1. Indiana is now a very good basketball team, and there is no other acceptable answer.
Tom Crean didn't have a very good basketball team to start the year -- and that was reflected in losses to Wake Forest and UNLV on an island five hours away in November.
That team also no longer exists.
James Blackmon's injury in and of itself didn't make Indiana better. A quality player of Blackmon's offensive ability can be of use to any team, including this one. What it did do was give Tom Crean an opportunity to retool his rotations and priorities with this basketball team. Prioritize defense as a team. Bump OG Anunoby's minutes and give Indiana an athletic, versatile defender. Take care of the basketball. Play, a bit, more deliberately. That change has gone over tremendously. After the Maui trip, their only loss has been to Duke, and since that game in Durham, the Hoosiers have now won 12 straight.
2. Indiana was able to spread the wealth around on offense.
Seven different Hoosiers scored from 3 today. Five Indiana players had over nine points. When a team can afford to spread the wealth around on offense, good things will happen. Yogi Ferrell led all scorers with 17 points, while Max Bielfeldt had 13 and Collin Hartman had 11, eight of which came at the beginning of the game, when Northwestern hadn't yet found its footing.
3. Indiana now has to be a contender for the B1G championship.
Along with Maryland, Iowa, and yes, Purdue, the Hoosiers now are right in contention for the conference title. I've been reluctant to say it thus far, but at 7-0 in conference play, it's now hard to avoid. Sure, the start to the schedule has been against mostly teams in the bottom half of the conference, but Indiana has won these games by an average of 16.4 points. This includes the shaky Rutger and Minnesota road games and the one-point win over Wisconsin, and still is quite a margin. And in its past two games, Indiana has averaged 96 points, and only let up an average of 63. So not only is Indiana doing its job in games they should win, but they have blown the doors off teams in Assembly Hall, where they have yet to lose all season. If the Hoosiers can keep this intensity up during the second half of conference play, particularly against tougher competition, they'll have a chance to with their second conference title in four years.
We'll learn a lot more about this Indiana team during its next game Tuesday night at Wisconsin, a place where the Hoosiers have not won in 17 years. This kicks off a stretch where the Hoosiers will play 4 of their next 6 on the road.