You know what they say: a win is a win. At this point in the season, teams will take victories in any fashion with a smile, and Minnesota is no exception with its gritty (and ugly) 75-74 win over Indiana last night at The Barn.
Akeem Springs couldn't buy a bucket with an open checkbook last night. The senior was 1-for-12 from the field before corralling his own rebound in the closing seconds and connecting on a layup to push his team into a one point lead with just three seconds left.
Suddenly, Springs’ struggles in the first 39:57 of regulation were irrelevant.
Nate Mason took full charge for the Golden Gophers on the offensive side, pouring in 30 points on 8-for-19 shooting—including 3-for-6 from three-point territory. Justin Blackmon Jr. led the Hoosiers with 22 points.
Neither team eclipsed 40 percent from the field, as Minnesota and Indiana shot 38.7 percent and 34.7 percent, respectively. Both sides turned the ball over at a double digit rate.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned:
1. Tom Crean’s Criticism was a Failed Mission.
That’s what it was, right? A calculated mission with intentions to light a spark under his lagging team? It was a bad idea. It’s easy to see where he was coming from, though. His team was reeling, the energy wasn’t there, and they were losing games that should have been in the win column.
Crean viciously laid into his team following Indiana’s home loss to Michigan on Sunday. On a postgame radio show, Crean called this group of Hoosiers the least mature he has ever coached and even went to the lengths of individually bashing Robert Johnson and Blackmon Jr.
Or maybe he really just thinks his team is mediocre. And he would have a good point. In all fairness, the loss of OG Anunoby to a season-ending injury was a monumental blow to Indiana, both physically and emotionally on and off of the court. But Indiana just has simply been unable to consistently put it all together for 40 minutes this season.
2. Indiana is Officially out of the NCAA tournament .
If it wasn’t clear after the team’s home loss to Michigan on Sunday, it should be clear for Hoosier fans now. Indiana is officially out as an NCAA Tournament at-large team this season. It’s quite a disappointment based on how Indiana began the season.
Of course, this isn’t actually “official”, but with an underwhelming 15-12 overall record and 5-9 Big Ten mark, even a perfect finish to the team’s four remaining regular season games would only push the Hoosiers to 19-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten. At best, that’s a bubble resume.
The slide for Indiana has been brutal over the last few weeks, but with the team’s road loss to Minnesota last night, focus needs to shift to the NIT and not the NCAA Tournament for the Hoosiers.
3. Minnesota is Rolling.
The Golden Gophers are quietly rising up the ranks of the Big Ten. Last night, Richard Piton’s club notched their fifth win in six games. With five games remaining on the schedule, Minnesota has a true chance to bolster a potential postseason resume.
Minnesota may not have locked up a spot in March just yet, but road wins are still available against top tier Big Ten teams Wisconsin and Maryland. Sure, it is far fetched, but if the Golden Gophers go 4-1 in their last five and take down either of those top conference teams on the road, will it raise enough eyebrows?
Indiana will be playing for pride as the Big Ten season winds down. The Hoosiers’ travel to Iowa on Tuesday to take on the Hawkeyes.
Minnesota is hot, and they need to stay that way in its next five games. The Golden Gophers host Michigan Sunday.