Is it realistic? Not likely, but it's all coach Tom Crean has as the season spirals toward a repeat of last year's dismal finish.
“We're not getting beat by systems, we're getting beat by players who are getting around us,” Crean said. “We have to do a better job. I do not have a guy or a group of guys who have absorbed how important the (defensive) communication is, and absorbed how important it is to just be an absolute pit bull at your position whether we're in man or zone defense. Just really bear down and get things done.”
Bearing down has become beat down for the Hoosiers (9-15). They have lost six straight. Now they host a Michigan State team Tuesday night that has regained its form after a three-game losing streak wiped out its early lead in the Big Ten.
The Spartans (20-6 overall, 10-3 in the Big Ten) also have guard Kalin Lucas back from injury.
Crean isn't worried about that. Not when he has a team on the mental ropes.
“When you are this young, every experience is overly magnified,” Crean said. “It's the mental part. (Indianapolis Colts coach) Jim Caldwell made a point before the Super Bowl that the mental-to-physical ratio is 10 to 1. Bob Knight was famous for saying it was 4 to 1.
“Our guys have had success, they've been close to success, and when you come that close it takes that much more out of you. We have had some very bad locker rooms after games, sadness and dejected and all those things. We have to deal with it.”
It would help to deal in good health. Guard Verdell Jones was limited by the flu in Saturday's 83-58 loss at Wisconsin. The flu kept guard Devan Dumes out of the game.
“It comes down to, are you more determined every time you come back out to get better?” Crean said. “Can you get more focused?”
Focus centers on two things against Michigan State — rebounding and stopping the Spartans' fast break. The Spartans are the Big Ten's best in both.
“I look forward to the day we really understand that the way we compete, the toughness that we bring, the defensive mind-set that we bring, is going to be what gives us a chance to win,” Crean said.
Up nextTipoff: Michigan State at Indiana, 7 p.m. Tuesday
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