By Jeff Goodman
First it was Kentucky. Now Ohio State.
It's about time we start taking Indiana seriously.
When I made a stop in Bloomington back in October, I knew this was a team that was set to improve upon the last struggles of the past few years. Will Sheehey had made a serious jump from his freshman season and Tom Crean added the most significant recruit in his tenure - talented freshman big man Cody Zeller.
But I didn't see this coming.
No one did.
Hoosier Hysteria is officially back. I was still cautious, even after the win over Kentucky three weeks ago, not quite ready to declare the Hoosiers a lock to make the NCAA tournament. Could a program that had won just eight league games over Crean's first three seasons in Bloomington turn it around so quickly in Big Ten play?
There was the opener at the Breslin Center in East Lansing against Michigan State. Although the Hoosiers lost, they did it in impressive fashion. They took an early punch from the Spartans before delivering one of their own. Yes, they wound up leaving 0-1 in conference play, but this group showed it was mentally resilient.
There are those who still want to see if this group can sustain this throughout Big Ten play, especially on the road, but as long as Crean & Co. win six more games in the league, Indiana is a lock to make the NCAA tourney.
It sure looks as though I was wrong in my prediction this team would be headed to an NIT berth.
Fans aren't the only ones that can relax that this program is headed in the right direction, either. Crean can finally relax. His future as IU's coach is secure. They'll be no more Brad Stevens-to-Bloomington thoughts around these parts.
I questioned the backcourt of Jordan Hulls and Verdell Jones. I questioned whether Christian Watford was consistent enough. I questioned the depth after the Hoosiers lost Mo Creek. Well, Indiana is 13-1 with wins over two of the elite teams in America.
Sure, there will be excuses from some. The two wins were in front of raucous crowds in Bloomington. Terrence Jones didn't show up in the UK game and Ohio State was plagued by foul trouble on Saturday. Well, Indiana was without Sheehey against the Buckeyes.
The bottom line here is that Indiana has earned a spot in the top half of the Top 25 - and it's only going to get better in Bloomington.