Trying not to slide off the bubble . . .

D.J. White prepares to shoot during warm ups.

If the NCAA tournament were to start today, there’s a decent chance that Ohio State would be playing in it. The Buckeyes are 17-10 and are 53rd in the RPI. They could at least make a case for themselves.

But they also have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the conference. Besides playing at Indiana tonight, they go to Minnesota and then host Purdue and Michigan State to finish out the season. They need to win two of those games at the very least.

How will the Hoosiers handle the game? Saturday night they looked pretty much like you might expect after a difficult week and little preparation. After watching through the tape of the game it hit me that they played a little like any group of talented players plays without a coach by relying on offense to win. It seems trite to say but the best coaches are often just those who can get their players to put an emphasis on defense. That was not happening for the Hoosiers against Northwestern, which has an efficient offense but not one that should be scoring 82 points.

Dan Dakich has an interesting job ahead of him. Playing with the sort of emotion they showed Saturday will be a part of the Hoosiers team for the rest of the year. Too much has happened to them for us to expect any return to some sort of normalcy where a game is just a game. All of these nights will charged. But Dakich said Monday during and after his radio show that he will need to, even in a small way, put his mark on the team. In a lot of ways, he has no choice. He determines playing time, which gives him an innate power over how the team plays.

What I think many of us will be watching tonight is to see how Indiana’s play changes. Surely the general ideas won’t be discarded. It’s still a team built around the explosiveness of Eric Gordon and then rare ability of D.J. White to own his spot on the floor, which happens to be right under the bucket. But surely Dakich has spent much of the year hiding thoughts he had on how the team should be run. In the 10 years prior to this one he was a head coach, and his ideas were the only ideas that mattered. It was only natural for him to continue looking at the team and the games it played from that same vantage point, despite the fact he had to defer to Sampson’s wishes. Now, quite suddenly, he has ultimate control of how the Hoosiers will be run.

Ohio State is pretty much the prototypical bubble team. They’re close to the edge because they’ve been close to the edge in so many games this season. They’ve been able to be there against some good teams but have never found the guts — hey, there are nicer words to use here but let’s just come out and say it — to hit the big shots that mattered. They’ll need to if they hope to have any chance against an Indiana team that will have, I think, an astonishing level of support from the home crowd.

We welcome any thoughts you have heading into the game.

4 comments

  1. Thanks. As if I wasn’t nervous enough for this game and the rest of the season…the part about Dakich making his niche in the team freaks me out more. I know he has strong ties to IU but can he really coach a team of our calibar along with all the drama that surrounds it? *sigh*

  2. I think he will do just fine. The reason a lot of small school teams are doing well now a days (Butlet, Drake, Gonzaga) is because they have coaches that are really good at emphasizing defense and effort. Pretty much every team has players that can score, but these teams are able too add great defense and hustle to being able to score and that is how they are winning games. It is undeniable that IU has a great ability to put points on the board, and I think Dakich will do a fine job of getting this team to play pressure defense and go after the ball. I think the Hoosiers will have continued success under DD

  3. Excellent Ben. Can DD do it? Just what this team needs. Defense and effort. I see somewhat minimal effort from those that cannot afford it. Crawford, Ellis, and Gordon should be all out on defense. And then learn to tone it back on offense. Taber and DJ give it all and use the best of what God gave them. Newbies are sloppy, but I love them all. Go Ho-Ho-Hoosiers.

  4. What I was trying to say is that it takes any kid one year to play in the league to get a good feel for it. Gordon is a prime example. Yes, he scores 20 a game on his talent, but if he had a year under his belt, he could be averaging 30 a game with ease. Not to mention he could eliminate 5 TO’s per game. Unfortunately, he will move on and succeed in his own way.

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