Wisconsin and Indiana both backsliding as they tip off Saturday. It’s now or never to figure out the issue with the Hoosiers’ tenacity. (Indiana pregame thoughts)

Both Indiana and Wisconsin are tailspinning at this point in the year, and each desperately needs to get the win here. The Wisconsin Badgers are following up their home loss to Michigan State hoping to handle their business against the Hoosiers, as their habit to do so has now become a cosmic joke on my happiness.

The Wisconsin Badgers are 9-1 in their last 10 games against the Indiana Hoosiers. Quite the one sided affair. While this paired with Indiana’s recent efforts would absolutely spell defeat by virtually any measure. The Badgers find themselves in an equally frustrating situation. The Badgers two losses come in the wake of their injury to leading scorer Tyler Wahl. When asked if he would be good to go for the Indiana game, Greg Gard said that it is uncertain at this time. Without Tyler Wahl the Wisconsin offense has been a shell of what they were doing prior. I think any Indiana fan can empathize with that a bit. Go figure, injuries can hamper your team.

No doubt where Wisconsins defensive focus will be.

Even without their top scorer, this is Wisconsin. They have made it a habit to beat the Hoosiers and I would expect for them to see this win in Indiana being a get right moment. This game may come down to the sheer attitude brought to it, and while both teams will be looking to come out with tenacity, Indiana has failed to deliver that game to game now. Unless something has drastically sank into the psyche of the Hoosier locker room, Wisconsin will give the Hoosiers fits, as they always seem to do.

Indiana’s defense has fallen far from the program defining intensity it was bringing last year. Of course the injuries to both Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson are going to hinder the defensive strength. Especially Xavier, who’s back court pressure looks more and more irreplaceable. The Hoosiers need to find a gear, find the guts necessary to hold it down on the defensive end. The Hoosiers have consistently begun folding if the attacking player beats them with one move, instead of looking to recover and remain aggressive. It is how one or two picks led to wide open Penn State shots, it’s how the Northwestern Wildcats backcourt waltzed into attacking lanes, it’s just effort. The skills and physical talents of this roster, even despite the injuries, should not amount to the current product on the floor. Now it’s on Mike Woodson as well as themselves to spark an energy into this squad. Any head coach has to be able to inspire his locker room. This is an obstacle that Mike must overcome.

Defensive energy translates into the easiest points in basketball. Transition Points Off Turnovers are essential for this Indiana Hoosier team. Just look at the skill sets of this team, they are built to play defense and run the floor in transition. We saw it against the cupcakes earlier in the year, but against the larger competition, Indiana has tended to yield. Again the current defense seems to be a result of the larger issue at hand, being just the lack of energy.

Still bringing what energy he could, and not knowing exactly just how much pain he may be playing through, Trayce Jackson-Davis has played hard for the Hoosiers despite the team results. He has been on the court for pretty much the entire game, every game. While the extent of his injury can’t be known to any of us truly, I believe he looks to be shouldering a lot of pain and looking to deliver for the program still. Just sad to see the latest results surrounding his massive efforts (a 24 rebound game is all effort). While Wisconsin always seems to have the Hoosiers number. I’m hoping that the team can bring some energy to get the Hoosiers the victory, largely thanks to a nice stat line against Wisconsin.

When Trayce is healthy and bringing the energy, Indiana is at its most exciting. Here’s hoping his back can heal up, despite being tasked with up to 40 minutes a night.

Jalen Hood-Schifino had a night of shooting below his norm against Penn State. The low percentages came hand in hand with his Warrioresque 2 seconds off the clock spot up 3s. While they are truly impressive to see, hey he’s shown them… The scouts have proof Jalen can hit them. Now, knowing that he can get them whenever he wants, the offense needs to look to find better opportunities. While I go absolutely bonkers when he hits those quick 3s, Indiana can ultimately find higher percentage opportunities. While at the same time, looking for those better opportunities could lead to Miller Kopp getting more involved on the offensive end. Even if he weren’t to change anything about his game, I believe he will shoot better in Assembly Hall either way.

Miller Kopp started this season shooting very well and has only continued to do so. The only problem is, in the last 2 games Miller has only gotten 5 shots off. Our best shooter has to find his opportunities. Miller’s an assassin on the wings, but if the Indiana offense isn’t moving the ball with enough fluidity for him to get lost in the mix, his ability to create his own shot is severely limited. Here’s hoping that a newfound intensity could fuel a more fluid offense that allows Miller to take advantage of the opportunities he’s given on the perimeter.

Heading into this one, Coach Woodson is facing the constant questions of the lack in apparent intensity on the court. Following Iowa, it was asked. Following Northwestern, it was asked. Following Penn State, I feel like I can’t be the only fan that is now asking myself this question on a daily basis at this point. Why can’t these guys get up for some of the most competitive basketball most, including my lazy butt, could ever dream of playing? The lack of interest in executing and redeeming the faults committed, is beyond troubling to see at this point. It’d be one thing if these efforts popped up here and there, only to be addressed in film, but this team has been unable to bring a consistent effort despite having all the very fresh losses to learn from. No way around the fact that that responsibility falls to Mike Woodson.

Mike hasn’t yet found the way to instill a tenacity in this team, but boy he needs to find it. I have faith in Mike Woodson. When Indiana’s energy is fueling its defense, they are their most deadly. Scoring in transition is Indiana’s build. I believe Mike can get through to this team, because he has before. Mike was able to get through to each of them to get that commitment to come here. Now he needs to display an ability to instill a commitment to a game plan (whatever it may be) and a level of intensity. I believe that Mike Woodson can figure it out. He has had the program trending in the right direction, with this current skid being his first major set back at Indiana. We can’t throw in the towel at the first signs of distress (isn’t that what most of us are complaining about in these Hoosiers?). Mike Woodson has the ability to put a few Indiana hearts and minds at ease here if he can find a way to spark the squad, as any competent head coach should be able to. I think Mike Woodson can do it.

Find a way to inspire this squad.

With so much emotional weight hitting harder it seems with each loss, it will take fortitude on the part of our boys to be able to see this skid through to the other side. The talent apparent on this squad is immense and I believe that they can figure it out. I will continue to believe in this squad for all the talent on it. I will always think, today is the day and this game is the game that Indiana puts it together. Possibly delusional, sure, but more fun than pouting and simply airing grievances for 4 months a year.

I am so grateful that this game is in Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are going to need to find a new gear to get the illusive Wisconsin win in the midst of this tailspin. I believe they can do it. If in attendance show all the support you can. With injuries, with the streak of losses, with little energy, will Indiana be able to respond and slap this adversity in the mouth, getting the win over Wisconsin, sparking a new found sense of competition in this squad?I have confidence (possibly unwarranted) that the Hoosiers can figure this out and get back on track.

Thank you for taking the time to read these short thoughts from a Hoosier fan just writing to pass the time in between tips. Not a coach, not a journalist, not an expert, just a fan. If you enjoyed anything you read here on flyoverwire.com and want to subject yourself to reliving the Penn State game, give me a listen on the OFTEN DAUNTED podcast. New episode mornings after each game. Down with the Badgers!

LUX ET VERITAS!

-Burke

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