With Indiana staring into the face of Big Ten play starting up on Wednesday, and with AJ giving a broad overview of the non-conference schedule yesterday, I thought I'd go a little more into the game-by-game of the non-conference season. Most of the games won't require much attention; they were cupcake wins at the time, and that perception won't have changed much since, but the important games will get more discussion.
Game 1: Mississippi Valley State (W, 116-65)
Indiana set a school record for most points in a game against the Delta Devils, securing a win the Hoosiers really needed after a troubling offseason. MVSU hasn't had much more success against the rest of their schedule, managing only a 3 point win against North Carolina A&T. This was a nice easy cupcake to be devoured at the time, and it's still a cupcake game now.
Game 2: Texas Southern (W, 83-64)
The Hoosiers welcomed former head coach Mike Davis back to Bloomington by dumping a barrage of 3s on his team. Of 5 Indiana players attempting three point shots, only Yogi Ferrell shot below 50%. Since their visit to Bloomington, Texas Southern has racked up three wins, against Lamar, Kansas State, and at the Breslin Center against then-#25 Michigan State. No, that last one isn't a misprint. Yes, it's a good omen that we beat Texas Southern and Michigan State didn't. No, that doesn't automatically mean we will beat Michigan State this year, regardless of transitive property wins. Just know, it's a good thing for us.
Game 3: Southern Methodist (W, 74-68)
Coming into this game, SMU was ranked 22nd in the country, though they had fallen earlier to Gonzaga, and were likely going to fall out the next week anyway. Regardless, Larry Brown brought a tough team into Assembly Hall, and the Hoosiers held on to beat them. It was a big win at the time, and while SMU hasn't been dominating in their games since, they've only lost to one other team so far (then #25 Arkansas), and beat Michigan at Michigan 10 days ago, which is another good sign for Indiana. They also beat a little team called Eastern Washington, who we'll discuss more about later.
Game 4: Lamar (W, 85-72)
Indiana almost gave this game away late, but the main story of this game was the return of Devin Davis to Assembly Hall. The most noteworthy thing about Lamar's performance since this game is their 128-54 destruction of Champion Baptist College. Suffice to say, this one won't matter at all come March.
Game 5: Eastern Washington (L, 88-86)
At the time, this was a bad loss. It snapped a 43 game non-conference home win streak for the Hoosiers, and people seriously started questioning the viability of the basketball program. Looking back just over a month later, it's still not a good loss, because these are the kinds of teams you bring into Assembly Hall to beat, but EWU isn't your run of the mill cupcake, either. They nearly upset Washington in Washington, and at 9-4, they're in a strong position to win the Big Sky conference and make an NCAA tournament appearance. This would have been a much better win on the resume come March than a loss, but it isn't nearly as bad a loss as we might have feared at the time. We got beat by a good low-major team, but we had every opportunity to win. That's something the team can learn from, and fix for the future.
Game 6: UNC-Greensboro (W, 87-79)
A game where the Hoosiers coasted to victory, leading to a closer final than we probably wanted, but a win nonetheless. UNC-G might compete in the Southern conference, but they've not been anything spectacular.
Game 7: Pittsburgh (W, 81-69)
Winning games in the Big 10/ACC Challenge is never a bad thing. The Hoosiers did what they needed to do, and held Pitt to just 26% from 3, as well as playing physical basketball on defense and in the post. Emmitt Holt showed some flashes of brilliance, which will be a great thing as he continues to develop. Pitt hasn't lost since playing Indiana, and wraps up their non-conference schedule tonight before heading into a tough-looking ACC.
Game 8: Savannah State (W, 95-49)
Delicious, delicious cupcake. There's really not a whole lot else to take away from this.
Game 9: Louisville (L, 94-74)
Indiana's first game away from Assembly Hall did not go too well, though the Hoosiers did impress quite a few people by hanging tough with the Cardinals until the last few minutes of the game. Not having an answer for Montrezl Harrell proved to be the Hoosiers' undoing, as the big man dominated the low post. The Cardinals are a very, very good team this year, and the only blemish on their record at the moment is an 8 point loss to Kentucky. Expect Louisville to have a very good seed come March, and pray that the Hoosiers aren't seeded in their bracket.
Game 10: Grand Canyon (W, 94-66)
A lot of young players had very good individual efforts in this game, and no one got injured. This certainly wasn't the most challenging team IU will face this season, but it was good for rebuilding confidence after Louisville. Grand Canyon may be the best team in the Western Athletic Conference, so they might make some noise in March, but if not, this won't hurt IU's resume regardless.
Game 11: Butler (W, 82-73)
Troy Williams had an outstanding game against the Bulldogs, who had been ranked #23 coming into this Crossroads Classic showdown. He and Yogi made sure Indiana wasn't going to suffer any more last second losses to Butler, at least not that day. Yogi recorded the 1,000 point of his IU career, and Tom Crean got his 300th win. Butler has had a very good season, including their upset of North Carolina, and will likely be quite competitive in the Big East, making this a very good win to have.
Game 12: New Orleans (W, 79-59)
A nice respite sandwiched between games against Big East foes. The Privateers probably won't be on anyone's radar by season's end, as they reside near the bottom of the Southland conference, which they share with Lamar, perennial tournament team Stephen F. Austin, and something called Incarnate Word, which I'm told makes Nebraska fans very angry for some reason. Can't imagine why.
Game 13: Georgetown (L, 91-87)
A game we very easily could have won, but didn't. A game we very easily could have quit on early, but didn't. Attempting 31 3s is a little eye-opening, but overall, a game Indiana will look back at with just a bit of regret, but not something that should keep us out of the NCAAs when the time comes. The Hoyas are now ranked, have played their ranked opponents very tough (1 win, 2 losses by a combined 8 points), and will likely continue to play well through their Big East schedule.
All in all, Indiana did most of the things it needed to do to be in good position entering conference play. 10-3 is a fine mark that, with a decent showing in the Big Ten, will lead to the field of 68 when tourney time rolls around. There were a few missed opportunities, but Indiana didn't fall flat against any terrible teams, and have dealt fairly well with what adversity they've met. I look forward to seeing what they can do against a Big Ten that looks ripe for the picking after the non-con.