What is Indiana Basketball? On the one hand it's yes, #BANNERS. The Hoosiers have five national championships, including the last instance of an undefeated college basketball team in 1976. From the fall of 1974 through the spring of 1976, the team won 63 games and lost just one—a contest featuring the Hoosiers' best player admirably attempting to compete with a cast on his arm.
And although John Wooden's UCLA teams exerted even more dominance in the years just prior, Indiana's run seemed more...genuine. Sure, there's the Sam Gilbert stuff, but UCLA was also a national recruiting juggernaut, attracting the best players from all over the country. Lew Alcindor won a city championships on the Lower West Side. Henry Bibby mastered his set shot on a wooden backboard behind the family farm in Franklinton, North Carolina. Walt Hazzard was the original Fresh Prince, moving to sunny California after mastering the playgrounds in West Philadelphia.
For better or worse, that wasn't Indiana. The 1976 roster includes just one player—Jim Roberson—that wasn't from Indiana, Illinois, or Ohio.
(Roberson, a former walk-on was dismissed a couple of years later by Coach Knight, reportedly for denying his consumption of marijuana. Knight, it seemed, was not one of the Indiana Boys Tom Petty was referencing.)
Bobby Knight's version of the Hoosiers was a bunch of corn-fed Midwestern boys dominating the sport and playing the game The Right Way. Of course, we now know that all was not well in Bloomington, and that revelation has powered roughly the last generation of Indiana basketball. But even before Neil Reed, there were cracks in the foundation. Knight went 60-42 in Big Ten play over his final six seasons. That's not bad, but it's also not vastly superior to Tom Crean's last six (63-45), or even Mike Davis' six seasons (55-41).
Is this just what Indiana basketball looks like now?
Maybe, but whether or it or it is not I don't think matters much. For major conference schools with at least one national championship in the trophy case, there are two types of coaches: those who have won a national championships, and therefore are largely immune from involuntary termination (well, almost), and everybody else.
So, after a massive rebuild and a couple of conference championships, Indiana is testing out the next candidate that could add to the collection of banners in Archie Miller. For the past six seasons, Miller has been winning at Dayton in the Atlantic-10, compiling a 68-34 conference record, and reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of the past four seasons. But if he reaches the Dance again this year, he will have overachieved. Gone to the NBA are Thomas Bryant, James Blackmon, and OG Anunoby. While a fair amount of minutes return, those are significant losses on both offense and defense. De'Ron Davis showed plenty of potential last year, and the former top-50 recruit seems like a sure thing to bust out in his sophomore year. Robert Johnson will likely co-captain the offense, and if he can build on last year's improvements he could challenge for All-Conference status. That said, the combo guard's turnover rate has remained stubbornly high.
It's a bit of a mystery as to who else might step up to fill the gaps, as the rest of the team was really comprised of role players last year. Someone will transition to something more, but there's no good way of figuring that out, now.
As for Miller, I suspect that Hoosier fans will not have to recalibrate too much when viewing this year's version. Over the past few seasons, the Dayton Flyers were a bit stronger on offense than defense, the one notable exception being the 2015-16 squad, whose stout defense was certainly aided by the efforts of the late Steve McElvene.
Whether Miller works out over the long haul will likely be determined by recruiting (you read BTG for the hard-hitting analysis), though the days of running the table with a squad comprised of farm boys from Muncie, Hoopeston, Fishers, and the like are over. But I suspect that's not a hard requirement.