Due to a family vacation in Florida for New Years, I was not able to do my “After the Buzzer” column for the Michigan State or Ohio State game. Luckily for all my fans, I am back.
Coming into the night, Michigan was ranked 13th in the ESPN poll. They were 2-0 in the B1G Ten. They had the good senior leaders complemented by the talented underclassmen that can play on any team. They had a proven coach who has the program heading in an upward swing. They had those nasty “maize” jerseys on. Those are the facts. But for some reason I, and probably many other Hoosier fans, was very confident in the Indiana basketball team to come out of tonight with our 2nd conference win and our 3rd win over a ranked team in the past 4 weeks.
We weren’t wrong, IU hung on at the end to win. But I, for one, was definitely impressed by this Michigan squad. I probably underestimated Michigan, but Indiana came out guns a blazin’ and the Wolverines took the punch and stood strong. IU jumped ahead and looked in control at 33-18 and I know I was standing in the balcony nodding my head saying to myself, “I knew this team wasn’t that good.” And then Douglass started hitting. Novak knocked down a few. Hardaway started getting to the rim. All of a sudden, a 15-point lead was gone.
That’s when the nation got to see who Christian Watford really is. His stat line reads: 25 points, 7 boards, 5 assists. That is All-Big Ten, and possibly All-America, type numbers. The best part about Watford’s game that I love watching is, that if he gets doubled, no matter how hot he is feeling, he is willing to find the open man. I can think of two instances when Christian was doubled by Michigan and he was able to make a wrap around pass to Zeller for the wide open slam. Last year Watford forces a double-clutch jumper because he feels like he needs to keep his hot streak going. Watford and Zeller are beginning to learn just how dangerous they can be together.
Leaving Assembly Hall, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, we should of beat this team by more.” In retrospect, I have to laugh. Think about 12 months ago, where this program was at. The students rushed the court when IU beat the #20 ranked Illinois team. We just beat the #13 team in the nation and I am not pleased. The rebuilding process this program went through skipped like 5 chapters. They went from the bottom feeder of the B1G Ten to a top 15 team in a blink of an eye.
This team is exciting to watch. It seems like they always make a big play to spark the crowd and Assembly Hall has quickly turned into THE (bold, but I mean they have 3 top-15 wins) toughest place to play. IU still needs a marquee road win to silence all the critics but you can’t argue with the resume they have put together so far. Tom Crean is making it hard to vote against him for Coach of the Year so far.
For now, IU is 2-1 against three of the top teams in conference. I will take that any day. And, at least we aren’t Purdue.
Team Grade: A-
Looking Forward- IU heads to the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday to face the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Penn State is coming off their big win against Purdue. That win is probably good for the Hoosiers, so they will respect them and have to bring their A game.
Until then, party on.