Indiana Daily Student

IU men's basketball returns home for crucial final week of the regular season

<p>Junior forward Justin Smith goes up for a shot March 1 on the road against Illinois from the outside. IU will play against Minnesota at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home. </p>

Junior forward Justin Smith goes up for a shot March 1 on the road against Illinois from the outside. IU will play against Minnesota at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home.

The Hoosiers are back on the bubble.

IU men’s basketball lost both of its games last week — its final two road games of the season. The Hoosiers now have an 18-11 record and no more room for errors in their final two games of the regular season. 

With such an important final week of the regular season, IU will get the benefit of being back at Assembly Hall where the team has a 14-3 record this season. IU will play Minnesota at 7 p.m. Wednesday. 

While the Hoosiers do not have what the Selection Committee would deem a bad loss, at some point the quantity of losses will catch up to them. If they take on any more than 11 losses before the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers’ NCAA Tournament bid could suddenly become a bit more perilous. 

IU dropped to a 10 seed in ESPN’s Bracketology after losing two games last week. The bracket has IU as one of the last four byes, indicating the last four teams to skip the First Four played in Dayton, Ohio.

However, IU head coach Archie Miller said he was proud of his team’s effort in both losses. He talked about his team being close all the way to the end of the game in two road contests against potential NCAA Tournament teams, something his team has not often done this season. 

“In general our effort and our attitude is good,” Miller said after the loss to Illinois on Sunday. “We finished this week off obviously with two disappointing losses. But we were better today than we were on Wednesday which was a positive.”

The road schedule in the Big Ten has been brutal all season across the conference. Big Ten teams are 49-95 on the road this season. Though in the three road games since the 89-65 loss IU had against Michigan on Feb. 16, Miller has seen his team play much better away from home. But Miller won’t have to worry about that anymore, there are no road games left.

“Now we go home,” Miller said Sunday. “Everything has to be erased from your memory and you’re onto the next one which is in all reality the last gasp of air in the regular season.”

Minnesota is 46th in the NET rankings as of Monday — despite a 13-15 overall record — which makes it a Quadrant 2 game for IU. The Golden Gophers have had similar difficulties on the road compared to the Hoosiers, with a 2-9 record away from Minneapolis. 

IU and Minnesota played on Feb. 19, and IU won 68-56. That meeting featured freshman forward’s Trayce Jackson-Davis’ best game of his career and one of IU’s two road wins this season. That win provided strength to IU’s resume by adding IU’s only Quadrant 1 win on the road. 

While winning on the road against the Gophers added a crucial piece to the Hoosiers’ resume, winning at home is more about avoiding a detrimental loss. 

A loss to Minnesota doesn’t doom IU’s chance to make the first March Madness under Miller, but it would certainly put it into jeopardy. For all of IU’s wins over ranked teams, it only can take on so many more losses.

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