Conference play kicked in big-time on Wednesday night, and the biggest loser was Indiana.
The Hoosiers took their third loss of the season and the second damaging one to their resume. The loss against Fort Wayne in November was tough but somewhat understandable. IU lost OG Anunoby in that game to illness, and Fort Wayne is going to be the best team in the Summit League. We'll see that group in the NCAA Tournament probably.
Nebraska? The Cornhuskers were 6-6 entering Wednesday and had lost six of their previous eight games. Plus, they just lost guard Anton Gill due to a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee. He's out for the season.
Still, Nebraska wins in Bloomington, 87-83. IU's 26-game home winning streak is kaput.
Three Things to Know
1. Indiana's going to be the most unpredictable team with top-10 potential for the rest of the season.
The Hoosiers have an offense that's fun, takes advantage of the offensive glass and run a positionless scheme. Everyone has a green light. But we've seen that scheme fail. We've seen that green light lead to really bad shots. Like this one.
"Hey let's have OG shoot like a weirdo from 30 feet"— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) December 29, 2016
- Nobody pic.twitter.com/WOpeP1Tkat
Not sure what's going through Anunoby's head on that shot. It's a bad shot; there's a reason he's that open.
My expectation for Indiana: Some fantastic play, really good games, watchable basketball and a satisfying season on the whole. But there will be more tough losses to come. This team is too shaky overall to be reliable in a big spot. Doesn't mean they can't and won't win some more big games, but IU fans are right to have less confidence now than they did, say, after the nine-point UNC win back on Nov. 30. A lot has changed since then.
2. The Hoosiers' resume is going to be one of the toughest to figure out on Selection Sunday
Indiana has wins over Kansas and Carolina. Both those teams will vie for No. 1 seeds. There's a reasonable neutral-court loss to Butler, but also the Fort Wayne defeat and now this Nebraska ordeal. The pattern with Indiana is: there is no pattern. The Hoosiers will be a #weirdresume team all season, I think. Watch 'em win at Purdue, sweep Wisconsin and then lose at home to Penn State. Things like this now seem like they're on the table.
I do know this: I want to watch Indiana play every game it has. Because Tom Crean hasn't figured it all out with his team yet, and the defense isn't as fluid and reliable as the offense. Indiana gets into the paint in a variety of ways, and yet it still finds ways to miss a lot of bunnies, too. Fascinating team.
3. Indiana's already behind in the Big Ten chase, and the upcoming stretch is rough
Losing your conference opener on your home floor to a team not projected to finish in the top 10 of the league is a quick way to fall behind in a hurry. To start the conference season, Indiana was considered one of the three horses in the chase to win the title, with Wisconsin and Purdue. (Let's just keep an eye on Michigan State, though, as well.) Now the Hoosiers are looking like they'll need a big run to stay apace.
Next up is a game vs. Louisville in Indianapolis. Like IU, the Ville took a conference play-opening home loss on Wednesday night. The Cards fell to Virginia 61-53, meaning Saturday's game is all the more urgent for both teams. After that, IU hosts Wisconsin on Jan. 3, then gets mercurial Illinois and a game at Maryland. A telling stretch is ahead for the Hoosiers. The diagnosis should be almost entirely clear within the next two weeks.