Archie Miller’s (Very Scientific) WAR

Archie Miller’s first season is in the books. It wasn’t a very good book, and I don’t recommend re-reading it. It was entertaining in parts, but let’s be honest, it wasn’t particularly well-written. Still lots of people watched it, so I guess that makes it The DaVinci Code of college basketball seasons.

This seems as good a time as any to ask a very simple question without a simple answer. What is Archie Miller’s New Coach WAR?

WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, is a baseball saber metric stat design to basically answer this question, “If player X goes out and we replace him with an average player at his position, how much have we lost?” In this case, what we’re asking is, “How many wins did replacing Tom Crean with Archie Miller net us this year?”

I mean, that’s really it isn’t it. You wanted Crean fired because he wasn’t winning enough. His defense wasn’t good enough. His recruiting wasn’t good enough. He clapped too much. His teams turned the ball over too much. His substitution patterns were… wrong, I guess is the word.

So, we got rid of him and replaced him with The God Archie Miller. What did that get us?

Let’s give it a look.

According to Kenpom.com.

Record

2016-2017 finished the season 18-16, 7-11 in Big Ten play

2017-2018 finished the season 16-15, 9-9 in Big Ten play.

That’s basically a wash, so no improvement.

The Adjusted Offense

meaning points scored per 100 possessions for

2016-2017 116.1 (27th in the nation)

2017-2018 110.1 (94th in the nation)

Crean wins this one by quite a bit. You can factor in the losses of .5 OG, Thomas Bryant, and James Blackmon if you’d like. That’s totally fair.

The Adjusted Defense

meaning points allowed per 100 possessions for

2016-2017 101.6 (104th in the nation)

2017-2018 99.8 (68th in the nation)

Miller wins this by quite a bit, though not as much as Crean won the previous category. You should remember to factor in that James Blackmon is gone. If you’re using him to explain a worse offense, you need to remember how his absence improves a defense.

Adjusted Tempo

Possessions per 40 minutes

2016-2017 68.4 (168th in the nation)

2017-2018 67 (252 in the nation)

That’s a big difference. Crean’s teams played faster. But also turned the ball over a lot, so there’s that. To be fair, however, I can’t find the turnover numbers for last year and this year. I feel like they were a little better this year, but not by much.

Strength of Schedule

2016-2017 341st

2017-2018 243rd

Crean’s schedule last year was stupid. This season’s was harder and the scheduling was dumb. But it was dumb for all Big Ten teams, so I’m not sure how much you can factor that in.

So, where does that leave us? To be honest, with probably about the same win-loss record Crean had with this group of players, a better defensive team, a worse offensive team, a slower style of play with slightly fewer turnovers. In other words, kind of what one would expect.

So, was it worth it?

If you asked your standard Freaner, I’m betting the answer would be yes. They were done. They had no belief that the future would be better, thus they had no hope. Archie isn’t Crean, so that’s better to them. They have hope.

Plus, if Archie lands Romeo….

For me, who was at best ambivalent about getting rid of Crean? I knew we were at that point, but I disagreed with the data points being used by many to arrive at that conclusion. Crean had to go because the fans had decided he had to go, whether they were right or not is where we differ.

I’m still not sure. Nothing I saw this season blew me away. I expected mediocrity. I expected good wins (didn’t really get many of those). I expected bad losses (got more than a few of those). I expected a middle of the pack team (I got slightly better than that). I didn’t expect post-season play (I didn’t get post-season play).

You’re only going to be able to judge Archie based on the long term results. And for those, we’ll just have to wait. I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic in this regard. I don’t know what to expect at this point. I’ll tell you what I think about next season when we get to next season, but I’ll tell you this right now.

If Archie fails to show real improvement next year, the Freaners are going to start beating the the Friller drums. They won’t be able to help themselves. It won’t be good enough fast enough, and Archie’s leash will be gone. He’ll be exactly where Crean was after the 2013 Syracuse loss, only without the success. He’ll find himself in the position of having to change the minds of people who are not likely to have their minds changed.

And then the decision to fire Crean and replace him with Miller will start to look pretty bad. Not because Miller is worse, but because many IU fans, not you or me – we’re perfectly reasonable and not at all insane, will have decided he’s not the one to hang the 6th banner.

Once that happens, only hanging the 6th banner will change that perception and anything short of that, even 2 Big Ten titles in 4 years, will be seen as a failure.

So, year one is over. Year two is going to be a big one. Buckle up, kids.

 

Jeff Taylor