You’re probably looking at the headline of this column and wondering why the hell I’m even giving IU a chance against No. 1 Duke on Wednesday night.
The Hoosiers had a full week of cupcake games to pad their record at 4-2 after a disastrous start to their season. After beating IU to start the season, Indiana State has lost four of its last five games and its only victory came against Missouri - St. Louis. The weird thing is the Sycamores did this team a favor.
The other loss to then-No. 20 Seton Hall looks alright, except for the fact the Pirates lost to unranked Rhode Island this past week.
IU had a full week to get some wins over semi-mediocre opponents, and now have to face the top-ranked Blue Devils in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday. Here’s how the Hoosiers have a chance to win.
It all starts with the core, and no, this isn’t a column about how to get a ripped six-pack. I’m talking about senior guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk, along with junior forward Juwan Morgan and sophomore forward De’Ron Davis. I’ll even throw in the freshman guard Al Durham because he’s been exceptional so far this season.
IU now has senior forward Collin Hartman back for this one, and he’s going to be a huge help to this team not only with his leadership, but also with his ability to shoot the 3-pointer.
Johnson and Morgan had a great week this Thanksgiving break, and if the Hoosiers are going to have any chance of winning this game, they’re going to need to keep playing at this level.
Johnson did an exceptional job on the offensive end last week, and if you’re a Hoosier fan, it’s an encouraging sign going into the next game because momentum and confidence is on his side.
If you saw Morgan’s performance against Arkansas State, you know why I’m pointing at him to have just as good of a game against Duke. Yes, I know he dropped 28 points and had eight rebounds against the Red Wolves, but we’ve seen him from time to time step up in big situations, and Duke will be one of the biggest ones he’s ever been in.
Let’s turn back the clock a little bit and give you guys a chance to reminisce over last season’s game against North Carolina.
In that game, IU had five scorers in double-digits, two of them being Newkirk and Johnson. If this season’s squad is going to have any chance at beating Goliath, they’re going to need a similar type of performance this time around.
They’re not going to beat the likes of Grayson Allen, Marvin Bagley III or Trevon Duval with just one player doing all of the work. This team isn’t built like that. They’re going to need contributions from Davis, who has been relatively quiet this season, and also a spark from either Durham or freshman forward Justin Smith.
It is imperative that IU plays together as one, and they can’t fall way behind early on either because Duke is the type of team that will cut you off once they get going.
It’ll also help if senior forward Freddie McSwain has the game of his life defensively and somehow slows down Bagley when he comes into the game for Davis.
Another note: I don’t think you can over-exaggerate enough how important it is that Davis doesn’t get into foul trouble because if he does, he’s going to get bullied and shut out by Duke’s post presence.
Just to clarify, I’m not saying IU is going to win this game by any means. I will say, though, that it is at home, it’s going to be sold out and the players honestly have nothing to lose in this game.
Oh yeah, by the way, the last time an unranked Indiana team hosted the No. 1 team in the country a dude named Christian Watford hit a pretty famous shot heard around the country.
Indiana State did IU a favor by beating the Hoosiers in their own gym because things could only get better from there.
Duke on the other hand — a favorite to make the Final Four? A loss against a forgotten Indiana team? Now that would be embarrassing.
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