Saturday, December 17, 2005

The next three games are critical for the Hoosiers

And I don't just mean that we need to win them. Obviously road games against mid-majors are always a bit dangerous. And Butler has already played two B10 teams on the road - a 4 point loss at Michigan and a 10 point loss at Ohio State. While Indiana ought to win these games, they're not gimmes like playing Florida A&M in Assembly Hall.

But here's why I think these games are important - we need to answer the question of whether the Indiana State game was part of a pattern or an abberation. Both arguments make sense.

On the one hand, if you look over the last few years, it's easy to see how losing at ISU fits a pattern of Indiana losing games it shouldn't, particularly outside Assembly Hall. Last year it was losing at Missouri and at Northwestern (badly - don't get me started). The year before it was losing... well, all over the place. And of course the year before that we lost at Northwestern as well. The point is, it's been awhile since Indiana has consistently beaten average teams on the road. Looking at it this way, it's easy to think that Indiana is not going to make it through the next 3 games unscathed.

On the other hand, if you look at this team, this season, the Indiana State game is an aberration. Indiana has played 7 games so far, and played reasonably well (Eastern Michigan) to extremely well (Kentucky) in every game... except Indiana State. And frankly, I think we played better against Eastern Michigan than the score indicated - EMU played over their heads, IMO. Certainly, if we play the way we did against Kentucky, Duke, Florida A&M, Nicholls State, and Western Illinois, we'll be 8-2 heading into the B10.

The B10 is going to be a real grind this season. There are 8 quality teams in the B10, and IU plays 6 road games against them. The key to winning the B10 will be consistency of effort, particularly on the road. If Indiana is going to win the B10, we have to be able to beat teams like Charlotte and Ball State on the road (and Butler on a "neutral" court). If Indiana goes 3-0 over the next three games (while playing well), the ISU is the outlier and I'll feel pretty confident heading into the B10. If they don't, then ISU is a pattern, and I'll be doubtful that IU will be able run the guantlet of B10 road games well enough to snare the title.

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