Tipoff: Indiana vs. Illinois, noon, Thursday, Big Ten tourney
Will Sheehey understands the stakes. How could he not?
The Indiana senior has experienced the thrill of consecutive Sweet 16 runs, just as he has endured the misery of a no-NCAA tourney disappointment.
The Hoosiers' chance to make a third straight NCAA tourney comes down to winning four Big Ten tourney games this week at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Hoosiers (17-14) got the No. 8 seed. They will open with No. 9 Illinois (18-13) in Thursday's opening game.
The teams split during the regular season, each winning at home. They both finished 7-11 in conference play. IU got the higher seed because it won the tiebreaker, which came with last month's win over Big Ten-champion Michigan.
“We have to win one game at a time,” Sheehey said. “We have to make sure we stay focused on the next game. We have four days to prepare.”
Sheehey was in no mood for sugar coating after Saturday's loss at Michigan. The Hoosiers had multiple chances to beat the Big Ten champions, building a double-digit first half lead, then rallying back from an 11-point second-half deficit before losing 84-80.
Turnovers were once again a problem. Michigan scored 23 points off the Hoosiers' 15 turnovers. Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell each had four turnovers.
“It was just trash from my point,” Sheehey said. “I had four. Yogi had four. That's unacceptable from two guys who have played for a while.
“I tried to make passes that weren't there. We have to cut them down.”
The Hoosiers will get another shot at Michigan (23-7) on Friday if they beat Illinois.
"It's very disappointing," freshman Troy Williams said. "There's nothing we can do about it now. Just go to the next game. We can't dwell on the past. We have to look forward to the future. Next up is the Big Tournament. We'll get ready for that."
The Wolverines got the top seed and were one of four teams getting a first-round bye. The others are No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 4 Nebraska.
Wisconsin and Michigan State had identical 12-6 Big Ten records, but the Badgers got the edge because they won the only meeting between the two teams.
Nebraska (19-11) will play on Friday against the winner between Purdue (15-16) and Ohio State (23-8).