The Hoosiers were coming off of a very disappointing season in 2013-2014 which saw Indiana miss the post season entirely. Things were further complicated with Noah Vonleh leaving for the NBA to go along with several transfers such as Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell. Coach Crean had to do a lot of late recruiting and he turned in a fairly talented class when all was said and done led by McDonald's All American James Blackmon Jr. and fellow guard Robert Johnson. To go along with the talent already on the roster in Kevin Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams - many in Hoosier Nation had high hopes once again for this Indiana program.
The one thing Indiana lacked was size and that area would take another significant hit on Halloween when 6'8" sophomore forward Devin Davis was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital in serious condition after being hit by a car driven by freshman teammate Emmitt Holt. Davis would later be ruled at fault for the accident as he ran in front of the moving vehicle after Holt had dropped him off following a Halloween party. The news continued to be bad the following weekend as Indiana announced Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson would be suspended 4 games each due to drug related incidents that happened over the summer. Coach Crean who had already been viewed by many as on the hot seat took a lot of fire in this stretch from the National Media and several high profile writers called for him to resign or be fired. That was the stage upon which this season began and as it turns out, the season would be no less of a roller coaster ride.
The non-conference schedule was quite a bit tougher than a year ago and allowed Indiana to gain a few high profile wins, but also gave the Hoosiers a few losses as road bumps along the way. After knocking off former Indiana coach Mike Davis and his Texas Southern team in Bloomington, the Hoosiers turned around and knocked off #22 Southern Methodist and head coach Larry Brown in the first big win of the season. That win is still paying dividends today as SMU has had a great season and is still ranked #20 in the polls. A few days later though, the Hoosiers suffered a shocking defeat at home to Eastern Washington 88-86. The Eagles have turned out to also be a very good basketball team though as they won their conference tournament and may be everyone's upset special pick in the NCAA Tournament next week giving how well they score the basketball.
The Hoosiers next high major matchup occurred a week later against Pittsburgh in the B1G/ACC Challenge at home and Indiana again played well taking the game 81-69. After a 46 point win over a terrible Savannah State team, the Hoosiers were 7-1 heading to Madison Square Garden to take on #4 Louisville in a blockbuster matchup. While Indiana was able to hang around for the first half of this one, they were blown away in the second half and lost 94-74 which served as a large reality check for how good this Indiana team actually was. The up and down non-conference slate continued with a nice win over #23 Butler in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis 82-73 followed by a heartbreaking loss in overtime to Georgetown in Madison Square Garden 91-87 to end the non-conference season at 10-3.
The conference season was really split into two parts for Indiana. It started with a very surprising win at the time against Nebraska 70-65 and even though it would turn out that Nebraska simply wasn't a good team, it was still a big confidence boost at the time. Despite a blowout loss in East Lansing 70-50, the Hoosiers were able to bounce back with four straight wins against #22 OSU, Penn State, Illinois, and #13 Maryland. The win over Maryland 89-70 was especially big as it brought the Hoosiers into a tie for first place in the conference at 5-1. Hoosier Nation was riding high at this point and fans were starting to think about how low a seed they could possibly get to with what was viewed as an easier schedule down the stretch in conference play to come. However, the season was about to be turned in the wrong direction.
The Hoosiers had to play 4 of their next 6 games on the road and it was a stretch of basketball that Indiana fans certainly want to forget. It started with a loss at Ohio State and continued with a blowout loss at archrival Purdue. There was a minor reprieve with a home win against Rutgers (which was much too close at 72-64), but then Indiana had to travel to #5 Wisconsin and while they showed some promise - they fell there as well. After a close call at home against Michigan, the Hoosiers finished this stretch of games at Maryland with a heartbreaking loss after Kevin Yogi Ferrell missed a wide open three pointer for the win.
Even at this point, at 7-5, many Indiana fans felt comfortable as the final 6 games had been viewed as the easiest stretch of basketball the Hoosiers would have all year. It got off to a great start at home against Minnesota as Indiana hit a school record 18 three pointers in route to a 90-71 blowout. However, that high was quickly extinguished as Purdue came into Bloomington and pulled off a stunning upset in a riled up Assembly Hall. Even so, Indiana bounced back with a 30 point win at Rutgers in the next game. No one knew at that point it would be their last win of the regular season. How could they? Indiana finished at lowly Northwestern and then against Iowa and Michigan State at home. Surely Indiana could win at least two of those games and seal a NCAA Tournament bid? Well - as we know - that isn't how things worked out. Indiana lost to Northwestern, got blown out by Iowa, and then lost a close one to MSU at home which left Yogi Ferrell devastated on the court after missing a free throw to tie the game in the waning seconds. This ended the Hoosiers conference regular season at 9-9 and 19-12 overall and coaching rumors started to spread like wildfire again.
Indiana came into the B1G Tournament as the #7 seed and desperately needed at least one win and possibly two wins to make the NCAA Tournament. The first game would give the Hoosiers a chance at revenge for their one bad loss during the regular season - #10 Northwestern. With as poorly as Indiana played done the stretch - no one was quite sure what to expect in this one. But Indiana quickly extinguished any doubts in Hoosier Nation as they dismantled the Wildcats from start to finish in route to a 71-56 victory. Next up was #2 Maryland which might represent the best physical matchup for Indiana within the top teams in the B1G this year. The Hoosiers played very well against the Terrapins in both matchups during the regular season and really should have won both games instead of splitting. This game would be no exception as both teams were up and down the floor and not too concerned about playing defense. It made the game which was 42-40 Maryland at the half fun to watch for fans. The Hoosiers cooled off a bit in the second half though - especially from deep - and Maryland was able to garner the 75-69 victory which left the Hoosiers squarely on the bubble as the last team in for many bracketologists.
As we enter the final few hours before the Indiana program has their fate determined - the Hoosiers are now on the outside looking in due to Wyoming's upset title last night in a least a few brackets. A few others still have the Hoosiers in the dance. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on though - if Indiana does make it - it will be one of the "First Four" teams playing in Dayton on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Hoosiers only bad loss this season is against Northwestern which is a lot better than many of the other bubble teams can say about a number of their losses. However, the abysmal play down the stretch by the Hoosiers - which isn't supposed to be a real factor considered by the committee - could be what ends up leaving Indiana in the NIT field. The committee is made up of humans after all, and if they watched a lot of Indiana's final 14 games - in which the Hoosiers lost 9 - it would be hard to say this team is a tournament worthy team. They could also look at the Hanner Mosquera-Perea injury, which Coach Crean has tried to keep as minor as possible so far, and leave Indiana out on that basis. Injuries are allowed to be considered in this situation, but Indiana does have the fact that they played well without Perea earlier in the year going for it in this instance.
So does Indiana get in? I really think they do. There is no doubt that it is going to be a close call as one of the last 4 teams in - but I think they are going to make it. However, if they don't - it will mean Coach Crean has only made the tournament two times in his seven seasons and that mark is going to come under real fire in the next couple of weeks if true.