11-0 start has merit, but work remains for Indiana

Do you remember the last Indiana team to start a season 11-0? Some of you may. Others, like myself, were not alive to witness it.

The answer is the 1975-76 national championship team — also the last team in college basketball to finish undefeated.

This year’s group of Hoosiers matched the feat last night with a 107-50 clubbing of Howard. An IU victory on Thursday against the University of Maryland — Baltimore County, which KenPom puts at a 99% probability, will match last season’s win total before conference play begins.

This is a start no one, save for the most extreme optimist, saw coming.

The Hoosiers are winning in a manner that suggests the turnaround in Bloomington has arrived a year earlier than expected. The only movement on this team’s mind is into the top 15.

The first sign was a blowout win at Evansville, which was just the second true road win in Tom Crean era. Indiana shot the lights out and their effective field goal percentage has remained in the top ten nationally ever since.

Up next was a grind-it-out statement win over two-time defending national runner-up Butler. Those suggesting Crean could be replaced by Brad Stevens at season’s end received their first call to silence.

IU backed that up with an 11-point win at North Carolina State after trailing by seven late in the second half. This was a game that teams in previous seasons wouldn’t have fought back and won. It also provoked a few votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Poll.

Still, some asked, who has Indiana beaten?

Enter the Kentucky game. After surrendering a lead held for most of the game, Christian Watford hit one of the most memorable shots in Assembly Hall history. Chaos ensued. The Hoosiers delivered an effective field goal percentage of 50.9 against a top five defense and  held the Wildcats in check on the offensive glass. Another passing grade.

And most recently, Indiana answered the call against Notre Dame in Indianapolis following a week of final exams and celebration from the win over No. 1.

“It means a lot,” sophomore Will Sheehey said of Indiana’s best start in 36 years. “Even though we’re going to take it one game at a time, it’s nice when you look back at the games you’ve already won. Coach [Crean] talks about making history and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Before you print your boarding pass for a trip to the NCAA Tournament, remember this: Seasons are not made in the non-conference. They’re made in conference play.

That’s not to say the non-conference wins don’t hold significance. They do.

Rarely do you see a team completely bomb in the non-conference and go on to make noise the rest of the way. It just doesn’t happen. The tournament selection committee will place a star next to the Kentucky win. Few other teams will be able to boast such a marquee win.

So give the Hoosiers credit for playing themselves into the best position possible as the start of Big Ten play looms next Wednesday in East Lansing.

But the ultimate path of this season will be shaped during eighteen conference games.

Many suggested it could be a down year for the Big Ten. The numbers thus far say otherwise. Eight, maybe nine teams will be fighting to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Indiana is positioned as well as any, but that guarantees nothing.

The Hoosiers, like they’ve done through 11 games, must once again answer a new set of questions in eight days. Can they protect home court against Illinois or Purdue? Can they go to Nebraska, Penn State and Iowa and win? And can they bounce back from a loss and not let it snowball as it has in previous seasons?

All valid questions that will be answered soon enough.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    That was one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen.  Made IU vs. Notre Dame look like Lakers / Celtics.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    That was one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen.  Made IU vs. Notre Dame look like Lakers / Celtics.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    BRING BACK BOB KNIGHT! FIRE CREAN AND HIRE BRAD STEVENS! MATT PAINTER OWNS THE STATE THANKS TO CREAN!

    Those are a few talking points from the past three years.  We can go from there.

  • Anonymous

    If you take a somewhat objective look at the schedules, North Carolina and Kentucky cancel each other out. And don’t forget that we were a very fortunate shot away from losing to UK and they were a very fortunate shot away from beating UNC. Take it for what it is worth. 

    Also Marquette is markedly better than anyone else we have played. You could argue NC State is comparable but I don’t buy it. UNLV is far better than any third game you could put out from our schedule. Not to mention Bradley and BYU are equivalent to U of E and Notre Dame. They also played Savannah State similarly. According to Pomeroy, Wisconsin does not have anyone on their schedule comparable to the woeful Howard and UMBC. I think this provides fairly substantive proof that their schedule was at least as difficult if not more difficult than ours. Just my honest opinion. Take it or leave it.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Well said.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Rebounding will be a key for a fired up Breslin Center. Rebounding is always key against MSU. We will be the hunted in that game and they will be just as fired up for us as we were Kentucky….

  • HoosierFromCt

    Wouldn’t you if you knew The Movement was coming?

  • Jm23

    That’s the one do u know who made it or where I can get another one? Everyone had their eye on it as he was walking back to his car

  • Jm23

    That’s the one do u know who made it or where I can get another one? Everyone had their eye on it as he was walking back to his car

  • FromIUtoAF

    I’m re-watching the Howard game because I missed the first half and I noticed something from the first 10 mins.  They were playing faster than the ball the same way they were playing against Kentucky.  For those that know what I’m talking about in a game situation, you get so excited that you almost run past the ball when you are dribbling because you are that pumped about the game.

    I bring this up because if they take a game against Howard this serious, I can’t wait for the B1G Ten season to start.  I think this is going to be a special season for us. 

  • Pb1230

    Wisky does not have a better front court. Berggen is the only player over 6-6 that plays significant minutes

  • Marco K. (i suck)

    I will forever be thankful to VJ3 for his pass to watford.  However, I am so looking forward to not watching him pass the ball to the other team.  Everytime, I am just praying that he gets the ball out of his hands and doesn’t do one of his would be a good pass, but to late passes to the post…..

  • Anonymous

    UNLV is pretty damn good when they’re on.  Ask North Carolina.

  • Anonymous

    I believe Mbakwe is out for the year with an injury. I know for sure that he got injured and I was thinking it put him out for the season but I could be wrong. If he is out for the year or even for an extended amount of time it is a considerable setback for Minnesota.

  • Anonymous

    I meant we have the advantage with the matchup down low bc of Mbakwe being out. He is out for the entire year with a torn ACL.  Poor wording on my part. I’m sorry

  • Petefaggen

    Don’t worry guys. I am an IU student and I will be at the OSU game. I hope more students come back to make that atmosphere mighty tough for the Buckeyes, Matta and Co. National TV, New Year’s Eve. Doesn’t get any better than that…. And if we are 13-0 coming into that game….. WOW!  

  • heinsohn

    Since everyone seems to be comparing us to last years team,will we fold,etc.How are we different?It stars with Zeller,Commander Cody has yet to play a bad game.He does not foul while solidifying our defense.He covers for guys getting beat off the dribble.On offense,they start with trying to stop him.If they single him we pound it inside,if they double him we get 3 pointers.Our sensational shooting is a result of running,and being so hard to defend when we set up.In addition Hulls,Oladipo,and Sheehey have been very solid.when watford plays well(second half NC State game and Kentucky game) the sky is the limit for this team.They are also playing harder for longer periods.All the great teams play hard.I do not see this team folding they continue to surprise on the upside!

  • Anonymous

    Can’t defend the three
    Jones turns the ball over too much 
    CTC is sub happy
    Daniel Moore shouldn’t be on the floor
    Zeller is good, but we need Tijan to complement him

    Next five?

  • Anonymous

    Can’t defend the three
    Jones turns the ball over too much 
    CTC is sub happy
    Daniel Moore shouldn’t be on the floor
    Zeller is good, but we need Tijan to complement him

    Next five?

  • Anonymous

    Not sure about the “sub happy” line. He’s been fairly liberal in most games with subbing because they haven’t been close.  Look at the Kentucky game, though.  Only three made it off the bench (I know, it would have been four if Elston had been more healthy, but even still he went with the starters as much as possible.)
    It’s also a good idea to sub often when your style of play is to run and wear out the opposition.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that Quinn Buckner the other night rated IU “at the bottom of the first tier of teams in the Big 10 or at the top of the second tier”. He said the Hoosiers had to rebound better to have the success many are now expecting in the conference. He also pointed out that for whatever reason..playing road games in the B-10 is very very tough and that IU will probably lose some games they should win. I beleive all that to be true. If the continue to play great defense and control the silly fouls..all things are possible.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry but I don’t think IU can afford to have TP in the lineup except when forced too. In the conference you can not have a non-scoring threat on the floor too long. Allows the other team to double team and extend their defense (which is what has happened the last 3 years) Tom can spell Cody for short periods..but extended play puts IU in a hole.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    NICE ONE! That was a perfect lob from me wasnt it HoosierFromCT?

  • KnightEraCurmudgeon

    Since my handle suggests it, I will go back to something coach Knight used to say when IU won games: “We were able to do things we wanted to do and we didn’t let them do some of the things they like to do.” To date, on the whole, that is exactly the way this team has played. Kentucky only really got to do what they like to do consistently late in the game when their lack of depth also showed up.

    The current Hoosier team has begun to really “get” what they like to do, and (against Ky at least) to make it difficult for the opposition to do what they like to do. They can do that in East Lansing, there’s no doubt any longer about capability and competence, it’s only a question of whether they will. My take going in to the Kentucky game was that it was a game we were likely to lose, but not a game that we HAD to lose. A road game at Columbus or East Lansing is a game we are likely to lose, but we don’t HAVE to. It’s now not a matter of lack of talent, but a matter of showing up when you show up. :-)

  • KnightEraCurmudgeon

    Since my handle suggests it, I will go back to something coach Knight used to say when IU won games: “We were able to do things we wanted to do and we didn’t let them do some of the things they like to do.” To date, on the whole, that is exactly the way this team has played. Kentucky only really got to do what they like to do consistently late in the game when their lack of depth also showed up.

    The current Hoosier team has begun to really “get” what they like to do, and (against Ky at least) to make it difficult for the opposition to do what they like to do. They can do that in East Lansing, there’s no doubt any longer about capability and competence, it’s only a question of whether they will. My take going in to the Kentucky game was that it was a game we were likely to lose, but not a game that we HAD to lose. A road game at Columbus or East Lansing is a game we are likely to lose, but we don’t HAVE to. It’s now not a matter of lack of talent, but a matter of showing up when you show up. :-)

  • MillaRed

    Just read the Ohio State football penalty for their misdeeds. They basically got nothing. I will forever be miffed by the electric chair imposed on IU. I suppose it’s time to move on. But when I see other teams do so much more in terms of how drastic the violations were, it’s  hard to forget.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Also, remember when everybody freaked out when Crean called a recruit a day late (and then self-reported it immediately)?  Winning sure changes things…

  • IUJeff

    I think we’ll see a lot more games like the ND game. Where teams sprint back and do not let us run.

    This year’s team seems solid no matter what style we play so I predict at least .500 in B1G. That puts us @ 23 wins or better and about a 5 seed IMO.

  • Reckerfan1

    “Rarely do you see a team completely bomb in the non-conference and go on
    to make noise the rest of the way. It just doesn’t happen.”

    I present to you the 2001-02 Hoosiers.  They were 5-4 in non-conference play with losses to Southern Illinois and Miami, FL, and narrow wins against Charlotte and Notre Dame.  It would call that a complete bomb, but they fought back, won a share of the Big Ten title.  Oh, and they made a run to the national championship game with wins over Duke and Oklahoma.  And of course, Oklahoma was coached by the one and only Kelvin Sampson.

  • IUJeff

    IU needs 17 wins to play in the NIT. That is 13 non-conference wins and 4 B1G wins.

    We’ll make the post-season for sure this year but we need to go .500 or close to that in the B1G to make the NCAA tourney.

  • IUJeff

    That is what dealing with bad apples and having bad team chemistry will do to you. Hope IU sweeps PUke and sends them to the NIT at best this year.  

    Can’t stand my PUke co-workers being able to brag about having a winning record against EVERY B1G team including IU…

  • IUJeff

    That is what dealing with bad apples and having bad team chemistry will do to you. Hope IU sweeps PUke and sends them to the NIT at best this year.  

    Can’t stand my PUke co-workers being able to brag about having a winning record against EVERY B1G team including IU…

  • http://www.insidethehall.com/ Alex Bozich

    Fair point. Maybe shouldn’t have said it doesn’t happen, but my point was that a season is not made in the non-conference. A weak non-conference showing, however, can put you in a big hole going into the Big Ten.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Not to mention the stress from damage control with the whole Mizzou situation.

  • IUJeff

    I thought they lost 9 schollies and a 2 year post-season ban? That to me is pretty stiff for selling stuff that belongs to you..

  • BrianS

    I was alive in 1976!  In fact I was 12 years old and ate up with Indiana Basketball just like I am now!  If Scott May didn’t break his arm they wouldn’t have lost a game in 1975 either!  I’ve been blessed to witness my team winning 3 NCAA Championships, but I’m greedy and want at least one more Banner before I go..

  • HoosierSmitty

    What is Crean drinking on the sidelines? It used to be Diet Coke…now it’s some weird brown stuff in a Dasani bottle? Surely he’s got some kind of drug in that thing. I bet he feeds it to the players too. No wonder they’re successful. Performance enhancers. Now it makes sense! We’re on to you Crean! 

  • HoosierSmitty

    BIG IF here, but IF Indiana knocks of MSU at the Breslin Center to open B1G play, how high do they make it in the polls? 

    Then subsequently, how far do they drop with a HOME loss vs. Ohio State. Clearly, winning both of those would be an astronomical achievement and would surely put IU in the Top 5, but a split would be interesting given a road win given a good road win, and a not-so-suprising home loss. I’m really anxious to see how IU fares against solid competition on a consistent basis now that B1G play is almost here. 

    And then IF IU someone won both of those games…how far do our jaws drop when we think what the team is capable of? 

    We all know what happens if IU loses both. Fans everywhere will say “They are who we though they were” which would be a bit premature, but it’s going to a happen. 

  • HoosierSmitty

    BIG IF here, but IF Indiana knocks of MSU at the Breslin Center to open B1G play, how high do they make it in the polls? 

    Then subsequently, how far do they drop with a HOME loss vs. Ohio State. Clearly, winning both of those would be an astronomical achievement and would surely put IU in the Top 5, but a split would be interesting given a road win given a good road win, and a not-so-suprising home loss. I’m really anxious to see how IU fares against solid competition on a consistent basis now that B1G play is almost here. 

    And then IF IU someone won both of those games…how far do our jaws drop when we think what the team is capable of? 

    We all know what happens if IU loses both. Fans everywhere will say “They are who we though they were” which would be a bit premature, but it’s going to a happen. 

  • Reckerfan1

    It’s absolutely true.  With this 11-0 record, and about to go to 12-0, there is more wiggle room heading into the Big Ten.  Hopefully we don’t need it, but we have really bought ourselves a loss or 2 more in the Big Ten because of this start.  At the start of the season, I would have said IU needed to go 10-8 or 11-7 in Big Ten play to have a shot at the tournament.  Now I would say that 9-9 or even 8-10 would be good enough to get an at-large bid.  Once again though, this doesn’t mean they can put in on cruise control in the Big Ten.  A 9-9 record will be extremely tough with the way the conference is looking.

  • Anonymous

    The converse effect of road games being tough in the Big 10 is that IU should win some home games it should probably lose.

  • Anonymous

    Remind them they’re 0-1 in national championship games

  • IUJeff

    I like the current ESPN power rankings for the B1G. IU # 2 in the conference.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/42380/big-ten-power-rankings

  • Anonymous

    The ’76 championship game is the first game I remember watching–it was just a couple of weeks shy of my 6th birthday.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    I agree but we were so flat against ND we didn’t play our game. ND did not force their will on us, we just played into their hands by our own lack if emotion. Our guys need to be up for every game and ND showed us a valuable lesson. I believe they learned from that and it will stick with them the same way a loss does. We did lose some credibility on a national stage with that game so even though it is a W it stung like a L.

    Lunardi in his mock bracket has us as a 4 seed, so I think you are spot on. If we go .750 in the Big Ten and play in the champ game of the Big Ten Tourney I will not be surprised. 3-4 seed if that happens. It is a new era and expectations have to be elevated regardless of how far we could fall.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, any all inclusive statements like that always result in someone finding at least one exception.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Also, do you remember when Mike Davis freaked out and ran on the court at the end of the Kentucky game???….oh wait that was a decade ago….Winning sure does change things. Lol  

  • Bleeding Crimson

    CTC made the comment that he should have probably sub more for the pUKe game as I like his sub happy.
    Fresh legs and we have the depth.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure of any of the above except Tijan.  I was just helping the former sister of the poor and Doc Purdue with their conspiracy planning…….

  • Anonymous

    Like Bonds had “the cream” and “the clear” you’re telling me we’re juiced on “the crean”?????  I like it, and will add it to the list.

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