ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A regular season that began with promise ended on a sour note for the IU men’s basketball team, but freshman guard Troy Williams said an opportunity remains to salvage success.
“It’s very disappointing, I mean, nobody’s happy about it, but the most you can do is just go to the next game,” Williams said.
“You can’t just dwell on the past, you’ve got to look forward into the future. And next in the future is the Big Ten Tournament, so we’re just ready for that.”
IU ended the regular season with consecutive losses to Nebraska and No. 12 Michigan to finish at 17-14, but it’s the team’s 7-11 Big Ten record that will determine the Hoosiers’ next opponent.
The final conference standings will show IU at No. 8 or No. 9, depending on how Sunday games play out.
Either seeding would lead to IU opening the conference tournament with a game at noon Thursday in Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
IU Coach Tom Crean said despite the losses, he has seen progress from his young team.
“We feel like we’re playing our best basketball, at least I do,” he said.
A core contingency of freshmen have improved their standard of play in recent weeks and will be relied upon heavily in the postseason.
Guards Williams and Stanford Robinson and forward Devin Davis, along with seven-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week Noah Vonleh, combined to play 101 minutes in IU’s regular-season closing loss to Michigan, a number limited by the aftereffects of an injury to Vonleh’s left foot.
The four freshmen combined to score 45 of IU’s 80 points and pull in 19 of its 26 rebounds, both above their combined season averages.
Though the group has elevated its play as of late, Crean said having so much reliance on players with limited experience has led to inconsistency this season.
“Freshmen are freshmen, and we happen to have a lot of them, and we expect a lot of them,” he said. “We coach them tough. They’re learning a lot, they’re maturing. If that maturity turns into consistency, we’ll be a really good team — but in the meantime, this is what it looks like.”
While Vonleh has provided consistent production outside of the two games he missed due to injury, Williams, Robinson and Davis have fluctuated. They average 15.6 points per game combined, with Vonleh adding 11.4 per game.
Crean said IU will need more consistent production from all four — in addition to sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, the Big Ten’s No. 3 scorer, and senior forward Will Sheehey, among others — to make a deep tournament run.
“Our young guys have got to continue to grow and mature, and lose some of the inconsistencies that go with being young,” he said. “If those things happen, then we’ll see what happens next week.”