IU Insider Blog: Momentum on the line

This very well could be Indiana's final serious tune up before opening Big Ten play on the road at Illinois on New Year's Eve. Yes, IU still has two more games left in the non-conference portion of the schedule after today but the Irish could post a real threat.

I'm not really sure how much Indiana will learn about itself when it faces Nicholls State or Kennesaw State to close out the non-conference portion of the schedule next week.

Both of those games are at Assembly Hall and should make it so that IU has at least 10 wins headed into the Big Ten portion of the schedule.

But today's game is another story. Facing a good in-state program in Notre Dame, Indiana should receive a good test.

I don't think you can spend a lot of time analyzing the fact that Notre Dame has already dropped home games this season to Indiana State by 13 and to North Dakota State by four, that one on Wednesday night. The Irish also fell in the ACC/Big Ten Tournament to Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye by five.

In two of the three losses, Notre Dame struggled from 3-point range. Normally a real good 3-point shooting team, the Irish shot 31 percent on Wednesday and 26.9 percent against the Sycamores. When it's bombs away, the long balls aren't dropping it is usually going to be a long night.

Against Iowa, the Irish actually shot better than 50 percent from the field and nearly 50 percent from 3-point range. But Iowa had a 10 rebound advantage and also shot 56.9 percent from the field. It was a deadly combination as the Hawkeyes won 98-93.

This is a big game for the Hoosiers. It's a big game for momentum. Win, and you've put together three wins in a row since losing to Syracuse. With games against Nicholls State and Kennesaw State to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule, IU would be expected to have an 11-2 mark going into the Illinois game on New Year's Eve.

But lose and that record will likely be 10-3 and that momentum will have taken a major shot.

You could make the argument that the game is even more important for Notre Dame. The Irish, which spent time ranked in the top 25 this year, have already lost three games. Two of them were at home to Indiana State and North Dakota State. Notre Dame is hungry and IU should get its best shot.

But Indiana is hungry as well. I think playing this game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and feeling the love that Indiana will receive from Hoosier fans will be enough to get IU's adrenaline in motion.

Before the season began, I predicted IU would go into the Big Ten at 11-2. So I had the Hoosiers winning this game. Could it be a trap game? Sure. But I still think Indiana comes out on top in this one, and likely by seven or eight points.

Still, it will be a good challenge for a young IU team against a much more veteran Notre Dame squad.

This one could be very interesting.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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