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Don’t Quit on Indiana Basketball Just Yet

By Austin Render

Remember the 2014-15 college basketball season? The one that left Kentucky undefeated until Wisconsin upset them in the Final Four, and Duke took home the title? Yeah, that’s the one.

Indiana Senior forward Collin Hartman and senior guard Robert Johnson high-five one another during Indiana’s 74-70 win over Penn State at Assembly Hall on January 9, 2018. (For the HN)

There was also a team from Bloomington that snuck into the tournament as a 20-14, No. 10 seed, resulting in a quick out to Wichita State. That IU team, led by junior Yogi Ferrell, had its ups and downs throughout the season, and most thought they wouldn’t make the tournament. But in the end, they still did.

If you take a moment to compare that team to this current Indiana team, the similarities are evident.

Bad Nonconference Losses

Indiana welcomed Eastern Washington to Assembly Hall on November 24th for a Thanksgiving break matchup in the Hoosier Showcase. What was expected to be an easy win for a then 4-0 IU team coming off a solid win over No. 22 SMU turned out to be a thriller, the wrong way. Indiana ended up losing 88-86 to Eastern Washington on their home floor.

Back to this season, Indiana hosts Indiana State to start the season, a game that was a good test for IU but one that nobody thought they would drop. But then they did, 90-69. Add in the second loss to Fort Wayne in as many seasons, and you have yourself some bad home losses in the nonconference slate.

While this team did it twice, both teams still dropped a home nonconference game they shouldn’t have.

Crossroads Classic Wins

In 2014, an 8-2 IU team, hobbling into Bankers Life Fieldhouse after a 20-point loss to Louisville in NYC, came to the Crossroads Classic searching for a much needed marque win away from home. The Hoosiers defeated No. 23 Butler 82-73, led by Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams combining for 42 points.

This season, IU suffered numerous close losses and came to Bankers Life Fieldhouse with one more chance at a solid nonconference win. In an absolute classic, Indiana came back from a double digit deficit to defeat Notre Dame 80-77 in OT, led by Juwan Morgan’s 34 points and game winning dunk.

Junior Star Power

Yogi Ferrell in his junior season led the 2014-15 team scoring 16.3 points per game. Ferrell was a freshman when he played with a Sweet 16 team, led by Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls.

This season, it has been the emergence of junior Juwan Morgan, leading the team with 16 points per game. He too played for a Sweet 16 team his freshman season, led by Yogi Ferrell as a senior in addition to now NBA players Troy Williams, Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby.

Big Man Goes Down

Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Remember that name? He was the big man on the 2014-15 Hoosiers squad. While he played in 26 of IU’s 34 games that season, starting 22 of them, he did miss eight due to injury, leaving undersized Collin Hartman and freshman Emmitt Holt to fill in for him.

This season, De’Ron Davis suffered a torn Achilles causing him to miss the remainder of the year. That leaves Hartman once again, as well as Freddie McSwain and freshman Justin Smith to fill the void in the frontcourt for IU.

Both Mosquera-Parea and Davis averaged 4.3 RPG in their respective seasons.

Familiar Faces

In 2014-15, Hoosier fans got their first glimpse of Robert Johnson as a freshman. He averaged 8.9 points per game and shot 39 percent from beyond the arc. Collin Hartman was also a part of that team, averaging 4.8 points per game and shooting 47.5 percent from deep.

This season, Johnson and Hartman are two of the most important players for IU. Johnson isn’t shooting the 3-ball as well, just 30 percent, but he is averaging 13.4 points per game, including career high 28 points at Minnesota.

Perhaps the most important thing for Hartman and Johnson are the experiences that they have been through in their Indiana careers. Both were on the 2014-15 squad and as past Big Ten champions as well, they know what it takes to get to the NCAA tournament.

Now in the final months of their Hoosier careers, one would expect they don’t want to end it with back-to-back trips to the NIT.

Don’t Give Up Yet

In 2014-15, Hoosier Nation started to give up on that team. IU finished 4-8 down the stretch before the Big Ten Tournament, and people like myself were ready to write the team off. A decent win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament helped their tournament resume and to the dismay of most Hoosier fans, the committee gave them a 10 seed.

At times, this year’s team is hard to watch. They still can’t shoot the three, make poor decisions with the ball, and have lapses with poor defense letting opponents go on runs.

While 20 wins may not be in the forecast for this team, a tournament berth still could be. I’m not telling you to expect it; I’m telling you to have some hope and some faith in Archie Miller and these Hoosiers.

So on Sunday, a win over Northwestern would put the Hoosiers at 4-2 in Big Ten play keeping them in the top five of the conference standings for now.

Much like the 2014-15 season, you never know what may happen.

Austin Render

I am a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana majoring in Sports Media. Last year I worked with IUSTV Sports doing recap and feature packages for IU field hockey, women's basketball and baseball. I am one of the current WIUX Co-Sports Directors. I am a student broadcaster for WIUX as well as Big Ten Network Student U. You can reach me at austinrender99@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter @austinrender.

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