It's a make or break week for the Indiana basketball team.
When people look back and judge the success or failure of the 2005-06 season, don't be surprised if the week of Feb. 6 is pointed to as the time when Mike Davis' team got its second wind and made a march toward a Big Ten title…
Or it was the week when Indiana's current slide turned into an avalanche, and a once-promising season was suddenly spiraling out of control.
At 13-6 and 5-3 in the Big Ten, Davis' team remains positioned to compete for the Big Ten title. Whether they're in second-place as the Hoosier head coach insists, or fourth place as the conference standings suggest, the bottom line is IU is only a game out of the league lead and certainly within striking distance.
That brings us to the week of Feb. 6, one loaded with opportunities for success or failure.
Indiana travels to Wisconsin on Wednesday and then hosts Iowa on Saturday. That's a pair of games that are more than winnable if you're a glass half full kind of guy, or a set of contests that could all but end Indiana's season if the pessimist side tends to get the best of you.
Davis is optimistic about his team's chances, and he's excited to return to conference play after the team's matchup with No. 1 UConn Saturday.
"This is a really, really, really exciting stretch for us," said Davis.
It's also an extremely important one as well.
Wisconsin (15-7/5-4) is a loser in five of its last six, including an eight-point loss at lowly Purdue over the weekend and a homecourt loss to North Dakota State two weeks ago. Coach Bo Ryan's team lost a pair of players – Greg Stiemsma and Marcus Landry – at the semester due to academics, and it now appears that starting center Brian Butch could miss the Indiana game with an ankle injury as well.
That said, this is a Wisconsin team that has been all but unbeatable at the Kohl Center since Ryan took over. In fact, Illinois is the only Big Ten team to win in Madison in the last four-plus seasons, as the Badgers have gone 35-2 at their home venue dating back to the 2001-02 season.
Add in the fact that Indiana has been anything but road warriors since conference play opened in January, and this remains a formidable task. The Hoosiers have lost at Michigan State, Iowa and Minnesota by an average of 15.3 points, and each time IU has allowed its foe to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor.
That's music to Bo Ryan's ears, as Wisconsin has shot less than 40 percent in five out of its last six games, including a miserable 22.2 percent effort in the 62-55 loss to North Dakota State.
"It is rough to watch some guys struggle that way," said Ryan, whose team was once 14-2 and 4-0 in the Big Ten. "There really isn't anything you can do other than continue to work on the fundamentals and what has worked in the past, and just try to keep guys hungry to get over the hump and get back on track."
Then comes Saturday's match-up with Iowa, a contest that always has a little extra flavor because of the presence of former IU All-American Steve Alford on the Iowa sidelines, and the never-ending speculation that he'll someday return to Bloomington to coach the Hoosiers.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Iowa currently stands 7-2 and is all alone atop the Big Ten standings. With Indiana already having lost in Iowa City, a second setback to the Hawkeyes would all but end Indiana's chances of winning the league title.
The stage is certainly set for a week to remember, or one to forget.
A week from now, we'll know exactly where Indiana's basketball season is headed.
DECKER: It's Do Or Die Time For IU
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