That breath, the one you’ve been holding in since Florida Gulf Coast? Through Army, Wright State and Morehead State until tonight?
You can let it out now. It’s all over.
Indiana men’s basketball may not have picked up a signature win in the nonconference, but the Hoosiers went through it without suffering a loss that’ll get lampooned in the national media and be front of mind for any postseason consideration.
And they did it in style!
All one hundred of the points scored on Friday night were absolutely necessary too. Kennesaw State plays at a faster tempo than almost anyone else in the entire country. Indiana, missing two regular starters and a backcourt that hasn’t reliably scored, was in a tough position from the start.
Kel’el Ware was out with a reported illness and Xavier Johnson remains unavailable with a foot injury he suffered earlier this season.
It was dicey at times, the Hoosiers were allowing open shots from deep and fell out of rhythm on offense. The Owls briefly took the lead in the second half, but defensive effort and a few key offensive possessions put the game back in Indiana’s control.
From there, it was cruise control. Good defense led to sound offense as Indiana’s lead extended outside of a few hiccups at the end.
The nonconference slate is firmly in the rear-view mirror as Big Ten play draws ever closer on the horizon. It’s not all over, there’s plenty of not great teams lurking in the conference waters. But none of them are sub-300 in KenPom! You can handle a Big Ten loss, narratively and competitively, long-term.
There are still a few issues to work out, turnovers and defensive breakdowns on the perimeter chief among them, though it’s worth pointing out the dwindling backcourt depth that’s left plenty of shots to be had out there.
Indiana will look to get Xavier Johnson back to provide some measure of a fix to that issue. From there, lineups can look more interesting with three reliable ball handlers available.
For now, it’s fine to feel good. There’s nothing crushing to feel bad about so just exhale, come what may.