IU Insider Blog: A good national appearance

Indiana is off to a 5-0 start and one win away from capturing the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. Only Connecticut stands in the way tonight. But a good performance and a convincing win over a major conference school like Washington was one that should make poll voters give a look in IU's direction.

For 40 minutes of game time Thursday night, Indiana basketball fans got a real glimpse of the future.

And for the most part Hoosier fans had to like what they saw.

The first four games told Hoosier Nation that Indiana had a chance to be good. But facing the likes of Chicago State, LIU Brooklyn, Samford and Stony Brook didn't exactly answer a lot of questions about this team.

Wait until they play somebody really good and then we'll know a lot more was the basic sentiment that IU fans were holding inside.

And the truth is many still feel that way heading into tonight's 2K Sports Classic championship game against UConn. At least with a game against Connecticut, a team ranked No. 18 in the nation, Indiana should be able to get a much better feel for just how far it has come.

But that happened against Washington Thursday night, too. While the Huskies aren't a team that is going to strike fear into a lot of hearts, it's still a big, recognizable program from a major conference. And Indiana dominated the Huskies from start to finish.

Indiana led 9-0 and had baskets from four different players. The Hoosiers got out quickly and set the tone. Will Sheehey scored on a reverse layup, Yogi Ferrell knocked down a 3-pointer from the top, Troy Williams hit a 17-foot jumper and Jeremy Hollowell had a follow in the lane. With 17:45 to play in the first half, IU led 9-0.

The lead first reached double figures at 29-19. And Indiana just kept building on it from there. The Hoosiers led by 13 at the break and maintained a double digit lead most of the rest of the game.

But here is why this was important for IU.

*** The Hoosiers played away from Assembly Hall and won convincingly against a big conference school.

*** The young players handled the spotlight of a national television audience well. If you were a non-IU fan tuning in for the first time to try to get an idea of what the Hoosiers might be like this year, you had to have been impressed.

***Poll voters watch these kinds of games. I know. I was a poll voter for 12 or more years leading up to this past season. You watch games like this with interest when you know it involves a team that is either just barely ranked or right on the cusp of being ranked.

And so the Hoosiers made a statement Thursday night that they may be a team you want to keep an eye on.

Now, obviously, if they really want respect they need to follow that up with a win tonight against UConn. And that will be no easy task. But if by some chance the Hoosiers do get that win, I would think there's a good chance that a 6-0 IU team will make its debut in the Associated Press top 25 this week and very easily could crack the top 20 in the Coaches poll.

It's all because of a favorable reaction that the Hoosiers received Thursday night.

It was the first step in a long process but an important one. IU traveled and succeeded.

If we're still having this same conversation this time on Saturday the momentum for the Hoosiers will start to be built.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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