|Indiana still has two great wins to carry its resume. (Getty Images)|
By Jeff Goodman
No, the Indiana Hoosiers aren't on The Bubble. At least not yet.
But take Assembly Hall out of the equation -- which I believe is one of the top three homecourt advantages in the country these days -- and Tom Crean would be pacing even more than usual.
Indiana has won 17 games already -- with two of them coming against likely No. 1 seeds Kentucky and Ohio State in Bloomington. As long as the Hoosiers don't go into complete free-fall mode, which I don't expect to happen, they'll be hearing their name called on Selection Sunday.
However, I think we can all agree now that Crean & Co. were playing over their heads earlier in the season when they beat Kentucky and Ohio State. There was the swagger that had been built up with a strong non-conference slate -- and the rabid crowd in their home building didn't hurt, either.
Sure, every team has a homecourt advantage. But only a select few possess one similar to what's going on in Bloomington these days. Maybe just Rupp and Allen Fieldhouse.
Indiana is 17-6 overall. Crean and the IU faithful would have taken that mark in a heartbeat through 23 games this year, but it's the 5-6 league mark -- and the continued ineptness on the road that is worrisome and even confusing for some. Last night came another road setback, this time in Ann Arbor against Michigan. The loss was Indiana's fifth overall in its last seven games.
If the Hoosiers lose to Purdue in West Lafayette this weekend, they will fall to 5-7 in league play. That puts them in a similar league bracket as Minnesota and Iowa. Then comes an easy stretch where Indiana should be able to get back on track (Illinois and Northwestern at home, at Iowa), but who knows?
Remember, this is a team that lost at home to Minnesota -- and one that lost on the road against Nebraska.
Cody Zeller is a stud, but Crean needs more help for him up front. Christian Watford is the ultimate X-factor in that he's talented, but you never quite know what to expect -- and never have. Jordan Hulls has had a terrific season and made dramatic strides as a player, but his backcourt mate, Verdell Jones III, is more suited to a reserve role for a team that wants to contend for the Big Ten title. Will Sheehey's injury earlier in the season, one that sidelined him for five games, has stunted his progress.
The bottom line, though, is that this team is still ahead of pace. Many -- myself included - pegged IU for the NIT this season. Largely based on a pair of wins, the Hoosiers are worthy of a spot in the Top 25. At least for now.
However, the Hoosiers can't afford to fall much below two games in league play -- or else those wins against Kentucky and Ohio State may not hold enough weight come Selection Sunday.