 McSwain. Because of De’Ron Davis.

5:26 – Post feed to Happ, guarded by McSwain, Hartman digs, but doesn’t double. Spin move by Happ and foul. And one. Thank you, De’Ron Davis.

4:21 – Green drives the ball to the free throw line, leaves his feet and tries to throw a pass to a teammate on the wing. The problem is a Wisconsin defender is there and simply reaches up with both hands and catches the pass. Terrible play.

4:01 – Happ is doubled on right block by McSwain and Hartman. He throws pass to shooter at top of key, who should be contested by Green, but isn’t, as Green stands in middle of the lane. McRoberts has just covered a guy on a basket cut, but runs out to contest Green’s man, who simply throws a bullet pass to an uncovered teammate at the basket. Yes, his shot got blocked, but again, that is beside the point. This team has little clue how to rotate and communicate properly. Very little clue.

3:29 – I’d say it is amazing that Indiana takes a 28-24 lead at the 3:29 mark of the opening period, as Johnson has a nice drive and finish, but it is more of a testament to how bad the Badgers actually are.

2:30 – With the shot clock winding down to :07, Newkirk throws a post feed to McSwain, who is two feet off of the right block. Of course, because McSwain is such a great post scorer, that is what Indiana should do at the end of the shot clock.

Johnson, Newkirk, Hartman, Durham and McSwain were on the court. If I asked an Indiana fan to list who should get the ball in that circumstance, McSwain would be listed fifth by everyone. Dumb play.

2:06 – McSwain gets screened and Johnson has to pick up Happ in the paint. Instead of pinching and forcing a pass out, Hartman and McRoberts watch as Happ scores easily over the 6-foot-4 Johnson. Dumb play by both. But the egregious mistake began by McSwain getting screened off the ball. That should never have happened.

1:05 – Happ keeps possession alive with a tap-back (boy, wouldn’t De’Ron Davis have helped there?). He then gets ball on right block and again, McRoberts half-heartedly digs, but doesn’t pinch, Hap spins and shoots over smaller McSwain, misses, but gets his own rebound and scores.

:031 – Hartman had just played the best offensive half of his collegiate career and was on the floor with Johnson. But with shot clock running down to :06, Newkirk throws the ball to McRoberts, who averages a little more than two shots per game. He misses. Hartman commits a foul on the rebound.

:02 – McSwain commits a foul on an Indiana miss. Wisconsin goes to free throw line to cut deficit to 33-30 after trailing 33-26 with less than 1:00 remaining.

* Interesting first half numbers were the fact that Morgan attempted just one shot, while Davis played just two minutes. Both are signs of basketball negligence occurring.

SECOND HALF

19:46 – With Happ holding the ball on the right block, Johnson leaves a guy standing completely unguarded underneath the basket to cover a guy at the 3-point line. Pass/catch and Indiana fouls the shooter to start the second half. Consistently dumb. But consistent, nonetheless.

19:03 – Newkirk doesn’t contest Wisconsin 3-point shooter well enough. Game tied.

18:31 – Johnson throws poor post feed to Morgan, who doesn’t hold his man off from reaching in and stealing it. Bad effort on both their parts. Wisconsin the other way.

17:35 – Happ catches ball off left block, spins and sweeps thru for a baseline drive and score and was barely contested by Davis. Easiest play Happ has had to make in months.

17:13 – Morgan makes an “and one” on a post move. It was his second shot of the night. Egregious on the part of Indiana for that to occur. And no, Wisconsin’s walk-ons aren’t capable of shutting Morgan down. He finished the night 7 of 9. Only dumb offensive play by Indiana can shut Morgan down.

17:00 – Indiana allows a Wisconsin offensive rebound… and fouls the guy on the play.

16:04 – Davison blows by Newkirk, who get s no help from Durham or Hartman for a lay-in. Wisconsin takes lead.

15:12 – Davison blows by Newkirk. Again. Davis puts forth almost no effort to come over on help-side to protect the rim or help his teammate. Terrible effort play by Davis. Davison misses the shot, but Davis’ man, who isn’t blocked out, grabs offensive board and scores.

14:42 – Hartman helps Johnson on a screen. Johnson slow to get through, Hartman slow to recover to his guy. Wisconsin 3.

14:22 – Newkirk drives down left side of lane, doesn’t draw iron. Davis stands and watches Wisconsin guys go get the air ball. Zero effort put forth to get the rebound. None.

13:55 – Davis gets caught in one-on-one match-up on left block and actually contests and blocks a pair of shots at the end of the shot clock.

13:21 – Happ cuts across lane on a cross screen, catches the ball as Davis recovers out of position (high), and Happ spins around for an easy lay-in. Properly defending a cross screen is taught during the individual work portion of every practice in the country. It’s called 1/1 in the post and every coach schedules the drill. Davis needs to do it more often.

13:02 – Green drives into the lane and throws up a shot over the 6-10 Happ. It misses.

12:36 – Happ dribbles ball to left block, Hartman comes down to dribble, which left his man at the 3-point line. Durham stands and watches Happ hit Hartman’s man for an open 3, as opposed to crossing out to contest the shot and Hartman racing to Durham’s guy if there is a kick. In addition, McSwain allowed Happ to just dribble right onto the block. No bumping and battling of him at all. None. Simple basketball not executed.

12:05 – Davison blows right past Durham, who didn’t fight him defensively in any way. Indiana fouls the shooter.

10:22 – Happ catches ball on right block, wants to go right shoulder. Newkirk doesn’t pinch, Happ spins right shoulder (just as he wanted) and shoots over Morgan. He misses and Morgan ties him up on offensive board.

9:51 – Morgan cuts onto left block for post feed, Durham throws a bounce pass about 100 m.p.h. at his shins and it caroms off Morgan’s leg out of bounds. Terrible feed.

9:20 – Morgan catches ball on right block with Happ out of game. Travels. Welcome to Indiana basketball.

8:47 – Happ catches the ball at the 3-point line with Morgan guarding him. Morgan allows Happ to blow by him, inexcusably. Hartman’s man slips off the fronting Hartman to screen Morgan giving Happ a clear lane to the rim. McRoberts makes no effort to slide over and stop the drive. Wisconsin rolling at this point.

8:11 – Wisconsin gets another open 3 (that misses) because Indiana defenders can not execute simple help-and-recover defensive strategy. They should pinch on the post and rely on their teammate to guard two offensive guys on the perimeter at once. Repeatedly, Indiana’s defender will dive onto Happ and then charge out to their own man on the pass, who is shooting. THAT guy becomes the responsibility of your teammate, who remained on the perimeter, NOT yours. YOU “X out” to HIS guy.

In any event, that happened again and Johnson doesn’t block his man out and allows a Badger offensive board.

7:59 – Morgan gets completely out of position off of Happ, who is just moving around, not even using screens, and Happ takes a feed and lays it in uncontested. To Morgan’s defense, he may be exhausted at this point, but still, terrible defense.

7:08 – Newkirk gets leveled by a backcourt Wisconsin screen and there isn’t a Hoosier teammate within 30 feet of him yelling “RIGHT!!” That right there demonstrates clearly that this is a basketball team, but it isn’t a TEAM.

6:53 – Newkirk leaves Davison (43% from 3 for the year) to dive down to double on Happ and no Indiana player covers for him. Smith makes a token effort, but isn’t anywhere close to contesting the shot.

6:42 – Newkirk takes the inbound pass and drives down right side of court and slides out of bounds. Wisconsin ball.

4:40 – Morgan gets screened away from his man (Happ), who takes a dump down and puts it up over Hartman and McRoberts. Happ misses, but gets his own rebound and scores over Hartman. Think Davis could’ve helped there?

3:37 – Wisconsin freshman Davison drives the ball on Indiana freshman Durham and scores on the pull up. Advantage Badgers. All night long.

2:44 – With the game in the waning seconds, Happ takes a charge on Morgan. There isn’t a big difference in the records of these teams, but there is a mountainesque difference between these two programs – at this point – and that play demonstrated it. Wisconsin’s center is taking charges after scoring 28 and grabbing 10, Indiana’s center remains seated on the bench with his two points.

2:22 – Davison blows by Hartman, who fouls him on the shot.

1:58 – Happ is guarding Morgan on the right block and simply swipes it away when Morgan puts it on the floor. And with that, this awful performance was finished.

“We are a low energy team,” Miller said recently. “We are not a hyped team. There are not a couple of guys on this team that when the ball goes up, they are coming for you.”

The coach is correct in his assessment. The question remains, however, what is Miller going to do to rectify this matter?

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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