Indiana has had more than three days to think about things it could have done differently in Wednesday night's heartbreaking loss to Maryland. Had Yogi Ferrell's late 3-pointer fallen -- or any number of other shots the Hoosiers missed -- IU would be sitting pretty with an 8-4 record heading into the stretch run.
Instead, the Hoosiers enter Sunday's game against Minnesota at 7-5 in conference play, needing to finish strong to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
And while Indiana's final six-game stretch is more favorable than other parts of the conference schedule, the Hoosiers must play a Gophers' team that has won three straight games after starting 2-7 in Big Ten play. Minnesota won at Iowa on Thursday night.
It's a very important game for the Hoosiers (17-8, 7-5 Big Ten), which have given themselves a smaller margin of error because of missed opportunities at College Park. If Indiana loses, it will be squarely on the bubble entering a rivalry game against Purdue on Thursday night. The Hoosiers likely need to win at least four of their final six games to feel good about a postseason berth, and possibly another game in the conference tournament."We need a lot of energy in the building," Indiana coach Tom Crean said Saturday. "It will be the only Sunday night game we've had all year. We should have tremendous energy in there."
Crean didn't stop there. He repeated his point about having an energetic Assembly Hall on multiple occasions, not just on Sunday night, but for the rest of the season. Crean said Christian Watford, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are all expected to be at Sunday night's game because of the NBA All-Star break. Oladipo and Zeller competed in the Rising Stars Challenge last night in Brooklyn, and Oladipo will be part of tonight's Slam Dunk contest.
"I want to make sure we have great energy in the building. We've got four home games left. For the students and the fans, just make sure that energy is popping because these guys are working extremely hard. We need a Maryland atmosphere in there. That's what we need. We need the type of atmosphere that the walls are shaking well before tip off ever comes."
Like they have been for several years, the Golden Gophers are led by guard Andre Hollins, but they're more balanced this season than they have been in the past. Six different players average between 8.1 and 14.8 points per game, including Carlos Morris, who has been something of a surprise for Richard Pitino. Morris, 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, is averaging 11.7 points per game, although he hasn't scored in double figures in any of his last four games.
Big man Maurice Walker has had a nice season for the Gophers -- he averages 11.9 points and 6.4 rebounds on 58.5 percent shooting -- but it all starts with Hollins. The 6-foot-2 senior is averaging 21 points per game over his last seven, and he has made 29-of-53 (55 percent) shots from beyond the arc during that stretch.
So, what makes him so hard to guard?
"Multiple ways to score. He's doing a great job using screens right now, and he's doing a great job of setting screens," Crean said. "They move him around and they do a great job of getting him shots early in the clock, late in the clock, and in the middle. He has a tremendous stepback and he's had that for a long time."