Column: Tragedy avoided, collapse continues

After a metal facing fell from the ceiling of Assembly Hall Tuesday afternoon around 2:30 p.m., IU athletics officials soon decided to postpone IU's game later that evening at home against Iowa. While it was certainly the right call from a safety standpoint, Crean and his players could have really benefited from a good showing before another road trip.

As Indiana head coach Tom Crean and athletic director Fred Glass reiterated several times Tuesday evening, a true crisis was averted when the piece of metal fell from the ceiling of Assembly Hall in the northwest corner onto the seating below. No one was harmed, and it sounds like as of now, both the men's and women's teams will be able to move on with minor changes to the rest of their seasons.

But for IU's season sake, this isn't exactly what the Hoosiers would have hoped for. On a three-game losing streak, the last thing Crean and his players need is to wait around four more days with the pressure of breaking this streak on their backs.

Sure, it certainly wasn't given that IU would have come out of Tuesday's home game with a victory. The Hoosiers were three or four point underdogs, depending on where you looked, but lately, that's how they've performed best. Pit this team against a conference foe that plays quickly and sits toward the top of the Big Ten standings at home, and it brings out the best in them.

Michigan hadn't lost yet in conference play when they came to Bloomington on Feb. 2, and the Hoosiers shut down their star Nik Stauskas while Yogi Ferrell went 7-of-8 from beyond the arc as IU gave Michigan its first conference loss of the season 63-52.

More than two weeks earlier, the Hoosiers went toe-to-toe with a rising Wisconsin team and came out ahead in the final seconds, 75-72. It seems that this team comes to play for the biggest games this season, ones you wouldn't expect them to win or sometimes even contend in.

Crean talked Monday about how Iowa reminded him of last year's IU team – an efficient, high-scoring team that can rebound the basketball. That sounds just like a team the Hoosiers could have possibly hung around with in this building. Maybe they finally lose to a great team at home. But I would have bet they would have been able to work out some of the kinks that held them back in the second half against Purdue and plagued them in the final minutes against Penn State.

Now, the Hoosiers have to wait around a week after an 18-point loss to Purdue and go on the road for the second-straight game and take on Northwestern, the team they came out flat against at home just four days after beating Wisconsin. At the time, fans and the media were somewhat stunned at how this Hoosier team could hang with a team like Wisconsin and then score just 47 at home against Northwestern, who at the time hadn't pulled a few of the upsets they have this season. Now, after the collapse against Penn State at home, along with leads lost late on the road to Nebraska and Minnesota, silly losses from this year's team isn't much of a surprise anymore. You still scratch your head, but you can't say you were surprised.

Yes, you may say this gives them more time to prepare for Northwestern, but I don't think time is what this IU team needs. Let's face it – they're young. They're inconsistent. At this point, 25 games into the season, I don't think we're going to see anything we haven't yet, but you can't argue that IU needed a game that they could grab a victory in, or at least a mental one, even if Crean doesn't believe in those. I would imagine right now, even if they won't admit it, the Hoosiers realize their NCAA Tournament hopes are extremely slim. Right now, they're playing for pride and an NIT bid, if that motivates them. They could have gained pride grabbing a win against Iowa or at least hanging with them and seeing that the Hawkeyes are simply the better team this year, which they are.

The Hoosiers need a game they can grab an upset in or where they can lose without it being their own fault. Iowa would have been just that type of game. Now, as they prepare to face Northwestern on the road, this young team will have to overcome the pitiful game they played more than a month ago and beat someone on the road. Especially without a possible pick-me-up after that Purdue loss now, I don't like their odds.


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