Hoosiers Need to Rally Down the Strech

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The time has come for the Indiana Hoosiers to make or break their season. Despite poor efforts at Minnesota and Iowa, the Hoosiers rebounded at home against Penn State. Coming down the stretch, the Hoosiers need to hold down the fort at home and get a couple of crucial road wins to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament. Despite a brutal 2-6 start, IU can grab the attention of the Selection Committee in the next nine games.

The Hoosiers have some major hurdles ahead, including games at top-ranked undefeated Illinois on Sunday and against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center on March 1, where the Badgers have lost only once (a 75-65 loss to No. 1 Illinois) in the last 39 games. The Hoosiers need to make a strong run to close the season with an NCAA birth, and that's going to mean sweeping at home including when AP No. 10 Michigan State comes to Bloomington. It also means getting wins at Ohio State and at Michigan, as well as being competitive if they lose on the road at Illinois and at Wisconsin. That means going at least 6-3, with chances being better if they can manage 7-2. Most prognosticators believe the Hoosiers need at least 16 wins and a win in the Big Ten Tournament to have a legitimate shot at the NCAA's.

It's going to be a grind down the stretch if the Hoosiers have to play without Big Ten leading scorer Bracey Wright, who injured his ankle in Wednesday night's win over Penn State. Without Wright, the Hoosiers will be forced to shoot the ball better collectively from long range, as freshman stud D.J. White will be facing more double and triple teams in the paint. White will have to develop a quick mentality in the post, either catching the ball and going up before the double team arrives or seeing where to pass the ball and making the pass before he gets wrapped up. The Hoosiers have proven to be an up and down three-point shooting team, offsetting great shooting nights against Michigan and Ohio State (combined 14-33 from three-point range) with dismal performances at Minnesota and Iowa (combined 5-33 from three-point range). That trend of poor shooting on the road will have to be rectified if the Hoosiers have any aspirations of dancing in March.

The Hoosiers start the stretch on Sunday at top-ranked Illinois in a game that will be televised on CBS. It's not a must-win game for IU, but they have to be competitive and get into a rhythm as they head into what will be must-win games against Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue. The Hoosiers have previously beaten OSU, Michigan, and Purdue, and IU lost a close game at Minnesota. The Hoosiers need to prove now to the NCAA Selection Committee that their brutal non-conference schedule built a strong team, a team ready and able to make a strong run to close the season and to carry over into the NCAA Tournament.

The Hoosiers need to finish above .500 to make the NIT, but talking about making the NIT isn't worth finishing this…

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