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Indiana embarrassed on a national stage at Duke

Indiana's disappointing non-conference season continued with a humiliating loss at Duke on Wednesday night. What's next for the Hoosiers?

The expectations were gone. The national ranking, too. 

Indiana entered Cameron Indoor on Wednesday night as a decisive underdog, a position the Hoosiers had not been in this season. 

Tom Crean teams, historically, fair better as the underdog. At Marquette, at Indiana. Always have. 

And so, while many people were writing off the Hoosiers and predicting a 20-point loss at Duke, I saw them keeping it close. I didn't see a blowout.

I was wrong.

Duke 94, Indiana 74. An absolute beatdown in front of a primetime national television audience. Yikes.

The Hoosiers (5-3) learned nothing from their nightmare trip to Hawaii, and you have to wonder at this point, if they ever will. 

They cut out many of the careless turnovers on Wednesday night, but the Blue Devils scored on them as if they weren't even there. Indiana shot it well early and took an 8-point lead, but freshman Brandon Ingram got Duke right back.

Ingram, not a good perimeter shooter, couldn't miss from deep, and that spelled trouble for the Hoosiers. Duke was ahead by nine at halftime, and the second half was unwatchable. Duke treated the Hoosiers like a lowly non-conference team. The only difference? Indiana didn't get paid for playing in Durham.

It's been awhile since I can remember being Indiana so uncompetitive. The Hoosiers weren't even close to being competitive. Tom Crean tried zone, it didn't work. He stayed in that zone far too long before switching to man. That didn't work either.

"I think effort is as much of it as anything," senior guard Yogi Ferrell said afterward. "I feel like you can't teach effort. Effort's gotta come from something within. We can get by with technical errors, but we can't get by with guys not giving effort on D."

Ferrell sums it up perfectly. the Hoosiers aren't even getting by right now, and if theywere, it still wouldn't be good enough. Getting by is OK for a lot of college basketball programs. It is not OK at Indiana. The tradition of the program demands a whole lot more than just getting by.

It's been the same story for two years now. After almost every game, a member of the media asks the players a question similar to this: What went wrong with the defense?

They answer in a variety of ways. "Communication. We need to communicate more." "Rebounding. Can't let them get second chances." "Just need to get in the gym more and work on it."

At some point, you're either going to suck it up, dig deep, and work your tail off on the defensive end to shut everybody up, or it's simply never going to happen. We're well beyond that point now. Many of these players have all the talent in the world, and yet the part of the game holding them back is one that requires no talent at all. 

If I was getting asked after every game why my defense wasn't better, I would do absolutely everything in my power to lock down my opponent the next game. But the Hoosiers can't stop anybody, and they don't even seem to care. 

Indiana struggled when Crean first took over the program, but I often wonder if he wishes he could take a few players from that team and put it on this one. Those guys worked their tails off every day, and they never got outworked in a game. They lacked talent, but had heart. This team is the exact opposite. 

Crean was asked after the game what his team needs to do to fix the defense.

"Guard the ball better," Crean said.

Guarding the ball better is not something that can be learned at this level. If players aren't doing that now, they're not going to do it next time. That sounds like an answer a 6th grade coach would give after his AAU team got beat. If it's really that simple, and it hasn't been corrected, that tells me this group simply has no interest in guarding.

"It's December 3rd. We've played eight games," Crean said. "I love their work ethic in practice, we just need to play more like we practice. And that's easier said than done when you're playing against that experience and that size."

Offensively, the Hoosiers were sharp early. They ran designed cuts to a T, scored at will in transition, and had Duke reeling. But the transition opportunities stopped coming when the Hoosiers couldn't get a stop or a rebound, and the set plays turned into repeated 1-on-1 drives to the basket. In the second half, they hardly tried to run any offense. There weren't even any high ball screens. Just a guy standing out top dribbling for 15 seconds, then passing to someone else so he could go 1-on-1. You're not going to beat Duke with that. You could find better offensive sets at the HPER.

The Blue Devils beat the Hoosiers senseless, and pride never kicked in for Indiana. Unless you call it pride when Troy Williams blocked Grayson Allen's shot and yelled "Gimme that!" and stared him down afterward. Indiana was trailing by 22 points.

The Indiana basketball program is in complete disarray, and I honestly don't know what will happen next. The lack of improvement in the obvious team weaknesses is beyond troubling.

I said, win or lose, Wednesday night would teach us an awful lot about this Indiana team. It did. What we learned: This team is nowhere close to competing with the nation's elite teams. Even more concering, though, is the fact this team seems to lack to heart and toughness to do anything about it.

The Hoosiers took some head shots in Maui, but they got knocked out on Wednesday. Can they get up off the mat and fight again?


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