Thursday, November 17, 2011
Indiana turns fans' heads in road win
By Eamonn Brennan
If you talk to an Indiana fan, or receive an email from one of your buddies, or even if you see a random Internet comment like the one I spotted halfway down in Inside The Hall's review of the Hoosiers' 94-73 thrashing of Evansville Wednesday night -- "Haven't found my dancing shoes yet, but I have started looking for the polish" -- please, forgive them. It's been a long time since they had something to get excited about.
Frankly, it's been a long time since they won a game on the road. The Hoosiers were beaten in their last 17 games away from Assembly Hall in the Tom Crean era. On Wednesday night, they didn't just win. They didn't overcome. They went to Evansville's brand new Ford Center (which looked fantastic on my ESPN3 stream, I must say) and lit the Purple Aces up. Indiana's effective field goal percentage was 65.3 percent. They shot 52.4 percent from 3-point range. They scored -- get this -- 1.36 points per possession. The only other team to play at Evansville this season, national runner-up Butler, lost by three points in overtime.
Of course, a high-major team beating a decent mid-major on the road is not an unusual occurrence. There have probably been, what, 10 such games thus far this season? But for Indiana fans, this sudden excellence is new and exciting. The Hoosiers haven't played this well in three years. They've been able to score the ball a bit, mind you -- they finished No. 75 in Pomeroy's 2011 rankings despite a 12-20 record -- but never this comprehensively. Now, the arrival of freshman forward Cody Zeller and the emergence of sophomores Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey are giving Hoosiers fans hope.
The numbers back the emotion: After three games, Indiana is currently ranked No. 31 in Pomeroy (subscription required). They're ranked No. 15 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. It's a tiny sample size, but given how bad this program has been, it's definitely a reason for optimism.
Then again, Indiana is 3-0 with wins over Stony Brook, Chattanooga and Evansville. IU fans might not start paving the road to the Final Four just yet. But there is a sense of progress, and snakebitten Hoosiers fans seem determined to enjoy it.