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So you’re feeling pretty glum about Indiana basketball?
Yes, the Hoosiers (15-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) did make like a turtle in the second half against Minnesota and almost lost. Let’s stress the “almost.” After the game you would have thought they were on the wrong end of the 88-81 decision.
Then they turned around Tuesday and threw a complete stinker into the ratings mix with a 64-59 loss at home to Wisconsin. It wasn’t a big surprise because that match-up has been like the Wicked Witch of the West taking on Lake Superior. The Hoosiers melt on contact.
Wisconsin has won 11 straight, so I guess you can’t say it’s an accident. Then you have to consider that Bo Ryan has compiled a better conference winning percentage (.716) than, say, Bobby Knight. Oh, and everyone else, too.
The good news is Wisconsin, at least in this particular season, is not that good. Sure, they’re really good, but they aren’t Indiana good.
The Hoosiers are deeper and more balanced. They are built to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin is built to confound a team, but one poor shooting game and “so long.”
Well, I guess if you are a Badger, you would take exception to that and rightfully so. Unbeaten and all in the monster Big Ten ... for now.
Just consider this is coming from a University of Arizona grad, and I don’t think the 15-1 Wildcats basketball team is as good as the Hoosiers, either.
Let’s begin this discussion with a little perspective. The Citadel is dead last in the RPI (a power ratings used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee) at No. 347. Actually, the Citadel’s ranking is more R.I.P.
Indiana does not have that kind of trouble.
Tom Crean’s bunch is rated No. 15 in the RPI and that, arguably, is where it should have been to start the season, a couple of notches higher than where it finished last year. Wisconsin, by the way, was No. 47 on Friday.
The Hoosiers at No. 15, at least RPI-wise, might be startling to some who regularly travel the road to Bloomington, because of all the hype. If Indiana was rated No. 25 in the preseason, fans would feel they had just been dealt a “going alone” hand in euchre.
That was not the case. When you consider that awe-inspiring No. 1, you might just expect more than what you’ve got.
Oh, I know, same starting cast returning. OK, so why is freshman Yogi Ferrell starting? Same reason why teams like Kansas, Duke and Kentucky reload every season. There might be more talent in the recruiting ranks than on your roster.
Indiana has hit that bump in the road you hear so much about, and things most likely will get straightened out in today’s road game at Northwestern.
The truth is Indiana lost to Wisconsin because it didn’t play very well. As a fan, you should be able to live with that one. It’s basketball. It happens.
Jordan Hulls is going to shoot like a mere mortal at times. Christian Watford is going to have moments when he wants to be a guard instead of a power forward. Victor Oladipo is going to miss an easy lay-up. The Hoosiers will, egads, lose.
This is not a juggernaut. That’s OK, since juggernauts seem to be in short supply in 2013.
Indiana fans should be happy for what didn’t happen. If Wisconsin had pushed Indiana around because of superior strength inside or just better personnel, then you’ve got problems. But Hulls, Ferrell and Will Sheehey went 4-for-20 from the floor. Even against the nation’s best defense, that’s not going to happen except on the team’s worst night of the season.
So take a deep breath, Hoosier fans. You will see the sun again tomorrow.
As long as it doesn’t snow.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.
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