Well, OK then, Indiana can win on the road in the Big Ten.
No, Penn State hasn’t won a conference game yet, and yes, the Hoosiers almost let a comfortable lead slip away, (again) but given all that this team has endured — and must still endure — opponents really aren’t the concern right now.
And, given all their lessons in the stark reality of college basketball, surely the Hoosiers know what comes next: another test.
Iowa makes the trip east Sunday evening to meet Indiana inside Assembly Hall. Beset by transfers, player ineligibility and a general post-Steve Alford malaise that’s left the program appearing almost drunken at times, the Hawkeyes were the one team in the Big Ten that stood any chance of being worse than Indiana when the season started.
Now the Hawkeyes, led by former Butler coach Todd Lickliter, are 7-12 and 1-5 in the Big Ten, the lone conference victory being a three-point home win against the absent Nittany Lions.
Second-leading scorer Anthony Tucker, suspended after a second arrest in December, will return to practice with his team Monday, but he’ll miss the trip to Bloomington. That means Iowa brings just one double-digit scorer — Matt Gatens — east for Sunday’s tussle.
This is all a drawn-out way of saying the Hoosiers should (and will) be expected to win come Sunday’s tipoff. It seems simple enough, but consider this: Indiana was pegged right around a 10-point underdog at Penn State, a team that had not won a Big Ten game in five tries, and oddsmakers don’t have their jobs just because they know a guy who knows a guy.
As has been repeated ad nauseum, expectations for this team are bottom-of-the-barrel. But when you beat Michigan and Minnesota and you manage a 3-3 start in conference play, said expectations are raised, if only slightly.
So for quite possibly the first time since Tom Crean’s first Big Ten game, Indiana will be expected to win a conference game. So now it’s time for the Hoosiers to learn how to play with real expectations, if only briefly. Just another step up or down the ladder, depending upon the performance IU turns out.