IU Insider Blog: 11-2 or bust

My pick for the Hoosiers in print before the season began was 11-2 heading into Big Ten play. I still feel the same. But to do that, Indiana must win in its final five games in non-conference action with four of those in the friendly confines of Assembly Hall.

By the time Indiana gets on a bus and heads to Champaign, Ill. Sometime on Dec. 30 to prepare for the New Year's Eve Big Ten opener at Illinois, I expect the Hoosiers will take an 11-2 non-conference record with them.

Which isn't a surprise to me. It's the same non-conference record I predicted the Hoosiers would hit a few days before IU opened the regular season against Chicago State.

Now, in order for that to occur, however, IU still has five games to win. Indiana is 6-2 heading into tonight's non-conference game with North Florida at Assembly Hall.

But let's face it. IU has four of its next five non-conference games at home and you can't really tell me that North Florida, Oakland, Nicholls State or Kennesaw State really strikes a great deal of fear into your heart.

The other game is Notre Dame a week from today in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. That will be a tougher game, but still a game I expect the Hoosiers to win.

To this point, through eight games, the season has played out exactly as I expected. OK, so perhaps the Hoosiers stayed closer to Connecticut than I thought they would and the Syracuse loss was about what I expected just not that way. I thought IU would probably struggle throughout against the Orange. I didn't think Indiana would get to the 18-minute mark in the second half tied and looking like it could knock off Syracuse on the road. Obviously the final 18 minutes were as if a different team went out on the Carrier Dome court in Indiana uniforms.

I think where Indiana is right now is probably what Hoosier fans can come to expect from this team throughout the year.

Some really good games and some not-so-good games. A consistent effort against the non-conference opponents in Assembly Hall and ultimately some up and down play when the Big Ten rolls around. My guess is that IU will be very tough to beat at home but struggle in a lot of road venues.

But the key as I see it is 11-2. If the Hoosiers can win their final five games and get to 11-2 heading into Big Ten play then I think IU has set itself up for a solid chance at an NCAA berth. Go 9-9 in the Big Ten heading into the conference tournament and then the Hoosiers can just add to a 20-win resume.

But the key is 11-2. Indiana has a small margin for error and can't afford to trip up along the way between now and the Big Ten opener.

Win these next five games and I still like iU's chances at getting back to the NCAA Tournament this season. Lose one of these next five though, and the road could be much more difficult.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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