|Here's my slick, simplistic new setup, perfect for this time of year. (Jeff Goodman)|
It was the ideal scenario for why I got this setup when I moved last month. Two televisions side-by-side.
The weekend began with a pair of heavyweight matchups at noon ET: Top-ranked Duke at NC State and a top-10 battle between Minnesota and Indiana. My colleague, Gary Parrish, was in Raleigh -- so my concentration was supposed to be primarily focused on the screen on the right -- the game in Bloomington featuring a pair of Big Ten clubs. Instead, my attention turned to Duke-NC State before the clock hit 12:30. Indiana was dominating Minnesota and although the Gophers did claw back into the game, this was a full-fledged shellacking.
Halftime score: Indiana 52, Minnesota 29.
Midway through the second half, Indiana was still firmly in control -- and it was clear that this Hoosiers team has the makings of a national title contender despite the loss a month or so ago to Butler over in Indianapolis. Indiana was moving the ball, had made 21 of 32 shots from the field, 7-of-11 from deep and was making the Gophers look like a CBI or CollegeInsider.com team.
All five starters were already in double figures with about a dozen minutes left: Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford. Sure, the game was in Bloomington -- and, yes, Indiana did allow Minnesota to scrap back and even get the game in question in the waning seconds, but the Hoosiers still displayed why they can be a dominating group.
These guys have multiple weapons. Sixth-man Will Sheehey was a non-factor for the most part, but Tom Crean can afford for someone to have an off night and still have his team beat top-10 clubs. Ferrell was, for the most part, playing with a maturity and poise far beyond his years. He is able to make his teammates better and can also step up and score when necessary. Oladipo has been the team's most valuable and productive player thus far this season on both ends of the court. Hulls has defensive limitations, but he gives the Hoosiers an elite shooter. Zeller likely won't win Player of the Year honors, as many expected before the season, but his unselfishness is an endearing trait in an era in which few put others ahead of themselves.
Watford remains an enigma, but the senior forward doesn't have to be a star on this team.
I know what you're thinking: This Indiana team almost handed the game to Minnesota down the stretch. The Hoosiers tightened up and couldn't deliver the knockout punch. This team is still getting accustomed to playing with the bull's-eye on its chest. Remember, they snuck up on people a year ago -- and played a lackluster nonconference slate this year. There was the loss to Brad Stevens and Butler a little less than a month ago.
It's a team that needs to learn how to develop the killer instinct, but the schedule should help. The Hoosiers don't play one of the league's elite teams on the road until February, when they face Illinois and Ohio State back-to-back on Feb. 7 and 10.
You can look at this game two ways. I'm going with the positive.
To me, the Indiana Hoosiers looked the part of a national championship team for 35 minutes. Damn impressive. They moved the ball, defended, made shots and were on the verge of blowing out another top-10 team.