After an exhaustive examination of what's on the horizon for the IU basketball team, I've actually discovered there is some good news for Indiana and Coach Mike Davis.
There are only 28 days in February.
With four losses in its last five games, a once promising basketball season is teetering on the precipice. Indiana's days in the top 25 are numbered, its standing as an NCAA tourney team is shaky, and its coach is facing the most heated and pointed criticism of his stormy six-year run in Bloomington.
This also appears to be a situation that's only going to get worse, not better. After four straight double-digit conference losses away from home, the question is no longer if Indiana will get beat on the road, but by how much. All this team has to offer when it ventures outside the Bloomington city limits is excuses for why it can't be even remotely competitive.
Indiana remains perfect at home in conference play, although they haven't dominated its foes in the same fashion that they've been walloped on the road. Huge comeback wins against Ohio State and Illinois – while certainly impressive – suggest this team is bound to welcome a team or two this month that won't be quite a gratuitous if Indiana digs itself another cavernous first-half hole.
All of that leads me to believe that it's going to be a very long month for Davis.
Two months ago it seemed unfathomable that Indiana and Davis would find themselves in their current predicament. But after getting off to the sort of promising start that had IU ranked in the nation's top 10 for the first time in three years, Indiana has recently gone through a myriad of last-straw losses that has many thinking it's not a matter of if there's going to be a coaching change, only when. The boos grow louder at Assembly Hall (despite the fact IU has won 13 straight conference home games), and there are even sporadic rumors of organized protests from fans who believe enough is enough.
Heck, the hottest topic of conversation for Saturday's game against Iowa might not be the game itself, but rather the irony of having two people that some view as potential replacements – Iowa head coach Steve Alford and ESPN announcer Rick Majerus – in the building at the same time.
Despite the recent struggles, I'll still contend that Davis and this team don't deserve much of what they've been getting. For all of the disappointments during the last three seasons, some of the attacks on the team and Davis in particular have been so venomous, vile and vicious that it's a worse reflection on a segment of the IU fan base than an indictment on the job Davis has done.
For some, the removal of Mike Davis as IU's head basketball coach has become a disturbing obsession. There are a select few who seemingly decided that they've been entrusted with orchestrating the removal of Davis ever since he was introduced as IU's interim head coach 5 ½ years ago.
While he's had his shortcomings in terms of wins and losses in recent years, he remains as approachable as any coach you could ever hope to deal with. And whether you love him or you hate him, you have to at least admit that Stephen King couldn't have put pen to paper and produced a more horrifying set of circumstances when he first took over.
With all of that said, it still doesn't excuse back-to-back seasons sans an NCAA Tournament invitation, and it doesn't make up for a grossly underachieving effort this season. Admittedly, the season-ending injury to D.J. White and the handful of other ailments have presented unforeseen obstacles to Indiana's expected return to national prominence this winter. But there's still enough talent at Davis' disposal to tease fans into thinking that when IU ventures on the road, there's a possible outcome other than a bad loss and an embarrassing one.
At this point, there's no evidence that Indiana can reverse its recent struggles. Maybe that will change. I hope it does. But in the coming days and weeks, IU must host a pair of teams with legitimate Big Ten title aspirations (Iowa and Michigan State) while also making a trip to face an Illinois team that is also eyeing the conference's top prize. The Hoosiers also travel to University Park, Penn., to face a 3-7 Penn State team that they'll probably make look like a championship contender as well.
Yes, it's going to be a long month.
At least it's not a leap year.
DECKER: It's Going To Be a Long Month
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