The Boilers knocked off surprise power Illinois in their Big Ten opener last night. The Indiana Hoosiers sincerely thank the Boilers for their effort.
It never fails. Every year the world forgets that winning on the road in a loaded conference is very difficult to do. I mean truly very hard to do. The fans consensus on Indiana's opening win against Iowa seems to be "good win, but still it is only Iowa." Purdue showed us nice and early last night that who it is doesn't matter. The location of the victory should be considered impressive.
Professionals whose livelihoods depend on college basketball seem to get this, but the pundits and fans appear to have long term memory issues. Both Vegas and Pomeroy's computer had Illinois opening as a 1.5 point favorite last night in Lafayette. The rest of the world was certain the Boilers were going to get smacked around. Purdue was able to step up and show the world of college basketball punditry and fandom that there is no such thing as a off night in the Big Ten when you have to go on the road. For that the Indiana Hoosiers sincerely thank Purdue for displaying that so early in the season.
But enough about Purdue. It was a great win for them but the ability to be a road warrior in the Big Ten has a perception issue. Let's specifically take the top 3 finishers from the conference last year. Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan played a combined 27 road basketball games. They lost 11 of those. Ohio State showed the best road record at 6-3, Michigan State and Michigan played at a 5-4 record on the road. In 2011? The top 3 finishers of Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin finished with 12 road losses. Turns out even the best conference teams in the Big Ten every year average nearly 4 road losses per season in conference. Life on the road in the Big Ten just isn't easy.
That brings us to Indiana. Their opening road win against Iowa could be argued to be their best win to date considering the context of it. A four point win against a top 40 team in their own house is a great win and it sets Indiana up for a pretty successful run on the road. The Hoosiers next 3 road games are against lesser opponents than Iowa. The Hoosiers have to go into College Station, Evanston and West Lafayette to try and push the beginning of the road season to 4-0.
If the Hoosiers can start out by taking those first four games they will have considerably less pressure to finish up the back end of the loaded schedule with road victories. Assuming home wins the Hoosiers would be 9-0 heading into back to back road contests against Illinois and Ohio State. Neither of which should be thought of as givens. Honestly in all likelihood the Hoosiers will finish 5-4 in road contests within the conference schedule and that will probably be good enough to at least finished tied for first heading into the B1G tournament.
The road is hard on the path to B1G glory. Thankfully, the Hoosiers didn't experience a let down early on that path. However, Indiana really has Purdue to thank for reminding us all of just exactly how difficult road wins can be. 5 or more this season should be considered a success. If they can win 7 or more they should be the #1 overall seed heading into the NCAA tournament. Landing the cushy regional location of Indianapolis to play their first and second round.