OK, so the Hoosiers wrapped up their Big Ten campaign by laying an egg in the first round of the tourney. OK, so they haven’t shot well and played defense in the same half since he-who-shall-not-be-named was roaming the sidelines in a blue shirt and red tie. OK, so there is a Gonso-led committee in the wings waiting to sequester the first can’t-miss coaching prospect that bows out of the NCAA Tournament. \nSo what? I still believe this team – in this season, on this weekend – has something to play for. I just hope they realize this before they step on the Carolina court in Raleigh.\nA first-round win would be nice. It would be like a Band-aid over a gaping wound, but, hey, it’s better than nothing. Here’s what needs to happen for the Hoosiers to set up a showdown with the Tar Heels on Sunday:
Run the court\nArkansas loves to run. They thrive on a fast-paced transition game. They have several guys that can put the ball in the basket consistently. IU needs to make them earn their points. The Hoosiers say they like to run, too. They say that the slowdown, grind-it-out Big Ten style cramps their style. They need to back it up Friday night. The last time a team pushed the tempo against IU, it scored 103 points. The Hoosiers didn’t even bother to wave as the Spartans laid the ball in the hoop time after time. If effort is an issue this weekend, then good riddance.
Follow D.J.\nIt has been the mantra all season, but the Hoosiers need to run the offense through the big man at the Big Dance. Arkansas boasts a formidable defensive presence in reserve Steven Hill, but when D.J. is on his game, there isn’t a forward in the country that can stop him. If the Razorbacks choose to double-team White, they leave themselves vulnerable on the perimeter. Here’s hoping IU got all the bricks out of their system last week.
Find a third scorer\nDan Dakich mentioned this last Sunday, but the key to the Hoosiers’ game-to-game success has been finding a third scorer in addition to White and Eric Gordon. Armon Bassett looked like he could play the part in February against Northwestern and Ohio State, in which he put together back-to-back games of 20-plus points, but the sophomore guard has cooled off since then. He shot 1-for-9 in IU’s last game. That can’t happen if the Hoosiers are to advance.
Play a peppy Ellis\nPerhaps no one’s play has dropped off more than Jamarcus Ellis since the coaching change. It makes sense. Kelvin Sampson loved Ellis’ game when he scooped him out of junior college. He liked to say Ellis wasn’t a superstar, but his teams always won because he could contribute in so many ways. Since the coach resigned, Ellis has barely contributed anything. He posted a double-double on Senior Night, but was suspended the following game for undisclosed reasons. Will the real Jamarcus Ellis please show up?
Play with pride\nHere’s the thing about this season: IU began the year overrated. The Hoosiers never impressed because expectations were so high to begin the season. Any chances they had of living up to the hype were derailed when their coach was forced to resign. But they still have a season to play. And they still play at Indiana University. And they still love the game. This weekend will most likely be their last chance to act like it.
Prediction: IU wins 78-70