After their failed venture in Puerto Rico and subsequent loss to Maryland at home, expectations for this team shifted. Where once IU fans had hopes of flirting with .500, a sobering reality hit: maybe our expectations for this team were too high, maybe this team wasn’t going to eclipse 10 wins after all.
But things changed, as they often do.
In the Hoosiers last two contests — a win over Pittsburgh, the biggest win of Tom Crean’s tenure, and a solid showing against Kentucky, one of the best teams in the country — they’ve shot the ball better, played some great zone defense and turned the ball over at a lesser rate. They’re starting to look like they belong. And so I think expectations are back where they were to start the season: this team, with an influx of talent and new faces, has enough going for it where, at their ceiling, they might be able to hit .500. As you can see with the use of the italics here, I stress might. Because heading into Big Ten play, IU will likely be 7-5. Which means the Hoosiers are going to have to go 8-10 during Big Ten play — I’m not counting the Big Ten tourney here — to finish the season at 15-15. Is this out of the realm of possibility? No. Is it likely? Probably not. It’s a safer bet to project IU in the 10-14 win range right now.
For as many strides as IU has made in their last two outings, the likes of Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin and yes, even Northwestern all look like good teams right now, better teams than IU right now. Penn State, Michigan and Iowa are the only Big Ten squads playing a brand of ball IU shouldn’t feel too threatened by at the moment. (Good, then, that the Hoosiers start conference play against the Wolverines at home at the end of the month.)
So yes: the doom and gloom that followed those four losses in five games, the questioning of Tom Crean’s coaching, the whining about this team not being able to figure it out has ceased a bit. We’re back on level. Let’s just not get too carried away just yet.