IU Insider Blog: On to next opportunity

Indiana missed out on a big opportunity Thursday when it squandered a 16-point lead in a 60-55 loss at Nebraska. But in the Big Ten the next opportunity comes quickly and Michigan provides just that.

I try to look at Indiana basketball in terms of the big picture.

But the reality right now is that the picture is kind of fuzzy. This team is capable of big things as it proved one night against Wisconsin and could potentially prove on Sunday against Michigan if the Hoosiers could rise up and knock off the Wolverines.

And yet this team is also capable of looking very ordinary. It can have stretches of greatness like it had in the first half at times against Nebraska and then stretches where it looks lost and undisciplined.

The truth is this team has a lot of parts that need fixing and it's uncertain if the Hoosiers can still salvage a postseason berth out of this season based on recent performances. With that in mind, let's look at a few areas of concern for Indiana moving forward this season.

When you look at this current group of Hoosiers, a few things stand out.


*** IU lacks consistent performers: Yogi Ferrell may be the exception but even Yogi has been inconsistent shooting the ball. He was better against Nebraska and drained four 3-pointers. But let's say for argument sake that Ferrell is that go-to guy. Who would be No. 2? At one time you might say Noah Vonleh but that hasn't been the case for a while. Will Sheehey? I don't think you can put him in that category either. The only other possibility would be Stanford Robinson and he is far too inconsistent at this point.

*** IU has a small margin of error: Think about it. For Indiana to be successful, a lot of things have to go right. The Hoosiers can't turn the ball over at a high rate like they did against Nebraska. They need to shoot the ball at a rate much closer to 50 percent. They need to convert at the foul line especially with people like Robinson and Troy Williams knocking down clutch foul shots. They need two or three players to step up and provide significant performances every game and they just aren't getting them.

*** The freshmen need to break through the Freshman Wall: Whether anyone wants to acknowledge it as being a real aspect of college basketball, it certainly seems like a lot of players hit the wall their first season about this time of the year. The rigors of a long season simply settle in. But the teams that are successful are the ones that have players that can get past that wall. That's what Indiana needs right now from Vonleh, Williams and perhaps even Robinson. The freshmen need to play through this and have some success heading into the second half of the Big Ten season.

At 13-8 and 3-5 in the Big Ten, there is still a lot of basketball to be played with this group. And there's no reason the Hoosiers can't turn it around.

But it's going to take steps. And IU has to take those steps one at a time.

The first one comes up on Sunday when the Hoosiers play host to Michigan. Assembly Hall needs to be a hostile environment for the Wolverines and Indiana needs to respond. A 4-5 record will look a lot better than 3-6 in conference play especially when you consider that Indiana would have another signature win for its resume. A longshot? I'm not sure. Does anyone expect Michigan to run the table and go undefeated in Big Ten play? I certainly don't. But it is the hostile environments like the Wolverines will encounter Sunday that could potentially trip them up.

There is no question that the 60-55 loss to Nebraska Thursday night was a missed opportunity. Indiana led by 16 in the first half and by 13 at the break and seemed to have the game in control.

But the great thing about the Big Ten, especially this particular Big Ten season, is that a new opportunity awaits each time out.

We'll see what IU does with its next one on Sunday.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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