Former Indiana coach Archie Miller picks Ohio State to win Big Ten
For the first time in five years, Archie Miller won’t have to try and plan for opposing Big Ten men’s basketball teams. If he did, though, the former Indiana coach has a pick for his favorite to win the conference this season.
“I went with Ohio State to win the league,” Miller said during an appearance on the “Field of 68” podcast. “I think Ohio State is a pick. One of the big reasons why, I don’t know, but I feel like them losing in the NCAA Tourmanent as a (No.) 2 seed and bringing those guys back, I feel like there’s a little bit of an edge there that they’re gonna be out to get a little further.”
Ohio State opens the 2021-22 season ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press preseason poll. The Buckeyes were picked to finish fourth in the Big Ten in unofficial media poll conducted jointly by The Dispatch and The Athletic. Miller, who was an Ohio State assistant coach for Thad Matta from 2007-09, spent the last four seasons at Indiana before being fired and replaced by Mike Woodson.
After going 12-8 in conference play last season and earning a No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes won three games in as many days to reach the title game before falling to Illinois in overtime on Selection Sunday. Five days later, they were upset by No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a game played at Purdue’s Mackey Arena.
Only six players who saw action in that game return to this year’s team, but third-year forward and 2021 first-team all-Big Ten selection E.J. Liddell is one of them. His presence went a long way toward Miller’s prediction.
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“I think they have the ability to change the game up on you and to play E.J. Liddell at the center position,” Miller told hosts Jeff Goodman and Robbie Hummel. “He’s not a center, but he’s that hybrid mismatch where you can get away with it on the defensive end because of how physical he is but also what he does from an offensive perspective against the great size in the league. He can pull them away and they can go that route if they want to.
One of the reasons offensively I thought they were so hard to deal with at a certain stage of the league was he was a problem, because he’s physical enough. He’s like a Paul Millsap where he can wear you out around the basket as well.”
Liddell led the Buckeyes with 23 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in that loss to the Golden Eagles. He also had 19 points and four rebounds in the lone meeting between Miller’s Indiana team and the Buckeyes. Ohio State won that game, 78-59, at Value City Arena on February 13.
Miller’s praise wasn’t reserved exclusively for Liddell, particularly in the Ohio State frontcourt.
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“I also think unlike a year ago Ohio State has more depth,” he said. “They have Zed Key. They added Joey Brunk. They have veteran guys (like) Kyle Young that if he stays healthy, a big reason last season why Ohio State had a little bit of a drop, he’s so important to what they do, he wasn’t healthy. Some of this depth over the course of the season will help him be healthy because he’s not getting beat up in practice every day. They have the ability to do that.
“If you ask me where Ohio State will be better, they’ll be better defensively than they were a year ago because one they have more size and they have more depth they can throw at you, and on the perimeter you add a guy like (Jamari) Wheeler who’s an instant defensive menace and you add getting older with (Justice) Sueing, I think they’ll be better.”
There are questions about the Buckeyes, Miller said, and they start with the backcourt.
“I think if you talk to Chris Holtmann, his concern’s gonna be he has to replace a top-notch backcourt,” Miller said. “I mean, top notch. CJ Walker was a rock. He was a rock with the ball, a rock at both ends. The leader. A winner. When you start to talk about Duane Washington, I’m not sure there’s a guy in the league a year ago that was more lethal in terms of being able to score in bunches. They’ll have to replace those two guys, but the cumulative effect, bringing (Jimmy) Sotos back, adding Wheeler, you have Meechie Johnson’s now a year older, you have (Justin) Ahrens who can really shoot the ball, Sueing, they have a lot to work with. “