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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 26, 2017 10:01 pm

Hoosiers' postseason outlook in question

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Sadly, Jim Mora was not at the Crisler Center on Thursday night.

The former Colts coach could have offered a timely repeat of one of his memorable sound bites.

"Playoffs?" Mora famously screeched. "Don’t talk about ... playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win another game."

Who said professional football can't apply to college basketball? Simply replace "playoffs" with "NCAA Tournament."

On the heels of Indiana turning a blind eye to a golden opportunity for a quality road win, the Hoosiers' 90-60 loss to Michigan leaves onlookers wondering if IU is really Big Dance material. Certainly, this is a different team without OG Anunoby.

Defensively, the Hoosiers appeared utterly confused the entire evening. The Wolverines shot 63 percent, and IU's awareness and cohesiveness was several notches worse than it has appeared much of the season.

Just one more reason the post-Anunoby Hoosiers could be in more trouble than anyone expected.

Six of their final 10 games are on the road, including Sunday's looming assignment at surging Northwestern, and Indiana's résumé still features little in the way of quality talking points aside from Kansas and North Carolina.

As good as Kansas and North Carolina are, can two wins build the foundation for a pleasant Selection Sunday?

Yes, the Hoosiers looked awful Thursday. Lethargic, nonchalant, careless, unfocused ... you name it and the adjective fits. And yes, obviously, that's a frightening sign for these final 10 games.

Perhaps the most frightening moment came in the first half when James Blackmon Jr. came up lame and officials called for an injury timeout. It turned out Blackmon was fine, or at least fine enough to finish out the game. He wore an ice pack around his right knee afterward.

Regardless, Blackmon was way off his game, getting just four points with four turnovers.

"It was a team effort, but we have to give credit to Muhammad (Abdur-Rahkman)," Michigan forward Zak Irvin said. "He played well on (Blackmon) the whole game. We denied him. We didn't let him get comfortable out there. That's something (Abdur-Rahkman) asked for. Muhammad's so athletic and fast. He can do special things. He showed that."

It once appeared the Hoosiers could do special things as a team. Now, if there's one thing we learned from this debacle at Michigan, it's that IU fans will have to sweat out the team's tournament chances.

Oh, and for the record, that was the Hoosiers' second-biggest loss to Michigan, surpassed only by a 48-point dud in 1998.