So what did we learn from Indiana’s trip to Brooklyn?
First, the Hoosiers will go as far as Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell (with lots of help from Victor Oladipo and Remy Abell) take them. College basketball remains a guard game and you need guys who can run the show.
Hulls and Ferrell delivered against Georgia and Georgetown in the Legends Classic. Hulls was named tourney MVP after a 17-point effort against Georgetown. He was the big reason why IU won the championship. He’s so dangerous from three-point range that Georgetown coach John Thompson often put his two best defenders on him in 6-8 Otto Porter and 6-8 Greg Whittington.
Hulls, who is generously listed at 6-foot, went 3-for-6 on three-pointers against the Hoyas. He’s now 16-for-29 (55.2 percent) for the season.
He also makes smart decisions with the ball and provides the kind of backcourt leadership all championship teams crave. If he’ll never be a defensive superstar in the manner of Oladipo, the Hoosiers can live with that.
Second, Ferrell is mentally tough. Yes, he has plenty of accolades, is very quick, very good about distributing the ball, and getting better on defense. But as Georgetown showed, if he’s going to have the ball at crunch time, and he is, he has to make free throws.
He’s missed a couple of them in the closing minute against Georgetown, and that meant overtime rather than of a victory.
Did Ferrell mope or lose focus?
Not even close. He came back with seven overtime points, including a shot-clock-beating three-pointer, to finish with a career-high 14 points.
That’s big. He will be targeted by Big Ten teams. They’ll go after the freshman until he proves he can handle it. He took a big step on Tuesday. He’ll have to take others in the weeks leading to Big Ten play, with Ball State and North Carolina coming to Assembly Hall in the next five days.
“Yogi has great body language,” coach Tom Crean said. “When he gets distracted or frustrated he gets out of it fast and that's what great players and definitely great point guards have; they have to be able to move on right now.
“That is not the first time that he has hit a shot with the clock winding down. We have seen it in scrimmages and practice at different times. He just has something about him."
Third, IU proved it can win under pressure. All these upcoming Assembly Hall blowouts -- including Coppin State, Central Connecticut State, Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville -- won’t help nearly as much as what Georgetown and Georgia did.
The Hoosiers blew a chance to beat Georgetown in regulation play, then dominated in overtime for an 82-72 victory. It takes a tough-minded team to do that.
In fact, Crean loved the overtime opportunity.
“Our attitudes were fantastic,” he said. “Our heads didn't drop, There wasn't any complaining. I just kept saying to them ‘This is tremendous.’
“To have an opportunity like this so early in the season, this is great because you have to find a way to win. You have to do what is required to win the game and everybody did what they do best. I think what helped the most in overtime was our great maturity."
IU (5-0) almost certainly won’t go undefeated. Not in this era of instant parity and with the Big Ten perhaps the strongest it's ever been. The Hoosiers will have bruising battles and disappointing performances.
So far they look more than capable of handling all obstacles. And if that means a few losses, so be it.
The last college team to go undefeated was IU’s 1976 national championship squad, but that one had a bunch of tight games (some of the more memorable were the 63-60 win over Notre Dame, and the two-point victories over Ohio State and Purdue). The 1975 squad, which was positioned for a national title until All-American forward Scott May got hurt, was far more dominant.
The Hoosiers have only two other games they could lose in the non-conference schedule -- North Carolina on Tuesday and Butler on Dec. 15. North Carolina is at Assembly Hall, where IU has become unbeatable. Butler is at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and that won’t be a road game for the Hoosiers.
Other than that, IU will roll big.
The biggest weakness in this non-conference schedule -- other than not playing Kentucky -- is no true road game. That could be a problem given the Hoosiers open Big Ten play at Iowa (a very dangerous opponent) and at Penn State.
But that's for a later debate. For now, Indiana has the best team in college basketball. It is deep, fast, athletic and well coached, and playing like it.
But then, that’s a lesson we already knew.