If Indiana Hoosiers Don't Shape Up, NCAA Tournament Berth Isn't Likely

By Eric Smith


Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This Indiana Hoosiers team is severely underperforming in 2013. Yes, I know they lost a majority of their scoring from last year’s Big 10 championship and Sweet 16 team, but they did reload with some talented freshmen and returned some key players. They shouldn’t be 8-3 right now, entering their last two games of the non-conference schedule.

Reality is, the 79-72 loss to Notre Dame at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Saturday was the worst of the season. That game should have been won by Indiana, as the Hoosiers should have won by double digits. This was the same Fighting Irish team that lost to North Dakota State at home just three days before the Crossroads Classic matchup. They also lost to Indiana State in the Joyce Center earlier in the year.

Instead, Indiana showed no heart as they let big men Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight push them around all afternoon. Sherman, who has been manhandled all  year by his opponents, ate up Indiana’s freshman phenom Noah Vonleh. How does that happen?

This is the same Vonleh who is projected to be an NBA lottery pick by most experts, who went up against Sherman, who would be last picked in a Church pick up game. Sherman had 16 points and six rebounds on him. Then, when Sherman got in foul trouble, Knight would come in and do the same, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds off the bench.

The moral of the story is IU is soft and is going nowhere fast if things don’t change. It has beaten nobody this year and if it can’t gain some momentum, it likely will be a stretch to make the NCAA Tournament.

Indiana is going to be 10-3 going into conference play. I understand the two losses to Connecticut and Syracuse, as both are ranked in the top 10, but this Notre Dame loss is going to sting. Now, Indiana must at least go .500 in Big 10 play. What’s going to be difficult is Indiana has shown no physical presence. It can’t shoot and cave in when it plays a team that wants to push it around a bit.

That’s what the Big 10 is–a physical league with teams that can shoot. How on earth is it going to beat the Michigan State’s, Ohio State’s, Iowa’s and Wisconsin’s of the league? If Indiana can’t at least split the games with them this year, then it will be in trouble. It needs quality wins and have to avoid the losses creeping up.

This team has a lot of work to do during the winter break.

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