While expectations were not especially high heading into this season for the Indiana Hoosiers, truly great moments have been few and far between. The team has underwhelmed for much of the season and has more often than not failed to close the deal when it had a chance to score some marquee wins.
This underwhelming play has pushed Indiana to a 16-14 overall record as the Hoosiers prepare to head into the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. The team hasn’t been terrible, but it simply hasn’t been good enough to meet program expectations.
But can that change in New York City? And can the Hoosiers use a magical March run to save what looks like a lost season? Let’s take a look.
The Hoosiers will open things up on Thursday with a matchup against either Minnesota or Rutgers. As the six seed, Indiana should avoid a remarkably tough first round matchup, but things could still get interesting on Thursday evening.
Generally speaking, who Indiana ends up seeing on Thursday won’t make much of a difference. Minnesota and Rutgers have both struggled immensely this season and neither seems poised for a Big Ten Tournament run. The Gophers have lost 10 of 11 heading into New York City and Rutgers has lost three straight and 10 of 11 as well.
During the regular season, Indiana went 3-0 against the Gophers and Scarlet Knights and should be able to improve to 4-0 with relative ease. The last two of those matchups came in February with blowout victories in favor of the Hoosiers.
Indiana is certainly capable of being upset, but it’s hard to see Minnesota or Rutgers moving onto Friday. The Hoosiers have won four of six and have only lost to one team outside the top 60 on KenPom since January 2nd. Considering that the Gophers and Scarlet Knights are both outside the top 100 on KenPom, Indiana appears to be in good shape heading into Thursday.
-If They Advance
Should Indiana find its way past Minnesota or Rutgers (as expected), it will get a rematch against arch-rival Purdue on Friday evening. The Boilermakers are the three seed heading into this year’s Big Ten Tournament.
The significance of a matchup against Purdue largely goes without saying. The Boilermakers are 26-5 and poised to get an excellent seed in the NCAA Tournament. Add in that Purdue is a rival and it’s easy to see why a matchup with Indiana and Purdue would be exciting for both sides and the Big Ten in general.
Unfortunately, a matchup against Purdue would also be incredibly difficult. The Boilermakers are 26-5 for a reason and have only lost to one team outside the top 20 on KenPom since November 23rd. Seeing Indiana (No. 73) taking down a team like that on a neutral court would be tough.
The one thing fans should remember is that Indiana would bring it’s “A” game for a matchup against Purdue. Juwan Morgan would be a really difficult matchup for the Boilermakers upfront and Indiana’s improved defense should help as well. If Purdue had a poor shooting night, Indiana could make things interesting.
Additionally, it’s important to note how much Indiana has improved since the start of the season. Indiana was down to 100th on KenPom in late January, but has now gotten all the way back up to No. 73 nationally. While that might not seem particularly impressive, it could mean the difference between on a win and loss on Friday evening.
And should Indiana find a way to take down Purdue on Friday, it would likely be looking at game against Ohio State or Penn State on Saturday. Such a matchup would look a lot better for Indiana on paper than the game against Purdue. After all, Indiana beat Penn State earlier this season and went to double overtime against Ohio State last week.
Of course, it’s difficult to predict what could come after that. Michigan State and Nebraska are the highest seeded teams on the other side, but both will have some major challenges ahead. Either way, Indiana has plenty of work to do before fans can even start thinking about potential Sunday matchups.
Indiana might not be a team many are thinking about for this year’s Big Ten Tournament, but don’t overlook the Hoosiers just yet. The team has a very winnable game on Thursday and is just one upset away from an intriguing game on Saturday. Beating Purdue is clearly the biggest obstacle, but it’s far from impossible.
Archie Miller was hired for what he did at Dayton in March. Perhaps Hoosier fans will get a taste of that in the days to come.