Well, that (de-)escalated quickly.
Less than a week after being the 15th-ranked team in the nation, the Indiana men’s basketball team looks to be one of the worst in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers just suffered an 85-66 loss at Penn State. Here are my takeaways from IU’s embarrassing loss in State College.
Indiana’s 3-point defense is dreadful
I’m pretty sure Penn State just sunk another 3 in the time it took you to read this sentence.
The Nittany Lions attempted 27.9 3s per game heading into Wednesday’s matchup, but I’m not sure Indiana knew that. Penn State made 18 of its 31 3-point attempts against the Hoosiers.
Indiana constantly overplayed the gaps and gave Penn State comfortable looks from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers guarded Penn State like it was some athletic team with explosive guards rather than a squad that hits 38.3% of its 3s. IU overhelped, went under screens at inopportune moments and did not rotate well enough to compete with the Nittany Lions.
At times, it feels like the Hoosiers don’t even know who they’re playing. Andrew Funk and Seth Lundy, who both hit over 40% of their 3s, combined for 48 points and 14 made 3s against IU. Mike Woodson hasn’t done nearly enough to prepare his squad for its opponents. Indiana seemed shocked by the excess of 3s that Penn State shot.
This is nothing new for Indiana either. The Hoosiers’ opponents are 69-for-159 (43.4%) from deep in IU’s past seven games. Something clearly needs to change with Indiana’s perimeter defense.
Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino can’t carry Indiana every game
Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino combined for 51 points in each of IU’s past two games. Against Penn State, Jackson-Davis scored 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting while Hood-Schifino had 11 points and was 5-for-15.
After scoring over 80 in the past two games, the Hoosiers only had 66 points on Wednesday. IU’s offense saw a significant decline in this game because those two players weren’t superheroes. Indiana shouldn’t need those two to be superheroes.
IU’s role players have not been involved enough offensively. When opposing defenses can gameplan for two players, defending becomes a much easier task.
It’s unreasonable to ask those two players to carry the team through the Big Ten gauntlet. Jackson-Davis is still laboring a back injury, so he’s just not going to have it on some nights. As talented as Hood-Schifino is, he’s still a freshman, and asking a freshman to be your only guard that can create is not the best idea in this conference.
Without Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson, Indiana has struggled to find complementary offensive options. This team will continue to fall apart if it doesn’t find some assistance for Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino.
The Hoosiers are officially back on bubble watch
The bubble: A place Indiana fans have known all too well in the past half-decade. Indiana has gone from ranked to a bubble team in less than a week of play.
Right now, the Hoosiers have two wins (Xavier and North Carolina) against projected NCAA Tournament teams. They’ve lost six of their nine Power 6 matchups and are 1-4 in Big Ten play. In mid-January, that’s the resume of a team that should be crossing its fingers to make the NCAA Tournament.
IU fans should prepare themselves for two months of nauseating discussions and resume arguments again. Nothing about this team screams “tournament lock” anymore, so this is what it is for the Hoosiers now.
Indiana will return home on Saturday to face No. 18 Wisconsin. I’ll refrain from calling it a must-win game, but I’d advise the Hoosiers not to lose to the Badgers if they want to return to the field of 68 this March.