The thing is, if it hadn’t been for Indiana’s loss in Iowa City earlier this year, I don’t know that anyone gets worked up over this game.
College teams have letdown games, especially two days after the most emotionally taxing road win of the last few seasons on Saturday.
Unfortunately, Indiana’s fans and coaching staff came into this game with a grudge against Fran McCaffery and his otherwise benign group of sharpshooters (plus Kris Murray), so it especially won’t sit well how flat the team came out today. Nobody wearing red in Bloomington wanted to be there today, no matter how much Assembly Hall, Twitter and the Indiana message boards wanted them to be.
The Hoosiers had a little surge at the end of the first half, making the fact that they were trailing by 11 seem like a good thing, considering the lead had been 17 at one point in the first half. Even the first couple of possessions in the second half looked hopeful, as Indiana forced a couple of turnovers and appeared to have brought the energy it lacked early on.
At the end of the day though, Indiana just was not on its game today. Iowa had more to play for, and it showed.
Here’s Three Things:
Murray went off tonight, scoring 26 points on 9-16 shooting, including 5-8 from deep. He’s averaging 20.2 points per game and shooting 33% from 3-point range, so it wasn’t completely unexpected, but it still highlights a big weakness in Indiana’s current roster construction.
As the roster currently exists, there is no answer for a forward who is over 6’6” or so, can handle the ball and shoot. That specific type of guy has proved a huge problem for Indiana this year. Kansas, Northwestern, Penn State and Iowa have capitalized on this so far this year, getting big performances from guys in this mold in their wins over Indiana.
Kaleb Banks probably gave Indiana its best minutes against Murray, but couldn’t finish on a couple of layups that could have helped Indiana stop the bleeding at a few points, which made it hard for Mike Woodson to leave him on the floor. Notably, he’s also a Woodson recruit, reflecting a recognition that this is a spot of weakness for Hoosiers as things stand today.
Looking to next year, I really like what I’ve seen from Banks and think he can develop well as a stretch forward on offense and defense. Outside of him though, this is definitely an area of need as Indiana looks to the portal and future recruiting classes after this year’s departures.
Result aside, Trayce made more history tonight, moving into the number one spot all time for rebounds in program history. He’s now first in rebounds and blocks and fourth in scoring in Indiana history.
In what looked like a bit of an off game for even Trayce, he managed 26 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists. He missed a few layups that he worked hard to create, but still finished the night 10-16 from the field.
Perhaps the best thing for Indiana is that, as a player, Trayce would hate that I’m singling out his individual accomplishments on a night that looked so bad for Indiana as a team. He’s been very clear about the fact that he is aiming for a deep tournament run this year and appeared to be the only starter playing for a good seed in the Big Ten Tournament tonight.
However bleak the end result was, it bears repeating that Trayce is a generational Hoosier who continues to cement his place in the record books every game. Even in the ugliest games, he can be must-see TV.
I hated watching that basketball game with all of my life. That does not mean that it has any Real impact on Indiana’s season or postseason hopes.
Realistically, Indiana was due for something of a letdown game after the win in West Lafayette. Even in some of the wins over this current hot streak since mid-January, it’s been clear that this team cannot reach its full potential without Xavier Johnson and some solid performances from its role players.
This is not to say that the game can’t be something of a reality check for Indiana. The idea that any Big Ten team would be a top 3 seed in the national tournament, at this point, is suspect, so the outlets that had Indiana that high were overreacting to the win at Purdue.
It’s also worth remembering that this is just not a team that Indiana matches up well against. Iowa’s had trouble shooting well on the road before tonight, but Indiana hasn’t really had an answer for teams that are capable of going 13-23 from deep on a given night.
Hopefully Mike Woodson will address Indiana’s 3-point deficiency (defensive and offensive) going forward, but the fact is he inherited a team that was mostly built by the prior coach to wrestle in the paint with teams like Wisconsin and Purdue and eke out 52-48 games all year. And you can’t really fault him for riding the hot hands in Jalen and Trayce this season, however inefficient their offense may be.
This is a team that will likely experience a significant amount of turnover between this year and next though, so it’s best to focus on what’s been a good season so far and how it should set up well for a good postseason.
I hate Fran as much as anyone, but the selection committee will not care as much about this game as you and I do.