4 things we learned from IU’s win over Rutgers

1. Indiana’s offense looks as good as it has all season.

It couldn’t come at a more opportune time for the Hoosiers, who are riding into this week’s Big Ten Tournament on the heels of two of its most efficient outings of the season.

After scoring 1.38 points per possession on Thursday at Illinois, Indiana closed the week by posting 1.27 points per possession against Rutgers. There’s been crisp, clean ball movement. There’s been a consistent adherence to the attacking approach IU coach Archie Miller wants to spread across this lineup. There’s also been better court vision to go along with a heightened sense of awareness of the opposition’s mistakes.

Most of all, there seems to be a higher level of confidence when Indiana is in possession of the ball. After a couple closely-contested losses to Purdue and Iowa three weeks ago, Indiana seems to have rebuilt its confidence during its current four-game winning streak.

It’s been visible in the way the Hoosiers have attacked the rim, scoring 100 of their 181 points over the past two games in the paint. It’s been visible in the way IU has limited turnovers, going three straight games with single-digit errors while combining for merely 21 total turnovers in that stretch. It’s also been visible in the way Indiana has stepped to the line and made its free throws, going 76 percent (36-for-47) at the line in the past two games.

The quality of IU’s most recent opponents have certainly contributed to those figures, but for an Indiana offense that operated as one of the league’s most stagnant units for much of the season, the recent stretch has allowed the Hoosiers to regain the confidence they’ve sorely lacked.

“We’re doing a much better job of running our offense,” Miller said. “I think Rob (Phinisee) has done a really good job of setting the table for guys and getting into stuff. … I think our guys have started to do a better job looking at film and seeing what’s going on and we’re adapting. See a lot more assists. You see a lot more open looks and I think at the end of the day, it’s not as robotic. There’s a lot more movement. I think it’s helped us. But to our guys credit, they are starting to execute better, as well. When you look at our turnovers, 13 turnovers this week as a team, that’s spectacular.”

2. Romeo Langford may have played his final regular season game inside Assembly Hall.

When he subbed out for the final time with 1:12 remaining in the Sunday’s second half, Indiana’s star freshman was greeted with a warm round of applause as he made his way to the IU bench.

It was a worthy reception for IU’s potential one-and-done stud.

Langford had just put the finishing touches on a 20-point performance, the 12th time this season he’s reached that mark. Working in the shadow of Juwan Morgan’s Senior Day flourish, Langford’s were a quiet 20 points, too.

Eight of those came at the line, where he made all but two of his free throws. Langford also saved 13 of his points for the second half, including a seven-point outburst during his final three minutes on the floor.

Those very well could have been Langford’s final moments on Branch McCracken Court. If he wishes to return to Indiana for his sophomore season, the Hoosiers would gladly welcome him back. But that might not be the most fiscally responsible decision, with Langford still projected as a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. In ESPN’s latest mock draft, which was published last month, the network has Langford going to the Atlanta Hawks with the fifth overall pick.

Langford’s game, of course, is far from a fully-polished product, but his upside is tantalizing to decision makers at the next level. Regardless of his off-season decision, Sunday was another reminder to enjoy Langford in an IU uniform while you can.

3. A rematch with Ohio State awaits at the Big Ten Tournament.

The first meeting between the teams was as much a wrestling match as it was a basketball game. The Feb. 10 meeting in Bloomington, which ended in a 55-52 Ohio State victory, was a slog of a contest, dragged down by the offensive inefficiencies of both teams.

Though ugly, the game was there for the taking in the final minutes. Indiana, however, broke down on both ends.

The Hoosiers failed to score in the final 1:46, crumbling with a critical turnover off of back-to-back timeouts late in regulation. Then, in the final moments, IU couldn’t defend an elementary slip play for Andre Wesson that lifted the Buckeyes to the win.

In the rematch with the eighth-seeded Buckeyes, the ninth-seeded Hoosiers will hope their recent play bodes well for a better performance.

The winner of the matchup will face top-seeded Michigan State.

4. Bracketologists have IU squarely on the bubble.

Thursday’s 12:30 matchup with Ohio State could amount to an NCAA Tournament play-in game for the winner, with both the Hoosiers and Buckeyes straddling the bubble entering this week’s conference tournament.

But will one win be enough? That’s the question Indiana could be wrestling with as the week continues.

Here’s how some of the national analysts view IU’s resume entering the postseason:

• ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Indiana as his first team left out of the field, and Ohio State as his last team in.

• CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has IU among his First Four Out, joining a group that includes Florida, Belmont and Alabama. Palm’s Last Four In include Creighton, Clemson, UNC-Greensboro and Furman.

• At USA Today, Shelby Mast and Scott Gleeson put IU in the First Four Out category with Georgetown, Alabama and Texas. Their Last Four In include Belmont, Creighton, Florida and UNC-Greensboro.

• Yahoo! Sports has IU in the field as a No. 12 seed.

• NBC Sports’ Dave Ommen also has Indiana in the tournament as a No. 11 seed. In Ommen’s projections, the Hoosiers are one of the final four teams to receive a bye.

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