The Indiana Hoosiers have their work cut out for them this week. IU will face three ranked opponents over the next six days.
Tuesday night, Indiana will be at No. 14 Wisconsin. Thursday night they will host No. 20 Iowa, making up the game that was postponed from last week. Sunday IU welcomes No. 22 Ohio State.
Not an easy task for a floundering Hoosier squad.
But here’s the interesting thing, if IU wins these three games (and their final two next week) they have a legitimate chance at a tourney berth. Its not much of a chance, but its still something.
The hardest part will be winning at Wisconsin. They’ve only lost three games at home this season, but Michigan and Northwestern (two teams IU has beaten) managed wins there. Wisconsin is riding a five game winning streak that includes road W’s at Iowa and Michigan and a home win against Michigan State.
The Badgers also will have revenge on their minds as IU was the first team to deliver them a loss this season. Currently the Hoosiers are listed as having a 12-percent chance at victory, per Pomeroy.
The Hoosiers best shot at a win is a 34-percent chance of a win against Ohio State over the next three games.
Iowa have at times looked very impressive, but have also lost two of their past three home games. All of their losses have come against the top teams in the Big Ten. Only Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State have handed them a loss. The lesser teams have been thoroughly beaten by the Hawkeyes.
Ohio State had a cupcake schedule outside of the conference, and are 9-6 in the Big Ten. They struggled early, but are 6-1 over their last seven games. The Buckeyes have one of the best defenses in the country, but a so-so offense.
What are the reasonable expectations for the Hoosiers this week?
Obviously, going 3-0 would be an unbelievable feat and it would require this team making a huge leap in ability, something they haven’t shown this season. Recent weeks have seen the Hoosiers regress rather than show the kind of improvement you would expect from most teams this late in the year.
Given that IU nearly fell to a very depleted Northwestern team on Saturday, its hard to have very much confidence in this squad.
Playing at Wisconsin is an unreal challenge, especially for a young team. I fully expect this to be an ugly game where IU struggles and fans yell inappropriate things at the TV.
I’m more interested in how the Hoosiers approach Iowa and OSU. IU has shown up in big home games this season, knocking off then No. 3 Wisconsin and then No. 10 Michigan. These are both winnable games for Indiana, but it will take a level of effort and cohesiveness that we haven’t seen since the Michigan game.
IU is just 1-3 since that big win, where it looked like the Hoosiers were turning a corner. We’ve talked about the issues plaguing this team, but there is still time to turn it around and make fans hopeful for the future.
Playing three games in a week for any team at this level is difficult, but no one in the country will be facing down a stretch this tough. Come away with a win or two, and the future doesn’t look nearly as bleak for the Hoosiers.