Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Hoosier basketball.

Tuesday, January 30

Here Comes A BIG Game

Don’t tell Kelvin Sampson and the Hoosiers this is a big game, an epic game, the kind of game that could have Big Ten-altering consequences.

They’re locked in treat-every-game-the-same mode, which might be fine if you’re preparing to play, say, No. 2 Wisconsin, but is really boring if you’re trying to write about it.

Besides, does anybody REALLY believe you treat the Badgers the same as you do, say, Northwestern. Deep down where the competitor burns, you want to face the best, you want to beat the best because that is the true test.

Besides, beating Northwestern won’t impress the NCAA selection committee. Beating Wisconsin will.

Anyway, that’s just us rambling. Here’s what senior guard Rod Wilmont has to say.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to play another good team,” he says, “but it’s the same routine we’ve had all year. The only difference is they’re ranked No. 2. They’re coming to our house, so we have to play our game and we’ll be fine.”

Because of the Big Ten scheduling quirks inherent when you have 11 league teams and just 16 regular season games, IU will face Wisconsin only once. With the Badgers having a two-game lead in the conference race (Wisconsin is 7-0 to Indiana's 5-2), a win is crucial if the Hoosiers are to have any hope for a Big Ten title.

That Wilmont is willing to concede.

“We have to win this game,” he says. “We want to compete for a Big Ten championship and this is a huge game we have to get.”

And yet, he insists, they won’t get it if they make it bigger than it really is.

“We’re looking at this as business. We have to take care of business on our home court. We’ve got to find a way to win.”

Of course, the newcomers to the program, guys like freshmen Armon Bassett and Joey Shaw, or even junior college transfers Lance Stemler and Mike White, might not be able to sustain the business approach.

“For them this is huge because they’ve never had an opportunity to play a ranked team like this,” Wilmont says. “They’ll be hyped and a little giddy. They’ll be a little anxious. I was the first time I played in a game like this. But you just have to play. Calm down and play and we’ll be fine.”

Perhaps, but the Badgers are one of just two teams (the other is Virginia Commonwealth) to be undefeated on the road. They hold teams to 21.8 three-point shooting on the road, which means something has to give because IU leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage (38 percent) and is second in three-point baskets made (7.95).

So what does all this mean? Easy. It’s not just another game. It’s a BIG game.


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