The Indiana Hoosiers regained their footing this season with an easy 96-80 win over Illinois on Saturday. They had previously been struggling through a stretch of games that sported opponents like Butler, Louisville, and Wisconsin; landing them at a record of 10-5 and arguably outside the top 25 teams in the country. The Hoosiers mightily struggled with turnovers and defense during this time, and weaknesses across the board were exposed and needed obvious fixing. After all, the Hoosiers are a team that beat Kansas and North Carolina, two teams that will undoubtedly be in the hunt come March.
However, the present had recently been making the near future look pretty bleak in Bloomington. Louisville routed them just a week or so back and Nebraska had come into Assembly Hall and shocked a team that should have won handily. Hoosier turnovers and a lack of defense was largely to blame for the woes. We know that Indiana is a team that seems to like to turn the ball over. Run and gun has been the style for at least the last couple of years and a higher value of the ball definitely does not seem to be the Hoosier motto.
There is simply no way that Indiana can completely mitigate their problems. Their style is not one that can just nip the turnover bug on a dime, and no amount of playing this season will allow them to become a team that protects the ball like Notre Dame, one of the best in the country at valuing possessions. However, what the Hoosiers can do is use the rest of Big Ten play as a way to maximize their ability to execute their strengths in games. A healthy dose of Thomas Bryant in the paint was a staple last year, and I feel that Hoosiers seem to be missing that at times, often unwilling to play that way and having Thomas play outside the paint does not help.
Getting Bryant back in the paint full-time and not part-time is something that the Hoosiers really need. I think that his play can really open up play for others, notably James Blackmon Jr., who started the season on a tear, but has seemed to lack scoring ability due to sloppy Indiana possessions as of late. OG Anunoby is another that could really benefit from added Bryant post play and less turnovers outside the three-point line. OG is electric when he drives the paint, and I feel the current offense has lulled him into more perimeter shots, something that is not his calling card.
I think the next month it is essential for the Hoosiers to get back to this style of play, and the good news is that it is extremely doable with a weaker Big Ten schedule to right their wrongs. Only Wisconsin and Purdue remained as ranked opponents from now until March Madness, and getting back on track will be the difference between say a number 3 seed for the Hoosiers, in which they have the potential to go much further, or say another 5 seed in which a number 4 looms in the second round followed by a 1 that could be headed to the Championship.