Indiana suffered its second loss in the last three days at 14th-ranked Purdue Tuesday, but still looked like an improving team with its determined play and fast-improving freshmen.
Over the years, I've been accused of being too negative about the Hoosiers' prospects. Many, including IU's beloved President of Positivity, the late Terry Hoeppner, have said I ought to be more positive in my outlook.
So bear that in mind in considering these "lost my mind" predictions about the Hoosiers' fortunes following their losses to Iowa and Purdue:
1. Indiana will get its first road win this Saturday at Michigan. The Hoosiers are due for a good shooting game after three bad ones and have owned Michigan for years. Even with Indiana's loss last year in Ann Arbor, IU is 5-2 in its last seven at Michigan.
2. The continued development of Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo, along with the
return of Christian Watford, will be the biggest factors in how much this team will improve the rest of the season.
While many people thought early in the season that the two Hoosier freshmen were solid building blocks for the future, few seemed to think they would be significant impact players this season (I would like to point out that weeks ago I disagreed with one of the IU beat writers on this issue and am now being proven correct, but that would be unbecoming).
Bringing athleticism to a squad that needs more of it, Oladipo and Sheehey are developing quickly and are among IU's best players already. In Indiana's third straight season of struggling to make big plays at the end of games, IU should give the freshmen a shot at using their speed and jumping ability to get that elusive late basket that wins a game.
3. The biggest factor in Watford's return, which could come as soon as Saturday, will be how much of a presence he can be in the paint. IU has missed his outside shooting, but even more the Hoosiers need him to be a force in the post offensively, defensively and on the boards. Recovering from a broken hand, he can't afford to be tentative about contact.
The return of Watford and Verdell Jones certainly gives the struggling Hoosier offense more threats and options, but it doesn't necessarily help the toughness or physicality of the team (there's that negativity slipping in). Even if he doesn't show it right away, I believe Watford - who has been praised by Crean for his desire to improve - will continue to progress and provide desperately needed help for IU's interior play.
4. Indiana will defeat Purdue on Feb. 23 in what Hoosier fans will call one of the most memorable wins since the Knight years. IU will shoot better from the outside in this game and the number of free throws attempted won't be as one-sided in Purdue's favor as it was Tuesday night.
Chaos will reign in Assembly Hall. The excited IU student in front of me during the win over Illinois who was nervously putting his finger on his neck to check his racing pulse late in the game should probably sit this one out.
NEW FOOTBALL COACHING STAFF: For those who haven't caught all of the coaching hires, here are IU's new assistant football coaches. We will have more about this new staff soon on Hoosier Nation.
Doug Mallory - Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Playing Experience? - 1984-87 Michigan (defensive back)
Coaching Experience? - 1988 Indiana (graduate assistant)?, 1989 Army (offensive line)?, 1990-91 Western Kentucky (inside linebackers/special teams), 1992-93 Western Kentucky (defensive coordinator), 1994-96 Indiana (defensive backs, special teams)?, 1997-00 Maryland (secondary)?, 2001-04 Oklahoma State (secondary)?, 2005-07 LSU (defensive backs), 2008 LSU (co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs), 2009-10 New Mexico (defensive coordinator)
Mike Ekeler - Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
Playing Experience? - 1991-94 Kansas State (linebacker)
Coaching Experience? - 1999-01 Omaha (Neb.) Skutt HS (volunteer coach)?, 2002 Manhattan (Kan.) HS (assistant coach), 2003-04 Oklahoma (graduate assistant/defense), 2005-06 LSU (graduate assistant coach/defense), 2007 LSU (football intern), 2008-10 Nebraska (linebackers)
Mark Hagen - Defensive Tackles/Special Teams Coordinator
Playing Experience? - 1987-91 Indiana (linebacker)
Coaching Experience? - 1992 Indiana (graduate assistant); 1993-95 Indiana (administrative assistant); 1996-99 Northern Illinois (defensive tackles); 2000-02 Purdue (defensive tackles); 2003-04 Purdue (defensive tackles/special teams coordinator); 2005 Purdue (assistant head coach/defensive tackles/special teams coordinator); 2006-07 Purdue (assistant head coach/linebackers/special teams coordinator); 2008 Purdue (assistant head coach/defensive tackles/special teams coordinator); 2009-10 Purdue (linebackers).
Brett Diersen - Defensive Ends
Playing Experience?; 1994-98 Huron University (defensive end)
Coaching Experience - ?1998-00 Wisconsin-Stout (offensive and defensive graduate assistant); 2001-03 Dubuque (defensive line, outside linebackers and special teams coordinator); 2004-06 Wisconsin-Stout (defensive coordinator, defensive line and defensive backs); 2007 Minnesota State-Mankato (defensive line); 2008-10 Nebraska (defensive line and special teams intern).
Brandon Shelby – Cornerbacks
Playing Experience? - 2001-04 Oklahoma (defensive back)
Coaching Experience? - 2006 Oklahoma (defensive assistant); 2007 Arizona (graduate assistant)'; 2008 San Diego (defensive backs); 2009 Portland State (secondary); 2010 Louisiana-Monroe (cornerbacks)
Kevin Johns - Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Playing Experience? - 1994-97 Dayton (quarterback)
Coaching Experience? - 1998 Piqua (Ohio) HS (assistant coach); 1999-01 Northwestern (offensive graduate assistant); 2002-03 Richmond (wide receivers); 2004-05 Northwestern (running backs); 2006-07 Northwestern (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator); 2008-10 Northwestern (wide receivers/passing game coordinator).
Rod Smith - Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Playing Experience?- 1993-96 Glenville State (quarterback)
Coaching Experience? - 1997-98 Franklin (W.Va.) HS?(offensive coordinator); 1998-00 Urbana (Ohio) University (offensive coordinator); 2000 Clemson (offensive graduate assistant); 2001 West Virginia (offensive graduate assistant); 2001-04 South Florida (quarterbacks/pass game coordinator); 2005-06 South Florida (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks); 2007 West Virginia (quarterbacks); 2008-10 Michigan (quarterbacks)
Greg Frey - Offensive Line
Playing Experience? - 1991-95 Florida State (offensive line)
Coaching Experience?; 1996-98 South Florida (graduate assistant); 1999 South Florida (defensive line); 2000-06 South Florida (offensive line); 2007 West Virginia (offensive line); 2008-10 Michigan (offensive line)
Jemal Singleton?- Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
Playing Experience?; 1995-98 Air Force (halfback)
Coaching Experience? - 2000 Air Force (prep school assistant); 2003-05 Air Force (varsity assistant, junior varsity defensive coordinator); 2006 Air Force (running backs); 2007-10 Air Force (running game coordinator, running backs); 2011- Indiana (running backs, recruiting coordinator)
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