NCAA tournament “Round of Two”. Indiana Hoosiers v. Rutgers pregame thoughts and optimism.

I woke up today feeling like Jack Skellington…

WHAT! IS! THIS!!?!?!

Oh what a wonderful feeling! My breakfast is tasting better, the birds are singing prettier, and by God I’d say I have a pep in my step this morning. Our boys have grown together quick enough to say to hell with the growing pains. When most were expecting an underwhelming season with a developing gameplan, our boys mustered together a season that has us still holding our breaths with each shot into the month of March!

Mike Woodson has already managed to give me something Archie Miller had failed to in his entire tenure as Head Coach of Indiana, a season where I’m not resigned to mediocrity by the end of February. After taking loss after loss in that 5 game losing streak, Indiana spit out its loose teeth and in a  “Rocky”esque effort the Hoosiers finally began punching back and now have an absolute showdown with Rutgers over a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Hail to the Chief!

I titled this “Round of Two” because this game today is just that. This is the first round in the NCAA tournament! Both teams are on the first four out or last four in on most of if not all the major bracketology reports available. Meaning this win is absolutely crucial to not only your team’s victory, but also your closest bid competition’s downfall. That’s double dipping on your own success if I’ve ever heard it.

Being essentially win and your in here, the Hoosiers are behind the wheel of their own destiny. And while yesterday, I wrote my Love Letter to this year’s Hoosier squad, I would be lying if I said my heart won’t be pumping out of my chest, hanging on every shot praying for that Hoosier victory. I know it’s selfish to ask for more when I truly believe this Indiana team owes the fans absolutely nothing, but I’m begging you basketball gods!!! Let my Hoosiers pull this one out today!

I won’t ask for anything else! Just give me more of the excitement I feel in this moment! When your team’s playing for something, everything’s better in life. So sad reading that after typing it, but I STAND BY THAT! I mean come on let’s be real its the same reason half of all of our timelines are clogged with Hoosier posts separated only by the millionth picture of your coworkers baby you could give two about.

We live for this. We live for March. We are a different breed of fan. Our blood runs Crimson (as most does I guess, but NONETHELESS!!!). Give me the stakes. Give me the highs and I’ll gladly take those lows. I mean… this is Indiana after all.

If Xavier Johnson could turn his pair of games into a trilogy of greatness I see no reason why Indiana doesn’t march into Assembly Hall and handle their business. This is a special group of young men and when it’s clicking Indiana can run with anyone. Win and you’re in here, and based on how frequently the top teams have been losing this year, seems like if you’re in, you’re in contention to mess around and win the whole darn thing!

1 more solid game from Xavier and we are talking best trilogy I’ve seen since Lord of the Rings.

So gather your loved ones around your biggest, baddest TV. And let’s all root on our boys who have absolutely battled this season as they look to cement a position in the NCAA tournament. See you all on the other side! Here’s to some more heart attack level stress inducing games to come.

LUX ET VERITAS!!!!,

This hopelessly optimistic fan boy

Also, if you came here looking for stats. I do apologize… there are nerdier sources available for that.

Xavier Johnson everybody!!! Indiana at Minnesota recap

Going into this one Indiana was in desperate need to follow up the 5 game losing streak snapping victory over Maryland. Indiana University had to come out swinging if it didn’t want to backslide right back into the lows that were so apparent throughout that epic February losing streak. I mean no hyperbole whatsoever when I say this was a must win. Indiana is without a doubt on the fence come selection Sunday, and can not afford to put anything other than the hits out.

And the boys did not disappoint!!!

IU came out with their second win in a row. And what a game it was for Xavier Johnson! Xavier dropped 24 as he led the Hoosiers to victory in this one. Let me really lay out for you what Xavier Johnson’s been up to… In the last two games Xavier Johnson has racked up 48 points 14 assists, and 7 boards. All of this against 4 turnovers committed. What a pair of games!! He is also 7 for 9 from the 3 point arc. Xavier is stepping up like only a few Hoosiers ever have! Xavier Johnson continues to carve out his own area of my Hoosier fan heart. His game has been outstanding and he deserves all the praise heading his way!

That was a fun game to watch on our end. The Hoosiers were absolutely draining them from beyond the arc yesterday. As a team the Hoosiers shot 10 of 21 from 3 point range. If your team is sinking them, you’re going to have a good time. This hot handed Hoosier team must keep rolling, and building on this momentum if we are going to bring this absolutely necessary shooting to compete in March.

What a strange second half of two one sided acts. After going on a 30-10 run to begin the second half. They closed it out by letting up a 36-14 run by the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Honestly, the game was still very much in contention until who else but Xavier Johnson sank the dagger free throws to close it out. Never not stressful watching the Hoosiers play ball for me.

These last 2 games were must wins. Looking to what’s left, I believe that Indiana gets in if they win 1 of the remaining 2 games. We still have Rutgers at home and then… at Purdue to close out the season. Both very good teams. I believe, should the Hoosiers pull one of those two out, they will be dancing.

Here’s to Xavier Johnson and our boys for stopping the bleeding and salvaging something from this season.

On to Rutgers!

Team need a drastic shift in momentum? How about some new uniforms! Indiana Hoosiers vs. Maryland postgame

MIKE WOODSON IS PLAYING 4D CHESS FOLKS!!!! Need a drastic shift in your teams emotional direction… NEW UNIFORMS BABY! Worked for the Mighty Ducks against Iceland, worked for the Indiana Hoosiers last night. These black history month inspired uniforms are an absolute thing of beauty. I’ve got to get one. The peonies (Indiana’s state flower) are an awesome addition to an ephemerally classic design.

Hoosiers ball together!!!!

Banner 6 is back on TRACK BABAY!!!! God, the month of February has made me forget why I love college basketball, hell, WHY I LOVE SPORTS!!! I didn’t play a single second in this game, but I slept the best I have all month after that one. The joy I feel in this moment is why I do this to myself. Can’t appreciate the highest of highs until you’ve experienced the lowest of lows. And yes, I get it was Maryland at home, but it snapped our monumental losing streak, so I’m going to appreciate the heck out of it.

I’m going to be honest with you, about 3/4 through this game I was pretty convinced that the Hoosiers would find a way to screw this one up. Thank God they didn’t!

The Indiana Hoosiers played well yesterday, headed by Race Thompson with 19 points. Race has become an absolutely essential piece to this team. His game gets better each day and it’s awesome to see! It was an absolute block party in Bloomington while the Hoosiers tallied 6 total blocks. Race and Trayce dominated in the front court and this aided in propelling the Hoosiers to their first win in six games.

Xavier Johnson balled out. The stat line is impressive in its own right dropping 24 points and dishing out 6 assists as well. But watching, you saw a senior that was facilitating like a master composer at times. He really was a floor general in this one.

So let’s give it up for the boys. They earned the win last night and the Hoosiers are officially out of a monumental backslide. That being said, these next 3 games are Indiana’s last chance to make some noise with some good, and solid wins. Need to be heading into March with all guns blazing. This is absolutely a step in the right direction, but we can not regress to the mindset or whatever it was that led to this epic downfall in February.

Here on out we got @Minnesota, vs. Rutgers, @ Purdue. This is where we circle the wagons and make our last strong stand. Those last two games are going to be drag out battles. Minnesota, while no slouch, does not present nearly the threat the other two teams do. I’m hoping winning 2 of these 3 will be enough to secure Indiana a bid in the NCAA tournament. If we can win out, especially with that last win in West Lafayette, Indiana would have to be in.

Dear God, please no NIT.

Let’s not make it 6 and maybe win a game in February. Indiana Hoosiers vs. Maryland pregame thoughts

Alright. Here we go. Fifth times the charm Hoosier Nation! This will be the fifth opportunity the Hoosiers to stop the bleeding and save our season. We need a win here. I feel dumb for having even typed that. No duh!!! Our season is currently a five alarm fire and unless we win today… I’m afraid we are out of the tournament for sure. And I know it’s gotta be bad because I may be the most hopelessly optimistic Hoosier fan there is on Earth.

Just so you have an idea of where we are currently sitting in the eyes of the nation…

The Hoosiers are reaching a point where every game is heartbreaking, but the particular form of heartbreak varies. At Ohio State, a short-handed IU team, missing Rob PhiniseeTrey Galloway and Khristian Lander, rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit and even built a four-point lead. It was an inspired performance from a team that had previously looked fearful. But Indiana was held scoreless over the last 2:47 in regulation and lost 80-69 in overtime. That makes five losses in a row, and the Hoosiers have dropped to “last four in” status.

John Gasaway, ESPN

Unfortunately, looks like any more losses, especially a loss to Maryland at home, would be the final nail in the coffin. We haven’t been able to close out a game all month. It’s pretty mind blowing! The worst possible evidence of this was definitely the end of regulation for that Ohio State game. How are you supposed to win anything when you can’t score a single bucket in the last 3 minutes of the game! 1 bucket, 1 FREE THROW EVEN!!!! Would have secured the Hoosiers an essential win in Columbus against the Buckeyes. But alas, the Hoosiers couldn’t score a single point.

Watching Indiana Hoosier basketball this month has been absolutely gut wrenching. Just watching a game is a stress inducer I haven’t felt since each and every game was the biggest deal ever back when Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were preseason #1. Which I think means I had such high hopes for this Indiana Hoosiers squad this year. Who wouldn’t have those hopes with the unexpected success we had towards the beginning of the year. Trayce Jackson-Davis staying really set the tone for this team to start the season.

All of this program momentum seems to have been spent and entirely stomped out by this 5 game losing streak. It’s been a true return to form. Unfortunately that form is the same program that falls in February. That being said, I believe that once Mike Woodson gets his guys in there, we will get the program back on track. So I wasn’t expecting anything this year really.

So going into this Maryland game today. I am going to still give Mike Woodson the benefit of the doubt. Its been 3/4 of a season, not time to totally freak out just yet. Once he has the guys he recruited specifically for his system, then we can judge him.

As always… Go IU FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!!

Shout out Jeff Howard

Michael Pittman Jr. named Colts’ most improved player this season by Pro Football Focus

Pittman Jr., who finished with 88 receptions for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns, was named the Colts’ most improved player Feb. 17 by Pro Football Focus, edging out Taylor and the likes of linebacker Bobby Okereke and cornerback Isaiah Rodgers for the distinction. A second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Southern California, Pittman Jr. emerged as a true No. 1 receiver under head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady in his second year in the NFL.

Josh Carney, si.com
Hops bruh. Hops.

I gotta say, not the obvious choice. But I’d say probably the best choice. I mean don’t get me wrong Jonathon Taylor had one of the greatest seasons of all time *Kanye voice*, but we all new last year JT23 was a stud. So I like them not choosing him outright. And, while really observing the Indianapolis Colts you can see why Pittman got the nod.

Pittman definitely took a leap forward in his game from last year. A 1,000 yard season is nothing to scoff at. I mean, we all knew he had special talent last year, as we all saw small glimpses of it from time to time. These glimpses have been snowballing in order to present themselves more and more each and every Sunday. While his stats improved significantly, it’s his impact on the other aspects of the game that have also begun to really shine. His growth has demanded more attention from opposing secondaries. When more and more attention is spent on 1 receiver, the rest of that receiving corp gets less and less defensive attention. Now its just a matter of getting someone to aid Michael Pittman some help in the form of a receiver who can truly capitalize on this lessening attention.

This continuing development of Michael Pittman’s game is essential to the success of the Colts’ offense this coming season. In Pittman, I believe we’ve found our 3rd down receiver. He will need to become a certified target man that demands double team attention if we want to have the rest of the field open. Like opening the deep ball if the Colts’ are able to go get the deep threat they so desperately need. His continuing development won’t only make his game better, but the game of everyone else around him better as well. While Wide Receiver remains a top priority for Chris Ballard and the Colts’ front office, we can see that we’ve got half of that position figured out when we drafted Pittman. Now its just a matter of getting the deep threat and support guys that we want.

You’ve got to love Michael Pittman Jr. getting his shine. His work over the last two years has really paid off and his game is improving each and every day it seems. Only problem is now with Carson Wentz all but out the door, the Indianapolis Colts don’t know who is our deep threat to capitalize on Michael Pittman’s attention grabbing game, we also don’t know who will be trying to throw those deep threats and 10 yard targets to Michael Pittman Jr. Time to get this figured out and really show out next season. Ballard’s job may depend on it.

A look at the Aaron Rodgers destination odds from Vegas, and the Colts’ place in those odds.

Green Bay Packers-250
Denver Broncos+350
San Francisco 49ers+800
Pittsburgh Steelers+1200
Indianapolis Colts+1200
Tampa Bay Buccaneers+1400
New Orleans Saints+2000
these are the odds currently available on Draft Kings

We are looking to land a whale here in Indianapolis. Looking at these odds, I actually gain some confidence. See whenever I actually picture Aaron Rodgers as an Indianapolis Colt it seems like a pipe dream. If the number 12 were to be resurrected for Aaron, I may finally be able to come to terms with the way Andrew Luck left us (Yes it still hurts!!! We should have 2 rings with this squad and him under center! So Yeah STILL HURTS!!!). It looks like Vegas is more than convinced Aaron Rodgers will remain in Green Bay. The fact the Denver Broncos are favored so heavily over the other options doesn’t make much sense to me personally. It’s a new day in the NFL. There’s a new generation of QBs on the scene and no single division is that more apparent than in the AFC West. Do you think Old Man Rodgers wants to face both Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes II twice a season. If he can dictate where he’s going at all then why would he want to head there. That ain’t it chief.

Looking at Indianapolis’ odds gives me confidence that Aaron Rodgers the Colt is an actual possibility. I genuinely felt, before really looking into the odds, that Pittsburgh would be a potential landing spot that actually made sense for all involved. Seeing the Indianapolis Colts have the same odds to land him gets me very excited. A lot of the times I overthink Indianapolis Colts odds or news and assume I’m seeing stuff align because I want to, almost wishful thinking on my part. But, wishful thinking that I can identify and often times I discredit the real stories because I convince myself its too good to be true (My teams across all sports have hurt me in case you can’t tell).

So confirmed. Rodgers to Indianapolis has potential legs here!!! Tied for 3rd in odds (other than GB again) is a very nice place to be sitting in my opinion. Just looking at each of the teams on this list I get confidence in knowing that anyone looking at those names and asks themselves who’s a QB away from winning a Super Bowl, I think Indianapolis is the no brainer. Jonathon Taylor’s run game will open the field, while an amazing offensive line is blocking, and Darius is leading the stout defense. What’s not to love there… I guess the wide receiver situation. Pittman is still growing into a stud in this league, but if we could go get Allen Robinson and have a legitimate deep threat, I don’t see how he couldn’t want to come to Indianapolis.

Last thing…

How crazy is it that Jordan Love will be taken in the first round and then never even receive a shot for that team? What a garbage move that pick was. Should have let the Colts get him Green Bay. I mean on the bright side, how important is it to hit on your first round picks? *sarcasm*

Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio State post game short thoughts

Well… that stinks. Indiana doesn’t just like torturing me. It loves building my confidence in the Hoosiers up for 3 months only to swiftly let me down in the most violently painful losing streaks imaginable. We are in an utter free fall. Mike Woodson’s trying to pull a parachute but someone seems to have swapped his chute with a block of lead.

I don’t blame Mike Woodson entirely, these aren’t his guys. The stink from Archie Miller still persists through the hallowed Assembly Hall. That stink has created a culture of absolutely folding down the stretch of the season. Archie could not get this team up to compete in February and a lot of these guys are his hangovers in the program, so you have a bunch of Archie’s recruits on the team who are used to this backslide and almost conditioned to expect it. So I do not blame Mike Woodson for this one.

BOO!!!!!

But 5 games?!!!! 5 GAMES!!!! What an absolute burner of a losing streak. This game seemed primed to be the one to get back on track for the Indiana Hoosiers, alas, it was not. After a hard fought 4 quarters, the Hoosiers absolutely folded in overtime leading to the Ohio State victory 80-69. What a huge game from Ohio State freshman Malaki Branham. Malaki dropped 27 points while also tallying 5 rebounds and 3 assists. That’s a stellar collegiate performance if I’ve ever seen one.

Indiana was down a few guys and absolutely could have used them. Rob Phinisee, Khristian Lander, and Trey Galloway were all out due to various differing injuries. Meaning Xavier Johnson would have to carry the team through this one. Unfortunately, he committed 5 turnovers in that first half. This is all a recipe for a long beat down heading your way. This wasn’t the case though.

With all these factors building into a potentially DEVASTATING recipe on the court, the Hoosiers fought hard. The game was far more respectable than I had initially thought it was going to be. It’s been bad though, and very rapidly leading to the inevitable disappointing end to this season. I want to hold out hope, I truly do. I just don’t see this team as is shaking this funk. Which stinks, I loved this team heading into the season. Indiana fans owe the world to Trayce Jackson-Davis for coming back to play this year. New coach, definitely wouldn’t had been blamed for leaving. He is at least providing us with someone to watch and key on to make our heartbreaking losses just a hair less damaging.

What does this heartbreaking overtime loss mean for Indiana? Unfortunately, I believe the nails have been placed and the coffin lowered into the ground. We are all but waiting for the dirt to be poured over our graves. That dirt will come in the form of any Big Ten Tournament loss, because now I think this may be our only shot at punching Indiana’s ticket to the Big Dance.

-Burke

Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio State Buckeyes PREVIEW BLOG

Game tips off at 7:00 ET today. Indiana has the all-time advantage on Ohio State 109-87. Their previous matchup this season resulted in a 67-51 Indiana victory fueled by a MONSTER performance from Trayce Jackson-Davs (27 points, 12 rebounds). Indiana’s relentless defense was able to force 15 total turnovers from the Buckeyes.

Ohio State will be hosting their 4th home game in a row. While that is usually a cause for relaxation and a bit of an ease in the schedule, Ohio State will have hosted these 4 games over the course of 8 days. Quite a busy schedule. Whereas Indiana University has had 6 days to prep and rest for the Buckeyes Monday night. Ohio State will be looking to win a game following them being taken to the woodshed in that last game, losing by 16 and being held under 60. Indiana Hoosiers will be coming off a slide of epic proportions looking to salvage anything they can before we just call the season a wrap. Big stakes here.

I’m really hoping that the Buckeyes 30% shooting from the floor (Absolutely pathetic at home) spills over into this one. Both teams really have one player that the offense revolves around. You all know Indiana’s guy!!!

TJD!!!

In order to shut down the Ohio State offense, E.J. Liddell will need to be slowed down. I say slowed down because I don’t believe he can be stopped outright. Currently averaging 19.7 ppg Liddell has been the catalyst for Ohio State’s offense.

Indiana must play through Trayce. The Hoosiers just aren’t scoring from beyond the arc this season, and unless a significant amount of change has taken place in 6 days, I don’t see us scoring much on a defense that is solid on the perimeter. The Hoosiers can not, CAN NOT, miss layups today. Indiana has left points on the table at every possible chance this year it seems. This must be eliminated from our program.

This game looks to be a low scoring bout. I’m always hopelessly optimistic, but after that lost last week I don’t know if I really expect Indiana to win. Ohio State will be a tough matchup across the board. When a game is poised to be so low scoring, we must make free throws and layups. Doing that will easily limit the Hoosiers from beating themselves and fixing the trajectory they are currently on.

PREDICTION:

While the game is currently projected to end in a 72-66 Ohio State victory (kenpom.com), I believe that the Hoosiers will pull this one out. I can’t see Ohio State having enough time to prepare for this one as the Hoosiers did. Their limited turn around time will have them really only having addressed TJD and focus on him. If Indiana’s supporting players want their time to shine and have a memorable performance this is it. I’m looking for TJD to administrate the offense and have a big assist total in a 64-57 Indiana Hoosier victory.

What’s it going to take to get into the Big Dance for Indiana?

Throughout this post will be quotes by Jerry Palm CBS sports bracketologist…

“It’s not over yet,” Palm said of IU’s tournament chances. “(When) people say that (IU won’t make it), what they’re not saying is — if they keep playing the way they are, there’s no chance of them making the tournament.””They look like they don’t know what they’re doing on defense. They have one, maybe two weapons on offense. … If they keep playing like that, they have no shot.”

Akeem Glispie, indystar.com

Now this quote is pulled prior to Indiana losing to Wisconsin. Unfortunately, that game… they still looked like absolute crap. Not getting anything done at the line and leaving every point possible on the table. It’s been a painful, painful February for any Hoosier fan. An all-too-familiar feeling that I for one, am absolutely sick of.

The Indiana Hoosiers are hot doo doo right now. And unfortunately, I don’t see us getting in with anything shy of a Big Ten Tournament Championship. It’s absolutely insane how this is all happening again. After Archie Miller already killed us with these year after year. Life as a Hoosier fan is the sweetest pain.

I’m really hoping that even a decent tournament run will get us in the field. We will also have to go ahead and win out. Even so, I have a feeling that the championship is our only ticket. To elaborate on this Akeem Glispie quoted Palm saying..

“They’re not even going to get a sniff if they’re not four games above .500,” Palm said. “Historically the committee has only taken one team in 25 years below that. And that team played the most ridiculous schedule ever.”

Akeem Glispie, indystar.com

Indiana is currently 7-8 in conference play. With some alarmingly bad losses. Such as the Northwestern loss or the Michigan whomping at home. So if Palm is to be believed, following that Wisconsin loss Indiana’s fate may be all but written.

Going into this Ohio State game on Monday. We would need to come out and beat the heck out of them. I mean really put it on them, and the rest of our opponents if we are to even stand a chance. There’s always hope. The one thing Indiana has going for them is the money and viewership that follows them. I know it’s corrupt and broke but I will take each advantage that I can get with the sorrowful situation we find ourselves in. We’ll let’s buckle up for a wild ride to the end, because as is the case with any other Indiana Hoosiers season in recent years, it may be a tough one.

On the brightside, I am excited to see Mike Woodson get the guys hes been recruiting. Guys he can see thriving in Indiana. We gotta give the man a chance to field a team of HIS players before we can pass judgment on how Mike Woodson’s been coaching this season. I imagine he’s going out and finding guys that fit his system and not just the top dogs. I love it and I will still go to the mat for Coach Mike.

Indiana loses a Heartbreaker to Wisconsin. There goes the Big Dance…

Going into this game. Mike Woodson had to be feeling some pressure. I mean these aren’t trul HIS guys. By that I just mean he didn’t really recruit anyone other than our transfers and I will add keeping Trayce Jackson-Davis to that, because as far as I’m concerned he had to recruit him to IU from the NBA draft. Even though these aren’t really HIS guys Mike Woodson came into this game seeking to keep this year from looking straight out of the Archie Miller era. Get everyone’s hopes up in December. Play like crap and tank any shot at the tournament come February. Mike Woodson needed this win to prove to Hoosier Nation and the Indiana boosters that he is going to be changing this program right out of the gate. And what did we just witness…

Not. That.

Devastating. Absolutely devastating. Last night, Wisconsin beat Indiana 72-69. In what was a dramatic game coming down right to the last minute. Indiana got beat in the Holy Cathedral of Basketball that is Assembly Hall. At one point in this game Indiana missed 8 of 13 layups. That with any missed free throws is unacceptable. Indiana seems to leave points on the table as often as a team can sometimes.

What a heartbreaking turn of events. This season looks poised to end just like the last few seasons. In disappointment. God forbid they hole the NCAA tournament in the middle of the season. If that were the case we’d be March Madness mainstays. Our first half of the season and the second always look like it would have to be two entirely different teams playing them.

The annual tailspin is full speed ahead right now, and you know what really sucks… It doesn’t even bother me like it used to. This Indiana team has gotten me used to getting my hopes up only to fall. I’m basically a master at coping following losses like this at this point. So sad.

I mean Indiana has dropped the ball so often that coping with this exact situation is almost learned behavior at this point. I don’t see anyway Indiana turns this around and gets a bid in the tournament barring a miraculous run in the Big Ten Tournament.

This post was far less a recap of the game and more so a rant on the state of Indiana Basketball so I apologize.

-Burke

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