As weird as this sounds, the Indiana Hoosiers are facing a must-win matchup with the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans on Saturday afternoon in Assembly Hall. Yes, I know it’s only the second game of the Big 10 schedule, but Indiana is still searching for a quality win over a quality opponent.
The Hoosiers are 10-4, but none of those 10 wins look very good on a resume. As of now, I have Indiana as a no. 10 seed in March’s NCAA Tournament. A few more losses, and they could creep to the bubble range; a few more losses from there, and they could drop out. That’s a shame for a team that had such high hopes starting last year and with tons of talent on this year’s team.
The reality is that the game with Michigan State, a tough championship-level opponent, is a must-win. IU faces Penn State next Saturday on the road then hosts the fourth-ranked and undefeated Wisconsin Badgers after that. IU hasn’t beat Wisconsin in the last 10 games they’ve played the Badgers, and that could be a tough game on a Big Tuesday. That too is a must-win and if Indiana could take care of business over the next three games, they could be back on track.
That’s why the game Saturday is so big. A loss to Michigan State could send this team spiraling out of control. If IU falls to 10-5 on the year and 0-2 in conference play, they lose all momentum. Penn State is no slouch and Wisconsin is tough. Going 1-3 at best to start the conference schedule puts them in a real bad place.
We’re going to learn a lot about Indiana after Saturday’s game. They need to respond and win it. They have the players. It’s time for everyone to step up.