The Indiana Hoosiers (14-8, 4-5) made a huge statement victory over the Michigan Wolverines (16-5, 8-1) on Sunday in Assembly Hall. The win put them back in NCAA Tournament conversation after recently being embarrassed by losing to the Nebraska Cornhuskers after having a 10-plus point lead and dominating in the first half.
That’s been the story of Indiana’s season, though. They take a big step forward and then major steps back. If they want to make the tournament, they better make the most out of this new found life.
Reality is, Indiana has made some statement wins over the past month. They beat (at the time) the third-ranked and unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers 75-72 on January 14. Then today’s 11-point win over the tenth ranked Wolverines (who have now suffered their first conference loss) made another big statement.
If they build on this instead of taking a step backwards, then they can be a tournament team.
I wrote last week, if they go on a run, keep this defensive effort up and get better on the offensive end, then they can make some noise. Four of their last five games they’ve kept their opponents from scoring out of the 50′s.
Now, they need to not take a step back and keep going forward off this win.
After the Wisconsin victory, they stunk the place up by losing at home to Northwestern. Yes, the Wildcats have come along lately, but if Indiana put even a little bit of effort and made just a few of their many wide open shots, they’d be a Big 10 title contender.
Now, the destiny is in their own hands. They have a tough game next Saturday on the road at the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but that game is very winable. Minnesota is 15-7 and have lost their last two games to Nebraska on the road and Northwestern at home, and they have a game on the road at Purdue on Wednesday night.
They’re vulnerable and has overachieved most of the year. They’re coming back down to earth. Indiana should win that game.
From there, they have Penn State and Iowa at home then Purdue on the road. If they don’t get distracted by the success and what everyone is telling them over the next week, then they could be on a five-game winning streak with a rematch against Northwestern on the road, February 22.
They’re currently in a four-way tie for fifth in the conference right now and only half a game out of fourth. Winning all four of those games not only puts them in the NCAA Tourne,y but puts them in position to contend for a conference title.
It’s all on the shoulders of this Hoosiers team. Put in the effort and extra work then they’re destined to succeed; if they go back to immaturity and becoming overconfident based on what everyone is feeding them, then they will teeter on the bubble.