Indiana Hoosiers Basketball: Making Sense of Recent Mediocrity

Matt OveringContributor IIIFebruary 6, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JANUARY 08: Cody Zeller #40 of the Indiana Hoosiers has the ball stripped from him by Jonathan Graham #25 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at the Bryce Jordan Center on January 8, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. The Indiana Hoosiers won, 88-82. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Just one month ago we were talking about how great this Indiana Hoosiers team was. On January 8th, the Hoosiers had won their first road game in the Big Ten against a feisty Penn State team, pushing their record to 15-1 overall. 

Since that game, the Hoosiers have dropped from 11th in the AP Poll to their current rank at 23. In the turbulent four weeks that followed their Penn State win, Indiana won just three of eight games. 

That stretch was brutal. Tom Crean's squad dropped their first home game of the year to lowly Minnesota, were blown out by Ohio State and allowed Nebraska to come back and win. Positives came from a tight loss at Wisconsin and at Michigan, along with a monumental win at Purdue.

That Purdue win will go far in determining the fate of this Hoosier squad.

Indiana proved that they can make the correct decisions late in games, and more importantly, hold on to the win on the road. Purdue brought the game to 65-60 with 2:54 left and Indiana allowed only one point for the rest of the game. For a team that is known for offense, that defensive dominance sets the stage for the future. Winning against an in-state rival makes it even sweeter.

The adversity that surrounded Indiana that game could have been overwhelming. They were playing their third game in five days, on the road, without Verdell Jones III. But this Indiana team did not crumble. This Indiana team held strong and proved they could win a pivotal game. 

There is no doubt that Indiana wanted to have a more successful conference run in their best season under Crean. But this team was bound to have growing pains after such a fast start. They have already doubled their conference wins from last year with seven games to play. 

Five of those seven games are at home, none bigger than their February 28th date with Michigan State. If these Hoosiers can build on their win at Purdue, they just might finish the season on an 8-0 run. Their two road games are very winnable, at Iowa and at Minnesota.

Learning from mistakes will be crucial for this team that has had its first taste of success this year. These Hoosiers can't afford to lose another game at home to teams they're expected to beat.

If Indiana can master their mistakes, you can be certain they will rise in rank and we may be able to consider them great once again.