It has not been an ideal season for the Indiana Hoosiers, who dropped another tough one at Michigan State on Tuesday night. The loss dropped IU to 2-4 in the Big Ten standings, and a return to the NCAA tournament is looking less likely by each game.
Still, Indiana played a tough game against the third-ranked Spartans, and if Tuesday night’s effort was any indication, this young team is undoubtedly capable of a late-season surge to turn its season around and make a push for a surprising NCAA tournament berth.
With that said, here is a list of things the Hoosiers will need if they want to turn their season in the right direction.
The sophomore from Indianapolis kept the Hoosiers in the ballgame with 14 points in the second half, including a three-pointer to cut the Michigan State lead to four with 36 seconds to play.
This was a big improvement from his game against the Northwestern Wildcats, when he was cold, only scoring nine points the entire game.
As both the team’s leading scorer (averaging 17.5 points per game) and the only starter remaining from last year’s team, his leadership is vital to this team’s success.
Sloppy ball-handling has done in the Hoosiers in several close games this season, and Tuesday was no different.
IU gave up the ball 18 times in East Lansing, and 15 of MSU’s points were off Indiana turnovers. Similarly, IU turned the ball over 23 times in its overtime loss at Illinois.
What’s worse is that many of these turnovers are from not only sloppy ball-handling, but simply not paying attention.
If Indiana wants to make a run at the NCAA tournament, limiting turnovers is a must.
Last year, rebounding was a major weakness for the Hoosiers, and it often led to defeats.
This year has been a different story, thanks in part to the play of Noah Vonleh.
The freshman from Haverhill, Mass. was another big reason Indiana stayed in the game. He added a double-double with 13 rebounds and 13 points.
One thing IU needed last year was a guy to constantly grab the boards, and this year, Vonleh is that man. He needs to continue to play like that for IU to make a run.
One thing that would have tremendously helped Indiana on Tuesday night is hitting from downtown.
It didn’t happen. IU shot 4-of-10 from beyond the arc, with Yogi Ferrell hitting two of the shots.
Overall, IU is hitting 33.3 percent of its three-point shots. This is a stark contrast to the last two years, when Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford would light up opposing defenses from downtown.
Let’s be honest, the Big Ten is a conference where just about anybody can be beaten on any given day.
Even as good as the Hoosiers were last year, many of their games against NIT-bound teams were nail-biters. This year is no different.
The Wisconsin and Michigan State games are a perfect example of what the Hoosiers’ season will feel like, and if they can correct many of their early mistakes, IU will pull off a few upsets before the season is over.
All stats are from ESPN.com and IUHoosiers.com