I think it was three days ago that pretty much everyone, including myself conceded that this team was bound for the NIT. Now the Hoosiers are just a few hours beyond a victory over #10 Michigan at Assembly Hall and Joe Lunardi has stated that IU is currently sitting at "First Four Out" status. That's nearly a 180 turn on where I and many other thought the Hoosiers stood.
Today's win came mostly on the back of an otherworldly Yogi Ferrell performance. Both on offense and defense, Ferrell had an answer to every question. He hit a career high 7 three points on 8 attempts. In route to a 27 point performance. In the end, Ferrell had a 169 ORtg. That now makes 4 straight games of him posting a ORtg over 100. Since his stinker, 56 against Northwestern he's posted an efficiency rating on offense of 107, 131, 142 and 169. In total, he's posted a +100 in 7 of 9 games in conference. In short, he's been electric night in and night out for the Hoosiers.
Perhaps more impressive than his 27 points on offense is his and the rest of the Hoosiers' effort on defense. One of the nation's top 3 offenses finished the game with .95 points per possession. That's nearly .3 points per possession less than their average on the season. Much credit belongs to once again to Yogi Ferrell and the defensive game plan that Tom Crean said the assistant coaches had started working on last week.
The Hoosiers put the speedy Ferrell on top 15 player Nik Stauskus to face guard him the whole game. Yogi and company's plan was to just not let Stauskus touch the ball. If Indiana was going to lose this game it was going to be at the hands of the other four guys on the court. The Hoosiers worked that plan to perfection. Stauskus didn't get many quality touches and finished with 6 points the whole game. Only 2 of which came from the field.
On top of that, Indiana used Noah Vonleh to cover Glenn Robinson III. Vonleh did a fantastic job in the area of the game as well. Robinson finished with 9 points and it was pointed out in the post-game that most of those 9 came with Vonleh out of the game. The rest of the Indiana squad also picked up the slack on defense. The easy baskets for the Wolverines were pretty few and far between.
After the updated statistics for this game, the Hoosiers are now #15 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. The offense may be slow going, but the Hoosiers defense has really started clicking. Troy Williams and Stan Robinson's great physical tools are now converting mentally on the floor as well. Teams just don't get easy baskets against this team unless its from mentioned players turning it over.
Going forward I would encourage cautious optimism. 9 wins in conference still feels like a stretch, but not completely out of the question like it did on Thursday night. But again, we shouldn't worry too much about that. Just continue watching and understanding this is a young team. Watch them learn, grow and hopefully find themselves in the NCAA tournament where they can wreak havoc on some poor unsuspecting 5 seed. That would be beautiful, but for now let's just take it one game at a time. Next up, travelling to Minnesota next Saturday.