After suffering their first defeat in conference play, noted bracketologist Joe Lunardi tweeted that this loss alone shouldn't drop Indiana off the line he currently projects them at, a 6 seed. However, settling in at the 6 seed would be SETTLING FOR MEDIOCRITY, and we can certainly do better. Here now are the six games Indiana must win* if they want to rise above!
*This does not mean Indiana can afford to lose the games not listed here, merely that winning those games would not provide as large of a benefit come tourney time.
#1: February 11th, Iowa @ Indiana
We're leading off with the big guns. The only team on Indiana's level in the Big Ten standings, the Iowa Hawkeyes have won every conference game they've played so far outside the state of Maryland, and only Purdue has been able to keep the margin of defeat inside single digits in Iowa's victories. Iowa is also the only contender that Indiana gets two shots at, so if influencing who wins the conference is something you like, look no further.
#2: March 1st, Indiana @ Iowa
Literally everything I said above, except even moreso, because winning road games in the Big Ten is very hard, or so everyone seems to keep saying.
#3: February 14th, Indiana @ Michigan State
Just like death, taxes, and
Bo Ryan, every year, somehow, some way, Michigan State seems to flounder at some point in the season and round into a well-oiled machine by the end of it before making a reasonably deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Also, playing on the road against noted quality student section The Izzone gives you some of the best in-game practice for Big Ten and NCAA tournament games in front of occasionally raucous crowds that you can get away from Assembly Hall. And again, #BigTenRoadWinsMatter.
#4: February 20th, Purdue @ Indiana
This is the only time this year that what some have called "The Best Team In Purdue Basketball History" will face off against the Hoosiers, barring a postseason matchup that isn't presently on the schedule. If the Hoosiers can mitigate the problems from not having a pair of 7 footers to toss up against Haas and Hammons, this could be a strong resume building win against a team that is being listed above Indiana in some brackets right now.
#5: March 5th, Maryland @ Indiana, Senior Night
First and foremost, losing on Senior Night is flat out awful to experience. Especially if winning the game would lock up the conference for you, as this one might. Not to mention, there will never be enough payback for 2002. NEVER. A good performance here probably sets up a nice run into the postseason. Convenient, because...
#6: Sometime between March 10th and 12th, Indiana's First Big Ten Tournament Opponent, Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Regular season games are more important for conference tournament seeding, but how well you play in said conference tournament can mean the difference between having an easy path to the Elite Eight and having a first round NCAA exit. Regardless of who IU draws, coming out ready to play and beating whoever they are matched against handily sends a strong message to the tournament selection committee. Even if you don't win the BTT (a feat no Indiana squad has yet accomplished), every chance matters, and this is the one time all year that you can influence exactly how many chances you get.