Commentary: Despite Purdue Loss, Hoosiers Peaking at the Right Time

Yogi Ferrell and the Indiana Hoosiers are playing some of the their best basketball with March right around the corner -- even if Purdue loss suggested otherwise. (Image credit: Scout.com)
Yogi Ferrell and the Indiana Hoosiers are playing some of the their best basketball with March right around the corner — even if the Purdue loss suggested otherwise. (Image credit: Scout.com)

For the second time in the last three games, Indiana’s KenPom rating has seen a huge jump up.

In both the 19-point blowout win over Minnesota and last night’s 30-point demolition of Rutgers, Indiana has outperformed the KenPom pregame projections by quite a wide margin.

Indiana also outperformed KenPem expectations, albeit slightly, when it lost by only two at Maryland — a game Indiana was one Yogi Ferrell 3-pointer away from winning.

What does this mean?

Well, if you just look at those three games, all of which have been played within the last 11 days, you would say Indiana is a team that is peaking at the right time and that looks like a team poised for a successful March.

But, of course, there was that dadgum Purdue game.

While an objective viewer might reasonably take some solace in only losing by four points to a team that crushed you by 16 earlier in the season — especially when you were, again, just one Yogi Ferrell missed 3-pointer away from taking a last-second lead — this is Indiana.

Thus, any home loss, and especially any motherf$%&ing home loss to motherf$%&ing Purdue, is viewed through a decidedly bleak and black prism that refuses to allow any silver light to shine through.

And I generally agree with that latter sentiment. Games at Assembly Hall should be expected wins. Especially against Purdue. Period.

But if you’ll indulge me, for just a moment, I’m going to slip out of my candy stripe pants and remove my cream-and-crimson-colored glasses and attempt to offer a bit of perspective …

Is it at all possible that you, me, and everyone else who felt crushed by that Purdue loss might have allowed it to skew our perspective about this team too far in the negative direction?

I say this, of course, with the hindsight that is only possible when the Purdue loss in question is followed by a 30-point rebound win on the road that allows us all a collective exhale. (The sky is not falling! The sky is not falling!)

Now that Indiana has put the Purdue game behind it by delivering a dominant performance, I submit that we can look back on the totality of Indian’s last 160 minutes of basketball and say the following:

  • This team’s fatal flaws make it vulnerable to falling prey to particularly bad matchups from a specific type of team — the kind of team that Purdue is, unfortunately.
  • This team’s offensive talent and togetherness — its two most clear strengths — make it a threat to beat any team, anywhere … that does not present that particular (and pretty rare) type of matchup issue.
  • This team has delivered three of its best overall performances of the season over the last two weeks, which suggests it is peaking at the right time (not something we have often been able to say about Tom Crean IU team come February).

Which leads me to believe, with one week left in February, that this Indiana team has a successful March ahead of it.

Granted, we may not be cut out to beat Purdue, should we have to face them again. And we may not have what it takes to beat a team as complete as Wisconsin. (So, yes, there is still plenty of work needed to get this program back to the consistently elite status to which we all aspire.)

But I like our chances right now against anyone else in the Big Ten, no matter where we play them.

We’ll get a chance to test this theory in Evanston and then with two home games against Iowa and Michigan State, followed by the Big Ten Tournament — where, if we get a matchup break, I can us going on a run to the final game.

And then it would be on to the NCAA Tournament, where we’d likely be a 5- or 6-seed, and where, again, I could see us going on a run … provided we don’t run into a team right away that is built in that particular kind of way to exploit what we do worst.

But a lot of teams — good teams — could say that.

My big picture point is this: while games against Purdue always carry more weight than games against anyone else, let’s be careful not to let that one loss overshadow the really good basketball that has surrounded it.

This Indiana team is night-and-day different from last year’s team, for which the end of the season could not come soon enough.

This year’s Hoosiers are worth embracing. They’ve earned it.

Yes, it’s a roller coaster with this bunch. But it’s the kind of roller coaster where as soon as one ride ends you are running right back in line to go again.

I’m looking forward to seeing just how many more rides we get with this team. There will be five for sure. We can rest assured of that. And there will be many more than five if the Maryland, Minnesota, and Rutgers games are any indication.

I think that they are.

Which is why I am excited and optimistic about the rest of this 2014-15 season.

*****

What do you think? Are you feeling good about how the Hoosiers will close out this season?

Drop your comment below.