If you're like me, your lasting memory of Indiana came from its ugly loss at Duke on Dec. 2. The two weeks since them, which included three cake walks against three cupcake teams, are a little fuzzy. We learned next to nothing about the Hoosiers in those games.
Given the feedback I've received from Indiana fans on Twitter and via email, I am fairly confident in describing the current state of the fan base as both frustrated and skeptical. Frustrated because the problems of last year are the problems of this year, and skeptical because Indiana has yet to do anything against a team that matters.
Games against Morehead State, IPFW and McNeese State didn't exact have people lining up outside Assembly Hall, especially after the disaster in Maui and the embarrassment at Duke.
And while that frustration and skepticism is understandable and warranted, here's something I realized the other day: Tom Crean still has time to get this figured out. Why? Well after the Hoosiers play Notre Dame -- a team even more flawed defensively than Indiana -- on Saturday in the Crossroads Classic, the Hoosiers open Big Ten play with a stretch of games that's more than favorable.
- Dec. 31: @Rutgers (254th in KenPom ... that's far lower than IPFW and a spot lower than Austin Peay)
- Jan. 2: @Nebraska (109th in KenPom)
- Jan. 5: Vs. Wisconsin (40th in KenPom, has 5 losses, no more Bo Ryan)
- Jan. 10: Vs. Ohio State (76th in KenPom, has 5 losses)
- Jan. 16: @Minnesota (134th in KenPom, has 5 losses)
- Jan. 19: Vs. Illinois (108th in KenPom, has 5 losses)
- Jan. 23: Vs. Northwestern (56th in KenPom)
- Jan. 26: @Wisconsin (Already has 3 home losses)
- Jan. 30: Vs. Minnesota (Set a school record for 3s against Minnesota at Assembly Hall last year)
My point? That's the first nine games of the Big Ten season, and you could make the argument that Indiana could win all nine. I think seven or eight wins is more likely, but still, that gives these Hoosiers another full month to work out their problems while maintaining a spot near the top of the conference rankings. They only play one team during that stretch that's in the top 50, and that's Wisconsin, which is certainly not the Wisconsin teams of old. Bo Ryan had Tom Crean's number, but Ryan is no longer on the bench for the Badgers.
So while Indiana fans may want to take the doom and gloom approach to Hoosier hoops, there's some reason for optimism for IU, and more than enough time for the Hoosiers to figure things out.