All it took was a trio of tough drives from Aaron Craft and a sensational defensive performance sparked by Shannon Scott and, all of a sudden, Indiana, who many believed to be the best team in the country heading into Tuesday night, no longer had themselves locked into a No. 1 seed.
The No. 14 Buckeyes stymied Indiana’s powerhouse offense for 40 minutes, getting timely buckets from Craft and a huge three from Deshaun Thomas with four minutes left as they beat No. 2 Indiana 67-58 on Senior Night for the Hoosiers.
That drops the Hoosiers, who held a commanding two games lead in the Big Ten race entering the day, to just one game ahead of the four teams currently sitting tied for second place. And with a trip to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Sunday, Indiana is going to have their work cut out for them.
Win, and Tom Crean’s club will earn an outright Big Ten regular season title.
Lose and, well, they’ll fall into a first place tie with as many as three other teams, lose control over the top seed in the Big Ten tournament and potentially cost themselves that No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
That’s concerning, especially when you consider that Indiana has now lost two of their last three games with a less-than-inspiring win over Iowa in Assembly Hall being sandwiched by losses at Minnesota and at home to Ohio State. Or that for the first time all season, Victor Oladipo struggled in a marquee game. Or that for the second time in the span of a week, Cody Zeller got pushed around in the paint; his 17 points on Tuesday will help mask the fact that he didn’t play all that well.
The Hoosiers have some kinks to work out, but they’re going to be fine. Tonight was more about how well Ohio State played defensively than any massive issue with the Hoosiers moving forward.
But it does go to show you: even if Indiana is the best team in the country, they are anything-but unbeatable.
And right now, they are anything-but a lock for a No. 1 seed.
More than anything, that’s where the concern should lie. The Hoosiers have a chance to play in Indianapolis in the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. That may not be a ‘home game’, but it would be a crowd made up of roughly 90% Hoosier fans. Pretty ideal, eh?
That’s what this loss may cost them.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.