Indiana's loss just reiterates lack of a dominant team
Indiana was given the label of the No. 1 team in the country. Well, the Hoosiers went down to unranked Butler on Saturday -- and what does it mean? It means exactly what we've been saying all along: This year's NCAA title is wide, wide open.
The Hoosiers really hadn't done much to earn their top ranking. It was bestowed upon them because they brought back most of their Sweet 16 team, and added one of the nation's top freshman point guards in Yogi Ferrell.
But let's look at the wins thus far: Indiana was fortunate to get past Georgetown in overtime in Brooklyn, blew out a North Carolina team in Bloomington that hardly looks like an ACC contender, and also took care of a Georgia club that has been terrible thus far. Then there were home wins against the following: Bryant, North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Ball State, Coppin State and Central Connecticut State.
Don't get me wrong: I am still a believer in this Hoosiers team. They have all the pieces to get to Atlanta in April and even cut down the nets at the Georgia Dome, but all I'm saying is that they haven't exactly played a schedule to be able to determine how good this team actually is at this point.
We won't know for a while longer, either. The next three games are also at home against Mount St. Mary's, Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville. Then the Big Ten slate starts, but the schedule-makers gave Tom Crean & Co. a favorable start to league play. It starts with road games against Iowa and Penn State and the Hoosiers won't play any of the elite teams on the road until February, when they will face Illinois and Ohio State in consecutive games.
Cody Zeller hasn't been the dominating presence that we anticipated as a sophomore. He's still too unselfish, and needs to be more assertive. Christian Watford has been disappointing, especially in the high-profile contests. The talented, enigmatic forward is just 5-of-24 from the field in the three games against Georgetown, North Carolina and Butler. Jordan Hulls has made huge strides on the offensive end, becoming far more than just a one-dimensional shooter. However, he remains a liability on the defensive end -- as was clearly the case in key moments against the Bulldogs.
This is a very good basketball team, but Indiana should have played a more difficult non-conference slate. Sure, Crean can say he thought he was going to get UCLA in Brooklyn, but there is an excess of "buy games" on the slate (I count at least nine). This is part of the reason why college basketball doesn't have enough luster early in the year. When the elite teams line up the majority of their non-league games against cupcakes, it becomes uneventful. The Hoosiers aren't the only ones doing this, but this was a team that was supposed to be the best team in the land. Play people. More often.
Butler is a fringe Top 25 team -- and the Bulldogs took care of Indiana.
I'm not quite sure yet what this says about Crean's Hoosiers, but what I know is that it solidifies what most of us have been saying: There's no powerhouse team and the Road to the Final Four is wide-open.
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