Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports
What has gone wrong during Indiana’s five-game losing streak? Are there any positives at all?
Almost everything. Indiana has struggled with different facets of the game at different points in the losing streak. Against Michigan they didn’t defend well and it burned them. At Maryland, Bruno Fernando dominated the offensive glass and those second-chance points took away the Hoosiers’ chance of winning. Their last three games have all been bad offensively. The lone home game in this stretch, against Nebraska, featured a 79.2 adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
The Hoosiers are lacking in confidence right now and it shows in their shooting percentages. This stretch has been brutal for Indiana in almost every way possible. As far as positives, Juwan Morgan has stayed consistent throughout the streak as Indiana’s best player. Another possible positive is the emergence of Rob Phinisee as a third scorer. Phinisee looks more confident as a scorer and that could go a long way for Indiana.
What has to be done to right the ship?
Indiana has to take care of the ball and defend at the level they did earlier in the year. Through IU’s first 14 games this season, they allowed an adjusted offensive efficiency of at least 100 only three times, and only once over 105. During their losing streak they’ve allowed all five opponents to reach 100, and four of their five opponents to reach 105.
The Hoosiers aren’t defending well in the paint or on the perimeter and it’s putting their offense in a hole it can’t dig out of. If they can start defending at the level they were to start the season, they’ll have a chance to get back on track.
What have teams done to slow Romeo Langford the last couple games, and why did he play only 22 minutes at Purdue?
Langford only played 22 minutes because he picked up his second foul very early in the game and then, quite frankly, the team played better without him. Purdue, and other teams, brought help on his drives and aren’t allowing him to get to the rim without interacting with a second defender first.
One part of the issue is that he doesn’t become assertive until the second half of a lot of games, He needs to flip that switch earlier in games and show why he’s as highly-touted as he is.
How big a loss is Devonte Green? Losing Green means the Hoosiers are down another primary ball handler. That means Phinisee will continue to see his role expand, along with Al Durham and Langford. Green has good court vision and could get hot from deep to help ignite the offense, but he was very inconsistent.
Overall, the loss of someone who could initiate the offense will hurt, but if the aforementioned trio can be more efficient in Green’s stead, it might end up helping the team. Of course, that’s a big if right now.
Is there anyone besides the Big Two that has been playing well in recent weeks? How has Phinisee been since he returned? Phinisee has played well since he returned and he and Justin Smith have tried to step up. Smith has taken more shots in the last two games, but was only efficient against Purdue. Phinisee stepped up against Northwestern, taking 12 shots, which is a career high. He made three of his seven threes in that game and that played a big role in their ability to stay in the game.
If either one of those two steps up as a third option on offense, the Hoosiers would be a vastly improved team. Right now, Phinisee has a better chance of being that consistent option more than Smith does.
Score and prediction? How will this game go?
This is a big game for Indiana. A win against Michigan would go a long way in building the confidence they seem to have lost. Playing at Assembly Hall will help after playing four of their last five on the road. However, if things go bad to start the game, the crowd could turn on the Hoosiers because of how poorly they’ve played.
I think Indiana comes out and plays hard, hanging with Michigan for the entirety of the game. They know their season may be on the line and are returning home at the perfect time. I’ll say the game goes right down to the wire with Michigan pulling out a 72-71 victory.