INDIANAPOLIS – After the Indiana Hoosiers’ 76-67 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels on Wednesday night, one thing is certain, IU is a pretty damn good team when they want to be. This was already IU’s second victory over a top five ranked team this season as they look like a legitimate Final Four squad.
But, they also show flashes of questionable play, like in their embarrassing defeat to IPFW last week. As bad as that loss was though, it was a clear it was a championship winning type of loss as weird as that sounds.
Losing to IPFW in the manner that they did, but beating championship contenders like Kansas and North Carolina in the first three weeks of the college basketball season show you one thing and one thing only, you can’t take your opponent for granted and you have to come out with energy every single night. IU came out with intensity for the higher ranked teams and came out flat hoping to win purely off of their name alone against IPFW.
We obviously know the outcomes of those games.
Well, with all this being said, IU will now need to find that energy level that it takes to beat Kansas and North Carolina on their own over the next three games or they could risk being upset again.
Last night was electric – IU wasn’t going to lose that game with how much energy the crowd had. The players and even Tom Crean said likewise. But, what about when the next three opponents are SIU Edwardsville, Southeast Missouri State and Houston Baptist? They’re a combined 9-10 right now. Do you think the crowd will be the same for those three contests they way they were for a 9:15 p.m. ET primetime ESPN game against North Carolina? Do you think Assembly Hall will have the same atmosphere as the gym did in Hawaii against Kansas?
“We had a tremendous crowd, obviously, that brought a ton of energy to everyone,” head coach Tom Crean said following Indiana’s victory over North Carolina. “It was an incredible atmosphere in there. And they did a great job with this. The thing I’m proudest maybe with all of them on the court, especially in this environment, is talked. It was the best we communicated on the court. It was the best that we kept each other in the spots.”
Can they keep the same energy though for the next three games when they’re not historic programs biggest question now?
“Well, we just wanted to bring the energy with us so we just wanted to be collective, communicate, because it was so loud. And the fans really helped us with the energy,” junior guard James Blackmon Jr. said about last night’s crowd. “It’s definitely helpful with these fans that we have here. They’re so great when they bring that energy. At the same time, we always have to know where the energy starts. We want it started with us. If we don’t bring it, it can be hard to get that energy.”
Thomas Bryant echoed those statements saying he felt the impact of that game before he even picked up a basketball.
“You feel it before you even step on the floor for the pregame warmups,” the sophomore center said. “You feel the intensity, like the day before, you just want to go out there and play your best in front of the greatest fans in college basketball.”
Even Roy Williams praised the atmosphere and the crowd saying, “That was a great college basketball atmosphere. The home team really played right from the get-go, the second did not, and that was us. We were not ready for the intensity and enthusiasm, or anything you want to talk about in the first half. It was a wonderful crowd, gosh I would like to play in front of a crowd like that in the Smith Center every night other than the Duke game. Congratulations to them, their fans and the students. It was a big time crowd, but I’ve got to coach better and the players have to play better.”
So, my question now is, can this team get up for a game they’re supposed to win especially when the crowd isn’t raucous giving them energy? Can they learn to bring their own energy? If that IPFW loss did anything, hopefully it was make these kids realize that they have to bring their own energy every night and the crowd is only an added benefit. If they can, then skies the limit for this team.