Indiana Basketball: Why the Hoosiers Must Win Conference Opener Against MSU

Robert PaceContributor IIIDecember 28, 2011

Indiana faces off against Michigan State in their Big Ten Conference opener. Here's why they must win.
Indiana faces off against Michigan State in their Big Ten Conference opener. Here's why they must win.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Hoosiers fans are jumping for joy, eager with the fresh excitement of victory and prospective glory to come. 

A team that had struggled last year to find a median has now been revived with an influx of victory. Bloomington is booming and antsy to watch their team's season continue to unfold. 

The Hoosiers are undefeated at 12-0 and have upset the No. 1 team with a buzzer-beating three-pointer. That is quite a climactic opening to a season. 

However, amid all the joy and the jump to No. 13 in the AP poll, Indiana has to remain focused in order to stay a competitive team. 

Everything that has happened to this point has been exciting and great for morale but it's merely non-conference play, during which Indiana has only played two road games (one of which was against a good opponent).

Indiana's Big Ten Conference opener against No. 16 Michigan State is huge for the Hoosiers as they look to establish themselves in the Big Ten, which is one of the nation's top conferences this year. 

Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan are all ranked opponent and be evenly-matched, if not superior, opponents for Indiana.

This will be the toughest game yet for the Hoosiers. Even tougher than the game against No. 1 Kentucky. 

Why? Because this one is on the road. The Hoosiers will have to come into Michigan State's house and prove that they can perform without the cheers of Assembly Hall to propel them to victory. 

This will be a true and telling test for Indiana's success in the Big Ten this season. Indiana has lost 16 straight games in East Lansing and will have to bring their "A" game to avoid another loss on the Spartans' home court.

Indiana will have to rely heavily as always upon its three-point shooting, as they are outmatched in the paint by Michigan State despite having freshman forward Cody Zeller. 

If the Hoosiers struggle from beyond the arc they won't stand much of a chance, as Michigan State is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation (6th: 41.9 RPG). 

While Indiana has won two road games this year, they did not win a single road game last year. More importantly, they didn't win a road game against a Big Ten opponent. 

The Hoosiers have proved that they are worthy of being in the Top 25 based upon their non-conference play. However, their most important games are yet to come, and Wednesday night's game is crucial to their Big Ten success. 

After their game against Michigan State, the Hoosiers will host Ohio State and Michigan in Assembly Hall. 

The Hoosiers have been impressive thus far, but the journey is just beginning.

Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, December 28.

Broadcast is on the Big Ten Network.