Home Sweet Hoosier: Life on the Road in the Big Ten Is ToughPosted by Ryan Terpstra on February 29th, 2012
They’ve been beaten down on the road by an average of 12 points per game. They lost inexplicably to Nebraska, who stands at 4-12 in conference play. Twice they haven’t even reached 60 points. Sounds like the perfect team to beat the #1, #2, and #5 teams in the country, right?
Indiana is the perfect Jekyll-and-Hyde illustration of life at home versus the road in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers soar at Assembly Hall, where they’ve been able to knock off the likes of Kentucky, Ohio State, and most recently Michigan State. They came into conference play on fire, 12-0 and looking to make a statement in head coach Tom Crean’s fourth year in charge of the program. They are the first IU team in history to knock of the then-#1 and #2 ranked teams in the same season. They’ve also lost to two league opponents with a combined conference record of 11-21.
That’s the battle each and every Big Ten school faces when they head on the road. The league as a whole is 35-63 in conference road games, which means this year any given team has an average chance of 36% to get a victory. Only four out of twelve teams have a winning record on the road, while Illinois, Penn State, and Nebraska have combined for two road wins thus far. Indiana has only managed a paltry 3-6 road effort, but their pristine 7-1 home record (sullied only by a puzzling loss to Minnesota) in conference play has them sitting at fifth in the Big Ten standings.
For Crean, home and road success has hinged on the performance of his young players. In an 80-65 loss to Michigan State back on December 28, freshman center Cody Zeller managed four points and four personal fouls in his first Big Ten road experience. Sophomore guard Victor Oladipo went 5-of-13 against the Spartan defense. The Hoosiers were outrebounded and MSU point guard Keith Appling went off for 25 points. Flash back to last night, where Zeller scored 18 points, Oladipo had 13 on 50% shooting, and the IU defense held a frustrated Appling to only six points. Those two contests against Michigan State are a microcosm of Indiana’s performance against opponents both at and away from Assembly Hall this year.
In a conference stacked with good teams, it is no surprise that wins on the road are hard to come by. But just by taking a glance at some of this season’s upsets — IU over Michigan State, MSU also falling to Northwestern in Evanston, Iowa destroying Michigan, Ohio State being tripped up at Illinois, and Indiana stubbing their toe at Nebraska — and you can understand why every Big Ten coach breathes a sigh of relief when they get to come back home.