All of a sudden, a team that looked poised to improve to 10-6 in the Big Ten and get one step closer to punching a ticket to the Big Dance, looked more than a little like a fragile group.
Indiana’s 72-65 loss at Northwestern Wednesday night leaves the Indiana fan wondering what the next two games will hold.
Indiana can go one of three ways: It can win two and get to 11-7 and feel much more comfortable on Selection Sunday. It can split the games and be 10-8 and likely still be safe. Or it can go 0-2, drop to 9-9, and likely have some work to do when it comes to the Big Ten Tournament.
But after Wednesday's frustrating performance on the road in Evanston, Ill., the very real question on the minds of IU basketball fans is whether this team can bounce back and beat Iowa in six days?
How can anyone possibly predict the outcome of that one with any relative certainty.
You have two teams that have been less than consistent this season.
Iowa will come into the game with at least the same record as the Hoosiers and maybe better. Iowa currently is a half game ahead of IU at 9-6 in Big Ten play and the Hawkeyes will travel to face Penn State on the road this weekend.
If the Hawkeyes win there, they will be 10-6 in the Big Ten heading into Assembly Hall and their road record in conference play will be 5-3 so they have certainly proved they can win on the road.
The Hawkeyes are also on a three-game winning streak which could be extended to four if they beat the Nittany Lions.
None of these things are positive points for Indiana fans.
Often times it isn’t about who you play but when you play them. This could be a bad time to play Iowa and a good time for the Hawkeyes to play Indiana.
It will all come down to how this team bounces back against Iowa.
And that’s the most difficult piece of this puzzle. There just isn’t a strong indicator there one way or another. Will IU play like it did earlier in the season at home against Maryland or Minnesota? Or will it play like it did against Purdue at home or Northwestern, most recently, on the road?
Potentially getting Collin Hartman back could help but even that is a question mark. IU played without Hartman Wednesday night who suffered a bone bruise against Rutgers on Sunday. He is day-to-day and it’s not certain if he’ll be ready to play on Tuesday in the nationally televised game against the Hawkeyes.
And that’s another thing about Tuesday: The National Television element.
One thing that game will afford a lot of people the opportunity to see is how IU is playing late in the season. A game like that can stick in people’s minds, too.
I’m surprised we have reached this point in the season at 9-7 after some of the early hope this Indiana team had provided.
But now it’s going to be gut check time for the Indiana Hoosiers.