Ready to find out what's going to happen the rest of the way for the IU basketball team?
Tune in Saturday for your answer.
No. 21 Indiana (13-5/5-3) hosts No. 1 UConn (18-1/7-1) on Saturday in a contest that means nothing in the Hoosiers' quest for a Big Ten title. It's a match-up that IU officials decided to squeeze into the middle of the Big Ten schedule, a battle royale of college basketball goliaths that would capture the country's attention a day before the Super Bowl, a respite of sorts from the league slate.
Personally, I'd have thought a week to prepare for a suddenly winnable game against the academically-challenged Badgers in Madison might have made more sense, but…
Saturday's game might mean nothing in terms jockeying for position in the Big Ten title chase, but it means everything when it comes to predicting what's going to unfold in IU's final eight Big Ten games and then into the postseason.
Indiana is a basketball team whose mental make-up is a mess. It's a psychologist's dream, a head coach's nightmare. Efforts at home against top-10 foes Duke and Illinois have shown its good enough to beat anyone. Road showings at Indiana State and Minnesota suggest there's no such thing as an easy victory as soon as these Cream ‘n Crimson-clad Hoosiers set foot outside the confines of Assembly Hall, a scary thought considering five of IU's final eight league games are on the road.
This match-up against the top-ranked Huskies will either serve as a reminder to Mike Davis' team that, yes, these D.J. White-less Hoosiers are good enough to play with the country's best. Or, it will only go to reinforce the fear that a season that started off with so much promise is destined to continue its downward spiral.
Mind you, I'm not suggesting Indiana has to knock off the Huskies to regain its swagger and repair its fragile psyche. This game doesn't have to end with thousands of IU students storming the floor to revel in IU's first victory over a top-ranked team since Duke in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
Indiana can lose this game and have it be a success.
What Indiana can't do is go out and lay an Ostrich-sized egg.
The Hoosiers can't go on national television for a third straight time and get whipped like they did at Iowa and at Minnesota. Marco Killingsworth needs to play like he did against Duke, while Robert Vaden and Roderick Wilmont need to play like they have as of late. A.J. Ratliff, Sean Kline, Marshall Strickland, Lewis Monroe and Ben Allen need to play as if they belong on the floor with the No. 1 team in the nation.
The bottom line is Indiana can't go out on its home floor and lose by 15 and then serve up a smorgasbord of excuses about why the loss meant nothing. Because contrary to what some coaches like to suggest, losing by three and by 30 isn't the same thing when it comes to the damage a lopsided loss can do to a team's belief in itself.
Maybe Indiana shouldn't be playing this game in the middle of the Big Ten slate, instead devoting their full attention to the Big Ten race. But the schedule-makers disagreed, and this game suddenly provides an opportunity to regain some much needed confidence with either a win or a hard-fought loss.
Or destroy the little bit that is left.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, Indiana has reached a crossroads. It's either going to be a season to remember, or one for fans and Mike Davis to forget.
We'll know the answer when the final horn sounds Saturday.
DECKER: UConn To Provide Plenty of Answers
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