Thursday, December 23, 2010
Vegas Blues -- IU Shows It’s Not Big Ten Ready
So what do we make of Indiana’s 0-2 Las Vegas trip?
First, the Hoosiers are not Big Ten ready. They can’t win away from Assembly Hall, they don’t play good enough defense and they lack the toughness necessary against good teams.
Northern Iowa and Colorado are decent teams, but they aren’t the caliber of what IU will face in the Big Ten. These were winnable games, so win them.
This was the worst possible result. The Hoosiers are 9-4 and need to go 7-11 in the Big Ten for a shot at the NIT.
How likely is that? We’ll explore that in a future blog.
Based on the Las Vegas results, it might seem obvious IU’s non-conference schedule didn’t prepare it for quality opponents. In fact, that’s true, but it was still the kind of schedule necessary for this program for this year.
Not in future years.
As coach Tom Crean has said, the Hoosiers needed early success to build confidence. The hope was the necessary toughness and execution would follow. It didn’t. At least, it hasn’t yet.
Future non-conference schedules absolutely have to have better opponents. Not in the excessive manner of Michigan State, but better than the likes of Savannah State, SIU-Edwardsville and South Carolina State.
Kentucky and Boston College were not enough.
IU has still not recovered from the mess of the Kelvin Sampson era. It is getting closer, but it’s still not there.
As usual, the Hoosiers played well enough to have a chance at the end against Colorado, but couldn’t finish. They rallied from a massive deficit to pull within three, but couldn’t make the crunch-time plays to win.
You’d like to think that this is just part of the growing process, that there will come a time they’ll learn from these losses and start winning close games. It’s the old cliché that if you keep knocking on the door long enough, you’ll knock it down.
There’s no guarantee that will happen.
In the meantime, IU has to find more consistency. Against Colorado, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls were the offensive stars. Christian Watford scored, but struggled with his shooting. Verdell Jones lost his shooting stroke the moment he left Assembly Hall. Perhaps that reflects the ankle injuries he’s suffered. Whatever the reason, he needs to put extra time in the gym to regain his shooting stroke. The same is true for Maurice Creek, who has yet to return to last year’s form, which is what you’d expect from someone who suffered the knee injury he did. He might not regain his stroke until next season.
Still, if the Hoosiers can play strong enough defense, which means intensity, communication and all-out effort, they’ll have a chance, especially at Assembly Hall.
Their first two Big Ten games are at home. That’s the good news. Their first game is Monday against Penn State, which might be the league’s weakest team. That’s even better news. Their next game is New Year’s Eve against second-ranked Ohio State, the conference’s best team, with a veteran lineup and a superstar freshman center.
That’s bad news.
So where does this leave the Hoosiers?
With a ton of work to do.