Sunday, March 6, 2011

Indiana Faces Huge Big Ten Tourney Challenge

So the Big Ten tourney draw is out and Indiana got Penn State in its Thursday night opener. This is not the end of the world. That will only come when Bob Knight stops swearing on national TV (more on this in a moment).

The Hoosiers (12-16) actually have a shot at winning this game, which can’t be said for the rest of their potential draw. The Nittany Lions (16-13) are not the Monsters of the Midway or Ohio State. They have one great player in Talor Battle and a couple of good ones in David Jackson and Jeff Brooks and, at times, Andrew Jones.

Yes, Penn State won the only meeting between these teams by a 69-60 score back in late December, but that’s so long ago as to provide no useful reference point. Still, if IU can figure out how to play defense, specifically against three-pointers (Penn State went 8-for-17 from that range with Jackson and Battle combining for seven of those baskets), it can win this game.

Wait. The Hoosiers haven’t figured out how to play consistent defense all season, so why should they start now? That’s a good question and to accept that they can means buying a really powerful pair of Cream ‘n Crimson glasses.

All indications are that IU players are ready for spring break. They certainly don’t say that, but their performance over the last month, particularly the stinker they had Saturday at Illinois, suggests that the end can’t come soon enough for them.

Which really puts them on par with the rest of Hoosier Nation.

Still, the Hoosiers did play well enough to beat Illinois and Minnesota, and nearly beat Michigan State in East Lansing. They can beat Penn State.

Seriously, they can.

If they do, they will have to play third-seeded Wisconsin on Friday, which means facing Jordan Taylor, who burned them for 39 points in Assembly Hall last week. At one time IU owned Wisconsin, but that was before Bo Ryan showed up with his swing offense and sticky defense (which turned into a mess at Ohio State Sunday, but that misses the point). The Badgers seem too fundamentally sound to lose to IU, but stranger things have happened this season, like Iowa upsetting Purdue.

If IU gets past Wisconsin it will be playing its third game in three days. It would likely play second-seeded Purdue on Saturday. The Boilers are driving for a top-two NCAA tourney seed, and still have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed. The Hoosiers have nobody to match up with JaJuan Johnson, and nobody quick enough to stay with point guard Lewis Jackson. And we haven’t even mentioned E’Twaun Moore, who averaged 21 points in two games against IU this season.

If Indiana upsets Purdue, it almost certainly will have to play Ohio State in Sunday’s finals. That’s the same Ohio State team that blitzed Wisconsin on Sunday by a 93-65 score by making a NCAA record 14-of-15 three pointers.

Jon Diebler is now the hottest shooter in America. He’s 17-for-20 on three-pointers in his last two games. Freshman center Jared Sullinger might be the best player in the country, and he went for 22 points and eight rebounds against Wisconsin.

So there you have it. IU needs four wins in four straight days at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse. Three of those will be against top-10 teams. So secure those Cream ‘n Crimson glasses a little tighter and relax because no matter what really happens, you’ve got the best view in the house.

Oh, final thing. Bob Knight earned a bit of notoriety when he swore on national TV as part of a College GameDay bit in which he jokingly referred to “chicken (bleep) defense.

Yes, we know. Bob Knight swearing. It’s shocking.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding bob Knight's swearing: If only it had been while he was sitting on the IU bench watching this team compete for yet another NCAA bid, it might have been worthy of a comment. Pete, Even now, after yet another humiliating season, you do not have a clue. In that you share much in common with Coach Crean.