LOUISVILLE, Ky (WDRB) "Must-win."
It's a phrase that gets tossed around a lot in sports, and yes, it is probably over used.
In a literal sense Indiana's game at Illinois on Thursday night is not a must-win in terms of the Hoosiers slim NCAA tournament hopes. They could always win the Big Ten tournament of course.
But lets be real.
Indiana has to beat Illinois on Thursday and Rutgers on Sunday in Bloomington to keep any hope of receiving an at-large bid in to the field of 68 alive.
"We've got to approach things the same way we've been approaching things," said IU head coach Archie Miller. "I think everyone understands that there's a lot to play for for a lot of teams, but we've had a lot to play for for a long time now, and being able to get up off the mat last week and get two big wins was great to see."
Victories over ranked Wisconsin and Michigan State somehow surfaced hope for an NCAA tournament bid that wasn't just sunk-it was chained up and sitting at the bottom of the ocean. Indiana appeared destined to miss the NIT much less the NCAA tournament.
Now suddenly, two more huge games for the Hoosiers who actually got some help on Wednesday night with other bubble teams losing.
"That we're still right there in terms of our disposition and what we're playing for and the focus of our group, and it won't be any different this week," said Miller.
Two more regular season wins puts Indiana at 17-14 for the season, with a lot of quality on that resume. Six quadrant one wins is why Indiana still has hope for the field of 68.
All this talk that started after last Saturday's upset over 6th ranked Michigan State will be over if Indiana can't beat Illinois and Rutgers.
"You can't make it any bigger than it was last week. Each game feels bigger because the season continues to get longer, and everyone is striving for something right now at this time of year, and in the case of our league, it doesn't matter if it's team 1 or team 14. Everyone is good," said Miller.
"As we head here, I think every team is trying to position themselves for the Big Ten Tournament and see how that stacks up."
Do they have to win?
There's always a chance Indiana could make an improbable run in the conference tournament. Given the Hoosier's history at that event I think we can call these next two games what they are:
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