Back on January 5th, Indiana sat at 12-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten. All of the talk on that day before a road trip to Michigan was the upcoming brutal eight game schedule.
If they could just get through those eight games at .500, right? Not so much.
Indiana of course won only one of those eight games — strangely enough the one that probably seemed the least winnable a month ago.
Much like the Midwest weather this time of year, it was long, dark, cold month.
Coming into Groundhog Day, the IU season was starting to feel a lot like the movie named after the strange day where some people actually place meteorological significance on a rodent emerging from a hole in the ground.
Game after game after game the Hoosiers followed the same script of poor offense, poor shooting, and giving up momentum killing and soul crushing big runs.
But alas, something changed on that unusually warm second day of February.
Perhaps it was a sign when that overgrown rat didn’t see his shadow on Saturday. Maybe the light of spring was visible at the end of the tunnel.
In the movie, Phil breaks the loop by ending his pattern of selfish behavior and awakens to a new day, an ominous blizzard now come and gone.
Averaging a tick under nine assists over the last eight contests going into the Michigan State game, the Hoosiers were suffering from their own selfish tendencies.
And then seemingly out of nowhere, Indiana’s offense was fluid, the ball was moving, the floor was spread, and shots were going down. And of course, the Hoosiers shocked the world in East Lansing on that Groundhog Day evening.
“Do you know what today is? Today is tomorrow.”
Or as Archie Miller referred to it, the second half of the Big Ten schedule. It’s time to forget about the past and build off of that glorious win over the Spartans.
It’s over! Spring is here! The Hoosiers play six of their final nine games at home! The schedule gets easier!
Not so much.
In the movie, Phil and Rita lived “happily ever after.” Back here in the Big Ten, a second blizzard is coming.
Now sitting at 13-9 overall, and 4-7 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers are going to need a strong finish to reach the NCAA Tournament.
There can be no reversion to their pre-Groundhog Day ways….or they will find themselves right back in that hellish loop.
And there will be no happy ending to this 2018-19 season.
THE FINAL NINE GAMES
Still seemingly basking in the glow of that win over Michigan State, the temperatures will be in the mid-60’s in Bloomington on Thursday afternoon.
And then mercury will begin a rapid descent back into the teens on Thursday evening while Iowa is in town.
Damn you Punxsutawney Phil.
We aren’t kidding about Thursday’s weather either. It only just happens to fit the metaphor a little too perfectly.
Spring is most assuredly not here. Not based on the forecast, and not in the sense that IU’s schedule is about to get any easier.
Here are IU’s final nine opponents with KenPom’s ranking for each team and their prediction of the outcome of each game.
Iowa returned more scoring from last year’s team than anyone in the Big Ten. Now ranked in the Top 25, they boast one of the best offenses in the country and just beat Michigan 75-59. Yes, the same Michigan that blew out IU twice.
Ohio State is suffering through a season not unlike Indiana’s, although they are still ranked No. 32 according to KenPom after playing a difficult schedule. This game will be a devastating loss for someone’s postseason hopes.
Minnesota is always a tough out at The Barn. Yes, Indiana got the win last year, but that was a Minnesota team struggling with injuries. The Gophers (Groundhogs?) have only lost once at home this year, and have wins over Wisconsin and Iowa in Minneapolis.
Purdue. Do we really even need to talk about Purdue right now? No? Good.
Wisconsin is, well, back to being Wisconsin. Slow, methodical, miserable, flopping Wisconsin. Playing the Badgers is a lot like being in that Groundhog Day loop.
Michigan State might just come into Bloomington with a chip on their shoulder. We seem to recall something about Tom Izzo getting his teams to play better in March. *Checks schedule*. Yep, March 2nd.
Illinois was at one point a road game that seemed winnable. All they have done is win three of their last four with the wins coming against Nebraska, Maryland and Michigan State.
Rutgers is a team that you might remember from just before Groundhog Day, back when IU was still in the loop. It will really almost be spring by the time this game rolls around.
And we will surely know by then whether today was tomorrow.
Or perhaps that damn groundhog was just wrong again.
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