If you are simultaneously feeling excited about No. 21 Indiana’s 12-2 start while perhaps also a bit apprehensive about the possibility that the Hoosiers aren’t that good, fear not.
We are about to find out the truth here. Will the real Hoosiers please stand up.
It isn’t that the Hoosiers are untested. Indiana has faced seven top 60 teams according to the KenPom.com rankings. IU is 5-2 in those contests.
But Indiana hasn’t seen anything like this.
Yes there are seven more top 60 teams (including five top 20) coming up in the next eight games. That would be challenging enough. But it is where these games will be played that is the bigger story here.
Starting with Sunday’s trip to Michigan, IU will play six of its next eight games on the road.
As you can see from the graphic above, KenPom is not expecting this to be a pleasant four weeks for Indiana, predicting Hoosier losses in five of the eight games. But look at the predicted wins. Three wins by a total of six points. If you thought the December drama against Butler, Louisville, Northwestern and Penn State was hectic, buckle up.
Oh, and lest you think that there is light at the end of this gauntlet, we are here to squash that optimism. We could have just as well made the headline “IU Basketball About to Embark on Season Defining Fifteen Games.” Basically, the rest of the regular season is going to be brutal.
While the Hoosiers will return home for five of the seven games following the upcoming eight contests, the opponents don’t get any easier. In fact, all seven of those games are against KenPom top 50 teams.
While the outlook for these “next seven” is better, with IU predicted to win four of those games, the reality is the same. Each and every game is expected to be incredibly close.
There are only seventeen regular season games remaining here. So in essence, we are talking about the rest of the schedule. We don’t know what the future holds for Indiana, but we do know this — there are going to be multiple good Big Ten teams that come out of this looking bad, at least on paper.
That may not be a death sentence, as several prognosticators anticipate seven, eight, perhaps even ten Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Joe Lunardi’s current bracketology does in fact have ten teams from the league in the tournament, including IU as a No. 5 seed. This could very well end up being a season where one or more Big Ten teams with losing records in league play still make the NCAA Tournament.
INDIANA NEEDS ROB PHINISEE BACK FOR THIS BRUTAL STRETCH
It is safe to say that IU would not be sitting at 12-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten without the theatrics of freshman point guard Rob Phinisee.
The Lafayette, Indiana native of course hit the game-winner at the buzzer against Butler, but he also hit big shots late against Arkansas, Louisville, and Penn State.
Despite the heroics on the offensive end, Indiana head coach Archie Miller is quick to highlight Phinisee’s value on the defensive end as well. The bottom line is that Miller’s pack-line defense cannot be effective without strong pressure at the top, and Miller has indicated that his freshman point guard does the job like a veteran.
But Miller and his Hoosiers are unlikely to have the benefit of Phinisee on Sunday in what is likely the most challenging of all of those next 15 games. He is still recovering from a concussion that he suffered on December 19th.
Miller said this on Thursday regarding the likelihood of Phinisee playing in Ann Arbor this weekend —
“I doubt he plays at Michigan. I would take that off the table. Today was the first day that Rob smiled in a long time, so I know he’s feeling better. He’s been doing cardio work. He’s been doing some shooting. That’s about it. And as he doesn’t have any be problems or setbacks, they keep letting him do more.
But today was the first time — at shootaround today was the first time I saw him where he was smiling. He had a really good way about him. So I think that’s probably the first step in understanding he’s feeling better.”
If Indiana fans are still going to be smiling in March, one thing seems certain — a healthy Rob Phinisee is critical.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
Want to receive all of our content via one e-mail in your inbox every day? It’s free. Join our daily mailing list here.
Please consider supporting The Daily Hoosier by shopping on Amazon via this link to the Amazon home page or through the ad below.