Rutgers has become a must-win game for IU

It's one thing to lose to Ohio State and Purdue on the road in Big Ten play. It would be something altogether different if the Hoosiers didn't get past Rutgers at home on Saturday. IU is 12-1 overall at home and 3-0 in conference play. Rutgers is 0-4 in conference road games and has lost five games in a row.

I have to admit I’m looking forward to seeing how Indiana bounces back Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall.

Two weeks ago, Indiana looked good against both Illinois and Maryland. This past week, the Hoosiers weren’t competitive against Ohio State and Purdue on the road.

Assembly Hall tends to bring out the best in the Hoosiers though. IU is 12-1 at home this season and 3-0 in Big Ten play. The Big Ten home wins were against Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland.

Now comes Rutgers, a team that not only should you beat but you MUST BEAT.

Not trying to put any extra pressure on the home team here, but if Indiana somehow lost to Rutgers in Assembly Hall, it would be a ‘sound the alarm’ type reaction throughout Hoosier Nation.

I’m certain it would get bloody. Rutgers is 10-12 overall and 2-7 in conference. Yes, the Scarlet Knights handed an undermanned Wisconsin team its only loss of B1G play at Rutgers. But in the last two conference games, Rutgers has lost to Penn State by 28 and Michigan State by 20.

It’s simply a game that Indiana has to win.

But stranger things have happened. I remember a few years ago, in the 2011-12 ‘Wat Shot’ season for the Hoosiers, that a 3-1 IU team played host to a winless Minnesota squad at Assembly Hall in early January and got beat 77-74. Indiana was 11-0 at home that year going into that game and IU’s final home record that season would be 18-1.

And the one was to the least expected team.

IU has had a great record at Assembly Hall in Tom Crean’s seven seasons with the Hoosiers. At the same time, there were some bad losses in the early years at home when IU was doing its best to be successful with players that normally would not have been a part of the program.

Remember when the Hoosiers lost to mighty Lipscomb in December of 2008? There was also a home loss to Northeastern that year when the Hoosiers scored a total of 42 points in Assembly Hall. Now, in fairness, Crean and his staff did the best it could to just field a team that first year or two but it was those two losses in particular that confirmed how far the program had fallen.

In 2009, it was Loyola of Maryland that came into Assembly Hall and won. There was also a bad home Big Ten loss to Iowa that season when the Hawkeyes came to Bloomington winless and beat a Hoosier squad that had just won back-to-back Big Ten games.

And then there was the loss to Eastern Washington this season. Now, another side note is that Eastern Washington is currently 15-5 overall and 6-1 in the Big Sky. So it continues to prove that it was a decent team. But it’s tough losing to directional schools in Assembly Hall.

But now consider this when we talk about playing Rutgers Saturday and the importance of gaining a victory against the Scarlet Knights.

Eastern Washington is ranked No. 126 in the current KenPom rankings. Indiana is No. 50. But Rutgers? The Scarlet Knights are the lowest ranked Big Ten team on the KenPom rankings checking in at No. 179.

What an Indiana victory would do is get the Hoosiers to 6-3 in Big Ten play at the halfway point of the conference season. In the second half of the Big Ten season, the Hoosiers will play five home games and four on the road.

Get to six wins at the halfway point and the talk of winning 11 or 12 conference games will pick up again.

But lose to Rutgers and … you know, I don’t even want to talk about it.

It just can’t happen. Indiana has to find a way to bounce back on Saturday and take care of business at home against the Scarlet Knights.

If it doesn’t, there will be plenty to talk about on Sunday and Monday in the forums.


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