Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Horizon

Big Ten basketball teams have to feel lucky.

I saw some flashes of how good this Indiana team could be today in their loss to Illinois.

Yes. I said this Indiana team. The team that averages more than 18 turnovers a game. The team that only six field goals in the first half today.

There was a 4-minute stretch in the second half where it seemed to click. The Hoosiers closed to within six points in what was a brilliant display. It didn't come from a barrage of three-pointers. It came from good play. They made good passes, took good shots and played tough defense. Their play matched the effort.

Illinois was stunned by the punch and looked out of sync. I saw the Hoosier players playing confidently, like they felt like they could win ... until Chester Frazier drilled a three-pointer to put the Illini up by nine, ending the threat. The Hoosiers reverted back to their old selves and stumbled to a 13-point loss.

While the team looked like it was intimidated, out-played and out-talented in the first half, the Hoosiers played like they belonged on the floor a good portion of the second.

Coach Tom Crean is building a team from scratch this season. But I wonder how good they could be, or could have been, if the Hoosiers could put together an entire game similar to those 4 minutes.

Maybe some of those close losses (Michigan, at Iowa, Minnesota) would have gone the other way. Confidence feeds on itself. Maybe the Hoosiers begin to believe a little more. Maybe they manage 10, 12 or 15 wins. Maybe they get a home win over an elite Big Ten team like Michigan State, Wisconsin or Purdue.

I don't want to be the coach that runs into the buzz saw if the Hoosiers figure it out this season.

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