WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Yup.
Everything that just transpired to effectively end the Hoosiers’ competitive season was appropriate.
An inability to guard the perimeter. Check.
A motionless offense that looked like child’s play compared to the opposition. Check.
A convincing loss. Check.
IU’s run in the Big Ten Tournament was eerily similar to its conference schedule with some hope to start it all off and then a slow sense of failure becoming the main driving factor.
Just like the season from start to finish, Wisconsin’s definitive victory was humiliating and showed the glaring flaws of IU basketball.
There’s no reason that the Badgers should embarrass the Hoosiers come tournament time.
The teams both have theoretically dominant frontcourts: sophomore forward Thomas Bryant and freshman big man De’Ron Davis of IU versus sophomore post-presence Ethan Happ and senior forward Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin. Both squads supposedly can shoot the lights out when it counts. Both of these teams, donning the dominant red color, should be powerhouses atop the Big Ten.
Yet, in the last 18 games against the Badgers under IU Coach Tom Crean, the Hoosiers have won twice. This is not acceptable.
IU’s a prestigious program, as evidenced by the banners and the fans’ screeches about the rafters in which they hang.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, has been a prestigious program as of late, a team that come March most years has a legitimate shot to make the Final Four.
The difference of the last decade or so can be boiled down to the 40 minutes we just witnessed. Wisconsin does the little things to win. The Hoosiers don’t.
How many times has someone covering IU mentioned turnovers this year? The answer, which I’ll politely give you, is more than they should.
Turnovers, along with defensive errors and odd lineup choices and poor finishing around the rim and weak passing and an inability to play as a cohesive unit, did the Hoosiers in.
You know, what we saw all season.
IU made runs and most significantly cut the deficit to four with just over a minute left, but the Hoosiers fittingly ended up losing by double digits.
The once-coveted Indiana basketball program is at an impasse. From 1980 to 2003, IU made the tournament all but once. In the past 14 years, the Hoosiers missed out on the big dance seven times. Either this is what the Hoosiers are, a middling to very good program that is comfortable with making a Sweet Sixteen once in four years, or changes — real changes — have to be made.
With just more than a minute left, junior guard James Blackmon Jr. hit a 3-point jumper cutting the Wisconsin lead to four. Badger senior phenom guard Bronson Koenig promptly nailed a layup once again. Down six, with 45 seconds left, junior guard Robert Johnson had the ball stolen.
Just like that, the opposition cemented its lead. Just like that, the Hoosiers found themselves on the wrong side of the momentum. Just like that, the Hoosiers lost. Again.
Next stop: National Invitation Tournament.
The story for the Hoosiers isn’t how hard they played. It certainly isn’t about the freshmen help off the bench or the shooting from behind the arc or the strong start to the contest. It cannot be about how they fought and clawed until the clock showed only zeroes.
The only thing that matters is that IU found itself on the wrong side of the score once again.
No one was surprised.