Sometimes it feels as if Indiana Basketball is just one really big social experiment.
Put 12 individuals that have all worked together in the past in a room. Take away their leader and replace him with an individual that is so devoutly different from the one before him that it is almost unfathomable. Replace Tom Crean with his polar opposite and see what happens.
What we’ve seen so far has been an adjustment period that approaches the line of absurdity. We saw players out of sync without any semblance of comfort when it comes to an entirely new system. We saw a team that felt almost fragile. We saw a team that lost to Indiana State and Fort Wayne.
What we’ve also seen has been a team that has slowly improved from game to game. A team that slowly found chemistry and confidence in a new system. A team that slowly but surely found themselves exactly when they needed to.
If Indiana wants to make a legitimate run at an NCAA tournament bid, it has to accumulate wins quickly. That’s why this victory against Northwestern was so vital. Not only did Indiana win its third straight Big Ten game, but the Hoosiers dominated. This was the best all around performance by Indiana all season, and it came at the most important time.
This was Indiana’s best performance all year and it came in a way that might feel unfamiliar to individuals that have watched this program for the past decade. It came as a result of remarkable ball movement, tight defense, and impeccable fundamentals.
“It’s being more connected,” said senior guard Robert Johnson. “When we’re out there, I can feel guys talking more, putting forth a better effort, trying to not let the man to their right or to their left down. So I think we’re more connected and there’s better communication.”
Indiana only allowed 46 points which is the third fewest IU has allowed in a Big Ten game since the 1996-97 season.
Northwestern shot a measly 26.8% which is tied for the second best defensive effort against a Big Ten team since the 1996-97 season.
It was the second time ever in which Indiana gave up 19 points or less in a half.
Indiana held the Wildcats leading scorer, Scottie Lindsey to one-of-fifteen shooting and a zero-of-seven effort from three-point range. Indiana also held Dererk Pardon to only two field goal attempts.
The Hoosiers forced 17 turnovers and they did it even while dealing with dangerous foul trouble.
With Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts picking up early fouls, Archie Miller found himself giving 10 different players more than seven minutes. Nine of those 10 players recorded points in the score sheet.
It’s all coming together for Indiana in a way that many couldn’t have predicted.
Archie Miller’s little social experiment has seemingly found its resolution. A resolution that is beautiful to watch. A resolution that seems to only be missing one element.
Indiana shot a modest 35 percent from three-point range. When or if that three-point shot develops, this Indiana Basketball team could actually become a formidable challenge to college basketball’s best teams.
Now, we wait. We wait to see if that development can continue in the face of its biggest challenge.
Indiana takes on Michigan State on Friday, in East Lansing.