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And Another Thing

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Associated Press
Indiana guard Jordan Hulls wipes his face during his senior night speech Wednesday night.

Net loss

So now we have a new frontrunner for the title of Bizarro Moment of the Year, College Hoops Division: Indiana's players cutting down the nets in an empty Assembly Hall after an utterly dispiriting loss to Ohio State, to "celebrate" their share of the Big Ten title.

Never has success felt more like failure.

On Senior Night, of all nights, the Hoosiers unraveled like cheap double-knits in the face of the Buckeyes' relentless defensive pressure, and now it's fair to wonder if this is a team that peaked too soon. Sure seems like longer than two weeks ago that Indiana, then the undisputed No. 1 team in the nation, was putting away then-No. 4 Michigan State in the Breslin Center.

Indiana had a week layoff after that win, and it hasn't looked the same since. The loss to Ohio State was its second in its last three games, and the one game it won -- against Iowa, at home -- wasn't exactly a masterpiece of execution. Now the Hoosiers go to Michigan on Sunday, where a likely third loss in four games awaits.

Not the best time of year to hit a slump, if that's what this is.

So what's happening?

Couple of theories:

1. Minnesota uncovered the secret to beating the Hoosiers.

The Gophers won by getting physical with them and taking their aggressiveness away by being aggressive themselves at both ends of the floor. The Gophers showed the world that Cody Zeller, not the most bulky of inside players, can be pushed around on the low blocks.

So, you muscle Zeller and you get in some shirts defensively. Result: Three games, two losses.

2. The week off stole Indiana's edge.

Rest is never a bad thing, except when it morphs into rust. Fact is, Indiana hasn't remotely played with the same fire and swagger since. Maybe it gets it back, but if it doesn't, the Hoosiers' once-ironclad No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is going to wind up a 2 or 3 seed.

If they lose in Ann Arbor, you can pretty much bet the family homestead on that. No matter what happens in the Big Ten tournament next week.

Ben Smith's blog.

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