We could write an article about Tennessee Tech and Youngstown State. We could but you wouldn’t read it. No offense to Indiana’s last two opponents before they resume B1G conference play, but they are just the next mid-majors on the schedule.
Don’t get us wrong. Indiana should not be taking the next two games lightly. After Fort Wayne and Indiana State, are you kidding? And don’t think for a second that Tennessee Tech and Youngstown State haven’t heard about Fort Wayne and Indiana State. And don’t think that they aren’t coming to Bloomington seeking their own 15 minutes of fame. Indiana has certainly given them some good tape on how to get that done.
But these next two games aren’t about Tennessee Tech and Youngstown State. Sure, IU will watch the film on their next two opponents and prepare accordingly. But before they ever take the floor we already know one thing — IU is the more talented team. By a large margin. And therein lies the problem. IU is more talented than Fort Wayne and Indiana State as well. But talent alone doesn’t win games. Especially not when mid-majors are coming into your house seeking their 15 minutes.
Oh we suppose you could argue that Indiana really isn’t all that talented. Maybe all of those highly ranked recruits were really just busts. You could lead yourself to believe that, but you’d be ignoring the reality.
The reality of Juwan Morgan against Notre Dame and just about every other game for that matter.
The reality of De’Ron Davis against Duke and Louisville.
The reality of Devonte Green’s first half against Seton Hall.
The reality of Al Durham’s multi-game streak with no turnovers.
The reality of Josh Newkirk against Eastern Michigan.
The reality of Collin Hartman against Iowa.
The reality of Robert Johnson against South Florida, Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame.
The reality of Freddie McSwain’s freakish rebounding numbers earlier in the season.
The reality of Zach McRoberts being Zach McRoberts.
No, if you want to believe these guys are not talented then you are kidding yourself. The talent is there. So what is the problem? It’s simple really. This team has no identity.
An identity could be anything. A team that slaps the floor on defense. A team that runs a crisp efficient Princeton offense. A team that never turns the ball over like Wisconsin. But Indiana has nothing. If you look at their national statistics you’ll discover that IU is only in the top 50 in one out of the more than 30 team statistics that are kept. And that is 45th in blocked shots per game.
Teams without identities become enigmas. They pull together a good half against Notre Dame and then lay an egg on their home floor against Fort Wayne. They collapse down the stretch against Duke and Louisville because they have nothing to fall back on.
It gets worse if you look at where Indiana ranks against their B1G peers. Indiana isn’t in the top 5 in any team statistical category when compared against the rest of the B1G. And that is the real point here. Conference play resumes in less than two weeks.
Indiana will dive right into the deep end with road games at Wisconsin and Minnesota. Middling faceless teams don’t do well in Madison and Minneapolis. Heck, really good IU teams don’t do well up there in the frozen tundra.
Ah, but they get a home game against Penn State after that. Except that Penn State beat the same Iowa team as Indiana. And they did it in Iowa City. And surely you remember how tight virtually all of the recent Penn State games have been? Well this Penn State team is better than their prior editions. Much better.
And then it is on the road to Michigan State. We could go on and on, but you really have to ask yourself — where are the wins in this B1G schedule? At Rutgers? Maybe, but they just beat the same Seton Hall team that handled Indiana, and they also gave Michigan State a good fight. Illinois? Maybe. At Iowa and Nebraska? Wouldn’t put money on it.
We have seen previous Indiana teams start slow and ultimately find themselves. The 1981 Hoosiers started their season an uninspiring 10-7 before finishing 26-9 and winning a national title. The 2002 Hoosiers started out at 7-5 before it found a defensive identity and reached the national title game.
This Indiana team has two more games over two weeks to find itself. If it doesn’t brace yourself. Things could get pretty far from okay. Like 2008-2010 far.
Archie Miller – Sports Illustrated
IU/FW – Evan De Stefano/IDS
Duke – WSJ
Dane Fife – Lansing State Journal