Indiana Basketball: Hoosiers Need to Steal a Road Win Later in the Year

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2013

EAST LANSING, MI - JANUARY 19:  Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans makes a late free throw during action against the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Jack Breslin Center on January 19, 2013 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State won the game 59-56. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There's really no question that this Indiana team is underachieving this season. Yes, I'm aware the Hoosiers are 16-2 and 4-1 in conference play, but they honestly should be 18-0 and 5-0 in the Big Ten. With dropping the games to Butler and Wisconsin, the Hoosiers will have to win at least one of the tough road games near the end of the season to try and get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and also win the Big Ten.

Luckily, the Hoosiers have done a great job on the road to start conference play. They're 3-0 on the road and have to take care of business at arch-rival Purdue on January 30th. From there, their final five road games are all against ranked teams and will be tough to win.

The first of those five games is at Illinois on February 7th. Assuming they win their home games,which is a tall task with this Hoosier team, with Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan, the Illinois game will be a trap contest. The Illini have shown that they were heavily overrated from earlier in the year and don't match up well with Indiana.

However, if Indiana allows Illinois to do what it likes to do best and hit threes, then the Hoosiers could be in trouble. Indiana may get caught looking ahead to its next game at Ohio State three days later and miss the opportunity to steal a road win. Nevertheless, IU has to win that game at Illinois in February.

Then, with that game with Ohio State followed by road games at Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan, the Hoosiers will likely be the underdog. It's tough to win on the road in this conference, let alone against good teams wanting revenge.

If, and that's a big if, the Hoosiers can win the games they're supposed to, they should be 21-2 going into the game with Ohio State. Even if Indiana loses in Columbus, the Hoosiers get Purdue and Nebraska at home before going to East Lansing. At worst they will be 23-3 going into that game with the Spartans.

You can bet fans in Columbus, East Lansing, Minneapolis and Ann Arbor are ready for the Hoosiers and want to beat them with the target on their backs. It's going to be tough atmospheres to play in and tough for Indiana to win. With the loss to Wisconsin last Tuesday, the team is going to have to steal one of those games on the road.

If Indiana doesn't win any of them, which there's a chance they won't, the Hooisers will be 25-6 and 13-5 in Big Ten play. They would not win the conference and likely not even a top seed in the tournament. That would hurt them with them likely not getting seeded in the Indianapolis bracket and would be a huge letdown for the hopes of everyone this season.

Indiana needs to grow up quickly these next few weeks because that brutal road at the end will be tough. I can't stress enough how much the team has to win at least one of those games on the road. The more the Hoosiers lose before that stretch, the more of those games they have to steal.