When the clock strikes zero in the BCS national championship game Monday, casual college basketball fans will officially join the diehards in a two-month sprint to March Madness. With conference season upon us, it’s time to check in on Indiana, Purdue, Butler and college basketball at large.
Record: 13-1 (1-0 B10)
Next game: Monday, 7 p.m., at Penn State (8-4).
Toughest game left: March 10 at No. 2 Michigan (13-0).
Coachspeak: “There were numerous guys playing their first Big Ten game today in a nationally televised game at a very high level. So, we feel very good about the win. We feel very good about our toughness inside of this game. This was truly one of those fifteen round heavyweight fight games that the Big Ten is full of, where you can’t necessarily land the knockout punch. You just want to make sure it doesn’t get landed on you.” — IU coach Tom Crean after the Hoosiers’ 69-65 win at Iowa Monday.
Skinny: In Iowa, No. 5 Indiana played its first decent opponent since falling to Butler on Dec. 15. The Hawkeyes are a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, but they did beat three ranked conference teams at home last season, including Indiana. Also, the Hoosiers were just 3-6 on the road in 2011-12, so starting off B10 play with a victory away from Assembly Hall — especially with Jordan Hulls going 0-for-10 from the field — was encouraging in the team’s first true road game of the year. Victor Oladipo, not preseason Player of the Year Candidate Cody Zeller, continues to be IU’s best player. In addition to defending opponent’s top guard or wing each game, Oladipo has come through offensively. It was Oladipo’s putback of Zeller’s air ball with 1:04 remaining to put the Hoosiers up 65-60, and his pair of free throws with 26 seconds left made it a two-score game. For the third season in a row, the junior’s scoring, rebounding and assist averages have increased. Oladipo has become a shooting threat, knocking down 67.3 percent of his shots and 45.5 percent of his 3-pointers this season. Indiana isn’t the unbeatable juggernaut some thought they would be at the beginning of the season, but the Hoosiers are still more than capable of being the last team standing come April in New Orleans. Something to keep an eye on as the B10 season progress: Teams with big, physical guards (Michigan, Ohio State) will attack IU’s height-challenged backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls. Crean could see fit to employ more zone defense versus those teams.