Where is the confidence for the Hoosiers?

Things looked promising for the IU men’s basketball at the beginning of the season as they ran through the easiest stretch of home games any Division 1 school could possibly face.

Playing teams like SIU-Edwardsville and Florida Gulf Coast was supposed to be a confidence builder for the young Hoosiers while teaching them how to win, something that they haven’t experienced much over the past two seasons.

Yet this plan has almost backfired on the Hoosiers as they are now in the midst of a six game losing streak which brings back terrible memories of the past two seasons of just how bad this team can look at times.

Let’s take a closer look at the first nine home games of the season to see what it really accomplished, if anything.

The nine teams Indiana defeated have a combined record of 48-90 with Wright State being the only one of the team’s with a winning record (11-6) as of January 10th. I was afraid that this cakewalk in the beginning of the season might build false confidence instead of a tough, winning mentality. Sure we looked great when we posted a C-note against Northwestern State and 102 against South Carolina State, yet those dominant games haven’t translated into one win against any of the eight legitimate teams IU has faced this season.

Reality hit this Hoosiers team hard when Kentucky turned on the after-burners in the final eight minutes or when Ohio State looked like they were having a fun shoot-around at Assembly Hall. Even in the games where Indiana was playing well they showed no ability to finish, which was supposedly the point of lining up those nine bunnies at home.

It’s hard to even argue that this year’s IU team is even better than last year’s squad. By the middle of January last year, Indiana had already defeated Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden and also notched three Big Ten victories including the only road conference win of the Crean era at Penn State. The 2010-11 Hoosiers don’t have a performance that is remotely close to any of those yet.

The Hoosiers have a lot of missing pieces with a formidable big man being at the top of the list. Yet I think what is really missing is the intangibles that it takes to become a good college basketball team.

When I watch IU in the last ten minutes of a basketball game I see a team that hasn’t built confidence from their success early in the season. I see a team who looks nervous, panicked, and sometimes intimidated. I don’t see a player who is willing to grab a teammate by their jersey and tell them exactly what they need to do win the basketball game. I don’t see a player with confidence willing to find an open shot for himself or a teammate. I don’t see a team that thinks they can win.

The confidence and psyche of this young team who has endured the last two painful seasons is very fragile. When they have come on the court with moxy and swagger they look like a team who should win close to half of their Big Ten games.

They played amazing basketball for 30 minutes on the road at Rupp Arena and Williams Arena in Minnesota. Yet they couldn’t take much from those games because they didn’t execute the way they needed to down the stretch. The confidence of this team was further damaged when they got man-handled by Penn State at home in the Big Ten opener. The Nittany Lions lost to Maine by 10 the game before that contest.

I don’t buy the fact that Indiana is at a huge talent disadvantage like they have been at over the past two seasons. I think the key to Indiana turning this season around lays in the space between each of the player’s and coach’s ears. They must truly believe that they can play with great teams and they must have confidence that they can make big plays down the stretch.

Belief is the key and until they are confident that they can be the team that the fans know they can be this season will continue on this steep downhill slide. And I can say that with confidence.

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