Even after securing an outright Big Ten title, Indiana still feels like it has something to prove.
And the 12th-ranked Hoosiers can accomplish another significant feat Sunday against No. 14 Maryland, which enters its regular-season finale with plenty more on the line.
While the Terrapins, Michigan State and Iowa all have been ranked in the top five at some point this season, Indiana (24-6, 14-3) has outdone them all in terms of conference success and consistency. The reward will be a No. 1 seed in next week's Big Ten tournament, which the Hoosiers clinched with Tuesday's 81-78 win over free-falling Iowa.
Though it's received some criticism over a perceived softer schedule than the conference's other contenders, Indiana has beaten the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes and current No. 15 Purdue during its present four-game winning streak. It's also played the entire league schedule without second-leading scorer James Blackmon Jr., sidelined since December by a knee injury.
"All we've done is play the game that's been on our schedule," coach Tom Crean said. "When you're winning a title against a team that's got the same thing at stake, that's a big deal."
The Hoosiers have gotten there by remaining among the nation's best offensive teams in Blackmon's absence and continuing to hold serve at home. They're 16-0 at Assembly Hall and can finish undefeated there for the first time since 2006-07.
"The fans have stuck behind us no matter what," said point guard Yogi Ferrell, who be making his 73rd and final home start. "Over the last four years, I feel that the fans have shown us a lot of love no matter where we stand in the Big Ten."
Maryland (24-6, 12-5) was expected to be in the Hoosiers' position as the league's preseason favorite and had been living up to expectations with a 10-2 conference start. The Terrapins then dropped three of their next four as star guard Melo Trimble endured an extended shooting slump, putting them in a spot where they need to win on Sunday to guarantee a top four seed and an advantageous double-bye for the tournament.
The Terrapins appear to have regained some lost momentum, though. They hit a season-high 14 3-pointers in Thursday's 81-55 senior night rout of Illinois and have shot 51.7 percent from the field while averaging 82.0 points over their last three games. Prior to that stretch, Maryland was held to a season-low point total in a 70-57 home defeat to Wisconsin on Feb. 13 that preceded an upset loss at Minnesota in which it shot 37.5 percent.
''We got rolling,'' forward Jake Layman said. ''When we're playing like that, sharing the ball, we're very hard to guard.''
Layman has shot a crisp 76.0 percent from the field while averaging 16.3 points over the last three. After hitting 23.4 percent and committing 19 turnovers over his previous four, Trimble broke out with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting against the Illini.
Maryland won two of three meetings with the Hoosiers last season, including a 75-69 victory in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. However, the Terps have lost 19 straight on the road to ranked teams since upsetting No. 1 North Carolina 82-80 on Jan. 19, 2008.
That skid includes an 89-70 loss at then-No. 23 Indiana on Jan. 22, 2015, in which Ferrell scored 24 points and finished 7 of 8 from 3-point range.
Ferrell, who averaged 21.7 points in last season's series, followed a 27-point effort Feb. 25 at Illinois by scoring 12 of his 20 points against Iowa in the second half.