INDIANAPOLIS — On a night where Indiana won their first Big Ten Tournament game since 2017, their NCAA Tournament status still remains in doubt.
Not because of their 89-64 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers but of the rising threat of coronavirus that shocked the sports world Wednesday night.
Twitter blew up with multiple reports of the virus impacting sports across the country. Multiple conferences including the Big Ten are not permitting fans access throughout the rest of their respective tournaments. The NCAA announced that they too are keeping fans from attending both the men’s and women’s tournaments.
“I think it’s an evolving situation, and it’s rapid, but it puts it into reality of the seriousness of it,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said. “When world experts start to recommend things, you obviously better listen.”
However, college sports are not the only leagues facing difficulties. The NBA announced their season was suspended after reports of Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert testing positive for the virus made its way to social media.
This now begs the question if the NCAA will follow suit and delay the rest of the postseason tournaments?
“You grind it out and get to this point of the season, it’s the most special time for our young guys,” Miller said. “I think we’re all crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, which is allowing us to continue to play.”
With all of the drama surrounding the coronavirus, Indiana (20-12, 9-11 B1G) passed its first test of the postseason by defeating Nebraska. Both teams started strong from the field shooting a combined 11-of-15 from the floor through the first media timeout. Indiana went on a 16-1 run to finish off the first half with a 43-34 lead.
Nebraska (7-25, 2-18 B1G) did not have an answer for the Hoosiers’ frontcourt attack. Indiana outscored the Cornhuskers 40-24 in the paint and blocked 12 Cornhusker shots. Freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis recorded his 12th double-double on the season with 11 points and 17 rebounds.
Fellow freshman Armaan Franklin contributed a team high 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting with three 3-pointers.
“I’m proud of Armaan,” Miller said. “In some of our biggest wins, as you finish the regular season and you look back on your season and you figure out who can help you at this time of year when it means the most, it’s the guys that care the most.”
Indiana continued its offensive attack with run-outs and paint touches, increasing its lead to 21 points. However, Nebraska brought the lead to nine after the Hoosiers’ defense gave up multiple three-point looks.
“They made their runs during the half, got us a little bit stationary at times,” Miller said. “But I thought overall our guys responded and were able to finish the game in a big way.”
Indiana cruised late in the second half to the 25-point victory and now face six-seed Penn State in Thursday’s final game.
However, that game and the Hoosiers’ postseason hopes are still up in the air. Cornhuskers’ head coach Fred Hoiberg headed to the locker room late in the game after multiple reports of him appearing ill surfaced to social media. Reports later said that Hoiberg was transported to the hospital and the Cornhuskers were kept in the locker rooms after the game.
Time will tell how this impacts the future of the college basketball season. However, for Indiana it means that their futures are still uncertain for the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ll hope for the best that clearly we’re preparing to play tomorrow,” Miller said. “We’ve got to listen to what they say, and we’ll go with it.”