Can IUBB Make Some Late Season March Magic Happen?

Xavier Johnson, Indiana Men's Basketball
Xavier Johnson, Indiana Men's Basketball / David Berding/GettyImages

When it was confirmed that senior leader Trey Galloway would not be suiting up for Indiana's Big Ten tournament opener against Penn State yesterday, the common consensus was that the Nittany Lions would run the Hoosiers out of the gym.

The common consensus was incorrect.

IU went into the Target Center and escaped round 1 of the Big Ten tourney with a 61-59 victory. While Anthony Leal was the one to put the cream and crimson ahead for good via his last second tip-in, this W was a collective effort which truly took all hands on deck. It was yet another step forward in the unity department for a squad that has looked like a group of individuals for most of the season. Over the past 5 games (all wins), this team has started to look more like a group of comrades.

That transcendent transformation could not have come at a better time, as the beginning of the season is never the best time to judge a team. This is the youngest team in the Big Ten, with Galloway, Malik Reneau and Xavier Johnson being the only real returnees who were rotation regulars from a season ago. Common sense concluded that it would take some time to work out some kinks and build some chemistry, and that time appears to be transpiring.

A few weeks back, we outlined the 3 things that IUBB needed to accomplish in order to make it back to the NCAA tournament for a second straight season. The first of those feats was buying in, which evidently happened at some point following the hideous home loss to Nebraska in late February. The next step was to go AT LEAST 5-1 in the final 6 games of the season. They fell just short of this threshold, going 4-2 over that closing stretch of contests. Nonetheless, we will let it slide since they have looked so on point during this present 5-game winning streak.

The final item which needed to be met was to advance to AT LEAST the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. IF the Hoosiers can avenge their two embarrassing losses to Nebraska later on this evening (tipoff at 9 PM ET on BTN), they will have checked this box as well.

A few weeks back, this looked like a team with zero chance of getting into the dance. Now, they are 100% on the bubble. IF they can extend their winning streak to 6 tonight, there is a really, really, really strong chance they are AT LEAST one of the last 4 in. IF they advance to the Big Ten championship game, they are 100% receiving an at-large bid. And IF they actually come out on top in the Big Ten tournament, the rest of the bracket better watch out for the Hoosiers on the dance floor because this basketball team has proven that they can boogie with the best of them.