As Indiana had struggled the last week or so, I found myself thinking the same thought over and over.
What team did you really want to play in the Big Ten Tournament?
The list of teams I really didn’t want to see Indiana play was a long one.
You didn’t want to play Purdue either. The Hoosiers just don’t match up well with the Boilermakers, a point that was proven on two occasions this season. And the way it worked out, Purdue is on the other side of the bracket. That means the only way that IU and Purdue could meet would be in the title game and Hoosier Nation would be okay with that matchup if it was for the title.
Michigan State was another team I didn’t really want to see, at least not in the first round or two. The Spartans manhandled IU in East Lansing and then found a way to beat the Hoosiers on Saturday but did so without their best player, Branden Dawson. So Michigan State was probably better avoided.
Iowa was another team that wouldn’t have been high on my list. The Hawkeyes just have a lot of ways to beat you. And with Iowa you have to wonder if you’re getting good Iowa or bad Iowa. Good Iowa came into Bloomington last week and beat the Hoosiers. The Hawkeyes ended the conference season on a six-game winning streak. And the Hawks will be on the other side of the bracket, too.
Ohio State? Not a great matchup, but since IU did beat the Buckeyes once that one would have been a little easier to digest.
So when it was announced late Sunday that Indiana’s opponent would be Northwestern, I was actually OK with that. Yes, Northwestern just beat Indiana three games ago. But the Wildcats really shot a good percentage and if you remember, IU played pretty well in the first half (at least on the offensive end). And it was a road loss to a team that came in on a winning streak. You never know what playing on a neutral court at the United Center will do for you.
And Indiana will have a healthier Collin Hartman back in the lineup, something they sorely missed the first time against Northwestern.
I expected IU to play Minnesota but the Golden Gophers stumbled on Sunday at home, losing to Penn State. And watching that game, I was thinking that IU probably didn’t want to have to deal with Maurice Walker either. He had a career high 26 points on Sunday and was nearly unstoppable inside.
Of the top six seeds though, the one that I felt Indiana could match up the best against if it got to Friday’s B1G quarterfinals would be Maryland. Indiana beat the Terps by 19 at home and lost to them by two on the road. So with Maryland sitting there waiting for the Indiana-Northwestern winner that may not be a bad thing for the Hoosiers.
But no one is looking ahead to Friday. The way Indiana has played of late my guess is that Northwestern is excited to have the Hoosiers as its opening round foe. And it should. IU has dropped three in a row and is in a position where it likely needs to win to secure an NCAA Tournament berth.
And no matter what happened in Evanston just under two weeks ago, none of that matters. If Indiana is an NCAA Tournament team it should beat Northwestern in the B1G Tournament. And if the Hoosiers were to lose, well then they would deserve the fate they were dealt.
So all in all the possibility of facing Northwestern followed by Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament is probably a good path for the Hoosiers. Now, Indiana just needs to play closer to how it played through the end of January and not so much like it has played the last 12 games.