Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Top-10 ranking won’t distract Hoosiers
Once upon a time, say in October, the Indiana Hoosiers projected as the Big Ten’s ninth-best team. There was logic in this. They had done nothing for three years in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson disaster. They couldn’t play defense to even mediocre standards. If there was a way to lose close games, they would find it.
Respect had to be earned, and it had not been. When you’re fodder for even struggling Iowa, as IU was last year, nobody takes you seriously.
People are taking the Hoosiers seriously now.
They are ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the coaches’ poll. It’s their highest ranking since they were No. 6 in December of 2002, just before then coach Mike Davis ran out onto the court against Kentucky and the freefall began.
(QUICK NOTE -- I originally had this as December of 2008, which was a typo, as readers pointed out. Thanks for the catch. Sometimes there's a disconnect between my brain and my fingers.)
IU has beaten No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Ohio State (a full strength Ohio State, by the way) and No. 16 Michigan, and if they all came at Assembly Hall, so what? How many teams in the country could do that?
So now the hype builds. Are the Hoosiers really Big Ten championship material? Could they actually contend for a national championship after seasons of 6-25, 10-21 and 12-20?
We’ll know soon enough.
Here’s what we do know in an unseasonably warm mid-January day –- coach Tom Crean isn’t about to let his guys lose focus. Here’s what he had to say during Monday night’s radio show:
“I don’t think our players get caught up in the hype when it comes. I think this is the same team that has no trouble right now remembering that that informal poll of the Big Ten picked them ninth. We had no trouble reminding them of it, and we remind ourselves of that as coaches. There’s no sense getting caught up in all the hype and the accolades if you didn’t let the negatives beat you down. The negatives didn’t beat this team down and they’ve continued to respond. That’s where maturity kicks in. We’re not nearly, nearly good enough to think that there’s any game in this league that we can come into and not be at our best. The moment that happens, we’re gonna lose, and we’re gonna learn a hard lesson.”
IU has had three years of hard lessons to steel them from the dangers of success.
“Our older guys went through some tough deals,” Crean said, “but they didn’t crack. They continued to work. I think the time they spent this offseason, everybody turning it up a notch, or two or three, I think that was really, really important.”
So now the Hoosiers (15-1) face a huge week. On Thursday they host struggling Minnesota (12-5), which is 0-4 in the Big Ten and just got hammered at home by Purdue. Then they travel to Ohio State, which hasn’t lost at home in about a million years. Okay, the Buckeyes have won 32 straight home games, the nation’s third-longest streak behind Duke and Kentucky.
Yes, they will remember their 74-70 loss in Assembly Hall. Yes, the odds won’t favor IU.
But then, the odds also didn’t favor a 15-1 Cream ‘n Crimson start.
Let the anticipation begin.
Cody Zeller continues to rack up the Big Ten freshman of the week awards. He won it again this week. It’s the 6-11 forward’s fifth such honor and it came after he averaged 14.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in last week’s victories over Michigan and Penn State.
He was especially impressive against Michigan, scoring 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting as the Hooisers won 73-71.
He’ll get to battle 6-11, 260-pound Ralph Sampson of Minnesota. Then comes a second shot at Ohio State inside force Jared Sullinger.
Again, let the anticipation begin.
Do you like numbers? Do you understand numbers? Then Peegs.com, which has all sorts of Cream ‘n Crimson insight, has some good ones for you with its Outside the Box: Penn State feature and its plus-minus analysis.
For the record, this is WAY to complex for us. We like to think it’s because we have an artistic brain that treats numbers as if they were part of the Black Plague and ...
Sorry. Check out the Outside the Box feature and judge for yourself.