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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Hoosiers' misstep could hurt postseason opportunities

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On Feb. 7, IU was a short stretch of good basketball away from an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.

The Hoosiers sat at 14-8, 4-5 in the Big Ten. They had defeated two top-10 teams — handing then-No. 3 Wisconsin its first loss of the season and beating then-No. 10 Michigan — in their conference schedule, and were riding momentum from the Michigan victory into Minneapolis to take on a depleted Golden Gophers team.

At No. 70 in the national Ratings Percentage Index, IU was no shoo-in to the postseason’s most prestigious tournament, but was facing a stretch of three consecutive bottom-half Big Ten teams that could bolster its postseason résumé before returning to the conference’s elite.

The formula was simple — beat Minnesota (then 4-6 in Big Ten play), Penn State (3-8) and Purdue (4-7) and get ready for a finishing stretch of four ranked opponents in six games.

IU didn’t follow the script.

More than a week later, IU (14-11, 4-8) finds itself in ninth place in the Big Ten after three consecutive losses.

The Hoosiers have plummeted to No. 99 in the national RPI and now must collect a handful of wins against No. 15 Iowa, No. 21 Wisconsin, No. 20 Ohio State and No. 18 Michigan as well as beating Northwestern and Nebraska, two teams IU has already lost to this season, to slide into the NCAA Tournament field.

Despite his team’s poor form, IU Coach Tom Crean said he has yet to concern himself with IU’s long-term prospects.

“I don’t think like that,” Crean said. “That’s not how I’m built, that’s not how I’m going to coach the team. That’s what we have to work through.”

Much of IU’s difficulty in its past three games can be attributed to offensive struggles. The Hoosiers have averaged only 63 points during that stretch, well behind their season average of 73.4 points per game.

Crean said that “quite a bit” of his team’s performance has been mental, but that he will not look to overanalyze its recent woes and will instead ask his players to rely on each other.

“You point it out in film,” he said. “I’m not big on bringing a team of sports psychologists and things like that.”

“I’m not saying there’s not a place for that, but the bottom line is you get your strength from your teammates. We’ve got to get more strength and confidence from our teammates on the floor.”

The Hoosiers will attempt to stop their free-fall Tuesday, when they return to Assembly Hall to welcome No. 15 Iowa for a game in which oddsmakers and observers alike will place IU as heavy underdogs.

Despite his team’s slide, Crean said he will continue to push forward and ignore any outside criticism.

“I’ve dealt with doubts most of my life,” Crean said. “Maybe not all of it, but most of it. I’m pretty good at dealing with that. I’m pretty good at spotting it when other people have them, and I don’t tolerate it. Some of these things, we just have to figure some things out.”

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