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Are the Indiana Hoosiers On The Upswing Heading Into 2016?

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On the eve of the Hoosier's Big Ten lid-lifter, is Indiana on the rise back towards achieving preseason expectations?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Well, yes. Technically. One would be hard-pressed to claim that a team that is riding a five-game winning streak would be trending downward. However, look at the opponents that the Indiana Hoosiers have defeated over the last three and a half weeks and the question may be worth asking.

Four of Indiana's wins came against lowly cupcakes such as Morehead State Eagles, IPFW Mastodons, McNeese State Cowboys, and the Kennesaw State Owls, (there impress your friends by knowing those four schools' respective nicknames) teams that will be fortunate to combine for 50 wins. The fifth being against the Notre Dame Fightin' Irish, likely the Hoosiers' best non-conference win, who I am not convinced won't find themselves in the NIT rather than the Big Dance. So take the last month of basketball how you will. The defense still has not been fantasticand when it has been good, one could easily chalk it up to inferior opposition. Even more, the truly cynical could write off the comeback against  Notre Dame as the Irish simply going cold from the field at the absolute worst time imaginable.

But honestly, does it matter? Indiana has been blessed with the absolutely ideal setup for the conference schedule. The Hoosiers don't see Michigan State, Purdue, or Maryland until the final six games. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Hoosiers start Big Ten play 10-2 or better. I refuse to believe Indiana is capable of wining against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center until I see it, and you always should account for a team having an off-night especially at this time of the year, but the schedule is extremely favorable. Hell, KenPom has the Hoosiers currently favored in their next nine games.

Additionally, if Indiana wins every game 100-98, so be it. The Hoosiers, like every other team in major conferences, are given the benefit of the doubt more often than not when it comes to the tournament selection committee. It comes to a point that with having the Big Ten logo painted in the lane that sometimes quantity over quality, especially if Indiana can reach the 12-14 win range in conference, a goal that the talent on this roster alone is capable of.

The biggest question for head coach Tom Crean's team entering this season was if the young talent in the front court could develop and mature quickly enough. Freshman Thomas Bryant is currently riding a streak of three games scoring in double figures, something he hadn't done in consecutive contest since the opening three of the season. It is not a stretch to say that the Hoosiers' hopes of a deep run in March rests on the shoulders of Bryant. As everyone expected, Indiana has gotten offensive production from every spot on the floor. Eight different Hoosiers have scored in double figures this season. So even when, say a Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell has an off shooting night, or the Hoosiers are playing on the road and a James Blackmon Jr. can't buy a bucket, a  Robert Johnson or a Troy Williams is there to pick up the slack.

Indiana starts off the non-conference with Rutgers and Nebraska. Two wins in these games isn't going to convince anyone that the Hoosiers are challengers for the Big Ten or worthy of a high NCAA Tournament seed, but no one can complain about two wins in the conference win column bank.

The Hoosiers have started to get back to winning, the only question is if it's a sign of things to come or if it's the end result of a weaker portion of their schedule.