FORT WAYNE – Indiana’s NCAA tournament chances are all but gone, but the Hoosiers still have business to attend to in today’s regular-season finale at Michigan.
Noah Vonleh’s foot injury is forcing Indiana to change offensive and defensive strategies, and after a surprise 72-64 win over then-No. 22 Ohio State on Sunday, IU fell 70-60 to Nebraska on Wednesday.
The Hoosiers have one game to find a spark before next week’s Big Ten tournament, which they likely must win to make the Big Dance.
We still have a shot at this thing, Will Sheehey said. Just because we lost one game doesn’t mean we’re not going to play the next game as hard as we possibly can. We have numerous practices and games left. We’ve got to play like we know we can offensively and defensively.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said he did not alter his game plan upon learning of Vonleh’s absence but pointed out the Hoosiers lacked rim protection without their 6-foot-10 center.
That wasn’t the only thing missing.
Vonleh is a dominant two-way rebounder and the Hoosiers’ only big man who can shoot, drive and finish.
And left foot inflammation could force him to sit out a third straight game.
Guys are trying, Indiana coach Tom Crean said. When Noah was not going to play, we had to regroup. We had to change. The margin for error for our team is already so small. We’ve got to continue to grow up, there’s no question, and regroup in a hurry.
Indiana (17-13, 7-10 Big Ten) has already beaten No. 12 Michigan (22-7, 14-3) this season, 63-52 on March 2 at home.
Doing it again, this time at the Crisler Center, would mark the Hoosiers’ most impressive feat of the season away from home.
They are 3-9 on road or neutral floors, one of the key factors keeping them out of the NCAA tournament. Two of those wins came against losing teams, the other to 16-13 Washington.
Other factors working against Indiana: a poor nonconference schedule and an RPI number outside the top 80.
Players are willing to put all that aside and treat today’s game as any other.
It’s a new day, Troy Williams said. Get right back at it.
The Wolverines clinched the top seed in the conference tournament by bashing Illinois 84-53 Tuesday for their fourth straight win. But the team is aware IU snapped a previous 10-game winning streak.
There’s a tremendous learning experience, Michigan coach John Beilein said. I can’t be too specific on exactly what we learned, but Yogi (Ferrell) was terrific. I do recall that.
Their speed, quickness and abilities to rebound are tremendous.