As we head into the off season and look forward to Archie’s third season a common refrain from fans whose first response to everything isn’t to have someone fired, and possibly killed, is that we, as IU fans, need to give Archie time.
While I’m most decidedly not a Farchie(?) Filler(?) I find myself wondering if it’s true that we need to give Archie time.
The answer to that hinges almost entirely on your expectations. I did the work crunching the numbers a couple of years ago looking at the overall records and tournament results of the other elite level NCAA programs in an attempt to determine what types of results would be on par with those programs.
It’s not worth looking at conference titles as a point of comparison for a couple of reasons. First, because all conferences are not built the same. The Big 12 and SEC are largely garbage and it’s so much easier for Kansas and UK to win multiple conference titles than it is for any team in the Big Ten to do so. Secondly, because Tom Crean won two Big Ten titles in five years and that wasn’t good enough to keep him his job.
So, looking at average wins per season and average NCAA tournament success, the rough answer is 28 wins a year and an average of a Sweet 16 run every year.
Those are the average numbers, not the high or low end. Just the average.
Crean did not meet this average, even if you remove his first three years from his average – which is a fair thing to do based on what he inherited – his best years, 2012 and 2013 were the only years near 28 (27 and 29 wins respectively) and a Sweet 16 each of those two years.
And obviously, with no post season in year one and the NIT in year two and neither season posting even 20 wins, Archie is not meeting this level of “Elite Average.”
But is it reasonable to expect that after only his second year?
Let’s take a look at a few of the coaches who are running the other Elite programs.
Note: For a few of these, the average number of wins for elitism would have been much lower as the number of games played in the 90s and 00s hovered closer to 30 than to 40.
In Cal’s first season at UK (2009-2010) their record was 35-3. They were the #1 seed and lost in the Elite Eight. In his second season they finished 29-9 and made the Final Four. In his third season they were 38-2 and won the National Championship.
In Self’s first season at Kansas (2003-2004) they finished 24-9 and lost in the Elite Eight. His second season they finished 23-7 and lost in first round of the NCAA. Season three was a 25-8 finish and another first round exit, but it’s not unimportant that he went to the Elite Eight his first year. Early success gives you some rope.
In William’s first year at North Carolina (2003-2004) they finished 19-11 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament. In his second season, they went 33-4 and won the NCAA Championship. Is that something I could interest you in?
In Tom Izzo’s first season (1995-1996), the Spartans finished 16-16 and went the the NIT. His second season wasn’t much better, 17-12 and another NIT. His third season was 22-8 with a Big Ten title and a Sweet 16. Izzo is, without a doubt, the best case for give Archie some time.
What about big brother Sean Miller at Arizona? In his first season (2009-2010) Arizona was 16-15 and no post-season play. But things really jumped up a notch in year 2, finishing 30-8 and going to the Elite Eight.
Here’s a wrinkle to consider as we work through what kind of start we should accept/expect from Archie. Do we want a program run the way Cal does? Do we want our kids to go to North Carolina-eque fake classes. Do we want to end up like Kansas and Arizona, each the subject of bulletin boards with push pins and colored yarn connecting them deep within the FBI? How about having a doctor on staff who molested children for over a decade like Michigan State?
I’m not saying your program needs to be a cess pool of cheating and corruption to meet these levels of success, but…does it?
So, should we give Archie more time? Well, since the alternative is to fire him – which is stupid and self-defeating – the answer is yes. But with a huge caveat.
It is not unreasonable to have higher expectations than what we’ve been given these past two seasons. It’s not a universal maxim that it takes 4-5 years to get to an elite level at at an Elite Program. In fact, it often takes much less time than that.
And for a coach who was hired to be demonstrably better than his predecessor, an immediate – pretty damn close to immediate – jump to the 28 win, Sweet Sixteen average should be the expectation.
We’ll know soon enough if Archie is able to get to that level, but make no mistake that is the level he needs to get to if given more time than it took anyone listed above not named Izzo.