4 things we learned from IU’s win over Arkansas

1. Indiana is in it to win it.

The Hoosiers are now one win away from a trip to Madison Square Garden, the annual host site of the NIT’s semifinal and final rounds.

For Indiana, the disappointment that came with its relegation to this event has been gradually replaced with a renewed focus on getting to New York. This isn’t the postseason tournament IU envisioned participating in when the season began in November, but the Hoosiers have accepted their fate.

And they’re determined to make the most of their opportunity.

“We’re in the tournament, so we might as well show we’re the best team in the tournament,” IU junior forward De’Ron Davis said.

On Sunday afternoon, the top-seeded Hoosiers learned that they’ll host sixth-seeded Wichita State in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Shockers head to Bloomington with wins in 13 of their past 16 games, and eight victories in their past nine tries.

On the other side of the matchup, Indiana has been building confidence of its own. Just as important, the Hoosiers have illustrated that they want to keep playing. Although Saturday’s 63-60 win over Arkansas was seldom pretty, the Hoosiers played hard and overcame yet another trademark slow start, eventually solving the Razorbacks’ press and getting another big game out of junior guard Devonte Green.

And make no mistake, Green, a New York native, has his sights set on a happy homecoming next week.

“It always feels good to be back in the Big Apple,” he said. “I’d be excited.”

First, though, IU knows it needs to take care of Wichita State on Tuesday night.

That Indiana has put itself in position to even picture a trip to Madison Square Garden is a credit to its focus and renewed sense of purpose. Often, the top-seeded teams don’t last long in this event.

Since 2015, the first four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament field have received the consolation prize of a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

From 2016 to 2018, merely two No. 1 seeds made it to the NIT quarterfinals. Only one made it to New York.

Entering Sunday’s action, Indiana and TCU were the only No. 1 seeds still alive in this year’s tournament.

A generation ago, the NIT was a prestigious tournament — arguably more so than its NCAA rival — offering college basketball teams exposure on the grand stage of Madison Square Garden. As decades passed and the NCAA Tournament field grew in size and quality, the NIT became an afterthought. It’s not the prize the Hoosiers originally sought, but it’s all they have left.

And at this point, they’re not eager to see their season end until they claim a trophy.

“We are a game away from New York and when you are in this thing, you try to win it,” IU coach Archie Miller said.

2. Devonte Green’s development continues.

With Saturday’s win, Indiana has now won six of its past seven games. IU’s most important player in that stretch?

It’s none other than Green.

In Saturday’s win, the junior guard posted his second career double-double with 18 points and a personal-best 11 rebounds. Green has now scored in double-figures in each of his past six games — the longest such streak of his IU career.

A month ago, Green appeared to be Indiana’s most unreliable player. He was coming off a three-game suspension for an unspecified rules violation, while struggling with the erratic play that has largely defined his time in Bloomington.

But as his junior season draws to a close, Green has enjoyed a renaissance in Indiana’s lineup. He’s not only as confident as he’s ever been, he’s channeling that self-assurance into more consistently positive results.

“He’s just playing the game right now with freedom,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “I don’t think he’s worrying a whole lot about coming in the game or out of the game. I think right now he’s just playing to win, and he knows he needs to make plays for us. The one thing that he’s giving us — I think everyone would say it — but you make some shots, it makes the game a lot easier, and he’s helped us get over the hump here recently just with his ability to make some shots. Tough ones, too.”

Indeed, it’s the tough shots that Green seems to enjoy the most.

“(On Friday) in practice, I closed out on him,” classmate De’Ron Davis said with a smile. “(But) I closed out short because I know if you close out short on Devonte, he’s gonna miss it. He likes the tough-guarded shots. … The closer the defender, the more likely it’s going to go in. It’s been proven.”

3. It’s still unclear whether Romeo Langford will return.

The latest news on the Hoosiers’ star freshman? That there’s no news.

Langford continues to receive treatment on his ailing back, but there hasn’t been a determination of whether he’ll return to Indiana’s lineup.

“He’s had more doctors’ appointments here in the last couple days,” Miller said. “We’re getting him some more clarity, some X-rays, some MRIs and some things just to make sure we’re good, and I think that we feel good that he’s making progress and he’s feeling better. But until he says I feel great, we’re not going to play (him). He’s not practicing. So we’ll see. I do think he’s making progress. We’re getting a lot of information from the doctors and whatnot, and he’s taking his time with his rehab and making sure that he’s doing his part trying to get back, but he’s sore.”

So as IU prepares for Tuesday’s quarterfinal showdown with Wichita State, it’s hard to say whether Langford will be part of the plan. That said, if the Hoosiers beat the Shockers, they’ll have a full week until their next game in the NIT semifinals in New York.

Perhaps that could give Langford the time he needs to recover.

“The longer it goes, the better chance he has of coming back,” Miller said.

4. The Hoosiers are enjoying a homecourt advantage, even in the NIT.

A crowd of merely 5,431 attended Tuesday’s tournament opener against St. Francis in Bloomington. But what that assembly lacked in numbers, it made up for in enthusiasm.

Few crowds this year were more engaged.

The diehards that attended Saturday’s matinee vs. Arkansas did their part, too, lining up outside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall well before doors opened at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, and eventually filling the building to 70 percent capacity.

“I was surprised how many people showed up today,” Green said. “But at the same time, not so much. Hoosier fans will show up as long as there’s a game at Assembly Hall.”

Indeed, the 12,225 fans who packed the arena treated the game like any other Big Ten tilt, providing a crucial big-game atmosphere with IU’s season on the line.

While most everyone associated with Indiana basketball would’ve preferred to see the Hoosiers received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, some good has come from IU’s latest NIT trip. The additional home games and discounted tickets have allowed fans who otherwise might have been priced out of regular season games at Assembly Hall to cheer for the Hoosiers in person.

And that support — from fans young and old — hasn’t been lost on the players.

“I was very impressed,” Davis said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that much, especially because it’s (Little 500) Quals, and everybody’s been drunk since 5 o’clock. We had (some) students in there, not a lot of students. We had a lot of people that really don’t get to come to games. I’m glad they had the opportunity to come and see us play.”

4 comments

  1. Michael Avenatti …alleged 20 million extortion attempt against Nike or supposedly damaging information he held from discussions with a client attached to corrupt Nike execs….NCAA…FBI wire-tapping. Can it get any goofier?

  2. Yes. We only here if things that become news and those that get caught. Then, there are the investigations that may take years and nothing, very little, or no consequences follow except a bunch of folklore created for future generations.
    I often think of things that are much smaller in scope that may or may not go on that is kinda known or unknown, but it is there. It is as vague as my statement that I make about it.

  3. Duke….pays $ 112 million to settle claim of submitting false research to get or continue to receive gov grants. (And they only beat UCF due to missed foul on rebound).

  4. Duke and how many others; higher education entities and institutions themselves, secondary, middle school, elementary??? Pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, investors, politics, media on and on and on it goes. When people’s livelyhoods (careers, jobs, salaries depend on money pipeline) I would suggest research is often manipulated as to keep funding coming and not lose it. It is amazing how things stay afloat as much as they do. Just so many vague grey areas.

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