Indiana continues strong Big Ten start, beats Minnesota on the road

Indiana seemed like it was in quite a bit of trouble following its 20-point loss to Duke on Dec. 2.

Apparently, the Hoosiers were left for dead all too soon.

They are now 15-3 and on a 10-game winning streak after defeating Minnesota 70-63 on Saturday, stretching their start in the Big Ten to 5-0, including three road victories. Yogi Ferrell had another strong game for the Hoosiers, dropping 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds with only one turnover. The bench was also terrific as Max Bielfeldt and Nick Ziesloft combined for 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting.

So at this point, what do we make of the Hoosiers? Of course, it’s worth noting that they’ve only played three top-100 opponents during this winning stretch. However, an unbeaten stretch in a league like the Big Ten is still worth noting, especially given that the schedule really isn’t quite all that onerous going forward. The Hoosiers are projected to win all but four of their remaining games, according to KenPom.

And beyond results, they’ve tangibly improved the biggest question mark about their team in recent weeks. Their defense has not allowed over one point-per-possession in any Big Ten game, which is pretty remarkable given where it was early in the season. In fact, coming into its game against Minnesota, it actually led the Big Ten in adjusted defensive efficiency.

It’s a simpler scheme now, one that relies less on hedging ball-screens and switching defenses and more on just walling off the paint at all costs. The adjustment was a smart decision from coach Tom Crean, as Thomas Bryant and the rest of the big men look much more comfortable not having to patrol 20 feet away from the hoop. Freshmen Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby have provided better athleticism in James Blackmon’s absence, helping to slow down opposing teams.

The adjustments are all well and good, but where we’ll learn more about Indiana is when it plays teams that can actually hurt them with their offensive prowess. Weirdly, that’s not going to come for a while. The next four games for Indiana are against Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and another game against Minnesota, meaning they’re going to have a bit more time to build confidence playing on that end. The odds are against a 9-0 start for Indiana in the Big Ten, but it’s not out of the question given that schedule.

Indiana is in a really good position to make a bit of a run toward the top of the Big Ten. If they can take care of business here and continue to show the growth on defense that they’ve portrayed thus far, don’t count them out once the schedule gets trickier when February rolls around.

Yogi Ferrell had another terrific game for Indiana. (USATSI)
Yogi Ferrell had another terrific game for Indiana. (USATSI)

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