Let me begin by saying it's somewhat disappointing to be writing this column in the first place because Indiana had enough talent on its roster this year to be an NCAA Tournament team. I really do think so.
But this is what the Hoosiers are left with after a quick first-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament. Now, they must wait for a call from the NIT.
Even though IU has just 17 wins and 15 losses, the Hoosiers are still likely to be invited to the NIT. They are currently projected as a six-seed, meaning they'd have to go on the road for the first game next Tuesday or Wednesday. The current projection has them playing the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.
The question I have is, would the NIT be good for this Indiana team? Or would it be better if the season just ended now?
It's a discussion our publisher, Terry Hutchens, raised in the video analysis following Thursday's loss to Illinois, and I think it's a fair one. And I think it very much depends on how the NIT were to go. If the Hoosiers play in it and are eliminated in the first game, that will be even more discouraging to a young team. If they get in and win a couple games, that would be really positive for them going into the offseason.
Overall, I believe there are more positives than there are negatives, but I do think it'd be pretty easy to make an argument either way. After 32 games, this team is what it is. It turns it over a ton, doesn't shoot it well from the perimeter, and plays well in spurts. That won't change with a 33rd, 34th or 35th game.
But at the same time, for guys like Troy Williams and Devin Davis, who have been playing really well of late, more games may be just what the doctor ordered. Those two guys will be a big part of IU's team next year, so it would be good for them to gain some more confidence before them.
And then there's Will Sheehey, whose four-year career will be over if the Hoosiers don't participate in a postseason tournament. After what he's gone through, and what he's meant to the program, Indiana should definitely give him an option to keep playing basketball.
As senior guard Evan Gordon said after Thursday's loss to Illinois, you get out of the NIT what you put into it. Some teams have no interest in playing in it. They'd rather the season just be over. Other teams enjoy playing more basketball and try to build momentum for the next season.
You'd have to think with so many young players on the team, IU would fit in the latter category.
The NCAA Tournament field will be announced tomorrow evening, meaning the NIT field will be set shortly there after. As always, we'll keep you up to date.