It’s a resume building evening ahead for the Indiana University basketball team.
That’s what tonight’s game against Maryland amounts to for the 14-4 Hoosiers.
For that matter, Maryland has surprised some folks around the conference, too. The Terrapins are 17-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play. Maryland has already defeated Michigan State – twice. It won in East Lansing in double overtime in the Big Ten opener and then won last week at home handily.
But before the season began, Indiana was picked ninth in the Big Ten by a panel of conference writers from all 14 teams. Maryland was selected 10th. And yet the winner of tonight’s game will be tied with Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten with just one loss.
The reason tonight is such a big game for the Hoosiers, however, is that when you look at IU’s schedule you don’t see a lot of resume-building teams coming up between now and the end of the Big Ten season.
This week, only four B1G teams were ranked: Wisconsin, Maryland, Indiana and Iowa. And after the Badgers pummeled the Hawkeyes earlier in the week one would think that Iowa would slip from the top 25 when next week’s poll is released.
And so when the Hoosiers are looking for resume type victories to point to when it comes NCAA Tournament selection time, tonight’s game against Maryland would be a nice piece in that collection. Some will argue that it’s just a home game if IU is able to win, but Maryland has the look and feel of a team that will be in the NCAA Tournament when it’s all said and done.
When you’re looking for good victories on a resume, you’ll look at victories over other solid NCAA Tournament teams.
But what happens if Maryland comes into Assembly Hall tonight and improves its record to 6-1 in games away from home this year? Las Vegas has it as a pick’em game so most people expect it could go either way.
If IU loses, it will just have been an opportunity missed. The Hoosiers will still look good at 4-2 but the importance of the next four games will just be turned up a notch. In the next four, IU plays at Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin while playing host to Rutgers.
So it many ways tonight’s game against the Terrapins is a perception game. If Indiana can win people will undoubtedly start giving the Hoosiers a look. At 15-4 and 5-1 in the conference, IU would command that type of respect.
One thing that will likely give Indiana a slight edge tonight will be the atmosphere in Assembly Hall. The students are back, it’s a big game, the bright lights are on and this team has shown it generally plays well in those types of scenarios.
So it’s time to sit back and see how Indiana handles its latest challenge.
One thing is for sure: I know for a lot of Indiana basketball fans, 9 p.m. can’t get here quickly enough.